Supporting the cause
One thing people don’t usually consider when drafting starting pitchers is the quality of his offense. Those who took a chance on Roy Oswalt bouncing back to ace-like form this season should be hailing themselves as prophets right now, as the 32-year-old has pitched to a stellar 2.66 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP with 60 K’s in 61 innings. However, those owners might have been wise to consider that the Astros went into the season with a starting lineup that only a mother could love and with their two best sluggers on the wrong side of age 33. Right on cue, Houston has managed a miniscule total of 18 runs scored over Oswalt’s nine starts, resulting in just two wins for the right-hander.
On Thursday night, Oswalt faced off against the only pitcher in baseball besides him who has thrown a quality start (at least six innings with three earned runs or less) in all nine of his outings, Ubaldo Jimenez. While Ubaldo threw seven innings of shutout ball to record his eighth victory, Oswalt churned out a solid six-inning, two-earned-run performance. He was rewarded with his sixth loss. This game pretty much summed up the hard luck Oswalt and his owners have been feeling all season, and warrants a look into the impact of the run support a pitcher receives.
To give you an idea of how incredibly miserly the Astros have been for their ace, Oswalt’s Run Support Average is currently 2.66 – which ironically (and amazingly) equals his ERA. Run Support Average (RSA) is like the reverse stat of ERA for a pitcher – it’s a team’s runs scored, averaged over nine innings, while the pitcher is of record. In 2009, the pitcher with the worst RSA in baseball who threw at least 140 innings was Johan Santana at 4.75. Since 2004, no pitcher who has thrown that many innings in a season had an RSA below 4.15. Yeah, it’s been that bad for Oswalt, and there’s a few other pitchers who should feel similarly snake-bitten right now.
Mr. Pickup of the month for April, Brad Penny, is Mr. Winless for the month of May, which has a lot to do with the Cards offering just a 2.73 RSA (also unbelievably identical to his 2.73 ERA) through eight starts. You thought Zack Greinke was a tough-luck 16-game winner during his Cy Young campaign? Well, so far, Greinke has just one victory to show for his seven quality starts and 2.72 ERA, thanks to a 3.92 RSA.
The Padres’ Clayton Richard’s 2.94 ERA through eight starts is good for top-20 in the National League, and would probably get him some fantasy love if it wasn’t for the fourth worst RSA in baseball (3.67) which prevented him from notching his first win until April 30. As a result he’s owned in just 26 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Kevin Millwood might have the sorriest story of them all. A 3.65 ERA and 1.26 WHIP would make him a solid little fantasy starter except for the fact that he’s currently winless through nine starts because the Orioles have provided him with a meager 3.94 RSA. Millwood’s peripheral numbers are pretty much equal to a guy like Clay Buchholtz, who’s scratched out five wins thanks to an 8.15 RSA. Buccholz is owned in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues, while Millwood is virtually neglected at 21 percent.
On the flip side, run support can also turn a mediocre pitcher into a fantasy hero. Last season, Joe Saunders and Jorge De La Rosa both reached the 16-win plateau, and fantasy reverence, despite plus-4.30 ERAs mainly because they were the beneficiaries of RSAs over nine from their respective offenses. Riding that train so far this year is Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey, who has five wins despite a 4.70 ERA thanks to a 9.20 RSA.
Derek Lowe’s 5.47 ERA and five wins don’t match at all, because the Braves have provided an average of 10.06 runs per game while he’s been on the mound. This is virtually the only reason Lowe is owned in 52 percent of Yahoo! leagues, because only three of his nine outings have been of the quality variety. Jamie Moyer pitches behind the best offense in the NL, so it’s no surprise he has an RSA of 8.25 and is the owner of five victories despite a pedestrian 4.30 ERA.
If these guys all have five wins, it’s a crime Oswalt has only two. When he takes on the Brewers next week, support the cause for the Astros to score some runs against the pitching staff with baseball’s third worst ERA.