There have been 1,082 games so far this season where a pitcher has pitched at least six innings and has given up two or fewer runs. The pitchers in those situations have not gotten a decision in 333 of those games or roughly 30.1 percent of the time. When the pitchers have recorded a decision in such games, they are 611-138. That's a winning percentage of .816. Pretty impressive. Even if you add in the 333 no-decisions, a pitcher still wins 56 percent of those games. But there are a few pitchers who haven't been so fortunate.
Obviously, if a pitcher has only had a couple of those games and doesn't succeed, it's kind of a statistical fluke. But if we go to pitchers that have pitched at least nine of those starts, then we get a little more of a sample size. Focusing on pitchers who have at least nine of these kinds of starts still yields an 82 percent win rate (246-54) and even when including no-decisions, still win 60 percent of the time. We'll make this our base line. And the unluckiest pitchers would have the least percentage of wins in such games.
There are ten pitchers who have won less than 50 percent of such starts that have at least nine such games. That's a bit unwieldy for such a list. To shorten it down a bit, we'll focus on the four pitchers who have nine or more such starts and have won less than 40 percent of those games. The Fan will list the other six in the honorable mention. Here are the Fan's unluckiest pitchers of 2011 (so far):
1. Jordan Zimmermann (Washington Nationals): Come on! You knew if you read today's game picks post that Zimmermann would be on this list, right? But it's true. One of the great things about being a Fan of the game is that every year brings players the Fan kind of latches on to. Jordan Zimmermann has become such a player for this observer this year. It all started last season when Zimmermann made a start and was blasted so completely that the pitcher broke down and cried in the dugout. How can you not feel for such a player? So this year, when Zimmermann began pitching really well, this Fan was very happy for him. Unfortunately, Zimmermann has nothing to show for his efforts.
Jordan Zimmermann is tied for the lead in said starts with twelve. In those twelve starts, he is 4-5, meaning he has won only 33.33 percent of his terrific starts. That bites. The other three pitchers with twelve such starts (Weaver, Romero and Halladay) are 25-4! Poor Zimmermann. In those starts, he has an ERA of 1.69 and a WHIP of 0.98 and his team has only won him four of those games. Amazing. The Nationals have won thirteen of their last eighteen games. Despite such success, Zimmermann, who hasn't had a bad game in a long time, is only 1-1 during that stretch.
2. Paul Maholm (Pittsburgh Pirates): In Maholm's nine games that match our criteria, he has pitched really well. His ERA in those nine games is a minuscule 1.29 with a WHIP of 0.97. And yet he is only 3-3 in those starts with three no-decisions. Maholm doesn't have the pure stuff that Zimmermann has. Zimmermann's strikeout to walk ratio in his twelve games mentioned is 3.25. Maholm's is only 1.68. But Maholm has only given up one homer in those nine games and only 39 hits in 62.2 innings. That's incredible pitching that hasn't led to personal glory for him.
3. Tim Stauffer (San Diego Padres): Stauffer doesn't quite match the other three on this list. Unlike Maholm and Zimmerman and the fourth pitcher we'll talk about, Stauffer at least has a nice winning percentage in his eleven games that match our criteria. His 4-1 record is great. But what about all those non-decisions? Stauffer has seven no-decisions in his eleven great games pitched meaning he's won only 36.4 percent of those starts. With the Padres offense, this selection makes sense.
Stauffer's ranking on our list is a surprise to this author and is probably a surprise to you as well. The Fan hadn't realized that Stauffer had pitched so well so often. In those eleven games, Stauffer has a 4.25 strikeout to walk ratio. He has a WHIP of 0.89! His ERA in those eleven games is 1.31.
4. Justin Masterson (Cleveland Indians): Like Stauffer, Masterson has eleven starts that match our criteria. But unlike Stauffer, Masterson's winning record is 4-3 and his percentage of wins in those starts matches Stauffer's 36.4 percent. Masterson has a sterling ERA of 1.75 in those games with a WHIP of 1.14. He's only given up one homer in all those starts.
Masterson's last start was typical in how bad his luck has been. He had pitched six scoreless innings against the Giants. In the seventh, he gave up a double to lead off the inning, but that batter (Nick Schierholtz) was thrown out trying to get to third. Masterson then induced a ground ball to second, which was booted for an error. Masterson then got a pop up to short. He then threw another ground ball and his second baseman made yet another error. At that point, his manager came out and relieved him of duty and brought Tony Sipp into the game. Sipp walked the next batter and then balked in the only run. Masterson got the loss for the 1-0 game. Has anyone ever lost an unluckier game?
Honorable Mention: Dan Haren (ten such starts, 4-1), Hiroki Kuroda (nine such starts, 4-3 record), Philip Humber (nine such starts, 4-2 record), Ryan Dempster (nine such starts, 4-1 record), Madison Bumgarner (nine such starts, 4-4 record) and Nick Blackburn (nine such starts, 4-2 record).
Maybe tomorrow we'll look at the luckiest starters for 2011.