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Jeremy Guthrie, Run Support and Match-ups

What seems to be may not really be that way....or something like that.

Jamie Squire

In the Game Recap discussion after yesterday's win, we had quite a bit of discussion of winning pitcher Jeremy Guthrie on a variety of subjects.  A couple intrigued me - at least enough for an off-day article, anyway.

The Royals are now 31-18 in games started by Guthrie, including 19-14 in 2013 and 2-0 this year.  While Jeremy has enjoyed pretty much all the offense Kansas City has mustered this season, it turns out his run support, while good, was not all that out of whack in 2013.

Guthrie received an average 4.33 runs per start last season, with 16 starts in which the Royals scored four runs or more.  Seven other times his offense provide three runs and in 10 games Guthrie received two runs or less to work with.

James Shields got the benefit of 4.17 runs per start, with 18 starts where Kansas City hitters plated four runs or more.  Like Guthrie, there were 10 starts where the Royals only managed two runs or less and another six where the team scored exactly three runs.  Kansas City was 21-13 in games started by Shields, by the way.

As you might remember, it was Ervin Santana that got the short end of the stick in 2013, getting just 3.68 runs per start.  Twelve times the Royals scored two runs or less and another seven times they scored three.

In the end, Kansas City average 0.2 more runs per game in Jeremy Guthrie starts than they did in all other games:  basically six and one-half runs TOTAL for the season.   That is something, but not a big something.

Another discussion point was that perhaps the Royals' overall record in Guthrie starts was somewhat the result of him being matched up against other teams' number three or four starters.  I feel the need to interject here that my reference to 'numbered starters' is simply based on how a manager aligned his rotation at the start of the year.  This has nothing to do with who is a number three or a number one, etc, but more about how rotations match up throughout a season.

Is that true?  One response found that unlikely other than right at the beginning of the year and right after the All-Star Break, reasoning that with different off-days, rainouts, etc. teams' rotations get jumbled as the season plays out.  On the surface, that seemed logical, but I wondered....

Guthrie started the third game of the season in 2013 and, however you might wish it defined, really was the Royals' number three starter last year.  This is the list of pitchers that opposed him last year:

Pitcher 2013 Starts 2013 ERA
Gavin Floyd 5 5.18
Mike Pelfrey 29 5.19
Kris Medlen 32 3.11
Allen Webster 7 8.60
Justin Masterson 29 3.45
Dylan Axelrod 20 5.68
Freddy Garcia 13 4.37
Jason Vargas 24 4.02
Dallas Keuchel 22 5.15
Billy Buckner 2 4.67
Michael Wacha 9 2.78
PJ Walters 8 5.95
Doug Fister 32 3.67
Alex Cobb 22 2.76
Hector Santiago 23 3.56
Sam Deduno 18 3.83
Scott Kazmir 29 4.04
Phil Hughes 29 5.19
Scott Kazmir 29 4.04
Justin Verlander 34 3.46
Miguel Gonzalez 28 3.78
Kevin Correia 31 4.18
Kevin Correia (again) 31 4.18
Anibel Sanchez 29 2.57
Andre Rienzo 10 4.82
Jeremy Hellickson 31 5.17
R.A. Dickey 34 4.21
Joe Saunders 32 5.26
Zach McAllister 24 3.75
Max Scherzer 32 2.90
Matt Garza 24 3.82
Andre Rienzo 10 4.82

While I would offer that Kris Medlen was the Braves' ace last year, he actually began the year in the third slot in their rotation.  After that, Guthrie had a start against Justin Masterson, the Indians' opening day starter and, somewhat strangely, Justin Verlander right after the All-Star Break.  Sure, he ran into Max Scherzer and Matt Garza at the end of the year, but neither was their teams 'number one'.

I did not take/have the time to run down a similar list for other pitchers, so this is not a be-all-end-all statement of fact, but for 2013, at least, Jeremy Guthrie faced a whole lot of number three and four starters from beginning to end.

None of this should demean what Guthrie has thus far given the Kansas City Royals.  He is not, nor will he ever be an ace or even what people would consider a top of the rotation guy, but his team is 13 games over .500 in less than two years worth of starts.  You are right to be concerned about age and the dollars on the back end of Jeremy's contract, but thus far, he has done one thing pretty well:  his job.