My partner Bob here at Tomahawk Take pointed out that while Kawakami had pitched in bad luck in 2009, he thought his “peripherals” were worse in 2010. He also commented that he wasn’t worth $6.5 million (actually it was 8.3 in 09, 7.3 in 2101, and only 6.3 this year). On the latter I whole heartedly agree. One would have to ask Frank Wren why he chose to pay so much for so little when others were available for less; but that’s another story for another day. While I did not originally plan to dissect 2010 in detail I felt that many others may believe the same as Bob so I decided to dig out the detail and take a look.
Kawakami’s ERA went up about a run and a half in 2010 from 3.68 to 5.15. Tommy Hanson’s went up half a run and Jair Jurrjens had an increase of 2 runs.(Lowe and Hudson’s both went down.) His batting average for balls in play went up from .290 to .311 probably because his hits per nine went up by about 1. This also increased his WHIP increased 0.146. On the other hand his walks/9, Ks/9 and homers/9 stayed almost exactly the same. A quick look at Fangraphs shows a noticeable increase in line drives and a decrease in ground balls. Simply put, hitters were squaring him up better in his sophomore year in the majors than they did in his rookie year and he didn’t adjust – sophomore jinx perhaps? More line drives increased the hits and increased hits will usually increase runs and raise ERA. Having said that, the original point was that the Braves failed to hit when he pitched in 2009. Remembering that idea is that your number with an ERA of needs at least 5 to win, what happened in his 2010 losses?
|Date||Runs allowed||Braves Scored||Opposing Pitcher|
As you can see Braves bats were once more not present many times KK lost. You’ll also note that they were shut out twice and beaten by Cy Young contenders 4 times, so perhaps silent bats there are understandable. There is no excuse for not beating Andrew Miller except that in 2010 pitchers nobody had heard of beat the Braves fairly regularly. One other note from a psychological perspective. The first 7 times KK pitched he lost. Eventually that gets into your mind. Even if you pitch as expected , when the bats let you down you will lose. Ask Tommy Hanson. Between June 22nd and September 1st Tommy started 14 games and went 1 and 7. In 9 of those games he allowed 4 or less runs. It seemed every time Tommy pitched the bats or gloves stayed home. If you watched Hanson during that stretch and you could see it affected the way he pitched. He worked harder trying to be more precise and forgot to pitch to his strengths. For Hanson the bats came around in time to save his season. For Kawakami they never did. He was virtually done in June though he did pitch once in July before accepting a trip to Gwinette.
Once again let me be clear. I am not equating Kawakami with Hanson, Hanson is a stud starter and future Cy Young winner. Kawakami is at best a number 5 journeyman pitcher. He is capable of being a 500 pitcher – most teams will take that from their number 5 guy – but when his team doesn’t score he can’t do that. In his time he’s bee a 5-6 inning pitcher – once again many 5th starters are like that – yet he’s earning 3 times what a 5th starter should make (if that starter is not on the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and until Perez is released, the Mets). That is not his fault or his problem. He negotiated this contract with Frank Wren and the Braves. The Braves decided it was a good deal and offered him 24 million + over 3 and he accepted. He can be traded because he fits the needs of a few teams but expecting someone to take all or even most of his salary is just a fantasy. If we can get a team pay $2 million or so of the contract and perhaps give us a minor prospect or two in return, the remainder of his salary can be seen as the cost of making a bad business decision. There are as I said, a few teams he might well fit into. . . and I’ll tell who I think they are next time.