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Should Guthrie’s Struggles be Blamed on Him? Or the Birds?
Posted By Alex Van Rees On Jul 9 2011 @ 6:43 pm In Baltimore Orioles | 2 Comments
I remember when starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 2007 season for the Baltimore Orioles and I thought that he would be at the helm of the starting rotation for years to come and he would have a successful career with the Birds. I thought he was the answer to the Orioles pitching problems years ago.
I was right about one thing. Guthrie has been atop of the Orioles pitching staff for the last four seasons, but he has not garnered the amount of wins and support that an ace normally does. But, is that his fault, has his team let him down or was his thrust into the spotlight too early?
Guthrie usually seems to be on the mound when the Orioles fail to score more than two or three runs for him, or sometimes, like all pitchers, he has an off day and the Birds actually support him…he just gives up too many runs to win the game.
Let’s take a look at his past:
Guthrie spent parts of four seasons with the Cleveland Indians from 2003-2006 after he was selected in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, but he never really hit it big with the Tribe at the major league level.
Over four seasons with the Indians minor league teams, Guthrie compiled a 40-36 record with a 4.40 ERA in 101 games. Guthrie started 97 of those games while tossing almost 600 innings and he never allowed more than 80 earned runs in a single season.
He only appeared 16 games for the Indians between 2004 and 2006 and he only started one game! He tossed 37 innings, allowed 42 hits and 25 earned runs over his time in Cleveland (6.08 ERA).
Shipped to Baltimore
The Orioles acquired Guthrie after he was designated for assignment by the Indians in early 2007. Although he began the season for the Birds in the bullpen, he quickly made strides and proved he should be in the rotation.
By the end of July, Guthrie had compiled a 7-3 record in 17 starts for his new club with a superb 2.98 ERA and a staggering 1.027 WHIP, which was second only to then superstar ace and Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
The dog days of August caught up to Guthrie and he failed to win another game before the end of the year, and finished with a 7-5 record and a respectable 3.70 ERA while throwing 175.1 innings and allowing 165 hits in his first season with the club.
No one expected him to win as many games as he did, let alone finish the season in the starting rotation and make a bid for the ’08 opening day starter for the Birds. But, he proved that he could start games and be consistent at the major league level…maybe all the Tribe needed to do was give him a chance.
With Guthrie’s surprising and successful first year with the club, he got the nod for the opening day start, the first of three opening day starts in the last four seasons for the Birds (he did not start the 2010 opening day game). After one full season with the Orioles, it was obvious that they were building around Guthrie and he was the core of the young rotation for years to come.
Guthrie started 30 games in his second season for the Birds and even lowered his ERA to 3.63, which is well below the league average (usually, the average for the American League is in the low four’s).
Although his ERA was low and he tossed well more innings than hits allowed (190.2 innings compared to only 176 hits), Guthrie finished with a 10-12 on the year with eight no decisions.
2009 was a year for Guthrie to forget, as it’s his worst season to date in number of losses and highest ERA. He finished with the same amount of wins as the previous season, but lost five more times (17) and a lofty 5.04 ERA.
Guthrie started 33 games and tossed, for the first time in his career, 200.0 innings, but allowed more hits than innings pitched (224), which is never a good sign for a starting pitcher. Maybe this wasn’t his best year because he was not accustomed to throwing so many innings and back to back years of almost 200 innings takes a toll on a pitcher.
One of the main reasons Guthrie struggled in 2009 besides more hits than innings pitched, were the amount of homeruns he allowed (35). In 2008, he allowed 11 less homeruns in just about 10 more innings.
Guthrie responded in 2010 by winning a career-high 11 games for the Birds and throwing more innings than the previous season (209.1)- another career high. But, again, Guthrie failed to win more games than he lost (14), but his ERA returned to sub four at 3.83.
He allowed 193 hits on the season in 32 starts and only surrendered 25 homeruns. Guthrie’s hits per nine innings ratio was 8.3, which is tied for the lowest in his career with 2008.
Although Guthrie has pitched well this year, his numbers do not reflect and tell the whole story. He is 3-11 with a 4.23 ERA, and you might be thinking to yourself that a 4.23 ERA is not the best and a bit above the average for a major league pitcher. But, with the exception of his last outing in Texas, his ERA has been consistently below four most of the season.
In 18 starts this season, he’s tossed 115 innings, but allowed seven more hits than innings pitched (122). He’s on pace to toss 217 innings, which would be the most in his career and the third straight season of 200 innings or more, and 230 hits, also the most in his career.
The staggering statistics is his projected record by the end of the year. Guthrie is on pace to lose 21 games this season, and only win six. He’s won only one game per month, literally one in April on opening night, one in May, one in June, and he’s yet to win this month.
So, with the exception of the 2009 season, why has Guthrie faired so poorly?
Well, in 2008, the Birds scored 6.04 runs per game, which ranked him 69th among major league pitchers. In 2009, his run support actually raised to 6.30, which ranked him 44th in the majors, but that was his homerun-happy season and he allowed more than five runs per game.
But, over the last two seasons, the Birds have supported him with less than five runs per game (4.90 in 2010 83rd in the majors and 4.77 this season 77th in the majors). It’s hard for a pitcher to consistently win games when his team cannot score him more than five runs in this day and age.
Now, back in the 60’s and 70’s, five runs would have been more than enough and a blessing. But, obviously times have changed and hitters have evolved; it’s not a pitcher’s game anymore, but a hitter’s paradise. If he has any shot at losing less than 20 games, the Birds need to score him some more runs in the second half.
It seems as if when the Orioles score more than four runs, Guthrie allows very few, but when Guthrie has an off day and surrenders more than four runs, so do the Oriole bats and they fail to pick him up. For example, in April, he surrendered only two runs to the Twins, but the Orioles failed to score even one run. Another example is when he allowed zero earned runs against Washington in May, and the Birds scored him eight.
Five times this year he’s allowed no earned runs in a ballgame and he’s only picked up two wins. Not to mention, he’s thrown nine quality outings this season, which is half of his starts. So, Guthrie should have at least seven or eight wins by now.
In two of his April losses, the Birds scored one run and he allowed only six (three in each game). In three of his May outings, the Orioles scored only two runs each game and he lost all three of those starts. Earlier this month facing Jair Jurrjens, the Birds couldn’t touch the plate and Guthrie allowed only three earned, but was handed the loss.
So, this season, Guthrie has pitched in tough luck and deserves a better fate than it seems he will likely finish with. I really enjoy watching him pitch and it looks to me as if he’s getting tired of the Orioles not being able to support him when needed.
Also, I think the Orioles threw him into the ace position a little too early; he was only 29 years old and had never led a staff before, and he’d only pitched one complete season in the majors. Look for Guthrie to have a much better second half of the season as I am sure he doesn’t want to lose 20 games in one season.
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