Apparently, every few years the Ozzie Sox put together a solid bullpen, hit a bunch of home runs, do freaky well in one-run games, and win the division. It's just something we'll have to get used to. At least this time, no one is trying to give Scott Podsednik all the credit, which I consider a net-win in my book.
Taking the ball for the Royals tonight is Brian Bannister (5.15 ERA), a pitcher who with each passing start looks like someone Dayton should have traded in the off-season rather than a future building block.
Banny's first five starts:
|Human Interest Story Banny||32.3||6||1||.195||2.48|
This was the Golden Age, when it looked like the 2007 model was not only sustainable, but perhaps capable of being improved upon. Banny even mixed in eighteen strikeouts for good measure. Banny shutout the Tigers in his first start, allowed only two runs against the Yankees, then posted a complete game, earned-run shutout against the Twins. After a rough start against Oakland, he rebounded with another quality start against the Tribe. Since then however, it's been a different story.
Banny's subsequent thirteen starts:
|Odalis Perez Level Banny||75.2||25||12||.316||6.30|
I can remember a game thread last season when someone made a comment to the effect of "I love watching Odie pitch. He totally sucks, but somehow does better than you think he should. He battles." It was a eye-opening comment for me, and another reminder of how we can view essentially similar performances in wildly different ways. Odie was a hard player to root for as he was clearly not a part of the team's future. He was just a guy -- an overweight, vaguely unhealthy looking guy -- passing through town for a few years. A salary the Royals were eating to pay for the prospects (Johnson and Pimentel) they'd acquired for him. Nevertheless, despite really having very little ability left, he did string together some league-average months: a 4.40 ERA May and a 4.50 ERA August last season, for example. The fact that he was the Opening Day starter for the Nationals this year was a blogosphere-wide joke, but with some park-effect help he's managed to post a ERA+ of 116 thus far, his best season since 2004. If you saw the highlights of him last week being ejected after a balk call, it would be hard to say he doesn't care or that he isn't still competing either.
Maybe he's even a smart guy too. We just don't know, since no Spanish-speaking baseball player has ever been given that label.
Returning to Banny, while he's given up hits and homers aplenty, it's difficult to characterize broadly just what the problem has been. Control has been perhaps the dominant or underlying problem -- he's had some of the wildest stretches I've seen from a Big League pitcher in awhile at times -- yet he's also had odd starts when he actually is striking dudes out. A side benefit of wildness, perhaps?