Monday, August 28, 2006

The Angels went 7-3 over the just-completed homestand, which was the bare requirement. It was both encouraging and frustrating that two of the losses came in close games where a break or two would have brought a different outcome.

The third loss, however, was not so tightly fought. Though Angel offense did a good job of keeping on the outskirts of the game, the offensive Lads were unable to dig out of the hole they were thrown into by starting pitcher Joe Saunders.

This was Saunders' second horrible start out of the last three, and his once sterling rookie season has been tarnished, with his record dropping to 4-2 and his ERA rising to 4.78.

Has he really pitched all that differently in his first four and last three starts?
What Starts     BFP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   ERA
First Four 110 .164 .091 .009 .164 1.67
Last Three 61 .131 .180 .066 .295 12.66
As you can see, it's been a wholesale decline from Saunders. You can see that his strikeouts and strikeout-to-walk ratio were not exceptional even in his good starts, a sure-fire sign of imminent decline. He managed to keep opponents down by keeping the ball in the ballpark.

But over the last three starts, not only has he been prone to the long ball, he's also lost his command of the strike zone, walking batters twice as frequently while striking out less guys. He's getting himself into jams more often, and he's unable to escape them himself, with the results being hits allowed, home runs allowed, and a gaudy ERA.

As Saunders has topped out his previous season-high innings totals, people begin to wonder if there mightn't be fatigue. There might well be. But it's also true that he was never as good as his ERA and win-loss record made it appear. We're seeing some correction for that, and we're also seeing teams come around and see him multiple times, which can't be good for a finesse pitcher.

Saunders has faced two teams a second time, Texas and New York:
What Starts     BFP   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  H/BF   ERA
First vs. Team 52 .192 .077 .000 .173 1.38
Second vs. Team 35 .114 .229 .114 .343 27.00
Look at that for a second -- in his second starts against the Rangers and Yankees, 57.2% of opposing batters have reached base via hit or walk. That's extraordinary.

Obviously, I don't think Saunders is quite that bad; those are two pretty good offenses that roughed him up. But given everything, I'm beginning to become a bit concerned every time he goes out to the mound, and it's still possible that the effects of Bartolo Colon's injury have not yet exhausted their toll on our team's postseason hopes.

I think Saunders has admitted fatigue a few starts ago.

He's obviosuly not as good as his first few starts, but I think he'll be fine long term unless he gets hurt. He's not going to strike out many, but his track record for control is pretty good.

I think he's got a good chance to be another Jarrod Washburn. Hope we can get 6 decent years out of him and let the Mariners overpay for his services.
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