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MLB: Composure is Awesome...When You Have It

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MLB: Composure is Awesome...When You Have It
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sometimes, as a pitcher, you don't actually pitch all that badly, but your defense plays, well, shoddy baseball.

Last night was a rare instance in which both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter committed errors; although these errors did not directly lead to Anaheim Los Angeles runs, they did continue the innings for Angels' bats and ultimately culminated in two three-run home runs.

***

A few days ago I heard someone mention that the unearned runs a pitcher gives up should be used as a measuring stick more often. After all, unearned runs do more than just tell you the number of runs that don't contribute to ERA; unearned runs tell one about a pitcher's ability to remain unshaken and not get unnerved when his defense falters behind him.

So, how do Yankee pitchers stack up?

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the best Yankees' pitchers also have the fewest unearned runs, and that the number of UR, for the most part, increases based on spot in the pitching rotation:

CC Sabathia: 53 runs, 50 earned = 3 unearned runs.
AJ Burnett: 48 runs, 45 earned = 3 unearned runs.
Andy Pettitte: 58 runs, 52 earned = 6 unearned runs.
Joba Chamberlain 52 runs, 42 earned = 10 unearned runs.
Chien Ming Wang: 46 runs, 45 earned = 1 unearned run.

In this instance, given Wang's struggles this seasons, the one unearned run all season does say quite a bit--in other words, his struggles are all really on him, and that he really was getting hit that hard.

We can also look at relievers, in descending order of importance (however arbitrary):

Mariano Rivera: 11 runs, 10 earned = 1 unearned run.
Phil Hughes: 24 runs, 23 earned = 1 unearned run. (Also, how far he's come since BAL!)
Alfredo Aceves: 22 runs, 20 earned = 2 unearned runs.
Phil Coke: 16 runs, 13 earned = 3 unearned runs.
David Robertson: 26 runs, 24 earned = 2 unearned runs.
Brian Bruney: 9 runs, 9 earned = 0 unearned runs.

Now, the bullpen needs to be taken with the following caveats:

1) The runs do not account for inherited runners. Hence, Brian Bruney's numbers don't reflect the runners that were on base as a result of Jeter's error because those runners were already on base when Bruney came into the game.

2) Hughes and Aceves' higher run totals can be attributed to Hughes starting the season as a starter and Aceves' long relief stints. It is, of course, natural to think that the more innings one pitches, the more runs one will allow.

Also interesting is that Rivera's run total already equals his total for all of last season, which doesn't so much mean Rivera's having a poor season this year (he struggled early but has been his normal self for nearly two and a half months now), as it does emphasize how good he really was last season.

It's perhaps not that surprising that Joba Chamberlain has the highest total of unearned runs.

In most of his recent starts, he's pulled an '07 Mussina, nibbling and being afraid to throw strikes. Inefficient pitchers lull fielders; fielders that aren't "with it" will, of course, make more errors, and then a nibbling pitcher nibbles even more with runners on base.

It's kind of like the circle-of-nibbling (and it moves us all...to despair and hope...to faith and love... okay, okay I'll stop now)...

On the other hand, while Chamberlain may be struggling, it's nice to see Sabathia and Burnett pitching with the composure one expects of one's No. 1 and No. 2 starters...

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