Pitcher’s year

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Through this past Sunday a total of 10 pitchers had made at least 13 starts and have both an ERA below 2.50 and WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) below 1.25. Backing these pitchers in each of their combined 141 starts would have shown a profit of 21.35 units. Only one of the 10 has seen his team lose more than half of his starts and that’s been due to a lack of run support. St. Louis’ rookie lefty has made 13 starts and the Cardinals are just 6-7 in those games. That’s despite the fact that Garcia has pitched at least 6 innings while allowing 2 earned runs or less (a Quality start) in 11 of his 13 starts. His starts have also produced a staggering 12 UNDERs and just 1 OVER.

That’s not the most staggering statistic to be shared with you this week, however, as there has been an even more remarkable occurrence this season that will be mentioned shortly.

As pitching continues to dominate the baseball headlines, discussion has arisen as to the notion of pitch counts and whether or not limiting pitchers to a certain number of pitches in a game — or a certain number of innings over the course of a season — makes sense.

A week or so ago one of the city’s most respected sports book ticket writers, Donut George of Wildfire Sunset, was returning home from a vuvuzela lesson with his bunkmate Stan when their topic of conversation turned to decisions such as the Yankees’ “Joba Rules” implemented last season in the handling of Joba Chamberlain and the Washington Nationals’ intention to limit the pitches of the very impressive Stephen Strasburg.

George rightly pointed out how the game has changed, not necessarily for the best, over the past few decades. Throughout much of baseball’s history and well into the 1980’s most teams used a four man starting rotation that featured many pitchers making close to 40 starts per season, often pitching complete games and racking up over 300 innings pitched in a season. Many of baseball’s greatest pitchers operated under such conditions with most of them experiencing few of the injuries that plague many of today’s hurlers and sideline them for weeks if not months at a time.

No less an authority than the great Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan has weighed in with his thoughts on pitch counts and he is opposed to putting so many limits on developing, or even mature, hurlers. Ryan is President of the Texas Rangers and part of the group involved with buying the ball club. Interestingly, Texas’ pitching staff has shown significant improvement this season which has played a major role in vaulting the Rangers to first place in the AL West.

Realities being as they are the fascination with pitch counts is unlikely to change in the near future but George raised an interesting point that perhaps some of today’s reluctant-to-change managers might consider. If pitch counts are so important why not decrease the number of pitchers made during warm-ups before each inning?

The rules of MLB allow for pitchers to toss 8 warm ups before the start of an inning and most, if not all, pitchers take full advantage. But what if a pitcher tossed only half that number? Over 6 innings that means 48 possible warm up tossed would be cut to 24, thus allowing for at least an extra inning of work by the starter which in turn would reduce the burden on the bullpen.

An interesting thought at the very least and something that deserves consideration.

Interleague play continues this week and concludes this weekend. Through the first two thirds of Interleague play the American League has posted the better results, largely because of their strong success playing at home and by holding their own on the road.

AL teams have played 78 at home against National League teams, posting a 46-32 record (59 percent) and showing a profit of 5.6 units. The 90 games played at National League venues have been split right down the middle with each league winning 45 times. But even here the American League teams have shown an overall profit of 6.7 units.

Over/Under results have been dramatically different depending on locale even though the average runs scored have been nearly identical.

Games played in American League parks have produced more UNDERs (43) than OVERs (32) with 3 games either PUSHing the Total or having no posted Total. Games played at National League sites have produced many more OVERs (54) than UNDERs (32) with 4 games PUSHing or having no total.

Interestingly, Interleague games played at American League sites have averaged the same 9.1 runs per game as have games played at National League sites. The dramatic differences in OVER/UNDER results are largely due to the higher Totals posted in American League parks where the designated hitter is used (average Total Line of 8.8) than in National League parks where pitchers hit (average Total of 8.3).

Here’s a look at an interesting interleague series this weekend as play between the leagues wraps up until the World Series.

