Sunday, September 2, 2007

Things Brian Bannister is really good at (pt. 1): pitching

The stopper took a shutout into the 8th before losing it on a sac fly, but he still lowered his ERA to 3.16. Consider the list of American League starting pitchers whose season ERAs are higher:
John Lackey
Josh Beckett
Fausto Carmona
C.C. Sabathia
Mark Buehrle
Jeremy Guthrie
Justin Verlander
Andy Pettitte
Scott Kazmir
...everyone else
And now, the complete list of starting pitchers whose ERAs are better:
Dan Haren
Kelvim Escobar
Johan Santana
Erik Bedard (tied)
That's it. Four names. You'll notice that Daisuke Matsuzaka is not on this second list. Keep that in mind before we revisit this topic.
Brian Bannister doesn't just win, he wins when the Royals absolutely need him to. According to the AP's Twins-Royals game recap, Bannister's 8-3 in 13 starts following a Royals loss. Remember when he won the AL Rookie of the Month award in June? He might win it again in August* -- he's 7-1 in his last nine starts, with a 2.17 ERA (!) -- which would be nice, since Billy Butler won it in July. He's great at home, dominant on the road: 2.15 ERA and four wins in his last five away from Kauffman. We can sing his praises here all night, but others can do it better:

Catcher John Buck (from the AP story linked above): "Every time we go out it's like I learn something about him and he learns something about himself and the other guys," he said, comparing Bannister to pitchers like Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. "He has a lot of that makeup. He has an idea of what he wants to do, executes it and makes us look smart."

Royals manager Buddy Bell, in the KC Star: "Since I’ve been managing," Bell said, fighting the smile, "he’s the best pitcher I've been around. (Pause) But you need to check that out …"

Brian Bannister, from Baseball Prospectus interview: "Every publication that’s ever tried to project me has been wrong. I think that’s because they use my current repertoire of pitches, and I’m unique as a player in that I continue to grow and evolve, always trying to refine and add new ways to help me get hitters out. That’s why I think I’ll always continue to surpass my projections. At the same time, I always use statistics--non-standard statistics that you’ll find outside of a box score--as a way to improve myself as a player. I know my weaknesses. I know that I have a tendency to give up more fly balls than ground balls. I’m also very aware of my WHIP, my on-base percentage against, my slugging percentage against, my home runs per nine innings, my strikeouts to walks ratio. I look at those things to see how I compare to other players in the league, and also to try to make myself a better pitcher. Like I said, I consider myself a student of the game. Numbers are important."

Internet forums are already debating the merits of "Dice-K vs. Banny" for AL Rookie of the Year, and already -- while they cede Bannister's having a good year -- they are saying, "There's no doubt that Dice K is going to be the better pitcher." No doubt? Really? Why exactly is there no doubt? Because one has been on an SI cover and the other quietly goes about throwing his four pitches at varying speeds in a small market? Because one throws a fictitious pitch that'd make Sidd Finch proud (a pitch which is very fictitious) while the other doesn't need to? Has anyone who's watched Dice-K and Bannister this year actually seen anything to suggest one would have the better career over the other? That the former would no doubt have the better career?

I'm going to propose something, and I want everyone reading who hasn't actually seen Bannister pitch this year to kindly preclude themselves from saying something idiotic and ignorant:

Brian Bannister may have a better career than Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Now, may hardly means will, in any sense, definition or context. But how can anyone who's watched Bannister more or less dominant this year (so far... I understand there's a month left to be played) not feel there's certainly a chance he could be really, really great, and that he has, at times, been nothing short of Maddux-esque? There are doubters out there, of course, and revisionists surely, hordes of them growing by the day, and apologists too (mostly Mets fans who say the Bannister-for-Burgos deal was "good at the time"). I encourage them to make themselves heard.

But first, just for fun, let's compare some stats:

Matsuzaka: 174
Bannister: 72

Matsuzaka: 8.12
Bannister: 8.19

Matsuzaka: 2.64
Bannister: 2.00

Opp. BA
Matsuzaka: .240
Bannister: .242

Bannister: 3.16
Matsuzaka: 3.88

Bannister: 145
Matsuzaka: 117

Bannister: 1.15
Matsuzaka: 1.28

HR allowed
Bannister: 9
Matsuzaka: 20

Bannister: 2.18
Matsuzaka: 3.37

Rookie of the Month awards
Bannister: 1
Matsuzaka: 0

Complete games
Bannister: 1
Matsuzaka: 1

And yet, baseball writers will stuff Rookie of the Year ballot boxes with Dice-K's name because every time he pitches against their team, they glimpse firsthand the hype and the Japanese media miasma and the spectacle that is Daisuke the Monster, and the lasting impression they come away with is, "Now that's what an award-winner should look like." And then Brian Bannister shuts out their team for nearly eight innings and their manager only manages to say, "He just kind of shut us down. You get behind like that, and it takes the air out of you early," and they nod their heads and write their stories and forget all about Banny until it's time to send in their ballots, and because they're new-age baseball writers, hot damn, they bother to look at a stat sheet, and they see this Bannister name, and they think... Hey, didn't he get lucky that one time against us and shut us down for eight innings? Maybe I'll vote him into third place. Nice kid, that Bannister...

Well, I won't have it, and I'm going to type in all-caps so you know that I will NOT stand idly as a less deserving pitcher steals away with what's rightfully someone else's: BRIAN BANNISTER IS THE 2007 AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR.

Pass it on. Spread this truth.

POSTSCRIPT: Perhaps we'd be okay with Dustin Pedroia, all things considered.

UPDATE, 9/4: Whaddaya know, he
did win the AL Rookie of the Month award again, which was just announced. Well deserved.

1 comment:

  1. The gyroball is real, but Dice-K doesn't throw it in games. He never claimed to. Other pitchers have, but Dice-K never or rarely does. But it's definitely a real pitch -- not fictitious.