May 9, 2014
This Week's New Pitching Lines, 5/9
I wrote this post. Then, before saving it, I accidentally clicked on a bookmark button that navigated me away from the page. So then I rewrote it. Rewriting a post is a good time to ponder the value of that post. And pondering such made me realize that there will come a Friday when I decide that this series has run its course. Might that Friday be next Friday? Probably not. Would you be surprised if it was? Probably not. There are other things in this world that we can find to count, I imagine. Just giving you an early warning.
Stephen Strasburg line of the week: Strasburg made two starts this week. The first, keeping in character, was brand new: 6/6/3/0/1/5. The second, however, was unStrasburgingly common: 7.1/7/2/2/2/6, an eighth-timer, which makes it as common as his previous seven starts this year combined. From the first inning, when he allowed two runs and didn't strike out four or anything, it felt like an inevitable march toward repetition, and I could only hold out hope that one of his two bequeathed baserunners in the eighth would somehow come around to score an unearned run. Alas, it didn't happen, and Strasburg's record this year now stands at:
Now that you've got a sense of the rhythm of how often new lines appear, you might wonder how common the typical start is. So, on the same day that Strasburg threw his 7.1/7/2/2/2/6, I counted how many antecedents** there were for all the other pitching lines of the day:
So Haren's was the most common, though I occasionally bump into lines with triple-digit predecessors.
Best new line of the week: Tim Hudson's 8.2/5/2/1/1/5*. As noted in the first installment of this series, 8 2/3 inning starts are relatively rare. It takes a pretty good pitcher to go 8 2/3, and managers like to let their pretty good pitchers finish off such efforts. Nine inning starts are 20 times more common than 8 2/3, and even eight inning starts are about nine times more common. In the past decade, only one pitcher has had two 8 2/3 inning starts in a single season, and now here Hudson has gone 8 2/3 in back-to-back starts. With five such starts in his career, he's the active leader. This was an 8 2/3 inning complete game, which is even rarer--not just the first in Hudson's career, but, assuming I'm ordering my search terms correctly, the only 8 2/3 inning complete game that has ever been thrown by any active starter. So that's something!
Worst new line of the week: Tyler Skaggs’ 2.2/8/6/6/3/2. Admit it, it's a pretty bad line.
Most surprisingly new line of the week: Cesar Ramos' 5.2/3/2/2/2/4. Ramos is really a reliever, so he hasn't been allowed to top 100 pitches yet this year. Further, he's prone to ball fours and long at-bats, so his pitch count gets up there quickly. Together, then, he's appeared in this column regularly for having slightly shorter starts than previous pitchers have been allowed in similar circumstances. What's really interesting to me, though, is the way that pitchers' lines in each game seem somehow drawn to each other. What I mean is that, as I go through these box scores, game by game, searching each line, they seem to resemble each other more than they would by mere chance. Maybe I'm imagining this, of course, or maybe there actually are shared variables that cause the two starters' lines to merge: Perhaps managers react subtly to each other, so that when one manager pulls his pitcher early it nudges the other manager to pull his pitcher early, or when one pinch-hits for his pitcher it signals (again, subtly) that it's pinch-hitting time. Perhaps the umpire, or the ballpark, or the weather, leads to similar strikeout and walk rates. The Ramos start is an example of this. Here's his line and that of Bud Norris, his competition that day:
Ramos' line is brand new and Norris' is (at five times) pretty rare, and yet in the same game they each occurred right alongside each other. Or another example, from yesterday:
Four-inning starts are pretty rare (about 1 in 27 starts, these days; Carroll's line is a brand new one) and here we have two in the same game, with fairly similar distribution of the rest of the stats. I'm almost certainly imagining this.
*All lines are compared only to previous starting pitchers' lines. Asterisk denotes a line that is unique only because of the unearned runs; were the unearned runs all credited as earned, it would be a repeat
**Not technically what this word means. Sounds good though.