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Friday, April 18, 2008

Hunter Better Than Sexson: Angels 5, Mariners 4

Earlier in the day, The Limey posed an interesting question with regards to Jon Garland, to wit:
If he pitches 200 innings this year, he's on target for 25 Ks (if you round him up), which I suspect might be an all-time low (does anyone know how to check this?).
I did check it, and it turns out that in the Retrosheet era (currently, 1956+), there really hasn't been anybody who's pitched 200+ innings and had only 25 strikeouts. Missing bats is a good indicator of basic ability, and Garland so far hasn't shown that.

Of course, Garland didn't pitch in today's game, but I use it to bring up another, equally scary point: the pitching staff isn't whiffing anybody. The team's K/9 rate is second worst in the league, with a collective 4.98 K/9 that ranks ahead of only the Rangers. This isn't historic by any stretch; again, in the Retrosheet era, the worst-case K/9 "leaders" look like

| teamID | yearID | k/9  |
| BOS    |   1978 | 2.97 | 
| SEA    |   1981 | 3.11 | 
| ML4*   |   1981 | 3.19 | 
| CIN    |   1970 | 3.51 | 
| CHA    |   1978 | 3.52 | 
| BAL    |   1973 | 3.53 | 
| ML4    |   1978 | 3.54 | 
| ML4    |   1979 | 3.56 | 
| CAL    |   1981 | 3.57 | 
| KCA    |   1983 | 3.58 | 
*ML4 = AL Milwaukee

Joe Saunders did absolutely nothing to help with the team's overall strikeout rate, whiffing only two batters, and allowing a pair of big flies to Richie Sexson. (Sexson, in case you were wondering, already had two games with three homers, both with Milwaukee.)

In fact, if it wasn't for Torii Hunter's heroic grab of Sexson's long fly to end the ninth, the Angels might very well have lost this game. Part of the reason for that is that "K"-Rod isn't whiffing as many as he used to (he owns a 7.56 K/9, nearly half his usual rate, which is well into double digits and usually between 12-14), and he's walking as many as he strikes out (seven in each case). Part of that may be velocity issues (itself fallout of a sprained ankle), part of that may just be he's got early season jitters, or maybe it's still overwork from winter ball. Frankie has had slow starts before and come out of it fine, but he has been making it interesting a lot lately.

Back to Torii, in addition to the game-saving catch, the Angels got three doubles out of him, the first of which drove in the game's first three runs, and might have been scored a triple had he slammed on the brakes at third. The Angels also got some nice production out of Maicer Izturis, playing because Howie Kendrick was yet again not in the starting lineup, a fact accounted for by the fact — which I didn't hear in the game call or the pregame show — that he was placed on the DL retroactive to April 14. Sean Rodriguez got the callup from Salt Lake, and wow.

Yahoo boxRecap

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Now you're just being ungenerous. Saunders only allowed six hits over eight innings and walked no one. He contained Ichiro and Ibanez both, and generally looked dominant all night save for the Sexson blasts. And you're obsessing over K rates? Dude, Hokie Joe is 3-0 and the Angels have won all four games he's pitched. He's a groundball pitcher and his defense is supporting that. Do you watch these games or do you just look at the box scores for harbingers of future collapse? The Angels have the best record in the AL after all. Dig if you will the picture, Rob.
It's a good thing I don't write with a real deadline. I wanted to work that in to today's game summary and it grew to become the main focus. You're right, the Angels are 3-0 with Hokie Joe on the mound, and that's worth something.
The point, Andrew, is that - without checking exact stats - the Halos have recently had some of the best K/9 numbers in the AL and MLB. Realize that Shields, Lackey, Frankie, Escobar, Gregg (when he was here), Colon (when healthy) Santant and Speier are/were all guys that registered a fair bit of K's. Four or five of those guys were over 1 K per inning.

That is a big reason for the increase in bullpen ERA for sure and w/o Lackey and Escobar and their 350 K's from last year we aren't getting guys out the same way - that impacts the defense and the RA per game.

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