I'm going to come to Sergio Mitre's defense.
For weeks now, Yankees' fans have been bemoaning every start by Mitre as proof of managerial incompetence. And, to some extent, they're right in that. Well, at least they're right in hating Mitre With a 1-1 record and a 7.04 ERA in five starts. He's proven to be pretty terrible.
My question is this: So what?
I don't mean that Mitre deserves credit for how he's pitched. I simply mean this: He's a fifth starter, back-end fodder, a guy you throw out and pray for 12 runs from your offense.
And nearly every team in the majors has one. Heck, a bunch have two. Are they all quite as bad as Mitre? No, but if nothing else, they're close enough to qualify as equally awful in the real world.
We really should stop acting like the Yankees are the only team on the planet to waste starts on terrible pitchers. It's the cost of doing business in baseball.
Don't believe me? Look at the numbers. For purposes of fairness, I'm going to set Mitre's five starts as the number of starts to qualify for this study. I'm going to set a minimum ERA of 6.00. You may consider this unfair, since it's a run lower than Mitre's, I would counter that once you clear 6.00 with a starter, you're probably not winning anyway so what's the difference?
Boston: John Smoltz: Eight starts, 8.32 ERA, Dice-K: Eight starts, 8.32 ERA
Baltimore: Jason Berken: 15 starts, 6.63 ERA, Rich Hill: 13 starts, 7.80 ERA, Adam Eaton: Eight starts, 8.56 ERA
Toronto: David Purcey: Five starts, 7.01 ERA, Casey Janssen: Five starts, 6.63 ERA
Tampa Bay: Scott Kazmir: 17 starts, 6.50 ERA, Andy Sonnanstine: 15 starts, 6.61 ERA
Detroit: Dontrelle Willis: Seven starts, 7.49 ERA
Cleveland: David Huff: 16 starts, 6.72 ERA, Fausto Carmona: 15 starts, 6.37 ERA
Kansas City: Kyle Davies: 16 starts, 6.11 ERA, Sidney Ponson: Nine starts, 7.36 ERA
Anaheim: Ervin Santana: 14 starts, 6.38 ERA
Texas: Matt Harrison: 11 starts, 6.11 ERA
Seattle: Carlos Silva: Six starts, 8.48 ERA
Oakland: Dana Eveland: Six starts, 8.00 ERA
Philadelphia: Antonio Bastardo: Five starts, 6.75 ERA
New York Mets: Tim Redding: Nine starts, 6.12 ERA
Atlanta: Jo-Jo Reyes: Five starts, 7.00 ERA
Washington: Scott Olsen: 11 starts, 6.03 ERA, Ross Detwiler: 10 starts, 6.40 ERA, Garrett Mock: Five starts, 6.14 ERA
Houston: Felipe Paulino: 11 starts, 7.28 ERA
Milwaukee: Manny Parra: 19 starts, 6.26 ERA
Cincinnati: Homer Bailey: 10 starts, 7.48 ERA
Pittsburgh: Virgil Vasquez: Seven starts, 6.09 ERA
Arizona: Billy Buckner: Seven starts, 8.63 ERA
Teams lacking in such a starter:
Teams employing multiple such pitchers:
Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington.
Twenty teams in all, employing 29 starters who made a total of 313 starts.
Now, I know some of these guys no longer have spots in rotations, whereas the Yankees seem like they may trot Mitre out a few more times. But there are also plenty of bullpen arms with ERA's that bad (Brad Lidge, anyone pitching for the Cubs). And there are plenty of guys who haven't made five starts yet but have gotten the call occasionally and have ERA's over 6.00. There are also guys right on the cusp of that limit, so this list will look different in October.
Notice too, that of the nine teams not employing such a starter, seven of them came in the National League.
Additionally, six of the seven teams with multiple pitchers on the list came from the American League. Every single team in the AL East has two starters on the list. Life's tougher in the AL.
Look, maybe you consider this to be an arbitrary study. At the end of the day, each of you can set your own bar for awful.
But if nothing else, this should tell you something. Nearly every team in the Majors will flush a bunch of starts down the toilet. There's simply not enough quality pitching in the majors for teams to be immune to it.
Don't you think the Red Sox wish they hadn't wasted eight starts on Smoltz? You don't think Tampa Bay is wondering where they'd be if they weren't stuck giving the ball to Sonnanstine and Kazmir so often? Detroit probably regrets the seven starts they gave Dontrelle Willis right now. Heck, Cleveland could be in contention if they hadn't blown 30 starts on Huff and Carmona.
I know, the Yankees are the Yankees, and if any team should be immune to this kind of stuff, it should be the Bronx Bombers and their unmatched financial resources.
But come on, is Mitre really going to short circuit the playoff run? The Yankees have won Championships with similar guys taking the ball:
1996: Ramiro Mendoza: 11 starts, 6.79 ERA
2000: David Cone: 20 starts, 6.91 ERA
The 1998 and 1999 teams didn't have anyone nearly as bad, but in fairness, the 1998 Yankees are never going to be matched, anyway.
But lest we forget, the Yankees weren't counting on Mitre to be their fifth starter. At best, he was their seventh starter. And we all know he won't see the field when the playoffs come around (And yes, I am assuming the Yankees will make the playoffs, I don't think it's a stretch).
And, while the Yankees have been hurt by Mitre's ineffectiveness, they've benefited from hitting against a lot of equally bad pitchers who probably incur the wrath of their fanbase. They've beaten Smoltz, Sonnanstine, Berken, Hill, and Eaton, among others.
Sure, Jarrod Washburn and Brian Bannister are probably better options than Mitre, and the Yanks had a shot at both.
But Washburn's been awful in two starts in Detroit (8.74 ERA) and Bannister's given up 14 runs in his last two starts since becoming available at the deadline (12.60 ERA). So be careful before you go anointing them as the saviors of all things Pinstriped.
None of this was written to excuse Sergio Mitre's performance. It's been awful. But let's have some perspective Yankees' fans. This is what happens in baseball. As terrible as he is, Sergio Mitre is not going to cost the Yankees anything in the long run because he's hardly alone.