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Is 2010 Really 'Year of the Pitcher?'

Jun 11, 2010 – 3:00 PM
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Pat Lackey

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Less than half of the 2010 season is behind us, and pitching has been front and center with some even going so far as to label 2010 the "Year of the Pitcher." With two perfect games, a no-hitter, another near-perfecto, Ubaldo Jimenez and Roy Halladay throwing up dominant start after dominant start, and 15 players with ERAs of under 2.50, including Jimenez under 1.00 and Jaime Garcia under 2.00, the tag is getting thrown around an awful lot.

But is it really accurate?

Entering Thursday night's action, National League teams were averaging about 4.40 runs per game, while AL clubs were scoring at a pace of 4.55 runs per game. Both of those figures are down from 2009, with the NL just a hair under the 4.43 average from last year and the AL figure down a bit more significantly from 4.82. Those are full-season numbers, though, and there's a school of thought that says that the ball flies further and more runs are scored as things heat up over the summer.

On June 11, 2009, the NL was averaging a robust 4.50 runs per game, which means that their average actually dropped over the summer, while the AL was averaging 4.79 runs per game, which means their scoring increased with the temperature. Both numbers are higher than the league's averages today, so case closed, right? Scoring is down and it's the year of the pitcher and that's that.

Of course, after June 11 last year, the NL averaged just 4.39 runs per game, which is almost exactly what the league is averaging thus far in 2010. And on June 11, 2008, the AL was scoring at rate of just 4.49 runs per game, below what they're scoring now, before finishing up with an average of 4.78, very close to the 2009 run-scoring average.

So what gives? The great pitching performances have certainly stood out in everyone's minds so far. It's impossible to deny that Jimenez and Halladay have been exceptional, and surprising pitchers like Garcia, Doug Fister, Mike Leake, and everyone in a Padres uniforms are defying expectations, but what if we flip the table on its ear?

Before Thursday night, there were also 20 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title with ERAs of over 5.00. Moreover, that doesn't even consider hurlers that have been dropped from their rotations for pitching poorly. That number will obviously go down through the season as it's crazy to let guys pitching that poorly continue, but the number of ERAs under 2.50 should drop too as younger pitchers get tired and luck catches up to them.

It's true that there have been some impressive pitching performances thus far in 2010, and it's true that runs are down a bit in both leagues thus far. But there were also impressive pitching performances last year.

Are we already forgetting just how good Zack Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and yes, Halladay and Ubaldo Jimenez (at least after the All-Star Break) were in 2009? Pitchers have been a big part of the 2010 season, but not any more so than in recent history.
Filed under: Sports