Thursday, July 23, 2015

MLB Starting Pitching at 2015’s Mid-Point: “McGinnity’s,” Eovaldi’s and Anderson’s

At the nominal half-way point of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s inaugural MLB season, 1,330 games have been completed, leaving an even 1,100 to be played. (Was his predecessor’s scheduling ever so accommodating?)

All those games were started by 261 different pitchers, an average of just over five games per player. Slightly more than 50 percent of them (136) have been entrusted with 10 or more games.  Over half of MLB’s 2015 starting pitching assignments have been filled by a group of 80 “full-timers” who’ve each logged a minimum of 17 starts. (Some of the names on that list might surprise you, say a “breaking down” CC Sabathia or a relative novice like Nathan Eovaldi, both mainstays in the Yankee rotation.)

An average of 8.7 starting pitchers per team has been utilized. Sixteen teams have trotted out either eight or nine different guys; another eight teams, topped by the Dodgers at 12, are in double-digits. San Diego’s trudged along for 90 games with a mere six starting pitchers – including the injury-prone Brandon Morrow who has not pitched since early May.

Relief pitchers have been the pitcher-of-record for slightly less than 30 percent of all winning/losing decisions this season. The Cub and Dodger bullpen crews each account for 40+ percent of their teams’ total decisions as well as of their winning decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland Indian relief specialists sport a collective 7-5 record after 88 contests.

Such volume of bullpen work shouldn’t surprise, given that complete games in today’s MLB are about as common as rotary phone dials – exactly 2.03 percent were your odds of seeing a CG during the season’s first 99 days. Far more likely, though, would have been a good strong seven-inning outing – there have been 816 of them in 2015, roughly as often as a bullpen decision.

The Indians, White Sox and Mets boast a “long start” rate above 40 percent. The dreadful Phillies have but 15 such performances to their credit, of which eleven belong to the soon-to-dealt (?) Cole Hamels. Oddly, the only other staff below 20 percent in LS’s … the defending American League champion and division-leading Kansas City Royals. (The Royals also rank in the bottom tier in bullpen decisions at just about one-fourth.)

Zach Greinke of the Dodgers and Houston phenom Dallas Keuchel started the All-Star Game. Max Scherzer has replaced Clayton Kershaw as the game’s best regular-season starter. Felix remains a King. And Bartolo Colon, like Ol’ Man River, just keeps rollin’ along. 

There are also, currently, nine Iron Men – full-time starters with a 60+ percent rate for LS’s.

Scherzer  18 starts (14 long, 79%), 3 CG’s, 1 No-Decision, 2.278 (No. 2)*
Jeff Samardzija  18 starts (13 long, 72%), 1 CG, 8 No-Decisions, 1.667 (No. 13)*
Johnny Cueto  17 starts (12 long, 71%), 1 CG, 5 No-Decisions, 1.706 (No. 12)*
Chris Sale  17 starts (11 long, 65%), 1 CG, 5 No-Decisions, 1.942 (No. 7)*
Keuchel  19 starts (12 long, 63%), 3 CG’s, 4 No-Decisions, 2.316 (No. 1)*
Corey Kluber  19 starts (12 long, 63%), 1 CG, 5 No-Decisions, 1.158 (No. 76)*
Hamels  18 starts (11 long, 61%), 0 CG’s, 6 No-Decisions, 1.333 (No. 44)*
Felix Hernandez  18 starts (11 long, 61%), 2 CG’s, 2 No-Decisions, 2.111 (No. 5)*
John Lackey  18 starts (11 long, 61%), 1 CG, 6 No-Decisions, 1.555 (No. 16)*

*This score and ranking combines outcome and endurance. Here’s the idea.

And as for Senor Colon, his 17 starts continue to qualify him as a full-timer despite the Mets’ flirtation of late with a six-man rotation. He has failed to earn the decision only once, a feat matched by only three other pitchers with 10 or more starts.

The dubious distinction of notching the most No-Decision starts, with 10, belongs to the Diamondbacks’ Chase Anderson, not to be confused with the Dodgers’ Brett who has only eight ND’s … you might say he’s in the chase.