Here’s a little quiz for our knowledgeable readers.
In 2009 eleven pitchers:
Threw more than 150 innings
Had an ERA less than 3.91
Struck out at least 5 batters per nine innings
Gave up less than one home run per 9 innings and
Had a WHIP greater than 1.19
Can you name them?
It also has post season proven pitchers like John Lackey and Ryan Dempster, the mercurial Carlos Zambrano, young guns Ubaldo Jimenez, Jair Jurrjens and Wandy Rodriguez. I bet you would never have guess the last guy; Kenshin Kawakami. (Thanks to the new Baseball Musings Day By Day Database for making this research easier for me.)
Yep, you read correctly, good old number 11, the anathema of Atlanta and the most scorned Braves pitcher in my memory, Kenshin Kawakami.is part of an if not elite, otherwise very well respected group of starters. He’s also the only pitcher on that list with a losing record.
In 2009 Kawakami won 7 and lost 12. His two September losses were in relief and he gave up only 3 runs in those appearances, not all that bad for someone who had never done it before. He made 7 relief appearances in all pitching 13.2 innings giving up 4 earned runs for a respectable 2.68 ERA. That’s good of course but pushed his starting ERA up to 3.96. So how big is that list now? Fourteen, and the three added all had winning records, so there’s more digging to be done here.
When a team’s number 5 starter with just under a 4 ERA takes the mound, his team is hopefully facing the opposition’s fourth or fifth starter as well. In those situations the team’s bats generally determine who wins those games. In 2009 the Braves didn’t get that memo. They scored only 24 runs in his 10 losses.
|Date||Runs allowed||Braves Scored||Notes|
|4/16||5 (4 earned)||2|
|5/5||2||3||Pen gave up 2 more|
|5/27||4 (3 earned)||3||vs Randy Johnson|
|7/18||2||1||vs Johan Santana|
|7/29||6||3||vs Josh Johnson|
|8/3||3||2||vs Matt Latos|
|8/26||4||5||Pen gave up 7|
If you look closely you can see that a feeble Braves lineup had a lot to do with KKs losses. He was blown out only once and faced top of the line starters on 4 occasions. Giving those high caliber pitchers their due and credit for shutting down the Braves the other 5 games could have and should have been won. Those wins would have reversed KK’s record to 12 and 7, they would have also made our record 91-71 and made us the wild card team in 2009.
Does all of this mean I’m a great Kawakami fan, that we should get him back to the big team now that we have run support so he can eat innings and allow a rookie to get more minor league time before being thrown in at the deep end? Well . . . no.
Kawakami has been given a bad rap but barring a miracle because of this story (not happening) his future in Atlanta can’t be salvaged. He is however a marketable trade piece IF teams in need take a good look at the facts. This is the reason the Braves have refused to give him away. At least I that’s the reason. True we may end up eating some of his salary but if we can get a couple of pieces back we’ll come out ahead. Where does he fit…. stayed tuned and I’ll tell you where I think he may land.