I think a lot about the differences between pitchers on the same team. Afterall, they mostly play their games in the same ballpark, in front mostly the same defense, and occasionally with the same catcher. Still, there seems to be plenty of variation at work when it comes to our (and probably everyone’s) starting pitchers. A lot of it is probably luck. But, maybe sometimes it isn’t. I’m always especially interested in the idea of the relationship between the defense, and a starting pitcher’s batted ball tendencies. Do groundball pitchers benefit more from better infield defenses – almost certainly, but how much? And do left-handed pitchers benefit more from a better right side defense?
I’m not going to answer those questions for you. Because I can’t right now. But I was very interested to look at this, which is a chart of how often the #1 position player played for each member of the rotation.
Well, first, the percentages are percentages of the pitcher’s starts – so a difference of one start is going to be around 3%. So even a 10% difference still isn’t that much. But there are some variations that, while maybe not significant, are maybe worth considering. The Prime example would be that Cueto saw less of Phillips, significant less Ludwick, and less Bruce when he started – who are all better offensively than their replacements. This isn’t a complete picture, of course, given the ups and downs of a season, the fact that Cueto had Hanigan behind the plate in almost every start (who was offensively superior to Mesoraco), and that Ludwick was often replaced by Todd Frazier and Xavier Paul – who aren’t slouches.
Still, I still think it’s reasonable to suspect that Dusty Baker is doing this on purpose. After all, we know Dusty likes to get his bench out there, which is, probably, a pretty good idea. You might as well do it while Cueto is out there, and we have a pretty good chance of winning a low scoring game, and it isn’t like it’s that many games. Theoretically, at least, this is good for the team, even if it’s not so great for Johnny. That is, if it ends up making a difference.
So here’s what it boiled down to, in terms of “average ops” of the lineups in each pitcher’s starts:
- Arroyo: .755
- Bailey: .750
- Cueto: .744
- Latos: .761
- Leake: .755
That’s not a huge difference. Johnny Cueto’s got the Arizona Diamondbacks offense, and Mat Latos has the Milwaukee Brewers. And here’s how the run support numbers shake out
- Arroyo: 3.56
- Cueto: 3.79
- Latos: 4.45
- Leake: 4.63
Ok, so we know that run support is pretty noisy. Obviously, there’s not a great correlation with the average OPS number above. There is definitely a difference between the run support Cueto gets, and the support that Mike Leake gets. But it’s not out of the ordinary. For instance, over in Detroit, Justin Verlander got 3.82 runs in run support; Max Scherzer got 5.41. I wouldn’t put it past Jim Leyland to have an especially hopeless Justin-Verlander-lineup either though. Also keep in mind that some of Mike Leake’s run support is supported by Mike Leake. Leake’s excellent hitting could make up a lot of that difference.
Overall, it’s hard to say. I’m willing to say (if not exactly confidently) that I think Dusty favors Cueto for the scrub lineup treatment, and that’s probably having some effect on his Ws. Still though, Johnny Cueto won 19 games this year. You just can’t keep old Johnny down. (Hooray, baseball is back!)