Here are some of the season’s extremes for MLB’s hurlers.
The Luckiest Guy Award goes to a pitcher whose team decides to score significantly more runs when he’s on the mound than when he’s not, as well as being the beneficiary a few other “luck” factors. Maybe he buys drinks (or girls) for all the guys after wins. Or maybe he puts together a nice gift basket with Brut and those little origami swans for the home run hitters of the night. But more likely he’s just plain lucky. Oakland’s Trevor Cahill gets 6.1 runs every 9 innings he’s on the mound, a full 1.3 runs above Oakland’s average run support. In addition to boosted run support, of the 19 runners Cahill has left on for relievers only 5 have scored (I think Andrew Bailey deserves one of those gift baskets), and his BABIP is just 0.276, indicating that balls hit are not finding holes in the field. Thus, Luckiest Guy in the League Award goes to Trevor Cahill.
The runner up for that award goes, ironically, to Matt Cain. Despite constantly getting screwed by poor run support previously in his career, Cain is now a lucky man. With a microscopic (and very lucky) BABIP of 0.261 and a ridiculously high percentage of stranded runners, Cain’s 2.61 ERA is almost completely a product of good fortunes. Also, his run support has finally risen to the Giant’s average, which isn’t much in comparison to the league, but better than ever for him.
Using the same definition, the UNluckiest Award has to go to Matt Garza of the TB Rays. On a team that scores nearly 5 runs per game, Garza only gets 3.1 of those. The Rays score nearly 2 runs less per 9 innings when Garza is on the hill than they do on average. Though I would never judge a pitcher on his win-loss record, some do (like people who vote for the Cy Young). Garza’s 7-10 record is not impressive despite allowing just 4 runs per game, and that poor record is almost wholly the product of ill-timed Rays scoring.
Mets flamethrower, Oliver Perez (his idol can be seen to the left), has earned the Animal Award for wildest pitcher. He walks almost 18% of all batters he sees – second worst in the league* – which is like giving a free 180 OBP points to opposing batters. He gets the league’s silver medal again for strike rate, pitching strikes on only 57% of all pitches (the MLB average is 63% for pitchers who have pitched at least 60 innings). As a side note, he also leads the league in four-pitch walks per inning. Looking back, I think Perez probably could have won this award a number of times, so why the Mets gave him $12 million this season is beyond me.
The Most Efficient Pitcher Award goes to Father Luke Gregerson of the Padres. With 29 three-pitch strikeouts in just 66 innings, Gregerson is nice enough to save everyone a little time.
Clayton Richard gets the Crafty Award, having picked off more base runners than any other pitcher in the league (he also ranks 2nd in pickoffs per inning behind Seattle’s Sean White).
On the flip side, Brad Penny has allowed 27 stolen bases versus just 2 caught stealing, and hasn’t picked off a single runner in more than 150 innings. Congratulations Penny, you’ve earned the Oblivious Award.
The Fidgety Award goes to Mike Pelfrey, who has balked a league-best 6 times in 160 innings of work.
The Least Intimidating Pitcher title is awarded to Indian Jeremy Sowers. Sowers stands at just 6 feet 1 inch and 180 pounds, pretty small for a starting pitcher. He strikes out a paltry 3.6 batters every nine innings (about half the league average) and has hit just two batters in 114 innings. No one is afraid of Jeremy Sowers.
And finally, the MVP Awards. Tim Lincecum (NL) and Zack Grienke (AL) have dominated their respective leagues all season. If either received some decent run support, he could have 20 wins already, but their most impressive stats can be found in the strikeout and walk columns. Despite looking too young to date my 16-year-old sister, Lincecum has a 4.1 K/BB ratio which is partly a product of an eye-popping 10.6 Ks per 9 innings. Grienke sports an even more impressive 5.1 K/BB ratio, allowing just 1.8 free passes per 9 innings. To put things in perspective, the league average batter strikes out twice as much as he walks, but when he faces either Lincecum or Grienke, that ratio more than doubles.
*Only counting pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched this season.