Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pavano and Santana - A Conflict of Luck

In the old days--at least before statistics got a little more sophisticated--some old time manager would expectorate into a spittoon and say, "Yep, that Pavano just knows how to win." That same old geezer of a manager would spit again and say, "Now that Santana, he's throws the ball pretty well. But dang it, he just finds a way to lose." Take that same conversation to the golf course after an errant iron shot bounces off a hill and somehow scampers onto the green, and the golfer will throw up his hands and sheepishly say, "Rather be lucky than good."

Carl Pavano is that golfer. He somehow gets the wins no matter how terrible he pitches. Take tonight for example. Pavano pitched six and a third innings. He "scattered" ten hits, giving up "only" four runs to improve his ERA to 6.45. Gavin Floyd pitched for the White Sox and did his best Livan imitation and was worse, giving up eight runs to bring his current ERA to 7.32. So, while Pavano wasn't exactly lights out, at least he didn't give up 14 base runners in five innings like Floyd did.

The win evened Pavano's record to 3-3. He was 4-2 last year with the Yankees despite an ERA of 5.77. So if you combine Pavano's last three years, he is 8-5 despite giving up 57 earned runs in 75 innings. That's a .615 winning percentage if you are keeping score.

Now let's flip over to Johan Santana. In the first inning, Kevin Johnson popped out to center. Then Escobar singled to shortstop. Another old geezer line: "They all count the same in the scorecard." Prado singled to left. At least he got it out of the infield. McCann popped out (it sure is worrisome about his vision!) Two outs. Diaz singles to third (another infield hit!) and Wright throws the ball away allowing a run to score. Kotchman whiffs to end the inning. Santana sure got cuffed around that inning!

The Mets later tie the score and so it's 1-1 going into the seventh. Derek Lowe pops out. Pesky Kevin Johnson singles to center and Santana is pulled for Parnell. Escobar promptly singles. Prado flies out to center. Two outs. McCann comes up and hits a roller to short. Easy out and the third out of the inning, right? Wrong. Reyes messes it up and everybody is safe. Diaz then singles and guess whose run that is? Yup, Santana's. And it's the deciding run. The Braves score more runs on each of the Mets' four relievers to break open the game.

So Santana pitched six and a third (same as Pavano), did not give up an earned run. His ERA actually went down to a surreal 0.78 and he lost. His record is now 4-2. So despite giving up only 6.5 hits per nine innings the last three years, despite a WHIP right around 1 for those three years, his winning percentage over those three years? .614. Pavano's was .615 remember?

Yep. Rather be lucky than good.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

And this is exactly why wins and losses are a misleading barometer of how good a pitcher is.