What if: Luke Hochevar.
In 2008 Hochevar had an ERA of 5.51 and a whip of 1.47. In 2009, he solidified himself as one of the worst ever #1 picks by getting even worse with a 6.55 ERA and a 1.49 whip. But Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well finish the article.
For starters, let’s simply compare 09 and 08. You already know about the ERA and whip. Additionally, he walked less, 2.9 batters per 9 innings, and struck out more, 6.67 batters per 9 innings. He pitched a little over 10% more innings, but his homers allowed nearly doubled. Despite more strikeouts, the batting average against when from a high .280, to an even higher .290.
Let’s look even closer at this season.
In the first half, he barely got more strikouts than walks, but put up better numbers than in the second half, when up put up a very impressive 8.4 K/9 innings, and 2.73 walks. His K/BB ratio would have been among the best pitchers in the game second half.
The Royals ranked dead last in “zone rating,” a defensive stat that not only takes into account errors, but also range of fielders. David Dejesus was decent defensively, and so were Alex Gordon and Coco Crisp, but they missed most of the year. The rest range from very bad to atrocious. This makes Greinke’s year look even more impressive, but that’s another story. The result of this is, against a ground ball pitcher like Hochevar, lots of ground ball singles that might have been outs against most teams. Considering defense is cheap to buy compared to offense, the Royals GM is a miserable failure, getting neither. That’s another story also.
What if, Hochevar had an average defense behind him? An average BABIP is .290, vs. his second half mark of .370. That means he was lucky in the first half, and monstrously unlucky in the second half.
Over the first half, lucky BABIP saved him 7 hits in the first half, and his bad luck later cost him 21 hits in the second half, overall costing him 14 extra hits. Let’s apply this to the second half alone to get the second half numbers he deserved.
In the second half he threw most of his innings, 85.2. Over that span he had 111 hits and 26 walks for a whip of 1.6. Now take away the 20 hits that he didn’t deserve, and his whip shrinks all the way to 1.37, which brings his ERA to the 4s. So without even improving, he’s a lot better.
So far it doesn’t look like he’s going to be overly good or even fantasy relevant. However there is more room for optimism still without him needing to improve as a pitcher. He won’t find himself in as many high pressure situations, he’ll get in grooves, get confidence, pitch from the windup more often, etc. There’s no formula for the effect these things have, but for a rookie it’s probably considerable. I'll close by saying pitchers with his second half walk and K rates are seldom bad.