Tag Archives: mariano rivera

How good is Zach Britton?

The Orioles blew another game against the Yankees last night, but rookie Zach Britton was brilliant again, scattering 6 hits over 7 innings and allowing only one run, that unearned.  His ERA of 2.14 is 5th best in the American League, and he has the 3rd highest WAR among AL pitchers.  In the talk about Baltimore’s good young arms, Britton has gotten less ink than Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman; in the first two months of his big-league career, he’s outpitched both.  Could he really be this good?

There are at least two reasons to think not.  First, Britton doesn’t strike out anybody:  just 5 K per 9 IP so far this year.  Last year, the best ERA among pitchers with 5 or fewer strikeouts per 9 innings was Carl Pavano, at 3.75.  It’s hard to pitch effectively without getting strikeouts.  That suggests Britton’s been pretty lucky; and indeed, his BABIP right now is an unsustainably low .228.  In other words, batters are hitting Britton’s pitches, but the balls haven’t been falling in for hits.  That’s the kind of thing that au courant thinkiing tends to place outside a pitcher’s control.

And yet —

There’s another thing a pitcher controls totally, and that is not giving up home runs.  And Zach Britton is very, very good at not giving up home runs.  This year he’s given up just 4 in 60 innings of work.  That’s a small sample size (league average rate would be 6 HR in that many innings) but it’s been his trademark throughout his professional career.  In 103 minor league starts Britton gave up just 27 home runs.

If nobody homers off you, you can get away with a lot of singles and walks.  Britton is not going to maintain a 2.14 ERA but I think there’s every reason to think he’ll be a legitimate front-of-the-rotation starter.

The less said about the end of the Yankee game, the better, but I’ll remark on one more bright spot — Mariano Rivera blew the save, continuing his record of mediocrity against the Orioles.  His career ERA against Baltimore is 3.15, almost a full point higher than his overall ERA, and we’ve beaten him 8 times, more than any other team.


Tagged , , ,

Two good Orioles endings

Good ending 1: The Orioles hang 3 runs on Mariano Rivera for the second time this year to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th, then win on a Melvin Mora bunt in the next frame, simultaneously clinching at least a tie in the season series and cementing the Yankees’ first second-place division finish since 1997. If that wasn’t enough, we got to beat up on Mike Mussina too. Rivera’s lifetime ERA against the O’s rises to a pedestrian 3.72. The three runs, by the way, were on a bases-clearing Jay Payton triple — his second triple of the night.

Good ending 2: Stat of the Day brings us the game of June 3, 1977; Royals catcher John Wathan comes up against the O’s Tippy Martinez, bottom of the 9th, Orioles up 7-5, but the Royals have the bases loaded and nobody out. Wathan hits a fly to right. Runner on third tags and scores. Runners on first and second tag too, but the throw from Pat Kelly comes in in time for Mark Belanger to tag the runner at second — now the runner on his way to third is caught in a rundown, and he’s out too. When the smoke clears, the Orioles have won the game 7-6, and Wathan has hit into a game-ending triple play and collected an RBI in the same at-bat!

There was something about Tippy that struck confusion into the minds of baserunners — let it never be forgotten that he is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to pick off the side. (The link is a beautiful account of this crazy game from Swing and a Miss— I implore you to follow the link and spend a little time with your 1983 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.)

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: