Baseball Season in Full Swing
In Rich's Monday post, he previewed some of the marquee pitching match ups that help to make Opening Day as fun as it is. On Tuesday I reviewed Monday's action and as part looked at how some of the league's better pitchers fared. It was an interesting exercise I suppose but not necessarily instructive when it comes to informing our perspective on how these teams/aces may fare. Many of the pitchers who looked good will probably continue to look good while the pitchers that laid an egg will probably recover and have fine seasons. Except Barry Zito. I am pretty sure he's just bad now.
The last couple of days may have told us a lot more. Down-rotation starters, some of whom will not be long for a starting gig and some of whom will tip the balance of power in their respective division races, took to the hill. There were some standout performances from pitchers that will need to continue to be effective for their teams to get to where they want to be.
IP H BB SO ERA
Cueto 7.0 1 0 10 1.29
Wolf 6.0 4 2 5 1.50
Thompson 6.2 6 2 6 0.00
Danks 6.2 2 2 2 1.35
Owings 6.2 2 2 9 1.35
Marcum 7.0 3 1 8 3.86
Kuroda 7.0 3 0 4 1.29
Sonnanstine 6.0 6 0 4 6.00
Duchscherer 5.0 4 2 6 1.80
Of the pitchers on this list, only Micah Owings and Hiroki Kuroda toil for teams that anyone reasonably could have considered favorites. They belong, however, because the NL West might be the most competitive division in baseball and every last unexpectedly awesome performance an NL West team can get will be critical. The others above, should their first starts offer any sort of indication of how they pitch throughout 2008, might turn their teams from also-rans into immediate threats to vie for playoff contention.
Patrick Sullivan, 4/5/08, 9:18 a.m. EDT
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Speaking of starting pitchers, managers Joe Torre and Bruce Bochy made curious decisions last Wednesday night in a NL West tilt between the host Dodgers and Giants. Twenty minutes before a game threatened by rain, Torre decided to go with Hong-Chih Kuo rather than scheduled starter Chad Billingsley. Bochy, in turn, opted to start Merkin Valdez in place of Tim Lincecum.
OK, I can understand those decisions. I mean, why waste Billingsley and Lincecum if the game is going to be called in the first five innings, as was expected? However, both managers turned to their young studs in relief *while* it was raining in the middle innings. Lincecum took over in the fourth and Billingsley in the fifth. The umpires halted the game with one out in the top of the fifth and the score tied 1-1.
The contest was resumed after a 90-minute delay. Billingsley, who faced four batters in one-third of an inning while being charged with one run, yielded to Esteban Loaiza. Lincecum, on the other hand, pitched before *and* after the rain delay. He played long catch before the game, got loose in the bullpen in advance of taking the hill in the fourth, warmed up again prior to resuming play in the fifth, and threw 84 pitches covering four innings during an outing that was spread out over three hours. In the first relief appearance of his career, Lincecum earned the victory while allowing four hits, four walks, and one run. He struck out four, including perhaps the biggest out of the game when Russell Martin took a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
The Dodgers not only lost but they burned a start for Billingsley. The Giants picked up a win but did it in an odd way with respect to the handling of Lincecum. Put me in charge and I would have either started the young righthanders or not used them at all.
Rich Lederer, 4/5/08, 11:18 a.m. PDT
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Staying with this theme, I can't help but be amused by Jered Weaver's performance yesterday (7 - 3 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 6) and the stats he has compiled over his first two starts (13.1 - 11 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 11, 2.03) as compared to the consensus in the analytical community, many of whom have chastised him for not being an ace or resorted to calling him an "innings eater."
Weaver can't win for losing. After he produced outstanding numbers in 2006, some writers and so-called analysts (you know who you are) jumped on the bandwagon while the perma bears scoffed at his results, pointing to his low BABIP as an indicator that the young righthander would not sustain the 2.56 ERA in 2007 and beyond. Duh! I mean, what would we do without such insightful analysis?
For his career, Weaver is now 25-10 with a 3.27 ERA. He has pitched in 49 games covering 297.1 innings while generating a 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB ratio. Make what you want of his stats. Small sample size. Lucky. Unsustainable. Whatever. All I know is that Weaver was one of the best college pitchers ever, set a consecutive scoreless innings streak as a member of Team USA, dominated minor league hitters, made it to the big leagues less than one year after signing a professional contract, and has excelled at the highest level.
That's a pretty good résumé for a guy who so many thought was nothing more than the second coming of Jeff Weaver.
Rich Lederer, 4/6/08, 07:18 p.m. PDT