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Friday, June 11, 2010
Dear Rob ...


From the "Dear Rob" files ...
Re: Galarraga -- Has anyone brought up the Pine Tar game? It seems that set the precedent for the Commissioner's Office to be able to change a mistake by the umpires. They nullified the final inning and replayed the end of the game months later. Selig could have done the same thing here ... only nullify the 28th out and reinstate the perfecto.

T.W.
Walpole, Mass.

It's not really the same thing. In the Case of the Sticky Tar, the Royals lodged a protest regarding the umpire's interpretation of a rule. The American League office ruled in their favor, and you know the rest. But I don't believe that league officials have ever, in the history of the major leagues, overruled an umpire's judgment call, for the simple reason that no protest was, or can be, lodged.

They're just different things. Or they always have been, anyway.
I wanted to follow up on one of your "pitchers hitting" points. The reason I suspect pitchers don't work on hitting is that it's a staggeringly inefficient use of their time. A pitcher's only going to get 85-90 PA's a year -- and even a good-hitting pitcher who would be pinch hit for less would struggle to see over 100 -- which means the difference between a poor hitting pitcher (say .150) and a good hitting pitcher (Say .300) is what, 12-15 hits a season? What's the tangible value there, even if we factor in the benefit of not needing to go to your bullpen? Is it worth the time they'll take away from work on their primary job? And with that few plate appearances, luck plays a huge factor anyway. Dan Haren's hitting .405 this year with a .468 BABIP. Two years ago, he was .211 with a .258 BABIP.

Patrick
Ithaca, N.Y.

Patrick, have you spent much time at the ballpark before the games? Starting pitchers have an immense amount of free time. They throw, what, once or twice between starts. The rest of the time they're shagging fly balls during batting practice, running the occasional wind sprints, and shooting the breeze with their pals.

I'm exaggerating, obviously. Starting pitchers do have things to do. Important things. But I'm fairly sure they could carve out a few hours per week to work on their hitting.
Wakefield's accomplishment is even more incredible given that the Pirates gave up on him! He pitched well and then one year he seemed to lose his skills and they released him. He's not only had a great career with the Red Sox, he resurrected his career with them. (I'm not sure that he had only one bad year with Pittsburgh, but I think so.)

David
Baltimore, Md.

It was the damnedest thing, David. Tim Wakefield was utterly brilliant as a rookie in 1992, going 8-1 down the stretch for the Pirates. In 1993, he couldn't get anybody out in the majors or the minors (after his demotion). He spent the entire 1994 season in Triple-A, and went 5-15 with a 5.84 ERA and with all the accompanying statistics you would expect.

So that was two straight lousy season, and you really can't blame the Pirates for giving up on him. What you can do is applaud the Red Sox for signing him. Wakefield opened 1995 with Triple-A Pawtucket, pitched well in four starts, kept pitching well after a promotion to the big club, and now he's the franchise's all-time leader in innings. Knuckleballers often come with good stories, but Wakefield's got one of the best.
Rob, I'm still waiting for a Ubaldo luck post from you. People are wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to Jimenez' numbers right now. Because the guy has great stuff they assume he's every bit as good as his ERA. Everyone is neglecting to realize that this guy is having one of the luckiest starts to a season ever. Everyone is quick to say how lucky livan Hernandez has been and that he's a sham when in reality Ubaldo has been just as lucky. Livan has an xFIP of 2.69 next to Ubaldo's 2.58. I mean Phil Hughes has pitched just as good Ubaldo while doing it in the tougher division yet doesn't get the Bob Gibson 1968 love. Don't get me wrong, Ubaldo without the luck is still a stud but give me a little help here to get everyone ready for an ERA much closer to 4.00 than to 1.00 from here on out.

Matt
New York

Does anyone really think Ubaldo Jimenez is going to finish with an ERA around 1.12? Nobody that I know about. I'm not even sure if everyone thinks he's the best pitcher in the National League. I think most of the aficionados would give that title to Roy Halladay, and Tim Lincecum might get back into the mix, too.

Has Jimenez been lucky? Sure. Most pitchers with sub-1.00 ERAs are lucky, Exceptionally lucky. But it's also true, I suspect, that most pitchers with sub-1.00 ERAs are exceptionally talented. Yes, Jimenez is going to give up more home runs than he has. Nobody can maintain his pace. But he'll still be real good, and maybe one of the three best pitchers in the league.

Update: A Friend of the Blog points out, "In the last question in your "Dear Rob" post, the guy says that Livan Hernandez has the same xFIP as Ubaldo Jimenez. He was looking at Livan's BB/9, which is 2.85. Livan's xFIP is 4.96, same as always."