The Giants lost 12-3 to the Braves last night, and watching the game, I got the feeling it could have been 120-3. Henry Schulman wonders what's going on with Kirk Rueter, as the perennial winner is 0-3. I thought I'd take a look and see. I've added 2003 and 2004, as it helps even up the numbers, and we'll go as far back as 1999.
03-04 197 IP 200 Hits 86 ER 47 SO Opponents .328/.361/.448 .809 OPS
2002 203 IP 204 Hits 73 ER 76 SO Opponents .262/.306/.392 .698 OPS
2001 195 IP 213 Hits 96 ER 83 SO Opponents .283/.337/.465 .802 OPS
2000 184 IP 205 Hits 81 ER 71 SO Opponents .290/.337/.458 .795 OPS
1999 184 IP 219 Hits 111 ER 94 SO Opponents .297/.343/.480 .824 OPS
What do you think about that? For me, what stands out is the decline in his strikeout numbers. In fact, starting in 1997, his K/9 numbers look like this; 5.43, 4.89, 4.58, 3.47, 3.82, 3.36, 2.13. That, my friends, is a serious decline. If you understand that his K/9 has always been marginal, you can see that any decline will make it very difficult for him to remian succesful. In 2004, all pitchers combined are running about a 6.38 K/9, so you can see that Rueter is operating at a huge disadvantage.
He's asking the Giants to make 4 more plays in the field than the average pitcher would, and that doesn't take into account errors (like the 6 Durham has made already), or the fact that Rueter has only had 1 GIDP so far in '04.
Because of that marginal strikeout rate, Rueter has always been balanced between success and failure. Looking at his stats, you can see that his year to year results go up and down, in large part because of the luck factor that is involved on balls put in play tur
ning into outs.
Another point that needs to be made is that from 1997 through 2002, his big run as a pitcher; the Giants were a formidable offensive team. In 2001, they scored 799 runs. In 2002, 783. In 2003, they dropped down to 755. This season, they are on a pace to score under 600. Even if the offense starts to pick it up, the Giants will probably be lucky to break 700. That's significant for a pitcher who allows right around 4 runs per game throughout his career.
First, let me say that my wife and I love Rueter. We have always rooted for him, there is no doubt that Rueter was a better choice to start Game 7 against the Angels in '02. But rooting for a guy to succeed and predicting his ability to do so are two different things.
I don't see a return to form for Kirk. All indicators point to this being the beginning of the end for him. In fact, I will be very surprised if he can ever become a winning pitcher again. I will always wonder what Brian Sabean was thinking when he decided to trade away Ortiz, and sign Rueter to a contract extension. For a guy who harps on and on about a players track record, I don't see how he could have missed something so obvious.
Update: Over at the Hardball Times, they list some hard to find stats. On the pitching page, you can see that Rueter's defensive efficiency rating (DER), which calculates the percentage of balls in play that turn into outs; is pretty low, at .678. They also show him at 1.7 K/9, so I don't think last night was in there (although if 2 strikeouts in 4.3 innings is making your K/9 number go up, you are in a world of hurt). His line drive percentage (LD%), is shown at .188, meaning that 19 percent of his balls in play are line drives. I'd guess that last night will drive that number up, he must have given up about ten.