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Thinking About League Average Pitching

Cross-posted at LoHud.

I think we can all agree that the team does better when the starter goes deeper into the game. When the Yanks can count on each of their starters to throw a quality start it saves wear on the valuable arms in the pen and it keeps the mediocre arms out of sight.

The Yankees gave 30 starts to pitchers with below average ERAs who had shouldn't have been used for more than an emergency start (Igawa, Clippard, DeSalvo, Karstens, Henn, and Wright). Mike Mussina made another 27 starts with a 5.15 ERA and 1.47 baserunners per inning (WHIP)

That motley crew averaged just under 5 innings per start, while the rest of the Yankees' staff averaged 6 innings per start. It might seem like asking the bullpen for an extra two innings each week isn't that big a deal, but it is.

Consider: Brian Bruney and his 1.62 WHIP pitched 50 innings. If the starters could have given the Yanks another innings of league average performance they would have allowed 11 fewer baserunners. That would have taken about 5 runs off the scoreboard.

So here's the big change that the mainstream media doesn't really talk about:
The young guns don't have to be especially great, they just have to be there.

Pettitte and Wang will need to repeat their solid numbers. Roger Clemens was merely average- I bet IPK can be average. Mike Mussina figures to be the same awful pitcher he has been. Hopefully Joe G doesn't stick with him as long as Joe T did. I would trade him in a heartbeat.

Phil Hughes and Joba have to be better than Kei Igawa and Jeff Karstens. That's not exactly like replacing Koufax and Drysdale. An improvement to merely league average would be worth a couple wins to a team that just won 94 games.

If the young guns can manage a league average 4.47 in Igawa/Clippard/DeSalvo/Karsten/Henn's 171.2 innings they would allow 47 fewer runs over the course of the season. That would move the pitching staff from 8th to 5th (3 ER behind the Angels for 4th). That moves the Pythag record from 97 wins to 101 wins.

If the Yankees can do that, then next year will be a very good year. A huge thank you to Peter Abraham for letting us pinch hit for him today. Be sure to check out the comments on LoHud.