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Matchup/Preview/Game Thread Game # 25 at Brewers 7:05 CST

Wandy Rodriguez Tomo Ohka
4 - 0, 2.53 2 - 1, 3.72

We got some nonbelievers out there. John Erhardt at Baseball Prospectus has some issues with those who feel good about Wandy's start:

It's really difficult to accept that, after five starts, Rodriguez has somehow turned a corner and has learned to pitch in the majors. He's got a below-average BABIP, he's posting the lowest walk rate of his career, he hasn't faced very good offenses, and his home run rate is way down from what it's been in the past. And as Dayn Perry demonstrated last year, Minute Maid park is particularly generous to right-handed batters where home runs are concerned. Since he'll pitch more games in Houston than anywhere else, and since he'll face predominantly right-handed lineups, his home run rate has nowhere to go but up. In other words, his April is a great story, but we can't view it as predictive of a level of performance he's never shown before.

Aside from the fact that Wandy's numbers crosscheck pretty well, that he's, for example, ninth in the league in that sabermetric darling, Component ERA*, my issue with the lines quoted above is more with their logic.

Look, I'm not going to say that Wandy doesn't have a harder road to travel than those few lefties out there who throw eight miles an hour faster than he does. But it's interesting how many of these snarky commentators make the assumption that a player as he was is the player as he is going to be.

Improving your skills as they match against the talent pool that is major league baseball admittedly is an extremely difficult task. But somebody like Rodriquez is going to spend all the time he can in attempting to improve. You think Wandy isn't aware that his five and a half ERA last year wasn't very good? Is it so difficult to believe that a pitcher who is willing to work hard and listen to his pitching coach will be able to make substantive improvement?

When it comes right down to it, Mr. Erhardt's argument is logically fallacious. He says that "[Wandy]'s posting the lowest walk rate of his career, he hasn't faced very good offenses, and his home run rate is way down from what it's been in the past."

First off, just how is the fact that he's shown improvement in walk and home run rates proof that the improvements won't continue? It's absurd. Mr. Erhardt's basic fallacy is his assumption that Wandy sucks; when facts counterindicate, he appeals to his assumption.

As far as the strength of opposition, he's got more of a point. Wandy has faced Florida, Washington, Arizona, Pittsburgh, and the Dodgers. And the Nationals, the Pirates and the Marlin are each in the bottom five in runs scored, it is true. But Arizona and Los Angeles are ranked sixth and seventh, and Wandy pitched his best game against the highest-ranked club.

Even more to the point, it's selective criticism. You certainly don't hear anybody saying how Roy's fast start is an aberration, although he's faced much the same opposition as Rodriguez has.

Fact is, arguments like the one Prospectus has presented here pretend at a rigorousness they don't in fact possess. Wandy may or may not end up winning fifteen games, but if he doesn't, it certainly won't validate any arguments that take the form: "he sucked before, therefore, he must suck now."

Rodriguez v.2005 fared pretty well against Milwaukee. Wandy was 2 - 0 in three starts against the Brew Crew with a 3.44 ERA. The WHIP was 1.36, a little high but not terrible.

His best game against them was probably last September 18 when he gave up 1 over 6-1/3 and beat Chris Capuano.

Wandy gave up 4 earned runs over 6 innings and got a win in his only previous appearance at Miller Park.

Carlos Lee is 1 for 9 with a single in nine plate appearances (!) off Wandy, Geoff Jenkins 2 for 5 with what looks to be a hit-by-pitch. Brady Clark has only 3 at bats, but with two hits that were both doubles.

Ausmus is 3 for 8 off Ohka with two doubles and two walks, Berkman, 3 for 8 with two doubles and one walk. Preston has seen him the most, and is 5 for 16 with a walk and a couple of ribeyes.

Overall, Ohka is 1 - 3 against Houston with a 6.38, having given up 26 hits and 3 walks to the Astros since he came into the National League in 2001.

A single point separates the team on base percentages of the Brewers and the Astros, with Houston at .355 and Milwaukee at .354. Hopefully, the games aren't that close.

On Base Percentage
OBP Astro Pos Brewer OBP
x .462 Brad Ausmus C1 Damian Miller .397
.261 Eric Munson C2 Chad Moeller .310 x
x .413 Lance Berkman 1B Prince Fielder .400
.350 Craig Biggio 2B Rickie Weeks .353 x
x .304 Adam Everett SS JJ Hardy .281
x .467 Morgan Ensberg 3B Corey Koskie .343
.394 Jason Lane OF1 Carlos Lee .415 x
.333 Willy Taveras OF2 Geoff Jenkins .361 x
.276 Preston Wilson OF3 Brady Clark .326 x
.125 Orlando Palmeiro OF4 Gabe Gross .417 x
x .447 Chris Burke Util/PH Bill Hall .354

*And yes, as of 5/1/06, Taylor Buchholz DOES lead the National League in Component ERA. . . .