Cy Young awards and World Series titles represent the pinnacle of a pitcher’s active career. If enough of these coalesce over the course of a career, then the ultimate post-career reward awaits: a summons to Cooperstown to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Percentage-wise, very few pitchers achieve all of these awards and honours.
When a pitcher is voted in to the Hall, they receive a plaque that is hung on the wall, various pieces of equipment are requested so as to serve as exhibits, videos are looped and shown, and stories are told interminably.
Within a surprisingly short period of time, those stories become the stuff of legend. Then something interesting occurs: that pitcher becomes unbeatable. The losses sustained during their careers are an illusion, the by-product of poorly-trained statisticians and a blatant attempt to besmirch the reputation of the honouree. Clearly it’s a case of character assassination. But I digress…
Today was a tough day to be a defending Cy Young award winner and a defending World Series champion. Today RA Dickey, David Price, and Matt Cain were merely mortal. Immortality must be earned through the blood, sweat and tears of hard work and, yes, sometimes abject humiliation is part of the process. Consider these lines:
The ERA column tells two stories: the first story is the pitcher’s cumulative ERA in their first two starts; the second (the box in the bottom right-hand corner) is their cumulative ERA for Bloody Sunday. The Giants were beaten by St. Louis 14-3, while Tampa Bay and Toronto lost by identical 13-0 scores to Cleveland and Boston, respectively.
Are we seeing the real thing? It’s doubtful in almost every respect: STL, CLE, and BOS aren’t that good, and Cain, Price, and Dickey aren’t that bad.
Early season games aren’t a very reliable indicator of how a full season will unfold. There’s far too much statistical and anecdotal evidence from the history of baseball (and any other professional sport, for that matter), to arrive at any firm conclusions at this early stage of the 2013 season. Baseball is notoriously difficult to predict from an early result, simply because the regular season is 162 games and takes 6 months to complete.
How about soft conclusions, can we arrive at any soft conclusions? Probably, but if you can arrive at them with any accuracy and regularity then there are career choices you can make that will be very lucrative for you. Some reasons for Bloody Sunday could include new pitching coaches, new leagues, a bad bowl of chili, arm pain, a touch of the flu, fatigue, new environment, a not-so-unusual letdown after a career year, a bad game, and a myriad of other possibilities.
The likelihood is that all three pitchers will go on from here to have solid seasons. That’s partly what makes them good pitchers: they have the ability to level off the inevitable peaks and valleys of 162 games worth of work. They’re emotional, but they don’t allow their emotions to rule the day. Every pitcher has a ‘Bloody Sunday’. How they handle them is what’s important.