Toronto at Philadelphia: This series was originally scheduled for Toronto but has been moved due to the presence of the G-20 Economic Summit not too far from the Rogers Centre. However, Toronto will be treated as the home team and bat last, and the designated hitter will be used just as if the game was being played in Toronto. Both teams start the week with 32 losses but the Blue Jays have three more wins. Despite the closeness in records, Toronto’s season has been considered a pleasant surprise but the Phillies have been something of a disappointment, especially over the past month, losing 16 of 25 starting the week. The offense has been largely responsible but the pitching has also trailed off, with ace Roy Halladay merely mortal since tossing a perfect game last month. Toronto has gotten better than expected pitching but their offense is feast or famine, relying heavily on the long ball. It will be interesting to see how this series plays out given the change in location.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Toronto as underdogs of plus 150 or more against Halladay or of plus 125 or more in any other matchup; Toronto as favorites of minus 120 or less against the Phils’ Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick; OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Halladay or Toronto’s Brett Cecil or Ricky Romero.

Minnesota at New York Mets — Both teams are playing winning baseball and have similar records entering this week. The Mets have one of baseball’s best home records (24-10) while the Twins are a game above .500 on the road, a sign of a team capable of contending for the Playoffs. The Mets have gotten into contention on the strength of some outstanding starting pitching that includes a couple of surprises in R A Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi complimenting ace Johan Santana and the emerging Mike Pelfrey. Minnesota’s staff is led by Francisco Liriano while Carl Pavano has also pitched well. Both offenses are relatively average with pockets of power. Minnesota’s outstanding defense is an edge that could play a factor in one or more of these games.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS — Minnesota as underdogs in starts by Liriano or Pavano against any Mets starter; Mets as favorites of minus 140 or less in starts by Pelfrey, Santana or lefty Jon Niese against other than Liriano or Pavano; UNDER Totals of 9 or higher in any matchup or UNDER 8 or higher if Liriano or Pavano oppose Santana, Pelfrey or Niese.

Detroit at Atlanta — Atlanta’s recent surge has seem them move to the top of the NL East and their 42-18 record is the best in the league. Detroit is also playing winning baseball and is within a game and a half of Minnesota in the AL Central. The Braves’ top starters have been Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson with rookie Kris Medlen showing promise. The Tigers’ ace has been Justin Verlander and both Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga have contributed nicely. Both teams have a pair of struggling starters as Detroit’s Max Scherzer and the Braves’ Kenshin Kawakami have posted poor stats to date. The Braves have baseball’s best home record (24-7) while Detroit has struggled on the road (13-19). Detroit has baseball’s leading home run hitter (Miguel Cabrera, 19) but Atlanta’s offense has been more potent overall.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS — Play against Scherzer and Kawakami in their starts if laying nor more than minus 160 or play OVER 9 ½ or lower if they face each other; Atlanta if favored by minus 150 or less in starts by Hanson or Hudson against other than Verlander; Detroit if favored by minus 135 or less if Verlander faces other than Hanson or Hudson; UNDER Totals of 7 or higher if Verlander opposes Hanson or Hudson; OVER Totals of 8 or lower if Hanson, Hudson and Verlander are not involved.

Boston at San Francisco — By winning 18 of their last 25 games Boston has moved to within a game of the first place Yankees in the AL East. San Francisco has been in contention in the NL West all season on the strength of their starting pitching. Boston has the clear edge in offense and they are third best in baseball by averaging 5.3 runs per game on the road. The Giants are below average on offense but well above average on the mound. Their top four starters each have ERAs below 3.20 and WHIPs below 1.25. Boston has only two such starters — Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz — with a noticeable drop off after that duo. Both teams have above average bullpens with outstanding closers. San Francisco’s Brian Wilson has been every bit as effective as Boston’s better known Jonathan Pappelbon This handicaps as a low scoring series as the Giants allow the fewest runs at home in all of baseball, just 2.8 per game.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS — UNDER Totals of 7 or higher if the Giants’ Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez or Barry Zito oppose Buchholz or Lester; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any other matchup; Red Sox as underdogs of any price in starts by Buchholz or Lester against any Giants’ starter: Giants as favorites of minus 125 or less against other than Buchholz or Lester.

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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