Blue Monday

Hannah Foslien

And not the good 'Yeah, Royals!' blue, but more the 'we were swept by the Twins and now it's Monday' sort of blue.

Yuck, yuck, yukkity, yuck. Substitute some f's in there and you have a classic South Park line and an even more apt description of what the Kansas City Royals did in Minnesota this past weekend.

Let's take a brief detour away from the Royals and discuss earned run average. No really, I'm not joking.

While we have many newish metrics to measure a pitcher's effectiveness, I have still believed that the old ERA was still a decent, 'quick glance' measuring stick of a starting pitcher's proficiency. When it comes to relievers it tells us almost nothing. For a starter, however, my 'gut' tells me that the stat has value.

Sure, starter's get tagged for runs that a reliever allows to score. Like James Shields, he can botch a play, walk guys and generally have a craptastic inning and, provided it all happens in the correct order, not have his ERA blemished by unearned runs. It certainly gives a pitcher undeserved credit for good defenses in a big ballpark and often penalizes him for having to pitch in a bandbox with poor defenders behind him.

Some of you are going to have to sit down for this: no statistical metric is perfect.

Of course, being a traditional stat, it might well be possible that earned run average should be discarded, even if used for a quick and dirty check of performance. Let's see how the more advanced metrics rated the ERA leaders from last season. Or we could discuss Mike Moustakas some more, but I'm trying not to be an alarmist 11 games into the season.

Following are the 2013 Earned Run Leaders, with their FIP, xFIP and fWAR with rank for each. (Yes, I downloaded a spreadsheet from Fangraphs and was not enthused enough to incorporate the other good and/or better metrics available).

