The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2009 MLB season so far - pitching

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009   (7 years, 11 months ago)

The Blue Jays are one of the three best pitching teams in the majors - so why are they allowing so many runs? The Yankees are one of the worst pitching teams in baseball even though they strike out over 7 per 9 innings.

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Part 2, where we look at some of what passes for pitching this year

the Good

Kansas City Royals

It’s almost impossible to overstate how good the Royals’ pitching has been so far this year. Their team ERA is a MLB best 3.59 which, to put that in perspective, is over 2 runs a game better than division rival Cleveland who are one of the worst pitching teams in baseball.

Kansas City has allowed, by far, the fewest runs of any team in the majors, and they’ve done it while facing some truly impressive offenses. The Royals took 2 of 3 from the Rangers, 3 of 4 from the Blue Jays and 1 of 3 from the Yankees while holding three of the highest scoring teams in baseball to an average of 4 runs a game. For comparison the rest of the league is giving up around 5.5 runs a game to these three teams.

L.A. Dodgers

The Dodgers numbers are actually better than Kansas City’s in every measurable way. So why aren’t they first? Let me put it this way: there are 9 teams that have more than 200 runs scored so far - of those 2 are in the NL… and one of them is the Dodgers themselves. Turn that around and of the 9 teams who have allowed the fewest runs 7 are in the NL. It’s just that much easier to prevent runs in the NL.

National League skew aside the Dodgers are putting up stellar numbers. They lead the majors in opponents’ SLG and OPS and trail only one team in opponents’ OBP and WHIP - we’ll get to which team that is next. The Dodgers are allowing very few home runs, giving up very few walks and have therefore given up the fewest total bases in the majors.

Combined with their amazing offense the Dodgers are definitely the best team in baseball as we pass the quarter-point of the season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Which brings us to the second best team in baseball through the first quarter of the season…

They’ve allowed 174 runs through their first 41 games which is only around upper-mid-pack in the majors - pretty good, but not exactly a Kansas City like 134 RA, so why is Toronto on the list of the Good teams? Because as big as their positive run differential is (+60) the statistics indicate that the Jays have actually been getting unlucky.

Teams have actually scored more runs than they should have against the Blue Jays during these first 41 games. Toronto’s pitching through the first 41 games breaks down like this:

Blue Jays 2009 3.85 1.25 .242 .310 .402 .712 284
Rank 1st AL,
3rd MLB
1st AL,
1st AL,
3rd MLB
1st AL,
3rd AL,
8th MLB
1st AL,
5th MLB
1st AL,
6th MLB

Take a look at those stats - if that was a player he would have a line of .242/.310/.402, would be striking out a ton and drawing very few walks. His manager would also be taking a hard look at his defense and considering optioning him to the minors. The saving grace for this fictitious player would be how “clutch” he was during this brief 41 game sample.

Somehow the Jays have allowed over 4 runs a game while only allowing 1.25 baserunners per inning.

Honorable mention here to Milwaukee who are emerging as the next best team in the NL

the Bad

Philadelphia Phillies (1st in NL East)

The Phillies have allowed an eye-popping 198 runs so far this year, which over the 37 games they’ve played works out to almost 5.5 per game. That’s amazingly bad for any team, but it’s positively bizarre for a team that’s somehow leading its division.

Their starting pitching is putting men on base like no other team in the majors - to the tune of a .376 OBP! Throw in the MLB worst .546 opponents’ SLG and the Phillies starters are making a lot of hitters look like superstars with that .921 opponents’ OPS and those 42 home runs they’ve allowed. Only Baltimore’s starters have allowed more total bases than Philadelphia’s and that is just astoundingly bad.

The relief pitching on the other hand has been good, and that is what keeps the Phillies from falling all the way into the Ugly territory. Much like our next team…

Boston Red Sox (3.5 GB)

The bullpen has been good - very good. Boston’s relievers have a 3.02 ERA, a .239 BAA and a 1.33 WHIP. The starting pitching on the other hand…

The Red Sox starters have put up an ugly 5.76 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and .290 BAA line so far this season - all of those numbers are among the worst in the majors. In fact only Baltimore and Philadelphia have worse ERAs for their starting pitching. Boston’s starting pitching has been letting opponents on base at a .366 clip (4th worst in baseball) and that .460 SLG indicates they’re not exactly holding those hitters to singles either.

Tampa Bay Rays (6.5 GB)

They’re 6.5 games back of division leading Toronto, but still considered very much a factor in the AL East. The reason they’re a factor is their 3rd best in the majors 222 runs scored. The reason they’re 6.5 games back is their godawful 200 runs allowed.

Only a handful of truly shitty teams have allowed more runs so far this year than the Rays, and it’s not too hard to see why: Tampa’s starting pitching has been terrible. Not Boston and Philadelphia terrible, but really, really not good. Tampa starters have a collective ERA over 5 and WHIP of over 1.50 and that’s because opponents have a .277 BAA, .351 OBP and .456 SLG line against the Rays starting pitching.

Tampa Bay’s relief pitching hasn’t been as good as Boston’s, but on the other hand their starting pitching hasn’t been anywhere near as bad.

the Ugly

Washington Nationals

It’s hard to isolate the badness on this team to really determine just how bad the pitching is, but trust me - it’s bad. The .377 opponents OBP, .457 SLG, the .292 BAA - it’s all really, really bad. Worst in baseball type bad. Throw in the Nationals worst in baseball 171 walks (!) and it’s not too hard to see why this team has a frighteningly awful 1.69 team WHIP.

That team WHIP is also the worst in baseball but then you would be hard pressed to find a single measure of pitching where the Nationals aren’t dead last, or close to it. Their K/BB ratio is the worst in baseball, they’ve thrown the most wild pitches, they’ve even blown the most saves (13) - which is pretty surprising since that means the Nationals somehow made it into the late innings with a lead at least 13 times. That’s 2 more times than they made it out of a game with the lead…

Sweet fuck the Nationals are terrible.

Baltimore Orioles

I may have mentioned earlier how quickly things were going to turn bad for the Orioles if their hitting cooled off… well it did and the pitching didn’t get any better. Baltimore managed to rack up a decent record against the Yankees (3-3) and Tampa Bay (4-3) to start the season, but their 0-7 record against Toronto and Boston is a much better indication of how the Orioles are going to fare against the rest of the AL East this year.

Teams are hitting .297 against the Orioles with a .359 OBP and .507 SLG - or to put that in perspective - so far this year the Orioles have made every player they face look like Carlos Beltran.

New York Yankees

The Yankees pitching has been abysmal. There’s no other word for it. Well maybe there are some other words: putrid, pathetic, laughable, comical, ineffectual, almost as bad as the Orioles and Nationals… okay that last one was more than one word…

The Yankees have given up an astounding 218 runs in 38 games which ranks as the fourth most in all of baseball, but it actually doesn’t do justice to just how bad the pitching has been. Only the Washington Nationals have given up more free passes than the Yankees so far this year, and only Cleveland and Washington have a worse opponents OBP.

The Yankees rank near the bottom of the majors in pretty much every pitching category - ERA, WHIP, opp. OBP, opp. SLG, opp. OPS, BAA, HR given up, TB allowed. Their pitchers have also allowed the most steals of any team other than Boston.

About the only bright spot that can be found in the Yankees pitching, and the only thing keeping them out of the bottom spot here, is that they are putting up a lot of strikeouts.

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Comments on “The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2009 MLB season so far - pitching”

  1. Danny

    Giants have the best pitching there pitching when them games because they don’t really score runs there is almost always no run support.

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