11 August 2006

DPD: Stark, Stats, and South-Side Starters' Struggles

ESPN's Jayson Stark appeared on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Wednesday, his weekly radio appearance in which he frequently makes bold, polarizing types of statements. Such contentions regularly play havoc with the show's email in-box, as fans and listeners feel compelled to write the show and either agree or disagree vehemently with Mr. Stark. This week was no exception to that rule, but since I have a number of blogs from which I can pontificate on this issue, I don't need to further clutter the Mikes' email system.

This week's polarizing remarks were that the reason for the Chicago White Sox struggling starting pitching this year is...

They've pitched too well.

OK, so that's not exactly what he said. He actually said that the White Sox starting pitchers are currently struggling because they've thrown so many pitches in the last two years, and because they throw a lot of pitches in an average game. Trey Wingo (sitting in for Mike Golic) pointed out that the White Sox received a lot of quality innings from their starters last year, which led to their success, and that this year's pitching struggles are largely to blame for the team's difficulty in repeating that success. He asked Stark if we could expect more of the same from this point on, to which Stark replied (audio here):

"I think what you're seeing is a rotation that is paying the price for all the pitches and all the innings that Ozzie Guillen has allowed it to throw over the last two seasons. [...] If you look at the numbers, of the top 12 pitchers in the American League in pitches thrown per start, the White Sox have four of them: Contreras, Garland, Vazquez, Garcia...and the fifth guy, Mark Buehrle, has thrown more total pitches in the last two seasons than any pitcher in the American League except Barry Zito, and he'd be first if you count the post-season. So, I think all those pitches, all those innings, are wearing this rotation out."

Well, this was easy enough to validate, if not particularly convenient. Neither ESPN.com nor mlb.com has pitches per start available in their sortable stats pages, but BaseballProspectus.com does. Now Jayson didn't mention his source on this, but I emailed him and he graciously responded. He told me that the first stat came from Stats, Inc., which is of course the supplier for ESPN and a lot of other news agencies out there. The other number, about Buehrle's total pitches in 2005-06, he said came from the Hardball Times.

As far as I can tell, his sources were wrong on both counts. Here are the top 40 American League pitchers in average pitches per start in 2006, according to Baseball Prospectus:

Read the rest at Double Play Depth...

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