Name ERA ERA Rank FIP FIP Rank xFIP xFIP Rank WAR fWAR Rank
Clayton Kershaw 1.83 1 2.39 2 2.88 6 6.5 1
Jose Fernandez 2.19 2 2.73 6 3.08 10 4.2 18
Matt Harvey 2.27 3 2.00 1 2.63 1 6.1 5
Anibal Sanchez 2.57 4 2.39 3 2.91 7 6.2 4
Zack Greinke 2.63 5 3.23 15 3.45 21 2.9 42
Bartolo Colon 2.65 6 3.23 16 3.95 55 3.9 22
Hisashi Iwakuma 2.66 7 3.44 32 3.28 15 4.2 19
Madison Bumgarner 2.77 8 3.05 11 3.32 16 3.7 24
Yu Darvish 2.83 9 3.28 20 2.84 5 5.0 10
Cliff Lee 2.87 10 2.82 9 2.78 3 5.1 8
Max Scherzer 2.90 11 2.74 7 3.16 12 6.4 2
Adam Wainwright 2.94 12 2.55 4 2.80 4 6.2 3
Stephen Strasburg 3.00 13 3.21 14 3.15 11 3.2 33
Hyun-Jin Ryu 3.00 14 3.24 17 3.46 23 3.1 38
Felix Hernandez 3.04 15 2.61 5 2.66 2 6.0 6
Shelby Miller 3.06 16 3.67 42 3.73 42 2.1 54
Chris Sale 3.07 17 3.17 13 2.95 9 5.1 9
Andrew Cashner 3.09 18 3.35 25 3.62 33 2.2 53
Travis Wood 3.11 19 3.89 53 4.50 80 2.8 46
Kris Medlen 3.11 20 3.48 36 3.55 28 2.5 50
James Shields 3.15 21 3.47 34 3.72 41 4.5 13
Mat Latos 3.16 22 3.10 12 3.56 29 4.4 15
Julio Teheran 3.20 23 3.69 43 3.76 44 2.4 52
Mike Minor 3.21 24 3.37 28 3.64 35 3.4 30
Ervin Santana 3.24 25 3.93 55 3.69 40 3.0 41
Jordan Zimmermann 3.25 26 3.36 27 3.48 24 3.6 28
A.J. Burnett 3.30 27 2.80 8 2.92 8 4.0 21
Ubaldo Jimenez 3.30 28 3.43 30 3.62 34 3.2 36
Hiroki Kuroda 3.31 29 3.56 40 3.60 32 3.8 23
David Price 3.33 30 3.03 10 3.27 14 4.4 14
Kyle Lohse 3.35 31 4.08 63 4.03 59 1.8 60
Gio Gonzalez 3.36 32 3.41 29 3.51 27 3.1 39
Mike Leake 3.37 33 4.04 62 3.91 53 1.6 65
C.J. Wilson 3.39 34 3.51 37 3.93 54 3.3 32
Patrick Corbin 3.41 35 3.43 31 3.48 25 3.7 26
Derek Holland 3.42 36 3.44 33 3.68 39 4.8 11
Justin Masterson 3.45 37 3.35 26 3.33 17 3.4 29
Justin Verlander 3.46 38 3.28 21 3.67 37 5.2 7
Jhoulys Chacin 3.47 39 3.47 35 3.97 57 4.3 17
Homer Bailey 3.49 40 3.31 23 3.34 18 3.7 25
Jorge de la Rosa 3.49 41 3.76 46 4.08 62 2.9 43
Jose Quintana 3.51 42 3.82 50 3.86 48 3.7 27
John Lackey 3.52 43 3.86 51 3.49 26 3.2 35
Jeff Locke 3.52 44 4.03 60 4.19 70 1.1 74
Wade Miley 3.55 45 3.98 57 3.77 46 2.0 56
Cole Hamels 3.60 46 3.26 18 3.44 20 4.2 20
Dillon Gee 3.62 47 4.00 58 4.07 60 1.2 73
Doug Fister 3.67 48 3.26 19 3.42 19 4.6 12
Ricky Nolasco 3.70 49 3.34 24 3.58 31 3.0 40
Chris Tillman 3.71 50 4.42 72 3.88 51 2.0 58
Andy Pettitte 3.74 51 3.70 44 3.88 49 3.2 37
Jon Lester 3.75 52 3.59 41 3.90 52 4.3 16
Miguel Gonzalez 3.78 53 4.45 73 4.31 78 1.7 63
Bronson Arroyo 3.79 54 4.49 74 3.97 58 0.8 77
A.J. Griffin 3.83 55 4.55 75 4.18 69 1.4 68
Scott Feldman 3.86 56 4.03 61 3.96 56 2.1 55
Eric Stults 3.93 57 3.53 38 4.13 64 2.6 49
Lance Lynn 3.97 58 3.28 22 3.66 36 3.3 31
Jarrod Parker 3.97 59 4.40 70 4.41 79 1.3 72
Matt Cain 4.00 60 3.93 56 3.88 50 1.3 69
Jeremy Guthrie 4.04 61 4.79 81 4.55 81 1.1 75
Mark Buehrle 4.15 62 4.10 65 4.09 63 2.5 51
Bud Norris 4.18 63 3.86 52 4.22 73 2.7 48
Yovani Gallardo 4.18 64 3.89 54 3.74 43 1.7 61
Kevin Correia 4.18 65 4.40 71 4.24 76 1.3 71
R.A. Dickey 4.21 66 4.58 76 4.23 74 2.0 59
Rick Porcello 4.32 67 3.53 39 3.19 13 3.2 34
Felix Doubront 4.32 68 3.78 48 4.14 66 2.8 45
Jeff Samardzija 4.34 69 3.77 47 3.45 22 2.8 44
Tim Lincecum 4.37 70 3.74 45 3.56 30 1.6 64
Wily Peralta 4.37 71 4.30 69 4.13 65 1.0 76
Ryan Dempster 4.57 72 4.68 79 4.21 72 1.3 70
Jerome Williams 4.57 73 4.60 78 4.24 77 0.3 81
Dan Haren 4.67 74 4.09 64 3.67 38 1.5 66
Kyle Kendrick 4.70 75 4.01 59 4.15 67 1.7 62
CC Sabathia 4.78 76 4.10 66 3.76 45 2.7 47
Ian Kennedy 4.91 77 4.59 77 4.19 71 0.6 78
Edwin Jackson 4.98 78 3.79 49 3.86 47 2.0 57
Jeremy Hellickson 5.17 79 4.22 67 4.15 68 1.4 67
Joe Saunders 5.26 80 4.72 80 4.23 75 0.6 79
Edinson Volquez 5.71 81 4.24 68 4.07 61 0.4 80

Variations? Sure, a lot of them. Especially when you boil it down to something as simplistic as ranking 1 through 81. Perhaps the above chart proves to some that ERA really is a horrible indicator of how good a starting pitcher might be and for others, it might well validate the idea that the old earned run average still has some value. I don't know, it seemed better than thinking about the Royals.

Oh, about those boys in blue.....

History has taught us that an 18-11 start does not mean much and certainly that an 18-8 September means nothing, but we also learned that an 8-20 May can keep you out of the playoffs. That said, a 4-7 start to the season is just a minor bump in the road...unless the Royals turn it into a 9-17 April. With 10 of their remaining 15 April games on the road, Kansas City needs to start playing better, or at least passable, baseball.

The bullpen, which may not be as good as last year, should still be better than, well, this. Two pitchers have made errors in the field and a Gold Glove catcher has made a pair as well. In just 11 games, this Kansas City Royals team has done some ugly, whacky stuff to lose baseball games, they may be due for a repayment of good fortune from the baseball gods.

I'm not panicking, but I am looking for some divine intervention.

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