Through his first 13 starts in 2010, the Atlanta Braves have given pitcher Kenshin Kawakami pitiful run support.
With the Braves scoring just 3.13 runs in KK's outings, it’s hardly a surprise that he is 0-9. Bad luck combined with mediocre pitching can do that to you.
Last year, the lack of run support given to Mets ace Johan Santana was a hot topic in baseball. I wrote an article (spurred by some moronic comments from Steve Phillips) and concluded that Johan’s lack of run support was mostly due to the opposing pitcher (and not the vibe that Santana gave off on Mets hitters).
Kawakami earned the nickname “Dragon Slayer” last year, as he faced opposing teams aces a fair amount of the time despite pitching out of the back of the rotation.
With that in mind, I think it is worth taking a look at his 2010 opponents to see why the Braves fail to score when he is on the mound.
In his first four starts (in which KK went 0-4) he faced Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez (who threw a no-hitter that night), Hisanori Takahashi, and Jaime Garcia.
Of those four pitchers, Takahashi has the worst ERA at 3.13. A 3.13 ERA could make someone an ace (or at least a quality number one starter).
In May, the opponents got a little easier for KK. He lost to Livan Hernandez (2.94 ERA, which makes him a top pitcher this year even if we all know he isn’t), Cole Hamels (the first non-ace Kawakami faced, although Hamels is a solid second starter), and Anibal Sanchez (3.22 ERA, good for the top spot on most teams).
His three no decisions in May came against the likes of Ian Kennedy (3.57 ERA), Aaron Harang (5.44) and Paul Maholm (3.77). Harang is the only back of the rotation pitcher out of that bunch.
In his first three June starts, Kenshin, a number five starter himself, faced Clayton Kershaw (2.96), Ian Kennedy (again), and David Price (2.31).
So all in all, through his first 13 starts of 2010, Kawakami faced exactly one pitcher (Aaron Harang) with an ERA over 3.80. While KK is pitching out of the fifth rotation spot, he clearly isn’t facing other teams’ worst starters.
The great ERAs show the guys Kawakami has faced this year are shutting down just about everyone, not just the Braves. While the lack of run support KK gets is disturbingly low, it’s not all that unexpected when you see who he is pitching against.
In short, the small run support Kenshin Kawakami is getting isn’t just bad luck, but bad matchups as well.
All in all, Kawakami’s 0-9 record might be a blessing in disguise for the Braves. Instead of having the entire rotation line up, they likely have a better pitcher four out of every five times out.
The times they are facing another teams’ ace, KK takes the loss (which is the likely outcome for the Braves anyway) and the Braves have a better chance to win 80% of the time.
This article is also featured on Tomahawk Talk