Friday, July 15, 2005

A Chink in the Armor

John Patterson has been a huge surprise this season, and he has been dominant recently. In 95 2/3 innings, he has given up only 80 hits and 7 home runs, has 89 strikeouts, and only 34 walks. He is one of the primary reasons why the Nationals have outperformed all expectations this season.

Having said all of that, it probably seems odd to then criticize Patterson, even mildly, but here goes. Patterson has not yet learned how to go deep into games. In his last 9 games, Patterson has pitched 7 innings only twice. Here are the relevant stats from those games:

May 31 --- 5 IP --- 75 pitches --- 1 hit -- 0 HR - 1 ER - 3 K - 2 BB
June 5 ---- 6 IP --- 98 pitches --- 7 hits - 0 HR - 1 ER - 7 K - 2 BB
June 11 --- 7 IP --- 106 pitches -- 6 hits - 0 HR - 1 ER - 5 K - 1 BB
June 17 --- 5 IP --- 105 pitches -- 8 hits - 1 HR - 4 ER - 6 K - 2 BB
June 22 --- 6.1 IP - 116 pitches -- 7 hits - 3 HR - 4 ER - 4 K - 2 BB
June 29 --- 5 IP --- 99 pitches --- 3 hits - 1 HR - 2 ER - 5 K - 3 BB
July 4 ----- 6 IP --- 116 pitches -- 4 hits - 0 HR - 2 ER - 7 K - 2 BB
July 9 ----- 7 IP --- 108 pitches -- 2 hits - 0 HR - 0 ER - 8 K - 2 BB
July 14 ---- 6 IP --- 115 pitches -- 7 hits - 1 HR - 2 ER - 9 K - 1 BB
Totals --- 53.1 IP - 938 pitches - 45 hits - 6 HR - 17 ER - 54 K - 17 BB

This has been an amazing run. In his last 9 starts, Patterson has a K/BB ratio of 3.18, a K/9 ratio of more than 9, a HR/9 ratio of 1, and a H/9 ratio of 7.64. Oh, and his ERA in that run is about 2.87. He has pitched only two arguably bad games -- on June 17 and 22, when he gave up four earned runs in each game.

The only possible criticism we could have of Patterson is that he has thrown so many pitches early in these games that he hasn't been around to hand the ball off to Chad Cordero. No one can expect a starter to go 8 innings each game, but Patterson has to learn how to get through the early innings within throwing so many pitches that he can't go deep into the game. This is not a minor problem, because when Patterson and Cordero weren't pitching in those games the Nats weren't hitting and the bullpen was often porous, especially recently. Thus, the Nationals are only 5-4 in Patterson's last 9 games, and he has only 2 wins to show for his good work.

Because the Nationals are the lowest scoring team in baseball, they have to rely more than other teams on their pitchers pitching nearly flawless games, which puts inordinate pressure on Patterson to go deeper into games. The best evidence of this is the following stat: the Nats are averaging about 2.89 runs in Patterson's last 9 games, which is just slightly more than his ERA in those games. In other words, the Nats' hitters haven't left him much margin for error.

Let us put the point this way: would you rather have John Patterson or Luis Ayala pitching the seventh and eighth innings?

4 comments:

mkinla said...

Great website. Finally, a place to find out everything I ever wanted to know about the Nationals. Good job!

da kine said...

I love me some Luis Ayala, so it pains me to say I might have to agree with you. The thing is, Patterson might not be so dominant if he had to tweak his gameplan in order to go into deeper innings. Who's to say that in the the effort to go 7 2/3s or 8 innings, he doesn't start chucking gopherballs in an attempt to induce easy groundouts and keep his pitch count down?

Leiv & Erik said...

Why thank you, mkinla.

Leiv & Erik said...

da kine's comments are interesting and could be correct. Our point is that if Patterson is to realize his potential and become the truly dominant starter we think he can be, he has to try to find a way to pitch deeper into games without sacrificing his quality starts. We realize that we're asking Patterson to take the next step into the rarified air of premier starters, and we realize that he may not be able to do that, but we think he has to try. He's still relatively green, so this is going to take some time.