Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pitcher Wins Still Getting Promoted in Boston Press

If you've been watching the Red Sox vs. Rangers series this week, you may have seen what seems like a strange trend. On Monday night, after the Red Sox lost to the Rangers 4-0, the Boston Globe stated that the Rangers "rocked" Erik Bedard. After Tuesday night's 11-5 victory, the narrative was that John Lackey bravely fought through searing heat to keep the game close enough to win.

Their lines:

Lackey, 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
Bedard, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

Are the newspapers in our fair city still so far behind that they're still promoting that one pitcher did his job, while the other didn't, even though the difference was ENTIRELY the fact the Red Sox offense was held at bay on Monday by C.J. Wilson, and exploded on Tuesday against Colby Lewis and the bullpen?

Yes. Yes they are that far behind.

Check out Tony Masarotti's column in the Boston Globe. Particularly striking was this passage:

On paper, Erik Bedard (six innings, four runs) and Lackey (6.2 innings, four runs) essentially have put forth the same performance in this series. Lackey recorded two more outs and got far better run support. And yet, while Bedard was giving up a three-run homer to Mike Bapoli in a 1-0 game, Lackey ultimately stopped the bleeding during an ugly third inning in which it appeared the Red Sox’ night was unraveling.

Massarotti acknowledges that their lines were the same, but made it a point to ignore it, stating that it somehow "felt different." A couple points. I won't pick on the typo, but Mike Napoli has a .599 slugging percentage, which would be second highest in the American League if he was given enough plate appearances to qualify. He has 22 home runs in only 323 at bats. Giving up a home run to, arguably, the best home run hitter in the AL is somehow worse than John Lackey giving up a home run to the also-powerful Josh Hamilton the following night?

Of course, the difference is that, when Bedard gave up his home run, his team was losing 1-0, while when Lackey gave up his, he was winning 7-3. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would argue with me, saying that Lackey was "pitching to the score" and the Bedard "wasn't clutch" or some such fiddle-faddle. The fact is simple. In the same situation, they pitched similarly average against a very good hitting team. Does Massarotti really believe that, if Lewis had pitched as well as Wilson had the night before, that Lackey *doesn't* give up those runs? (One aside - Bedard was working astonishingly slowly on Monday. Normally I wouldn't buy an argument that a teams starting pitcher made it harder on his OWN offense, but, considering the extreme heatand how long they had to stand around in the field behind him, I would at least consider it here. But Massarotti doesn't really make that argument, and it really wouldn't have a whole lot of bearing on what he was trying to say.)

I'm not making a value judgement here on Lackey vs. Bedard regarding the #3 playoff spot. Personally, I don't think it matters all that much - the Red Sox will need Beckett and Lester to pitch as well as they can, or they're in trouble anyway. I've long been a Lackey fan, so I'm hoping he'll earn the job down the stretch. However, the only thing we can gather about starting pitching from the first two games of this series is that C.J. Lewis was better than Colby Lewis.

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