Thursday, October 06, 2011

Micah Owings is Perfect

Great anecdotes of our sport of baseball defy cold statistical analysis. The truth of the matter is that anything under the sun can happen for a player at any time. Ryan Roberts had never hit a grand slam in his professional life and now he's had two in his last six games. That's not putting down analysis. That way of looking at baseball is fun too. And it doesn't matter if those analysts put down these anomalous moments for what they are. Those happenings happened and you can't...well...unhappen them. Take the season of Micah Owings, pitcher of the fighting Arizona Diamondbacks.

Owings stepped into a game getting out of control last night. With the Diamondbacks needing a win to extend their series with the Brewers to a full five games, their starting pitcher, Joe Saunders, was in a battle with Milwaukee's Randy Wolf to see who could stink up the joint more from a pitching stand point. Saunders gave up a run in the first. Wolf gave up five in the first. Saunders gave up another run in the second and then another one in the top of the third. Kirk Gibson, to his credit, saw the way things were going and smartly pinch hit for Saunders. Gibson's choice of the little known player with the unlikely name of Collin Cowgill paid off huge dividends as Cowgill hit a two-run single to extend the D-backs' lead to 7-3. Into the game stepped Micah Owings.

Fans of this site know that Owings is a favorite here. Fans don't choose favorite players. The players choose the fans. And Owings has always been close to this heart. The root of that fan-hood probably comes from a DH-loving writer who also loves pitchers that can hit. Owings can hit. As a tweeter pointed out last night, Owings has a career rWAR of 0.2 as a pitcher and 3.0 as a batter. But as much as this Fan love him some Micah Owings, the understanding that Owings has never been a very good pitcher has been there. That didn't matter. This writer still loved the guy.

So imagine how ecstatic this Fan would be that Micah Owings has had a perfect season. Perfect? Well, only if you show that his win-loss record--a statistic genuinely hated by all card-carrying members of analytically loving crowd--was a perfect 8-0 during the regular season. Yes, Owings also compiled his career's best ERA of 3.57. But folks, it's a fluke. If you look at Owings' FIP and xFIP, he really wasn't any better this year than any other of his not-so-good seasons. He was simply more fortunate. That's the reality. But the alternate reality is that those eight wins against no losses are still there and you can't ever erase them from the record books. As long as Baseball-reference.com stands, that record will be there.

And now, in the Diamondbacks' somewhat storybook season, Micah Owings is again perfect in the NLDS. His two scoreless innings helped him inherit the win from a starter who couldn't make it to the fifth inning. So now Owings is 9-0 this season: 8-0 in the regular season and 1-0 in the post season. Don't you love it? 

Baseball has an affectionate term for the kind of win that Owings got last night in Arizona. They are called vulture wins. Owings did make four starts this season. He never pitched longer than 5.1 innings in any of them, yet he won three of those games and his team won all four. The rest of his five regular season wins came like last night when Owings entered a game that was either tied or his team was behind or the starter couldn't get the required five innings for the victory. Owings swooped in and nabbed that win. He had three holds during the season, but overall, Owings was the talisman for the Diamondbacks. If he got into a game, good things were going to happen.

It doesn't matter that it's all anomalous. It doesn't matter that his efforts garner any love from analysts. It doesn't matter that Owings really hasn't been any better than any other of his previous seasons. In 2011, Micah Owings was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

1 comment:

Charles Simone said...

Personally, I think the analysis should only be applied to predicting future performance. Let's give a guy some credit in the short-term for doing what his team needed him to do to win, but realize that there was some luck involved, and it probably doesn't predict that the trend will continue.

I'm speaking generally, of course, not just in regard to Micah Owings.