Tuesday, August 10th, 2004
5:14 pm - Quality Starts - Not!  
The Dodgers lost two out of three to the Phillies over the weekend, but they're still six and a half games up on both the Padres and the Giants, so there's finally some breathing room. The one win was the first time they've beaten the Phils since sometime last year, so that's something, anyway.

The breathing room is good, because the pitching rotation just took a hit. After Ishii gave up four homers in the first two innings Friday night, Tracy sent him to the bullpen, and put Wilson Alvarez back in the rotation. Nice plan, except that then Brad Penny strained his bicep in the first inning Sunday night, and will miss at least one start. So Ishii's back in. Sheesh.

Ishii has be inconsistent all season. He's made twenty-two starts. Twelve of those have been quality starts (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs), and in them his ERA is 1.99. The problem is that in his other ten starts, his ERA is 10.23. He's been all or nothing.

Meanwhile, it's also not been the best week for Paul DePodesta. The team played well after the trades, so the heat was easing a bit over his trading of LoDuca and Mota for Penny. Now it comes back with a vengence with Penny getting hurt in his second start. Not really DePodesta's fault, but fans don't necessarily see it that way.

Back to the quality starts. After I figured out how many Ishii had, I decided to take a look at the whole staff, just to see how many the rest of the team had.

   Quality Starts   Total Starts
Alvarez       5       10      
Ishii       12       22      
Lima       8       15      
Nomo       4       14      
Penny (LA)       1       2      
Penny (Season)       14       23      
Perez       15       21      
Weaver       17       23      

If there is one concern about the quality start stat, it's that the minimum qualification (6 innings, 3 ER) projects out to an ERA of 4.50, which isn't all that good. There's a decent article which shows that if you look at the quality starts for all pitchers in an entire season, the overall ERA for those starts is quite good (under 2.00). The thing is, as the sample size starts dropping, say for a single pitcher for two thirds of a season, you start getting anomalies. Now I expected Perez to have good numbers, because he's been LA's most consistent starter when he hasn't been injured. I expected Nomo to be at the bottom, because, well, he's sucked. I did not expect to find that Jeff Weaver has more quality starts than Pedro Martinez. He just hasn't been that good.

Here's the thing. Weaver is a six-inning pitcher. Anything more is gravy. Jim Tracy, being a reasonably intelligent manager with a great bullpen, has nursed Weaver along, pulling him after the sixth when he has a lead so that he could get the win, trying to build his confidence. It seems to be working because Weaver has been pitching pretty well lately, and into the later innings. Still, it has also led to a lot of those 6 run, 3 ER "quality" starts in June and July.

I also did the Sox, who are pretty much what one would expect.

   Quality Starts   Total Starts
Arroyo       9       18      
Lowe       6       22      
Martinez       16       23      
Schilling       14       22      
Wakefield       10       20      

Pedro and Schilling have been solid, and Lowe has been awful. The interesting thing about the Sox is that, despite all the injuries elsewhere, the rotation has been stable. Just the five guys. Of course this all comes right after the Sox staff got lit up two days in a row by weak teams. Schilling got shelled last night by Tampa. ANd then there was Sunday. Sunday's game was an amazing thing to watch. Wakefield gave up six (SIX!!!) homers in five innings to Detroit, but Francona decided to leave him in there, and he managed to eke out a win because the Sox hitters were manhandling the Tiger staff just as badly. Final score was 11-9. There were 10 dingers total. The teams set a record for Comerica Park, which is hardest park to hit the ball out of in the majors. At least until last Sunday...
Current Mood: analytical
Current Music: "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" -- Steve Goodman
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Veejaneveejane on August 10th, 2004 - 02:38 pm
The Wakefield game was hilarious. I'm pretty well convinced by your theory that you should never start a knuckleballer in a day game because the air is at too stable a temperature/pressure. None of his balls did a damned thing, except get hit. Poor Tim.

Lowe has decidedly been slumping, although he's got more like, what, 9 wins on the seasons, even if only 6 of those were "quality". The theory is, he'll stabilize now the trade deadline's over, but, um, still working on that.

As for Martinez, I bet he isn't coming out high on the quality-meter because he runs so hot and cold. Also, Francona never knows when to pull him, or can never enforce his will. Sometimes, he is too much buddy and too little boss, you know?
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DXMachinadxmachina on August 10th, 2004 - 04:26 pm
Actually, Pedro leads the American League in quality starts. The only guys in baseball with more than Weaver are Roger Clemens (18) and Tom Glavine (19). There is an apples to oranges thing going on here, though, because National League pitchers get to pitch to the pitcher, so they give up fewer earned runs as a rule. Turns out Martinez and Weaver have virtually identical ERAs (3.94 - 3.93, respectively), but Martinez is 11th in the AL, while Weaver is 25th in the NL.

I decided to check the day-night thing for Wakefield, and I seem to be on to something. His W-L record and quality games are comparable, but his ERA in day games is 5.77, while in night games it's only 3.81. That's a big difference. If I was really obsessive, I might actually look to see what the field temperature was. If it's hot enough to see heat ripples, the knuckleball ought to move like crazy. OTOH, Sunday looked like a very pleasant day in Detroit. Wakefield said after the game that the ball wasn't moving at all.

The theory on Lowe is that if the defense behind him is better, he'll be better, but that's really kind of reaching. It also assumes Pokey's at second and Mueller's at third. He may get a little better, but I doubt he'll completely turn it around.
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deborah gdebg on August 10th, 2004 - 04:00 pm
Dude, I'm curious, as someone firmly in the enemy camp (and therefore glad to see the back of him):

What in HELL was Dodger management thinking, when they traded Lo Duca?
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DXMachinadxmachina on August 10th, 2004 - 04:38 pm
The rap on LoDuca was that he always slumps in the second half. They thought they had a deal for Charles Johnson to replace him, but Johnson refused the trade. Even in a slump, LoDuca is a better hitter than Johnson. OTOH, the guys they wound up with are pathetic. I'm even madder that they trade Mota. He was a tremendous pitcher. He hits better than either catcher, as well (he's a converted shortstop).

There's also a rumor that the new owner needs to dump salary.

They wanted Randy Johnson, and DePodesta just screwed it up. If Penny doesn't heal, they have big problems.
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