One of the more memorable marketing campaigns of the 1990s was a Nike ad centered around Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, at the time a pair of Cy Young winners pitching for the Atlanta Braves, who, jealous of the attention St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire was receiving for his home run exploits, devised a plan to master the art of hitting.
They worked out in the weight room, studied hitting manuals, and at one point Maddux grabs a bat and takes a few practice swings into Glavine’s torso (you know, the usual) until they become proficient at knocking the ball out of the park.
Hiroshima Carp hurler Bryan Bullington may want to think about following their lead and embracing the way of the longball. Because with the way the Carp are playing, he’s going to need all the help he can get in order to start winning some games.
Bullington hasn’t recorded a win since beating the Yokohama BayStars on April 10, and after being left out of the decision — despite eight innings of one-run ball — in the Carp’s 2-1 loss to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Saturday, he’s 2-4 in 10 starts this season.
His record suggests a pitcher going through a rough patch, but that’s not really the case. Bullington’s 1.91 ERA is the fifth-best in Japan, and he’s boasting a 6.11 strikeout rate and 0.85 WHIP (second-best in Japan) over a NPB-high 70⅔ innings.
No, Bullington’s dismal win-loss record is largely a byproduct of the Carp’s flailing, injury-hit offense, which is turning quality starts into hard-luck losses and no decisions.
Bullington has pitched well and bounced back from a rough 2012 campaign, it just isn’t showing up in the wins column and might not net him the rewards or recognition his improvement (so far) has warranted.
The first impression a pitcher makes on many fans — and some media — is his win-loss record, which is among the most unfair barometers of a player’s worth.
A pitcher can throw nine perfect innings and be left out of the decision when his team can’t score, while another notches a win after giving up 10 runs in six innings. Granted, those examples tilt toward the extreme — generally, pitching well leads to wins and vice versa — but the point remains.
For instance, compare Bullington with the Hanshin Tigers’ Randy Messenger, who at 6-1 is the Central League’s wins leader. Messenger has a 3.53 ERA, 51 strikeouts and a pair of shutouts under his belt in nine starts this season. He’s done his part for the Tigers, but his numbers are fairly similar to Bullington’s, except that he’s giving up more runs.
What separates them is their teams. The Tigers are well-stocked offensively and averaging seven runs a game when Messenger is on the hill. Bullington is getting just over two per game.
Short of having a perfect outing each time, there’s not much more Bullington can give. There have surely been moments where he could’ve performed better (probably true of every player), but he’s basically walking a tightrope without a net.
Bullington is 0-3 with a 1.86 ERA in seven starts since his last win, which points more to trouble in the lineup than on the mound.
Bullington’s record says he’s an under-.500 pitcher so far in 2013. But, just like it’s best not to judge a book by its cover, one can’t judge Bullington on his record alone.