Sunday, July 18, 2010

Carl Freakin' Pavano

The heading is how New York fans named Pavano, except they probably used a different word that began with the letter, "F." He was disparaged by his own teammates. Mike Mussina, who never said boo about anything to anyone, was quoted as calling out Pavano. He was a quitter. He was a guy who took the Yankees' money and was tooling around in his car in Florida with a woman when he was supposed to be getting ready to pitch. The rest is well documented. It was the worst deal that Brian Cashman ever made.

And then just as suddenly as it began, his tenure in New York was over. New York fans were relieved. At least the team wasn't forking over any more money to a no-good-for-nothing, money-grubbing iconoclast. Hmm...not sure a lot of Yankee fans would use that "i" word. But anyway, he was gone. Thank goodness! New York fans laughed when Pavano signed with Cleveland. They laughed even more when he got bombed his first couple of starts there.

As 2009 rolled along, the Pavano skeptics, including yours truly, kept wondering how long he would pitch with his history. But he kept on pitching. After a rough start, he started pitching better. In fact he pitched well enough that the Twins wanted him for the stretch run. Whuh? The Twins WANTED Pavano? But there it was. And he did fairly well for the Twins down the stretch. He won some big games. He had a clunker here and there, but he helped.

When the season was finally over, Pavano--who tallied only 26 starts over three years for the Yankees--finished with 33 starts. The guy who only put in 146 innings over three years and finished his Yankee career with nine wins pitched 227 innings in 2009 and won fourteen games.

The Fan figured that Pavano had done it with mirrors. After all, he did lead the American League in earned runs allowed in 2009 with a combined ERA of 5.10. But the more this writer looked into it, the more it seemed that his numbers were deceiving. He had his best ever season in strikeouts per nine innings. His 1.8 walks per nine innings was also the best of his career. Obviously, his K/BB ratio was the best of his career. He got blown out a few times, but in games where he wasn't blown out, he kept his teams in the game long enough for them to win more than half his starts.

And then the Twins signed him again to pitch for them in 2010. They gave him $7 million after he had made only a million and a half the year before (quite a bit less than the $11 million the Yankees paid per year for him). That seemed like a lot of money for the Twins for a fourth starter...especially when that fourth starter was Carl Freakin' Pavano.

Pavano has delivered. His teammates rave about the guy. The pitcher that Mike Mussina called out as a wimp was now being called a bulldog. On Saturday night, in a game against the White Sox that the Twins just had to win, Pavano pitched a complete game on only 102 pitches and won the game 3-2. He is now 11-6 and seems a lock on winning 17 games or more. Wouldn't the Yankees love to have that instead of the Adventurous Journeys of Burnett?

Pavano's WHIP now stands at 1.03. His ERA is 3.48. He has four complete games. He is striking out four times as many guys as he is walking. And speaking of walks, if it wasn't for the freakish and surreal Cliff Lee who has only walked six batters all year, people would be talking about Pavano. He has only walked 18 batters all season. His 1.3 BB/9 ratio is sterling. He is the Twins' second best pitcher. He is averaging 7.08 innings per start. Among his wins this year, he has beaten the Angels, the Red Sox, the White Sox (twice), the Rangers, the Phillies, the Mets, the Rockies and the Tigers. That's nine wins against contenders. Amazing.

If ever a player's reputation has been rebuilt as strongly as Pavano's, the Fan can't think of one. Where once there was scorn and derision, there is now respect. There is nothing you can do but to admit that Pavano has proven us all wrong. And, this is hard to admit, but he is rapidly becoming one of the Fan's favorite players in baseball. Carl Freakin' Pavano. Amazing.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

More than anything, I think what upset Yankee fans about Pavano (and I can't blame them) was the perception that he faked or exaggerated his injuries while he was in pinstripes. I could tell from Torre's book that Jeter had no respect for him. When you lose Jeter's respect, there's probably a valid reason.