Seattle’s Rotation May Actually Decline in 2010

The Mariners are getting lots of props online for their winter moves.  I agree that this off season has made me as optimistic about the franchise as I’ve been in years.  I encountered an interesting statistic today, however, which dampens my expectations for significant improvement from 2009 to 2010.

Let’s play the popular guess-which-pitcher-this-is game.  Below are two pitchers from 2009:

Pitcher 1: 14-13, 231 innings, 245 hits, 43 walks, 181 K, 3.22 era, 1.25 WHIP
Pitcher 2: 13-9, 216 innings, 176 hits, 67 walks, 169 K, 2.71 era, 1.13 WHIP

Which pitcher would you rather have pitched for your team in 2009?  Given that wins and losses are not a great metric for pitcher performance, I’d guess most people would go with Pitcher 2.  Fewer innings, but significantly better ERA and WHIP.

Cliff Corcoran over at Sports Illustrated points out that Seattle traded for Cliff Lee essentially to replace Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard in the rotation.  On paper it’s a good swap.  But Pitcher 1 is Cliff Lee in 2009, and Pitcher 2 is Bedard and Washburn’s combined performance for Seattle in 2009.  No one expects Washburn to pitch in 2010 like he did for Seattle in 2009, and nobody expects much of anything from Erik Bedard (except, perhaps, for his mother).  But as good as Lee has been the last two years, it seems unlikely to ask him to replicate those Pitcher 2 numbers.  Combine that with the unreasonable expectation that Felix could do much better than he did last year, and it seems entirely possible that Seattle’s pitching production from its #1 and #2 starters will decline in 2010.

The Decline of Adam Dunn

Sell out

Sadly, our heroes do not live forever.  The baby robins in the front yard eventually abandon their nest.  The family dog loses his eyesight and can no longer bound up the stairs.  And Adam Dunn has sold out to the almighty batting average.

Enough time has passed since the end of the regular season that we can now touch on a painful wound: Adam Dunn did not hit 40 home runs this season.
In an apparent effort to appease the Batting Averageistas, Dunn sacrified power for average this season.  The result?  A career-high batting average of .267, but not that sweet 40 in the HR column we thought was as reliable as your father’s old Toyota Corolla.
The Decline of Dunn
2004: .266 avg, 46 HR
2005: .247 avg, 40 HR
2006: .234 avg, 40 HR
2007: .264 avg, 40 HR
2008: .236 avg, 40 HR
2009: .267 avg, 38 HR
Perhaps he will return to his free-swinging ways next season, but the Streak is over, the bubble is popped, and winter is on its way.

Trends Dashed

Some trends which ended with this World Series (dashed trend indicated by sad orange text):

1) In this playoff season, the demise of good closers and the ascent of bad closers:

  • Jonathan Papelbon (good):
    Regular season: 38/41 in save opportunities, 1.85 era
    Post season: 0/1, 13.50 era
  • Joe Nathan (good):
    Regular season: 47/52, 2.10 era
    Post season: 0/1, 9.00 era
  • Ryan Franklin (good, somehow):
    Regular season: 38/43, 1.92 era
    Post season: 0/1, 0.00 era (couldn’t retire side after Holliday error)
  • Jonathan Broxton (good):
    Regular: 36/42, 2.61 era
    Post-season: 2/3, 4.05 era
  • Mariano Rivera (good):
    Regular season: 44/46 svs, 1.76 era
    World Series trend dashed: 5/5 svs, 0.56 era
  • Brad Lidge (bad):
    Regular: 31/42, 7.21 era
    Post-season until World Series: 3/3, 0.00 era
    World Series trend dashed: 1 IP, 3 R, loss

2)  Alex Rodriguez continuing to not win a World Series:

  • Alex Rodriguez, July 27 1975-November 3, 2009: not winning the World Series
  • Alex Rodriguez, November 4, 2009: won World Series

3)  The Phillies winning the World Series and the Yankees not winning the World Series.

  • 2008: Phillies win the World Series, Yankees do not
  • 2009: Yankees win the World Series, Phillies do not

One trend that remains to be tested is teams getting better after Alex Rodriguez leaves:

  • 2000 Seattle Mariners, with A-Rod: 91-71
  • 2001 Seattle Mariners, without A-Rod: 116-46(!)
  • 2003 Texas Rangers, with A-Rod: 71-91
  • 2004 Texas Rangers, without A-R0d: 89-73

If this one holds, look out for those 2018 New York Yankees.

Post-Season Howard

From the Mildly Interesting Stats Department:

The last few NL MVP races have induced many discussions of Ryan Howard vs. Albert Pujols.  Regular season numbers pretty much decide the issue in Albert’s favor.  But playoff numbers are interesting:

  • Howard’s career line: .279 / .376 / .586 (AVG/OBP/SLG)
  • Howard’s playoff career, through yesterday: .300 / .408 / .590
  • Numbers-wise: 27 games, 100 AB (plus 18 BB), 17 R, 6 HR, 25 RBI

Pujols has played in almost twice as many playoff games:

  • Pujols’ career line: .334 / .427 / .628 (seriously…)
  • Pujols’ playoff career: .322 / .431 / .578
  • Numbers-wise: 56 games, 199 AB (36 BB), 39 R, 13 HR, 36 RBI

Get me to August and then let me loose

The point?  No grand one, but a couple snack-sized observations.  Albert’s video-game-like regular season numbers mean that his tidy playoff 1.009 OPS is actually lower than his regular season numbers.  Howard, by comparison, has thus far batted above his regular season numbers.  In half the games, he has two-thirds as many RBI as Pujols.

The MVP is not decided by post-season performance, but if Howard keeps this up, he may win over a few more people in the debate over which elite NL first basemen you want on your team.