News, Notes and Quotes (July 27, 2004)

The Ten-Club

Colorado right-hander Denny Stark has a chance to join some pretty exclusive company this season, but it’ll probably only happen if he doesn’t pitch again. Stark, who is on the disabled list with a groin injury, has thrown 26 innings for the Rockies this year and has a monstrous 11.42 ERA.

Since 1900, only three pitchers have ever thrown more than 25 innings in a season with a higher ERA than Stark’s. Not only that, but a total of just 17 pitchers have thrown 25 or more innings in a season with an ERA as high as even 10.00. Here’s the illustrious group Stark has a chance to join …

PITCHER               YEAR       IP      ERA
Stu Flythe            1936     39.0    13.15
Paul Abbott           2002     26.1    11.96  
Frank LaCorte         1977     37.0    11.68    
Dave Hamilton         1980     30.0    11.40     
Ryan Bowen            1992     33.2    10.96  
Carl Doyle            1936     39.0    10.85     
Todd Frohwirth        1994     26.2    10.80  
Roy Halladay          2000     67.2    10.64
Bill Pierro           1950     29.0    10.55     
Jaime Navarro         2000     33.1    10.53  
Victor Santos         2002     26.0    10.38     
Eddie Oropesa         2002     25.1    10.30  
John D'Acquisto       1975     28.0    10.29     
Micah Bowie           1999     51.0    10.24    
Jack Billingham       1980     31.2    10.23   
Bob Miller            1962     25.2    10.17   
Aaron Myette          2002     48.1    10.06

The amazing thing about that list is that the guy with the most innings pitched in baseball history with an ERA over 10.00 is Roy Halladay, with 67.2 innings of 10.64 ERA pitching in 2000. The very next year, Halladay pitched 105.1 innings with a 3.16 ERA, and then followed that up by going 19-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 2002 and 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA last season, winning the American League Cy Young award. What Halladay had on his side was his youth (he was 23 years old in 2000) and the fact that his was a mechanical problem, as opposed to the “I’m an awful pitcher” problem that most of the other guys on the list had.

None of the other pitchers on the list bounced back to do much after their horrendous seasons. Frank LaCorte managed to go 8-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 83 innings a few years later, but he was pretty much an awful pitcher for 10 years. Victor Santos has bounced back to pitch pretty well for the Brewers this season, going 9-4 with a 3.56 ERA in 93.2 innings thus far.

Several of the guys actually pitched worse in future years, as hard as that is to believe. Todd Frohwirth followed up his 10.80 ERA season with an 11.12 ERA the next year, although he only pitched 5.2 innings. John D’Acquisto came close to making the list twice. After his 10.29 ERA in 28 innings in 1974, D’Acquisto posted a 10.71 ERA in 19.1 innings seven years later. Aaron Myette did those two guys one better, posting a 23.62 ERA (in just 2.2 innings) the year after his 10.06 ERA performance that got him on the list.

Meanwhile, Stu Flythe, Dave Hamilton, Bill Pierro, Jaime Navarro, Jack Billingham and Bob Miller never pitched again after their list-making season, and Phillies fans are probably wishing Paul Abbott had followed their path.

Stark at least has the excuse that he’s pitching half his games in Coors Field, or at least that’s what you’d think. While he has been absolutely hammered at home this year (16.20 ERA, .543 OAVG), he has also been shelled away from Coors (9.78 ERA, .382 OAVG). Stark has a history of sky-high ERAs too. Back in 1999, he had a 9.95 ERA in 6.1 innings with the Mariners. He was so bad that he didn’t make it back to the big leagues until 2001, when he had a 9.21 ERA in 14.2 innings with Seattle.

In the middle of all the grotesque ERAs is Stark’s 2002 season, in which he somehow went 11-4 with a 4.00 ERA in 128.1 innings with the Rockies. Take that season out and he has a career record of 4-9 with a 7.59 ERA in 125.2 innings pitched.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

There was a nice article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Twins C/DH/1B Matthew LeCroy and his wife adopting a daughter earlier this month and, after reading it, I realized LeCroy is perhaps my favorite player right now. I know a lot of people have that one guy they love above everyone else, but for whatever reason I’ve never really had that. Instead, I typically have a group of about 4-5 guys who are my favorites, with another 4-5 right on the cusp.

