Royal troubles for KC rotation

The Royals have a world-class lineup and bullpen. But to win the World Series, they’ll need to trade for a frontline starting pitcher.

Tuesday, veteran Jeremy Guthrie surrendered six earned runs over five innings against the Mariners, who are only days removed from firing their hitting coach.

Guthrie’s outing nudged the odometer for Kansas City starters to a meager 375 1/3 innings. That is the lowest total for any major-league rotation this year.

According to STATS LLC, only five teams in the last 100 years reached the postseason while finishing last in their league in rotation innings: the ’29 Philadelphia Athletics, ’72 Cincinnati Reds, ’95 Colorado Rockies, ’01 Cleveland Indians and ’02 Minnesota Twins.

Among that group, only the A’s won the World Series. Their rotation accounted for 1,044 regular-season innings. The Royals (at roughly 5.5 innings per start) aren’t on pace to reach 900.

In other words: The Royals, as presently constituted, have the sort of pitching staff that never wins the World Series — at least, in contemporary times.

So, it wasn’t at all surprising when Ken Rosenthal and I heard on Tuesday that the Royals have inquired to the Cincinnati Reds about the availability of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. The Royals miss the reliable innings James Shields took with him to San Diego. Yordano Ventura is on the disabled list. So is Jason Vargas. There you have three-quarters of the Royals’ 2014 postseason rotation; Guthrie, whose current ERA is 5.90, completed the quartet.

Danny Duffy (who comes off the disabled list on Wednesday) and Kris Medlen are expected to contribute in the second half, but they can’t necessarily be counted on for the quality — and quantity — of innings the Royals need right now. Kansas City’s brilliant relievers won’t reprise last October’s Herculean effort if they’re on the DL with exhausted arms.