Monday, May 18, 2009

On Wells, wins and poop

Randy Wells is now 2-0. No, wait, check that--he's 0-0 because the bullpen has blown leads in both of his starts. Wells's performance thus far is a great example of how overrated wins are in baseball. Despite having pitched five scoreless and six scoreless innings respectively in his first two starts, Wells has no wins to show for it. On the other hand, Sean Marshall recorded a win Saturday despite facing exactly one batter.

Let's play a little game. Here are the win-loss records for four major league pitchers; rank them in order of who you'd want most on your team:

Pitcher A: 5-3
Pitcher B: 0-0
Pitcher C: 0-3
Pitcher D: 0-5

Now rank them again after accounting for the following information:

Pitcher A: 6.56 ERA
Pitcher B: 0.00 ERA
Pitcher C: 3.16 ERA
Pitcher D: 3.22 ERA

Your rankings probably changed a bit, no? Pitcher A is Bronson Arroyo, who has allowed five earned runs or more four times this year, but has still amassed five wins. Pitcher B is Randy Wells, of course, who has yet to allow a run this year. Pitcher C is Jorge de la Rosa of the Rockies, who has allowed three or fewer earned runs in five of his seven starts, but has no wins to his name. Pitcher D is Doug Davis of the D'Backs--his team has scored a total of seven runs in his five losses.

Sometimes the pitchers with the most wins are also the best pitchers, but many times that is far from the case. I believe ERA and WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) should be given much stronger consideration than wins in the Cy Young voting, and in how we analyze pitching success in general. You can't control what your team does on offense (especially in the AL, where pitchers don't get to bat), and while wins do mean something, they mean a lot less than ERA and WHIP.

So back to Randy Wells--after two great starts, Piniella has a decision to make. He has already stated the Wells will remain with the team in some capacity. Here's the choice as I see it:

1) Wells remains in the rotation, Marshall goes to the 'pen (though he will start Thursday against the Cardinals either way) and Neal Cotts goes down.

2) Marshall remains in the rotation, Wells goes to the 'pen, and Jose Ascanio goes down.

Here's the problem with option #2: though Ascanio did struggle Sunday, the right-handed reliever who should be the odd man out isn't him--it's David Patton. Yes, David Patton is still on the Cubs. He's pitched just three times in May and has an ERA over eight. But as a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies, the Cubs would lose him back to Colorado if they demote him at any point this season.

What I hope the Cubs do is option #2 with Patton being demoted instead of Ascanio. That way the Cubs would still have two lefties in the rotation and Wells could provide strength in the long reliever role, something the Cubs roster currently lacks.

Here's the bottom line, though: both Wells and Marshall are versatile, and whatever decision Piniella makes can always be altered down the road, as Piniella pointed out. And it doesn't seem like the Cubs can really go wrong here--they've got an established starter in Sean Marshall who has three quality starts to his name this year, and another starter who has yet to allow a run in two outings. These are the tough decisions managers love to face.

Rich Hill takes the hill

Rich Hill, whom the Cubs traded to the Orioles in February, started Saturday for the first time this season. He went 5.2 innings against the Royals, allowed two runs and got the win--his first since April 18 of last year.

Hill was considered an "untouchable" just a couple years ago, and while things didn't pan out for him in Chicago, I wish him all the best in Baltimore. Back in 2007, Hill won 11 games and struck out 183 batters, good for 14th in the majors. He struggled with his command in '08 and was ultimately demoted and then traded. He started this season in Baltimore's minor league system and is now back in the majors getting another opportunity to prove himself.

So you could say he's gone through a lot in the last couple years, but that was nothing compared to what happened to him just a couple weeks ago in his final minor league tuneup. While on the mound for the Norfolk Tides, Hill was pooped on. Seriously.

(hat tip: Bleed Cubbie Blue)

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