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A Deja View of Pitching

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Guest markotsay7

From the Wall Street Journal


A Deja View of Pitching

July 15, 2005; Page W8


Everything old is new again. That could have been the theme song on the pitcher's mound for the first half of this baseball season -- pitchers making comebacks, old pitchers on new teams, pitchers who seem to have stopped the hands of time.


As the season's second half gets started, we found a surprising number of veterans in our list of 2005's most productive pitchers. To compile the list, we used BABE, our term for Bases Per Batter. BABE puts control pitchers who rack up few strikeouts, but also allow few walks, on an equal footing with the game's flamethrowers. It measures how many bases a pitcher allows, on average, to each hitter -- the lower the number, the better the performance.


BABE (Bases Per Batter) takes the number of bases a pitcher allows and divides it by the number of batters he faces.


Here's our countdown of the Top 10 in BABE, minimum 250 batters faced, through the All-Star break.


10. A. J. Burnett: Is there a better testament to the advances in sports medicine, this side of Tommy John, at least? The Florida Marlins' Burnett blew out his arm in 2003, a year after having allowed the fewest hits per nine innings of any major-league pitcher, and had to undergo surgery. Don't be fooled by his 5-5 record this season -- his .377 BABE should make him an big factor in the NL East pennant race -- or in some other division, given that he's a free-agent-to-be.


9. Dontrelle Willis: Mr. Burnett's teammate, 2003's NL Rookie of the Year, is dominating batters with his unorthodox delivery and entertaining fans with his emotional style. His 13-4 record -- and .376 BABE -- makes him the top contender for the NL Cy Young Award.


8. Chris Carpenter: Entering this season there was reason to be wary about St. Louis's Mr. Carpenter. Before his 15-5 record in 2004, his career record was a game below .500, he had elbow and shoulder problems, and he missed last year's playoffs with a nerve injury. But a .375 BABE and a 13-4 record have confirmed his place as the ace for the NL's best team.


7. Matt Morris: Mr. Morris may not have dazzling stuff, but he's the kind of hurler winning teams like the Cardinals need -- pitching a lot of innings at a below-league-average ERA. That explains his .626 career winning percentage through last year -- plus his .371 BABE and 10-2 record this year.


6. John Patterson: More good news for Washington Nationals fans. While Mr. Patterson's first-half record is 3-2, he's striking out eight batters per nine innings and posting a .370 BABE. If he recovers from a groin pull and keeps his pitch counts down (16.49 pitches per inning), Mr. Patterson could make a difference down the stretch in the NL East.


5. Rich Harden: Having Mr. Harden let Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane trade away two of his Big Three -- Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson. (The third, Barry Zito, is still with the A's.) Mr. Harden's .368 BABE and 2.53 ERA attest to his amazing stuff, while his so-so 5-4 record is due to Oakland's offense.


4. Mark Buehrle: He's been overshadowed by Oakland's Big Three and Florida's young hotshots through his career, but Mr. Buehrle of the White Sox is one of the game's top young pitchers, with a 69-45 record and a 3.76 ERA through the 2004 season. This year, he's taken it up a notch for the AL Central leaders, with a .365 BABE and a 10-3 record.


3. Roy Halladay: If not for his fractured tibia, when he was hit by a line drive last Friday, Mr. Halladay would likely be snagging another Cy Young award this year. His .342 BABE and 12-4 record show that his 8-8 mark last year was the sort of midcareer blip that afflicts even great pitchers (see Clemens, Roger, 1993 [11-14]; Seaver, Tom, 1974 [11-11]).


2. Pedro Martinez: Mr. Martinez has responded in stellar fashion to his move to the Mets. Sure, he calls one of baseball's best pitcher's parks home, but he's turned back the clock with a .322 BABE and 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Conversely, veteran lefthander Randy Johnson of the Yankees, who also moved to New York this season amid high expectations, lags behind with a .455 BABE.


1. Roger Clemens: Two years after "retiring," the greatest living pitcher continues to polish his Hall of Fame r?sum?. His first-half .310 BABE and his 1.48 ERA -- both the best in baseball -- are especially impressive given the fact that he works in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. With 335 wins, Mr. Clemens trails only Warren Spahn (363 victories) among post-Dead Ball era pitchers.


Write to Allen St. John at allen.stjohn@wsj.com


I Got You, BABE


BABE (Bases Per Batter) takes the number of bases a pitcher allows and divides it by the number of batters he faces. This year's top three in BABE are all Cy Young award winners (Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Roy Halladay).

R Clemens  HOU  148  477  .310
P Martinez  NYM  158  491  .322
R Halladay  TOR  189  553  .342
M Buehrle  CWS  197  540  .365
R Harden  OAK  100  272  .368
J Patterson  WSH  137  370  .370
M Morris  STL  156  420  .371
C Carpenter  STL  191  510  .375
D Willis  FLA  194  516  .376
A Burnett  FLA  177  469  .377

Minimum 250 batters faced.

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