May 10, 2013, 10:29 AM EDT
This year, the Braves, one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball, are providing ace Kris Medlen with a Salvation Army-generous… 2.86 runs of support per game.
The Giants, meanwhile, have plated just above the major league average for runs scored, but for top starter Matt Cain, have only mustered 3.14 runs of support.
At 2.86 runs of support per game, Cole Hamels, again the victim in last night’s 2-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, falls in between.
So no, he’s not alone.
You can hypothesize the reasons. Maybe it’s that offenses actively coast when top starters take the hill. Or maybe they’re just spent from trying to get their teams through the back ends of their rotations.
Whatever the case, fact is, Hamels’ plight isn’t just his.
Sure it’s been bad for him this year. Despite a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts, Hamels is 1-3 in them because he’s gotten two runs of support or fewer in four. On the year, the team is just 1-7 when their $144 million man gets the ball.
But what about Medlen? He’s punched a a 3.25 ERA, and yet he’s only 1-4. Worse, the Braves, only a half game under the Cardinals for the best record in the league, are only 2-5 in his starts. And remember: Medlen didn’t have any sweep-this-under-the-rug starts like Hamels did.
And before you say that Jeff Samardzija is 1-4 and the Cubs are 2-6 in his starts despite his 3.09 ERA because Chicago doesn’t score or win for anybody, keep in mind that they do, in fact, score for Scott Feldman (3-3, 2.70 ERA) and Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.02 ERA), who’ve pulled 4.67 and 4.57 runs of support per nine — more than anybody on the Phillies but Kyle Kendrick.
Speaking of: Kendrick so far has been a sweet surprise. But he’s still been a surprise, right? (Right.) It stands to reason, then, that whether it’s conscious or not, lineups bring their best stuff when they know they have to.
Look at the top 10: Jonathon Niese (NYM), Jon Garland (COL), Julio Teheran (ATL), Lance Lynn (STL), Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Juan Nicasio (COL), Adam Wainwright (STL), Tim Lincecum (SFG), Mike Leake (CIN), Patrick Corbin (think you’re acquainted now).
With few exceptions, all are either back-end types (Gallardo, Nicasio, Leake), really young (Teheran, Corbin) or have no business being a 1 but were thrust there because the Mets are terrible.
Lincecum offers an interesting look, because he’s a rare find: a once-at-the-top-of-his-game ace now reduced to so-called replacement level. His run support was decent in his back-to-back Cy Young years (4.57 in both). But with each passing year, during all of which he was still San Fran’s opening day starter, his run support dwindled, all the way down to 2.81 in 2011.
Then, he unravels and gets relegated to the ‘pen last year, and poof — the run support returns.
Some guys have overcome it. Clayton Kershaw’s only getting 2.38 RS/9, the fourth-worst in the league. But with the fourth-best ERA, he’s 3-2 and Dodgers are at least 4-4 when he starts. Madison Bumgarner’s 2.31 ERA has been enough to get him a 3-1 mark despite the sixth-fewest RS/9 in the NL.
Others just get it good. Wainwright, already the owner of a 2.72 ERA and the best K/BB ratio in baseball, gets 5.53 runs per game — seventh-best in the NL. But Wainwright seems the exception.
For everyone dubbing Cole Hamels, “Cliff Lee 2.0,” recall that Lee could be his own next generation. Lee this year is only getting 0.26 RS/9 more than Hamels, for the difference of 41 vs. T-47 on this list of 60.
Though at this rate, Phillies starters should be happy to get anything.
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