Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
June 7, 2005
BASEBALL: The Mets Rotation
The Mets' pitching staff has been coming along nicely lately, although I still have serious concerns about several of the starters. But it also occurred to me that just looking at ERAs wasn't getting at some of the important distinctions between these guys. I decided to break them down by starts, into three groups: Quality Starts (6 or more innings, 3 or fewer earned runs; I always thought 3-in-6 was a pretty poor excuse for a quality start, but less so now than 20 years ago); Disaster Starts (at least 1 earned run per inning pitched); and Mediocre Starts (the rest). Let's see how the seven men to start games for the Mets this year break out:
How about the Mets' record in those starts?
As you can see, this is a classic breakdown for a team with an OK but not great offense: the Mets are extremely hard to beat when they get a quality start, lose most of the time when they don't, and are incapable of coming back when the starter gets blown out.
For the quick math, the Mets are 18-10 when Pedro, Benson, Heilman or Seo starts, but 12-17 when Glavine, Zambrano or Ishii starts.
Now, each pitcher's ERA broken out by Quality Starts, Mediocre Starts and Disaster Starts:
Now, some conclusions. While some of us - myself prominently included - have given up on Tom Glavine, what we see here is a guy who can still give you plenty of quality outings, as long as you live with the fact that he's the one starter most likely to take you completely out of the game. In fact, Glavine's ERA in his 9 non-disaster starts is 2.62 - exactly the same as Pedro's in his 11. The difference is that Pedro has yet to have a game completely get away from him, whereas it has happened to Glavine three times, two of them against division foes. Of course, the overall result is still a losing record for the Mets when Glavine starts.
Then there's Zambrano, Ishii and Heilman. These numbers confirm for me that Zambrano is contributing, and Ishii isn't and should be replaced by Heilman. Note that while Zambrano is the least effective Mets starter in his Quality Starts, he's the most effective in his Mediocre starts, because he's the most likely to be lifted before 6 innings even if he has only allowed 2 or 3 runs. On a great offensive team, this would make him very valuable, as he usually doesn't get blown out, only once in 10 tries compared to 2 in 7 for the other two. On this team, a little less so, but at least Zambrano gives you a chance. As with Glavine, his performance so far would be more valuable with just a little more offense behind him.
Ishii's ERA in his QS+MS is 3.27 compared to 3.46 for Zambrano, but the difference is that he's far less consistent, as his Mediocre Starts aren't far removed from a Disaster Start. Basically, unless Ishii's completely on top of his game, he kills you. That could be useful for a truly awful offensive team that wants to steal a win every now and then, but it won't cut it for a contender, which the Mets still hope to be. Heilman has been better at keeping the team in games, and is currently in the bullpen mainly just because Ishii isn't suited to relief, either. Unless the Mets really think they can trade Ishii soon, I'd bury him in a mop up role.