August 8, 2012
Zach McAllister's Secretly Not-So-Good Season
On Monday, Zach McAllister was pitching at home for the Indians. It was the second inning, and he wasn’t having his best game: two solo home runs to lead off the second inning had him in an early hole. Then there was a double, and a walk, but with two outs he got the grounder to second base he needed to get out of the inning. Jason Kipnis threw poorly, Carlos Santana stretched poorly.
McAllister is having a fine season. He entered the game Monday with a 3.42 ERA; he left it with a 3.60 ERA. His FIP is 3.71, and he is striking out more batters now than he has since he was a 19-year-old in short-season ball. He has nine game scores higher than 50 in 12 starts. PECOTA didn’t expect much from McAllister this year—a 4.69 ERA—but he has been a nice surprise. No Indian who has started even one game is within a run of his team-leading ERA. Those are all things people talk about when they talk about pitching.
But then we poke around and find, hidden in McAllister’s basement, the deformed Olsen triplet of pitching statistics: unearned runs. Because of a fluke of baseball history, most pitchers get to ignore these blemishes. The analytical set quite reasonably refuses this logic, but for the most part the detente holds. Unearned runs are, mostly, not a big deal.
McAllister could have been part of this sweet arrangement. But folks only look the other way up to a point, and McAllister—who allowed his 12th unearned run in 12 starts on the Kipnis error—went too far. People who go too far have to be dealt with.