A new season of Sunday Night Baseball coverage kicks off on ESPN2 at 8 ET when the Giants try to salvage a series split with the Dodgers. The new announcing team of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine will have plenty to talk about. Here are a few subjects they might touch on tonight, specific to starting pitchers Barry Zito and Hiroki Kuroda:
Run Support with Giants
• If past patterns hold, runs may be at a premium. Both of tonight’s starters are among the worst-supported pitchers in the last few years.
Since 2008, the Giants have averaged just 3.6 runs per game in Zito’s starts, the second-lowest mark among major-league starters. This lack of run support was a familiar theme for Zito against Los Angeles last year. Despite holding Dodgers batters to a .192 batting average and posting a 2.42 ERA, the Giants went 1-5 in his six starts, scoring a total of just seven runs.
Kuroda, entering his fourth season as a starter, is just 28-30 in his career despite a 3.60 ERA. Since 2008, that’s the lowest ERA among pitchers with a losing record, and he’s the only one with an ERA below four among those losing pitchers with at least 75 starts. Last year the Dodgers were held scoreless in six of his 13 losses as he posted just a 11-13 record despite a 3.39 ERA.
Hershiser can sympathize. In 1989 with the Dodgers, he went 15-15 with a 2.31 ERA. Hershiser had a late-season stretch in which he went 0-7, but got beat 1-0 three times.
Kuroda• The late-arriving fans in Los Angeles might miss out on a souvenir tonight if Kuroda can’t overcome his struggles in the first inning from last year. Six of his 15 home runs allowed in 2010 came during the first frame. Only two NL pitchers allowed more first inning homers, Chris Narveson (8) and Dan Haren (7).
• Zito’s career matchup numbers against several Dodgers may look depressing for Giants fans, but much of that damage came during his first two seasons in San Francisco and while with Oakland. Matt Kemp has a career .419 batting average vs. Zito, but has just two hits in his last nine at-bats against him. Similarly, Rafael Furcal is a .342 hitter against Zito, but is only two for his last 10 versus him. And Rod Barajas is hitting .314 against Zito, but is just 6-for-24 after a 5-for-11 start.
With Buster Posey likely behind the plate, one likely discussion for our announcing team may be on the pitcher-catcher relationship. Last season, Zito had a 4.67 ERA in the 15 games in which he was caught by Buster Posey. He had a 2.71 ERA in the 13 games he was caught by Bengie Molina.