April 11, 2014
This Week's New Pitching Lines, 4/11
As was immediately identified by everybody with a Play Index subscription and/or common sense, Danny Salazar's 3.2/6/5/5/2/10 pitching line yesterday was a unique pitching line. Shoot, the bookends alone are brand new; all the hits, runs, and walks are irrelevant, as there has never been a 3.2 inning, 10-K start before. To this, the esteemed Zachary Levine suggested that
But with due respect to Zachary, I would argue that Salazar's pitching line—while interesting, and deserving of attention throughout the baseball world—is the opposite of what this series lusts after. It's a freak-show start, and baseball has tons of freak shows, the sort that Jayson Stark and YCPB and High Heat Stats and others chronicle so wonderfully. What's most interesting to this series is the way that even the banal can slip past baseball's century of monkeys and typewriters. The way that Salazar's teammate, Zach McAllister, could so quietly make his own kind of history with a simple little 7.2/5/0/0/0/7 line this week. Randall Delgado's 3.1/6/3/3/3/0 yesterday has been done eight times, because everything in baseball has been done eight times, yet somehow nobody has ever produced a 7.2/5/0/0/0/7. And nobody cares. Anyway, you've now seen two of this week's brand new pitching lines. The others:
The best new line of the week: Stephen Strasburg's 6.2/3/1/1/1/12
In this start, Strasburg was pulled after 98 pitches, with two outs in the seventh and the tying run on first. Managers hate to pull a starter mid-inning when he's doing well. Consider:
That managers have historically let the Strasburg-type finish this inning doesn't necessarily make it right, and it's sort of interesting and exciting that Matt Williams brought in Jerry Blevins. Williams has professed an openness to statistical best practices, and this move suggests he's not going to fall victim to a common managerial mistake: Trusting his famous-name starter instead of his not-famous reliever even late in the game, when the reliever is almost certainly a better option than a tiring starter going a third or fourth time through the order. Jerry Blevins came in for Strasburg and retired all three lefties lined up. It did come at some expense—a double-switch required—and, of course, one might wonder whether it communicates anything to Strasburg, and whether that matters:
So Williams' move was not obviously right (or wrong). But for a manager who promises to try new things, it's encouraging that he tried something that is literally brand new.
*Gerrit Cole very nearly matched this line yesterday, but for an unearned run that turned his line into a new-line masterpiece: 6/5/4/3/2/10. It took 100 years for baseball to produce the perfect odometer reading.
The worst new line of the week: Hyun-Jin Ryu's 2/8/8/6/3/2
The most surprisingly new line of the week: Masahiro Tanaka's 7/7/3/3/1/10
7/7/3/3/1/10! I feel so alive! I feel so alive for the very first time. And I think I can fly.