MLB Pitchers: Better Than Their Record
by Trevor Whenham - 06/27/2007
If you are reading this then I don't need to tell you how important pitchers are when it comes to handicapping baseball. It's safe to say that no single factor has more significance on the outcome of the game than the pitchers that take the mound following the National Anthem. Evaluating pitchers, then, is obviously key. The most relied upon way to do that for most people is to look at their records. In most cases that will at least give you hypothesis of how well a pitcher is throwing and what kind of result might be expected from him. In some situations, though, the record can be totally misleading. Here's a look at three pitchers that are performing much better than their record indicates.
Erik Bedard, Baltimore - Baltimore is a baseball wasteland, and Bedard deserves much, much better. He leads the majors in strikeouts and he hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last 10 games. What does he have to show for that heroic effort? Just two wins. He has two losses, too, and six no decisions. In three of those six games that didn't impact his record he handed the game to the bullpen with a lead only to see it squandered, and two more times he left a tied game.
No game is more indicative of the problems he faces than his May 9 outing against Tampa Bay. He pitched seven brilliant shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out 10. His team couldn't manage to scrape out a run in support until the 10th inning, so a great Bedard effort is ignored on his record. Run support has been the biggest problem he has faced all year. Over the last 10 outings in which he has pitched so well his team has averaged just 2.9 runs per game, and they have only scored more than three runs twice - once in a loss.
It doesn't matter how well you are throwing - you aren't going to be a winner over the long run if your team can't give you more help than that. Rumors are being tossed around that Bedard may be traded this year before the deadline. For his sake, and for the ability to finally make a few bucks on his talent, I hope it's true.
Gil Meche, Kansas City - I still think that the Royals ridiculously overpaid for Meche, but he's come a lot closer to providing value for their money than his 4-6 record would indicate. He has an E.R.A. of just 3.21, which is the lowest of any pitcher with a losing record, and better than AL wins co-leader C.C. Sabathia. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is respectable at 77-28, and he's eaten up a lot of innings.
His problem is that his team refuses to give him offensive support. After a 3-1 start, Meche went seven games and over a month between wins. Over those seven games his team scored a total of 13 runs, or less than two per game, and they were shutout twice. Eight times this year the Royals have scored one or fewer runs while Meche was in the game. Cy Young would have looked average under those circumstances.
The Royals have found some offense recently, providing him with six runs of support in each of the last two games. He has a win to show for it, and would have had another if not for a blown save. Meche is far from a superstar - his opposing batting average is too high and his WHIP could be lower. Still, with a decent team behind him he would prove to be a lot more effective than he appears to be.
Roy Oswalt, Houston - Judging by his 7-5 record you would think that Oswalt, clearly an all-star caliber player, was having an off year. A closer look shows that that's just not the case. In fact, he'd probably be in line to start the All-Star Game this year if he didn't play for such a terrible team.
The single biggest impediment Oswalt has faced all year is having a bullpen that insists on incinerating almost every game he gives them. The story of the season can be told by his last eight games. He's 1-3 over that stretch. In three of the four no decisions a blown save destroyed a solid pitching performance after he gave the bullpen a lead. The fourth no decision was a real doozy. He had an epic pitcher's duel with St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings before leaving with the game tied. He couldn't win, but at least the bullpen could help him out for once and win a game themselves. Not so much. They allowed seven runs in the top of the ninth. Another effort wasted.
Even two of his three losses could have been wins with a respectable bullpen and even a hint of run support. On a decent team, Oswalt could easily be at least 3-3, and as good as 6-1, over that eight game stretch. That would make his 7-5 record look a heck of a lot better, and it would more closely reflect his effectiveness.