Thursday, July 29, 2010

Opening Day start is kiss of death for Bucco starters

By Jeff

Pittsburgh Steelers training camps starts tomorrow, so basically every one who did care about the Pirates this year will stop and start following the Steelers' every move. Well not this blog. Today we're looking at how atrocious Pirates aces have been over the years.

The ace of a baseball team's pitching staff is the man who you call upon every five days to get a quality start and stop a losing skid. They are supposed to log around 200 innings and be the man for your team. He also gets the honor of starting on opening day. This post looks at Pirates "aces" since 2000. The results are not pretty. Only one had a winning record the season he pitched the first game of the season and no one had an ERA below 4.44.

Schmidt before he got fat.
Jason Schmidt, 2000: Schmidt had a solid career. Unfortunately he was plagued with injury this season. When he wasn't hurt, he was terrible. It's not the 2-5 record or the 5.40 ERA that were the most embarrassing stats, though. The 1.76 WHIP (there is worse to come), including walking 5.8 batters per nine innings was what really made Schmidt look bad. Sad thing is, the guy the Pirates received in a trade for Schmidt a little later, Ryan Vogelsong, was a lot worse.

Todd Ritchie, 2001: This man is the only guy on this list who actually broke the 200 innings pitched mark. Unfortunately he went 11-15 and boasted a 4.47 ERA. His 1.268 WHIP good enough to top this list, though. We're only at two and we're already a combined 13-20. Oh yeah, this is going to get ugly.

Ron Villone, 2002: One of four pitchers on this list to not break 100 innings pitched in the year he started Opening Day. Villone was a  reliever for most of his career after this point, and there are plenty of good reasons for it. He was 4-6 this year with a less than stellar 5.81 ERA. If you're like me, you're wondering what did the rest of these rotations look like if these were the staff aces. There is not enough room, time or patience to go over them.

Not nearly as pretty as his wife
Kris Benson, 2003: You know you suck when your name is Googled and only pictures of your wife come up. She is a hottie, but it's still embarrassing. Then you remember that he is going home to that every night, so he's not that much of a loser. Benson is also the first in a long list of Pirates first round pitchers who turned into chumps. He pitched just 105 inning this season, had an ERA of 4.97 and was 5-9. I'm getting depressed.

Kip Wells, 2004: How sad that I am actually impressed with his 4.55 ERA. Well, he WHIP was 1.525 so 4.55 isn't that bad, right? Wrong. He sucked and we're moving on.

Please never show your face again
Oliver Perez, 2005 and 2006: What the hell happened to this man!? He went from a 11 K/9 season and being compared to Randy Johnson, to a 5.85 ERA in 2005 with a scary bad 1.670 WHIP. Can't get worse you say? Once again you are wrong. Perez got another Opening Day start the next season and went 2-10 as a Pirates before being traded to the New York Mets. Oh, he also had a 6.63 ERA and a 1.829 WHIP. This may have also been the season he broke his foot kicking a laundry basket. That might have been 2005, though. Does it matter?

Maybe he should have
tried pitching righty
Zach Duke, 2007: Another player who had a promising rookie campaign but moved to suck city shortly thereafter. Duke was one of the worst starters of 2007. Seriously, he had me screaming for the team to bring up John Van Benschoten. In 107.1 innings pitched, Duke had a 3-8 record, 5.53 ERA and a 1.733 WHIP. He also had an dazzling 13.5 H/9. But hey, he's a lefty!

Ian Snell, 2008: My dad has a friend who sells cars. One day Ian Snell comes to the lot to buy a car. My dad's friend doesn't follow baseball. Ian introduces himself and expects to get some special treatment. The man shakes his hand and proceeds to do his job and try to sell a car. Snell called the manager, who then came out and told my dad's friend that he did nothing wrong, but Mr. Snell wanted to speak to a different salesman. I want to know how the heck this guy had never heard of Snell when in 2008 he had an embarrassing 5.42 ERA and 1.765 WHIP? He was also 7-12 that season.

Paul Maholm, 2009: Here we have the best ERA of any Opening Day starter since 2000. It was 4.44. In his defense, Maholm pitched on numerous days when he probably should have sat out due to injury. His 8-9 record was surprisingly good. Yup, I just called a losing record good. That's how low this list has gone.

Duke, 2010: At first I kept this separate because I think Duke is much better this year than he was in 2007. But looking at the stats again shows that he really isn't. A 5-9 record, 5.09 ERA, 97.1 innings pitched and 1.603 WHIP is one ugly line. He has been very effective since coming off the DL (ERA below 3.20), but he was looking like a batting practice pitcher for the first half of the season.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's a 59-97 record combined in the seasons each of these men started. And there is no end in sight to the lack of aces in this organization. We're in trouble.

Simon and Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence.


  1. That's so pathetic. It's not like we haven't had a pitcher with a good season this decade, so these results kind of surprised me. I want to say that part of it is because they have to match up against actual aces, but that only lasts for the first couple months of the season.

  2. The other teams' aces argument can help account for the records, but not the swelling ERAs and WHIPs.

  3. 59-97 is a .378 winning percentage...probably still lower than the team winning percentage over the decade.

    We might have to start talking about the Steelers soon, that St Louis series was a kick in the dick.

  4. The team winning percentage is around .416 in that span.