Wednesday, September 20, 2000

He Lost to Whom?


Something weird happened today. The first game of the Red Sox-Indians doubleheader featured reigning Cy Young Award winner (and likely repeater) Pedro Martinez for the Sox vs. Steve Woodard for theIndians. "Steve who?" you might ask. Steve Woodard was the default Opening Day starter for the Milwaukee Brewers this year, whose season unceremoniously began with a washout in Cincinnati. Woodard was 1-7 with a 5.96 ERA with the Brewers when he was traded in late July to Cleveland, a team desperate for pitching help. How desperate do you have to be to think that those numbers will help your team?

Woodardwas true to form after the trade, going 1-3 with a 7.30 ERA prior totoday's game. His opponent, Pedro, on the other hand, was 17-5, witha 1.81 ERA prior to today's game. Easy win for the Red Sox, right? Has there ever been such a thing? The Red Sox lost 2-1 to the Indians, wasting a gem from Pedro (8 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts).

The sportswriters will probably say that Martinez got no run support. Well neither did Woodard, but he got the win, pitching 6 innings of shutout ball. So how does it happen? How does baseball's best pitcher lose to a guy lucky to have a job in the Majors?

Well, it's not the first time it's happened to Pedro this year. Coming into the game, Pedro had 5 losses. Two of those were to the Yankees' Andy Pettitte, who is having a great year, and very quietly is already at 99 career wins. But he also lost to Angels' rookie Ramon Ortiz (currently 6-6 with a 5.61 ERA) and the Blue Jay's Chris Carpenter (10-11, 6.17), two guys who, like Woodard, were born in 1975 or later.

Prior to today, however, the most bizarre loss was Pedro's first of the season, to the Devil Ray's Steve Trachsel on May 6th. Pedro lost1-0, throwing a complete game, giving up 6 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and striking out an eye-popping 17 batters. Trachsel, facing the same number of batters as Pedro, however, gave up no runs. Trachsel right now is 8-13 with a 4.70 ERA.

Still not convinced that something weird is going on here? Let's look a little bit closer at Trachsel. Trachsel, perhaps most famous for giving up Mark McGwire's then record-breaking 62nd home run in 1998, was the Devil Rays' big free agent pitcher signing this year. Despite playing his entire career to date for the Cubs, and therefore, having to play in tiny Wrigley Field (the effect of that is debatable), Trachsel actually had decent career numbers through the 1998 season. His 1999 season was a disappointment, but the D-Rays thought that they saw something. He was 6-10 with a 4.58 ERA before the D-Rays traded him to Toronto, another team in need of pitching help (sound familiar?) for the stretch run. Since then, Trachsel has gone 2-3 with a 5.00 ERA. He went over a month between wins 1 and 2, and two months between wins 6 and 7. Two months!

While Pedro's losses were to some of the less notable starters in the American League, Trachsel's wins were often against some of the League's best, or at least winningest, pitchers. His 8 wins include victories over the Indians' Dave Burba (currently 15-6 with a 4.39 ERA), the Yankees' Opening Day starter Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (12-11, 4.59), the Marlins' All-Star Ryan Dempster (13-10, 3.57), the Rangers' ace Rick Helling (15-12, 4.13), Pettitte (18-8, 3.99) and, of course, Pedro.


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