Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Flash Gordon: Our Hero 

I have to admit to being very surprised by the success Tom Gordon has had as the Phillies closer. I’ll quote what I said in my Season Preview:

the Phillies have definitely downgraded their closer, going with ex-Yankee Tom Gordon … Let’s face it, Tom Gordon is a poor replacement for a closer of Billy Wagner’s abilities. We’re going to miss Billy this season.

Well, how are Gordon and Wagner doing?

Wagner: 1.89 ERA; 11.84 K/9; 3.78 BB/9; 1.42 HR/9
Gordon: 1.53 ERA; 13.24 K/9; 3.06 BB/9; 0.51 HR/9

Advantage, Tom Gordon. Now here’s the kicker:

Wagner: 3.80 FIP ERA; +1.90 over real ERA; 8 of 11 saves converted
Gordon: 1.60 FIP ERA; +0.07 over real ERA; 13 of 14 saves converted

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Who could have guessed that not only would Tom Gordon be pitching better than Billy Wagner, but much better than Billy Wagner? I’m stunned. I would never have expected a 38 year-old pitcher with over 1,900 innings on his arm would be enjoying such a great season.

It isn’t that hard to pin-point a reason why: he’s striking people out. A lot. He’s K’d 26 of the 68 batters he’s faced (38%). That is a significant increase over his 2005 season: 69 strikeouts in 324 batters faced, 21%, or 7.70 per nine innings. I suspect that blistering pace won’t be maintained, but it is impressive nevertheless.

Gordon’s ability to keep the ball down is really serving him well right now: he’s given up just one home run in nine innings pitched at home and none in the eight and two-thirds on the road. This is an area where he has a definite advantage over Billy Wagner, a flyball pitcher.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that Billy Wagner isn’t having a good season either: the Mets are 12-5 in “close” games and Wagner is a factor there. Billy has actually increased his strikeout rate from last season too: he's K'd 25 of the 80 batters he's faced in 2006 (31%), compared to 84 of 293 in 2005 (29%). And Billy is a BIG upgrade over the Mets 2005 closer, Braden Looper: 3.34 BB/9; 4.09 K/9, 1.06 HR/9 …

But let’s face it: he’s not getting paid the big bucks to be an adequate closer. Tom Gordon is a big reason why the Phillies are 22-17, despite having been out-scored 187-190 this season. The Phillies are 13-10 in close games and are running three games ahead of the their Pythagorean win-loss record. They owe that to Tom Gordon.

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