The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Westbrook gives up a lot of hits, wins

Posted by disappointmentzone on 4 August 2006

In the last 12 hours I’ve heard this fact reported in a number of different places and, if only to saturate the market a little more, I’ll report it here: Last night Jake Westbrook became the first pitcher in 18 years to give up 15 hits and win. The last player to do so was John Dopson. He gave up 15 hits on July 3, 1988, when his Expos beat the Braves 9-2.

I don’t know if this little factoid is impressive or not. One thing to consider is that Westbrook is the only pitcher this season to give up 15 hits in one game. Everyone else either got pulled or the game ended. If one assumes that the 2006 baseball season is similar to past seasons–or at least not wildly divergent–then it’s probably safe to say that each season very few pitchers give up 15 hits in any one game. Why don’t pitchers give up 15 hits more often? Managers. If a pitcher is getting knocked around so much then he’s going to get pulled. Each season there are probably a ton of pitchers who, if left in a game for seven or eight innings, would easily surpass 15 hits. But they are pulled after four innings and 10 hits. Managers just don’t give many pitchers the opportunity to allow 15 hits.

Why was Westbrook allowed to give up 15 hits last night? Because Westbrook has an unusually high ground ball to fly ball ratio. 15 hits off of Westbrook isn’t the same as 15 hits off of Lee, who gives up a much higher number of fly balls. Westbrook only gave up three extra base hits last night, all of them doubles. As long as Wedge felt that the hits Westbrook was giving up were more the product of unfortunate luck than poor pitching he had good reason to leave Westbrook in the game. Was Wedge justified in thinking this? I don’t know. I didn’t see all of the game. But the numbers suggest Westbrook wasn’t getting rocked.

Here is an article from Baseball Prospectus that explains why hits are a poor measure of pitching ability. The most important line from the article says that

There is little if any difference among major-league pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit in the field of play.

Again, Westbrook is a ground ball pitcher. He rarely strikes anyone out. The article continues:

Aside from walks, there are two basic outcomes for a pitcher: batter hits the ball or batter strikes out. With the latter, the result is almost always an out. With the former, all sorts of things can happen, including a base hit.

Last night Westbrook recorded 24 outs and only one by strikeout. The rest were on balls batted in play (he walked one). This is typical of Westbrook. Over his career Westbrook strikes out just fewer than 5 batters per nine innings. 5 K/9 is pretty low by MLB standards. Last night it was even lower. So a lot of balls were put into play, but once that happens there is no telling what’ll happen next. Most times an out is recorded. Last night that wasn’t the case. But allowing 15 hits doesn’t mean Westbrook was necessarily pitching poorly, which is the crucial point. So Wedge left him in. And the Indians won. It’s hard to argue with results.

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