The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Billy Koch is no All-Star; Carl Pavano is an All-Star and the Marlins Ace

Is it possible to discuss White Sox “closer” Billy Koch and Marlins starter (and likely ace) Carl Pavano at the same time? Probably not, but it’s my blog and I’m only posting once today, so I’m going to try to do it.

Billy Koch
Much has been made so far this season about the White Sox success in one-run games. There’s a considerable amount of evidence to say that success in one-run games is not sustainable, but everyone continues to talk about it anyway. ESPN today put in their weekly Power Rankings that the White Sox 13 – 6 record in one run games is evidence of Ozzie Guillen’s managerial “genius.” This is a stretch at best, and most likely it’s simply a result of the arms Guillen has been dealt. With the powerful bats the Sox have in their lineup, they’re likely to win a lot of games by simply scoring a lot of runs. But with Billy Koch in the bullpen, any game can be a one-run game.

Keep in mind that the 13 – 6 record in one run games gives you absolutely zero context about how that game became a “one-run” decision. The two teams could have been separated by one-run for the entire game, or it could have been a 9 – 0 game entering the ninth which ended up 9 – 8. With that in mind I decided to take a look at how Billy Koch has impacted the Sox one-run games this year.

Billy Koch has appeared in 9 games this year that were decided by one-run, and the Sox record in those games is 7 – 2. Sounds great. Every team should have their own Billy Koch who could hold the team up in close games, right? Well, not really.

In those 9 games, 1 win and 1 loss have been credited to Koch. He’s also earned 5 saves and 3 blown saves (a 62.5% save percentage is well below the historical average of over 80% in save situations). Four of those nine appearances have been clean (one hit or less and no runs); the other five have been adventures.

In those five “one-run” games, Koch has given up a staggering 11 runs and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings. Still, the Sox managed a 3 – 2 record in those games. Koch was credited with one of the losses (and a blown save in the other). In the other three games, Koch created a one-run game situation where one should otherwise not have existed.

Without Koch on their staff (and also assuming those innings didn’t need to be pitched – which is an unfair assumption on my part), you would be able to eliminate 9 of the Sox 19 one run games (to date). That would change their record in such games from a sparkling 13 – 6 to a more realistic 6 – 4. Suddenly, Ozzie Guillen doesn’t look like a genius so much anymore (don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with Ozzie). Instead, the Sox have somehow amassed a 13 – 6 one-run game record because of Billy Koch’s ineffectiveness.

Carl Pavano
Despite the hype that constantly follows Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis, and the recent attention paid to Brad Penny, Carl Pavano is probably the Marlins best pitcher. Pavano has been the Marlins best pitcher for some time now. He’s definitely not the flashiest; he definitely doesn’t have the best “stuff”; but when the game is on the line, if you could only pick one pitcher from the Marlins staff, you would most likely pick Pavano.

Sure, Beckett and Penny are likely to accumulate more strikeouts. Willis will probably get the job done too – and he may even wreak a little havoc at the plate too. But since they acquired him from Montreal, Pavano has arguably been the Marlins best pitcher over the duration. His flashes of brilliance aren’t as bright, but he’s remarkably consistent, and consistency – especially at the level he delivers it – is a wonderful thing to have.

Although it was quickly forgotten, Pavano pitched extremely well for the Marlins during last year’s playoffs. He was 2 – 0 in eight games (two starts). His ERA was 1.40 and his WHIP was an even more miniscule 1.04. While Pavano wasn’t on the hill for the Marlins clinching game 6 against the Yankees, it’s fair to say that the Marlins wouldn’t have won last year’s series without his post-season performance.

During the regular season of 2003, Pavano was again not as brilliant as Willis, Beckett, or Penny were at times, but overall he was much more consistent. Pavano’s 12-13 record is somewhat misleading, as he did chew up more than 200 innings for the Marlins last year, with a WHIP of 1.26 – both important totals for any club.

My point here isn’t to say that Carl Pavano is a top-shelf pitcher. He is consistent though, and consistent quality is an important characteristic for a team that has post-season hopes. Pavano should be an All-Star this season (assuming of course he keeps up at this pace for the next few weeks). He’s about the only Marlins pitcher you can say that about (Armando Benitez included, following Tuesday’s meltdown against the White Sox). He has a 2.81 ERA and a WHIP just North of 1 (1.02 to be exact). Most impressively, he’s 2 – 0 with a 0.52 ERA and 0.52 WHIP in his two starts since his relationship with Alyssa Milano ended. Not very many folks could pull that off.


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