I noticed that our ERA at the end of the year was 14th in the national league. This was surprising because Duke and Ohlendorf both pitched pretty well this year, while Maholm and Morton were both OK (Morton was pretty good, sub-4 ERA when you omit that disastrous 10ER performance at Wrigley). If 4 of our starters were OK, why is our team ERA still ranked 14th in the NL? I looked at our team pitching statistics after 159 games (so the last couple games are missing).
The first thing that jumped out at me is the number of innings pitched by guys who stink. When I sort our pitchers according to ERA and break them down into guys with ERAs above 5 and ERAs lower than 5. I find that guys with high ERAs pitched 421 innings for us this year; 30% of our innings were pitched by guys who stink. I compared these numbers with teams that have league average pitching staffs (like Colorado) and found that decent pitching staffs tend to have way less than 421 innings pitched by guys who stink - they tend to be around 200.
IP ER ERA
Innings by pitchers with ERA over 5: 421 282 6.06017192
Innings by pitchers with ERA under 5: 977 428 3.942681679
Totals: 1398 710 4.578019774
The biggest offenders were:
Karstens 105.2 IP, 5.37 ERA
Snell 80.2 IP, 5.36 ERA
Capps 54.1 IP, 5.8 ERA *These were especially costly, Capps cost us several games this season*
Hart 53.1 IP, 6.9 ERA
Vasquez 43.2 IP, 5.98 ERA
The unholy tetrad of Karstens, Snell, Hart and Vasques pitched 280 innings for us last year!
Let's look at the bright side, this means that we will probably be better next year. For example, I expect Dan McCutchen and Brad Lincoln to collectively eat up most of those 280 innings. Suppose McCutchen and Lincoln take up all 280 of those innings and have a 4.5 ERA (nothing spectacular, mind you, a very reasonable expectation). Suppose also, that Capps can get it together and put up a 3.8 ERA (again something he has done before). If all these highly plausible things happen then our collective staff ERA would be 4.24. This is also assuming that the collective production for the other members of the staff remains constant. A 4.24 ERA would be middle of the pack in the NL. A few other points are worth mentioning: 1. Morton could very well have a sub-4 ERA next season (if you omit that nightmare at Wrigley, then he had a sub-4 ERA this season). 2. Lincoln and McCutchen could do better than a 4.5 ERA. 3. Our defense was dramatically worse after the trades and if we don't do something to improve defensively at 2B then Maholm and Duke may give up a lot more runs next year, due to their tendencies to pitch to contact. I think our pitching staff can take a big step forward next year but we need to ensure that they have a competent defense working behind them and we may need to sign a reliever or two. One thing is clear, our collective ERA will improve dramatically if we cut out some of this deadwood (Karstens, Vasquez and Hart) and replace it with guys who are serviceable. The replacements don't have to be great, just serviceable. I think McCutchen and Lincoln can be serviceable next year. What are your thoughts?