Last night, the Mets wasted another quality start by Johan Santana, scoring just one run off Pirates pitchers Zach Duke. Sure, Duke's an ace and one of the top pitchers in the National League Central, but in five of Johan's eleven starts, the Mets have been held to two runs or less. Santana, possibly the best pitcher in baseball, is not getting his much-deserved wins. Is this a case of an under-performing offense or just some big fat unluckiness for Santana? That's a hypothetical question. I don't have the answer, people.
Consider also the case of Danny Haren, who threw seven innings of two-hit ball for the Diamondbacks last night, only to see his 5-1 lead over the league-leading Dodgers evaporate in the hands of pen-mates Tony Pena and rookie Daniel Schlereth. Haren has made ten quality starts (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER) this year for the D-Backs and gotten wins in just four of them. Is he even more unlucky than Santana, or do the Diamondbacks have an equally bad offense and bullpen than the Mets? Another question I cannot answer.
But Baseball Prospectus kindly provides baseball fans with a tidy statistic that measures luck. It measures the difference, either positive or negative, between a pitcher's actual record and expected record. Expected wins and losses are calculated in comparison with the win-loss results that pitchers with the same innings pitched and runs allowed in a historic sense. So Haren's seven-inning, one-run outing is compared with a bunch of other seven-inning, one-run outings, most of which end in wins but some of which end in losses because J.J. Putz cannot hold a lead to save his cat's life.
Here are your unluckiest National League pitchers so far in 2009 (minimum 10 starts):
- Barry Zito, Giants - Expected Wins, 3.5 - Actual Wins, 1
- John Lannan, Nats - Expected Wins, 4.2 - Actual Wins, 2
- Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies - Expected Wins, 2.3 - Actual Wins, 0
- Doug Davis, D-Backs - Expected Wins, 3.5 - Actual Wins, 2
- Ian Snell, Pirates - Expected Wins, 3.2 - Actual Wins, 1
Wow, Danny Haren doesn't even make the top five but his teammate Doug Davis does. No wonder, three of those pitchers have sub-par offenses supporting them. The Giants score just 3.98 runs per game while the D-Backs get only 4.25 runs per game and the Pirates get 4.32. Washington actually is one of the top offenses in the N.L. at five runs per game but score two runs fewer per game when Lannan pitches, while the Rockies support De La Rosa with only 3.5 runs per start.
So what does this all mean? After all, those are five pitchers whose won-loss record wouldn't even be that spectacular had they gotten twice the run support and half the bullpen oopsies. In the end, Dan Haren's 4-4 record is completely misleading, Johan Santana probably wishes the Mets had signed a proper corner outfielder in the offseason, and Doug Davis is easily the unluckiest pitcher on that list because he got the big C (but beat it! Yay!).