BY: ABACUS REVEALS
The passage of Labor Day marks both the de-facto end of summer as well as the point at which the “home stretch” of a long MLB schedule turns into a “mad dash” for the teams still in realistic playoff contention…and Commissioner Bud Selig will be happy to inform you that currently numbers 15 teams.
At this juncture, when a starting pitcher has five or six rotation turns remaining, can you guess which MLB pitcher has accumulated the most “winning starts”? Are you surprised that the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez is the game’s most reliable “stopper”?
19: Johnny Cueto, Cincinnat1; R.A. Dickey, NY Mets; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis; Stephen Strasburg, Washington; Jered Weaver, LA Angels.
18: A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh; Matt Cain, San Francisco; Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee; Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers; Max Scherzer, Detroit; James Shields, Tampa Bay.
All but Dickey and Gallardo are in the playoff picture. (No post-season for young Mr. Strasburg either, ‘twould seem.)
So, how ‘bout the most frequent losers?
18: Henderson Alvarez, Toronto; Tin Lincecum, San Francisco; Wandy Rodriguez, Houston/Pittsburgh.
17: Bruce Chen, Kansas City; Jordan Lyles, Houston; Kevin Millwood, Seattle; Randy Wolf, Milwaukee/Baltimore.
16: Lucas Harrell, Houston; Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland; Jon Lester, Boston; Bud Norris, Houston; Ricky Romero, Toronto; Anibal Sanchez, Miami/Detroit.
It’s no surprise that Houston’s (Dis)Astros are well represented here. (Side note to those locals protesting the ‘Stros transfer to the A.L. West—be grateful y’all aren’t joining Roger and the Skeeters in the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League.)
Of course, the above rankings include games in which the starter did not receive a decision. Doesn’t that make you wonder which guys have racked up the most “No Decision” starts?
13: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia.
12: Mat Latos, Cincinnati; Lohse.
11: Marco Estrada, Milwaukee; Zack Greinke, Milwaukee/LA Angels; Mike Leake, Cincinnati; Wolf.
10: Jordan Zimmerman, Washington; Millwood.
It’s tempting to view N.D.’s unflatteringly, though many factors can be involved. For example, though leading the majors in so dubious a category, the Phillies’ Lee still rates among the games most durable “ironmen.” In his 56 starts over two seasons since joining Charlie Manuel’s rotation, Lee has pitched at least seven innings on 41 occasions, a 73.2 percent clip. Indeed, eight of those 13 N.D.’s this season were “long” outings.
Here are 2012’s leaders in LONG (seven-inning) STARTS.
20: Felix Hernandez, Seattle.
19: David Price, Tampa bay; Cueto.
18: Justin Verlander, Detroit; Dickey; Kershaw.
17: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia; Hiroki Kuroda, NY Yankees; Lee.
Additionally, only Lee, Cueto, Dickey, Hernandez, Kershaw, Price and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia have notched a Long Start in a full two-thirds of their games. Incidentally, that group has an average age of 29.4, ranging from 24 (Kershaw) to 37 (Dickey).
Finally, with Joe Saunders’s veteran presence joining Baltimore’s rotation last week, that makes 16 pitchers who’ve started games for two MLB teams this season. That total is up from only nine such players in 2011.
The biggest name to change pitching rotations last year was Jimenez, while the most useful acquisitions were Doug Fister by the Tigers and Edwin Jackson by St. Louis (now a likely 30-start guy for the up-and-coming Nationals).
This season’s shuffling has brought Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton and Greinke to LA, has sent Canadian Ryan Dempster to the heart (and heat) of Texas, and has even got the Pirates listed as buyers for the first time in generations.
Poor Jason Marquis seems stuck in a rut. He’s the only guy in baseball to throw the first pitch of a game for four separate teams in the last two years. He also is in danger of wrapping up his second consecutive season on the Disabled List for an injury that has nothing whatsoever to do with his pitching arm.
In his third 2011 start for the contending Arizona Diamondbacks (who’d acquired him at the trading deadline), a batted ball off his leg ended his season. Then last month in his 15th start for the decidedly not-contending San Diego Padres, another batted ball broke a bone in his non-pitching hand. Ouch!
Considering that the Padres have used 15 different starting pitchers—the most in MLB—Jason’s turn may just not come up again.
Selig’s new playoff system ensures us at least two “do-or-die” Wild Card games. Do you suppose any teams—Texas, Washington, Cincinnati—are already arranging their playoff rotations? It shouldn’t be too much work for Dusty Baker; his five-man rotation has started 134 of the Reds’ 135 games through Labor Day.