Washington Nationals (2-3) at Houston Astros (3-2)
In 2001, Andy Pettitte became a drastically different pitcher:
YR IP* BB/9IP
1998 216 3.63
1999 192 4.17
2000 205 3.53
2001 201 1.84
*Rounded to nearest inning.
Come to think of it, Pettitte improved in several important senses in 2001; in addition to decreasing his walk rate, he increased his strikeout rate and allowed fewer home runs. Yet, except for the 4.70 ERA of 1999, Pettitte's ERAs of the '98-01 era were pretty much in the same ballpark---'01 was better, but not substantially so.
Pettitte's grand ERA reduction waited until 2005, when he had a surprising career year. With one exception (other than ERA), however, his 2001 and 2005 seasons were quite similar:
YEAR 2001 2005
IP 201 222
H/9IP 10.03 7.61
BB/9IP 1.84 1.66
K/9IP 7.35 6.92
HR/9IP 0.63 0.69
ERA 3.99 2.39
Pettitte's batting average against on balls in play, or what Tom Tippett characterized as "in-play average," which is defined as (H - HR) / (BF - HR - HBP - BB - K), was sharply different where most everything else was similar. In 2001, Pettitte's in-play average was .332; in 2005, it was .266.
I'm no sabermetrician, and I am not the source for treatises on DIPS theory. Suffice it to say, however, that I find it humorous Pettitte surrended a whopping thirteen hits in 4.2 innings pitched in his first start this season. Luck can be fickle! (Or 'tis better to have Adam Everett behind ye than Sir Derek?)
Nat at Bat: Brandon Watson. Being wrong is one thing; being rudderless is another. For that reason, while I do not think Watson is a big league-quality regular, I also do not think Watson (.158/.200/.158) should be axed from a starting role after five games. (Watson, like Brian Schneider, will sit for the next two games, though both cases are because of back-to-back lefty starters for the Astros.) If you are going to state you granted a man a role based on his play, you might as well give the man sufficient playing time to confirm or refute your wisdom. In the scheme of things, five games is nothing. Thus, even though I feel the team would be better served playing someone full-time in center, I think it would be rotten indeed to bench the guy not even a week into the season. Watson's demise is not contemplated yet, except for on the message boards.
That said, Watson could stand to get things into gear---not only at the plate, but on the base paths. Watson has reached base four times; he has killed himself (by caught stealing and pick-offs) three times. For a team that has scored twenty-nine runs so far, its lead-off man hasn't scored once. That cannot continue.