I started thinking about it, and I realized two interesting things about my favorite players. First, except for Johan Santana, they are all hitters. I’m guessing that has to do with the fact that, during my own baseball career (if you can call a .350 Little League slugging percentage a career), I rarely pitched. Beyond that, all the hitters fall into two categories — incredible players who are perceived as jerks or “good old boys” who are perceived as goofballs.

Let me try to explain … My favorite non-active player of all-time is Ted Williams, who was about as incredible as they come and definitely perceived as a bit of a jerk, particularly in the media. Another of my all-time favorites is Rickey Henderson, another incredible player who doesn’t have the best reputation.

For many years — probably most of the 1990s — my favorite player was Frank Thomas. I’ve argued before in other places that Thomas is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and someone who doesn’t get enough respect as a player. Plus, he is almost universally seen as a jerk. And, in recent years, Barry Bonds has become one of my favorite players. Bonds, like Williams, is about as incredible on the field as they come, and certainly we are all familiar with the way he is portrayed in the media.

In thinking about this first group of guys, I think it is obvious that I basically like players who can flat out dominate, while also showing a little arrogance or cockiness or whatever it is you want to call it. With that said, my second group of favorites is interesting because they are the guys who are the “good old boys,” with the “aw shucks” quotes and the complete lack of arrogance.

Jim Thome is one of my favorites, and I’ve never heard a bad word said about him. He just comes across as a big goofball. Same as LeCroy, who appears to me to be the nicest, goofiest human being in the world. I also like Bobby Kielty, who’s got a lot of that Southern charm and laid-back approach.

I think one of the most interesting things about baseball is how different people can see the same player, the same person, and have totally opposite feelings about them. Barry Bonds is a perfect example of this. In that respect, it intrigues me how people decide upon their favorite players.

In many instances, I suspect it has to do with meeting a player in person or seeing a player do something special at a game you went to. For me, that’s never really done it. I’ve met some players — from Andre Dawson and Fergie Jenkins to Scott Leius and Dave Winfield — and that has never swayed my opinion of them either way. Yet, give me a guy who gets on base 60% of the time and gets ridiculed in the media for sitting in a recliner in the clubhouse, or a guy who needs a pit stop and lunch break to get to first base, and I’m sold.

Ichiro!’s Averages

I was checking out Ichiro!‘s numbers the other day and found some interesting stuff. First of all, he’s done significantly better against left-handed pitching in each of the past three years, despite the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter.

Check out the numbers …

                 vs. RHP                    vs. LHP             +/-      +/-      +/-
YEAR      AVG      OPS      GPA      AVG      OPS      GPA      AVG      OPS      GPA
2002     .308     .780     .270     .356     .899     .308     +16%     +15%     +14%
2003     .291     .769     .259     .359     .831     .286     +23%     + 8%     +10%
2004     .326     .741     .258     .353     .889     .305     + 8%     +20%     +18%

Regardless of whether you want to look at his batting average, OPS or GPA, Ichiro! has been significantly better against lefties in each of the past three seasons. The weird thing about it is that Ichiro! struggled against lefties in his rookie year, back in 2001. He hit .318/.343/.396 (.253 GPA) against lefties that year and .362/.396/.480 (.298 GPA) against righties.

For his entire career, Ichiro! has hit .322/.369/.429 against righties and .346/.389/.445 against lefties. That’s a 7% increase in batting average against lefties, a 5% increase in OPS, and a 5% increase in GPA. That may not sound all that huge, and I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips to say for sure, but I’m guessing that’s extremely rare for a left-handed hitter.

The other thing I noticed is that Ichiro!’s batting averages this year have been all over the place …

MONTH      AVG      AB
April     .255     102
May       .400     125
June      .274     106
July      .402      87

Obviously something like that could be explained by simple randomness or luck or whatever, but I also thought that maybe Ichiro!, because so many of his hits are singles (and more specifically infield singles), is more prone to huge swings in batting average than most players. This theory could probably be tested, but it would require all sorts of data and work, and I’m just trying to write a few interesting words about him, so I’ll leave that to someone else.

What I did do is make a nifty little graph of Ichiro!’s month-by-month batting averages during his career …

That graph is awfully volatile for a guy who is a career .329 hitter. Although, like I just said, that’s based on nothing but my gut reaction. Perhaps a subject to study in the future (unless someone beats me to it).

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