Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Source of Silva's Luck: The Other Guy on the Mound

Silva avoids a pitch from the best pitcher he's faced all year: Dan Haren (who's having a sub-par year)
I've been wanting to post something about Carlos Silva for the last few weeks as his undefeated record begins to look more and more impressive (and the deal that brought him here appears increasingly miraculous), but I have hesitated because a) I didn't want to jinx it, b) I don't want to spew skepticism, c) I don't feel the need to diminish what has been one of the few feel-good stories of the season.

But let's face it, all of us have that nagging itch somewhere along the cerebral cortex telling us this won't last. You know how every cartoon has an episode in which the protagonist finds a map to some buried treasure or enter a contest with a ridiculously generous prize, and they come tantalizingly close to acquiring riches that will change their lives (and the nature of the cartoon) forever, but you know deep down the creators of the show will never ever allow them to get what they're after?

Such is Carlos Silva's season. We know he can't be this good, right? Well, watching him pitch, especially in his most recent outings, it's pretty obvious that he really is outpitching the expectations. That's not a fluke, it's reality. But the money stat everyone's staring at, the booty to Carlos Silva's J-Lo, is his 8-0 record. (His 2.93 ERA ain't too shabby, either.)

As much as any of us know that the Win stat is the most overvalued, meaningless number in all of sports record keeping, 8-0 still looks pretty darn impressive. I, for one (representing millions, I'm sure), am scratching my head trying to figure out how Silva could be so lucky. Because he's been good, but not 8-0 good.

The best explanation is his run support. The Cubs are scoring an average of 6.45 runs when Silva starts, and they've never scored fewer than 4 runs for him. Is that because of the huge psychological boost they get from knowing Big C is taking the hill? I don't think so. Let me give you a list of names of some guys who might hold the answer:

Homer Bailey (twice). Felipe Paulino. Oliver Perez. John Lannan. Dan Haren. Chris Volstad. Jhoulys Chacin. C. J. Wilson. Adam Ottavino. Dana Eveland. No, those aren't the leading candidates to fill out the N. L. All-Star pitching roster, those are the starting pitchers Carlos Silva has had to face so far this year. Here are their ERAs: 5.51, 4.01, 6.28, 4.79, 4.83, 4.08, 3.77, 3.62, 5.06, 6.34; a collective 4.70 opposing pitcher ERA. Silva's opponents have combined for a WHIP of 1.46, .89 HR/9, and a 1.68 Strikeout-to-Walk ratio.

To put that into terms I can understand, the guys who have started opposite Carlos Silva have been overwhelmingly craptastic. Silva has better numbers than his opposition almost across the board. Almost, because he's actually been inferior to his opponents in HR/9 (.9 for Carlos) and SO/9 (6.3). Silva has made up for that with a very nice 3.92 K/BB ratio and a low 1.064 WHIP.

Again, I don't want to diminish the pleasantness of the surprise Carlos Silva has been. I'm really happy for him and for, well, myself and all Cub fans who want to see him succeed. I just want to point out that the 8-0 record and the gaudy run support has as much to do with the lackluster opposition as it does to whatever magic beans Jim Hendry received along with Silva in exchange for Milton Bradley. I just hope the sleepy giant doesn't come crashing to the ground on his way down the beanstalk.
Yes, I know these numbers are tiny. Click the image for a better look.


  1. Excellent points. Although, to Silva's credit, he has surrendered only 4 or more runs twice in 11 starts this year. If we consider that teams score, on average, 4 runs per game, a pitcher that allows 3 or fewer will typically win more than he will lose.

    That being said, Silva's wins have still come at the hands of genuinely piss-poor opponents and have incorporated a full helping of good fortune.

  2. Yeah, I really wish the Cubs scoring runs wasn't so erratic, because that would make most of the Cubs starters a lot more fortunate. Still, you're absolutely right, Silva has been remarkably consistent. I really didn't expect his ERA to go down, but it has. And his last two starts, he pitched well enough to beat just about anybody.


Spill it.

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