The Padres 17-inning outlasting of Toronto last Friday was made possible by many things, including Clayton Richard’s pitching. He threw the final two innings in relief and got the win very early Saturday morning. Richard threw only 26 pitches, but it would have been fool-hardy to ask him to turn around 18 hours later and start, so the Padres called up Robbie Erlin.
Erlin exceeded all expectations. He got all but 7 outs, saved a taxed bullpen, and came away with his first major league win. Pretty good, right? How good? Let’s look using Game Score.
First, a review. Game Score is pretty easy to calculate. Here’s the definition, but basically a pitcher starts with 50 points, and his score goes up or down depending on how he does. Baseball Reference supports searching by Game Score, and after looking over the list I found a couple of interesting tidbits.
- Eric Stults’ 84 score for his 29 May start against Seattle – the career best 12K start – is the Padres best so far in 2013. That game is far and away the best start by this rotation, coming in a full 10 points better than Jason Marquis’ 5-hit shutout against Miami on 8 May.
- Stults and Marquis have the top 4 starts this year by Game Score. How about that.
- Burch Smith’s 11 May start against Tampa earned a 19. That’s pretty bad. It’s not the worst Padre start of the year.
Bad starts are synonymous with Clayton Richard this season. He has the year’s two worst starts, and three of the worst four. Clayton put up an 18 against the Mets on 3 April, and against Milwaukee 20 days later. He also threw a 22 Game Score at Arizona on 4 May. Then he went on the DL. Since coming off the DL, he has only one start – a 40 in Seattle.
Erlin’s lone start graded out as a 54. Not awesome, but certainly not bad; it’s 16th best on the list through Sunday. Here’s something to chew on: that game is better than all but ONE of Richard’s starts in 2013.
So what? Six and two-thirds of effective pitching, in a pitcher’s park, is the epitome of a small sample. I think it’s more than that. I think it’s significant. In his first ML appearance, Erlin got cuffed around pretty good by the Cubs. In his second outing, he was better – a scoreless inning, against those same Cubs. In Saturday’s start, he was better still. Erlin proved he belonged in the Majors on Saturday, handling Toronto’s high scoring offense.
Bottom line – Erlin was good. As VM Nate pointed out yesterday, Richard has struggled a lot since 2010. The Padres, having recovered from a dismal 2-10 start, are competitive; but still probably will not compete for a playoff spot this season. Moving Erlin permanently into the rotation won’t fix that, but it will give him some valuable experience for next season when the Padres start the year with a full deck (i.e, with Grandal, Luebke, et al, on the Opening Day roster).
Erlin deserves multiple starts before September. Let’s see what the kid can do.