By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Once again, Doug Fister found a hoard of media waiting at his locker to ask about the game, in which he had pitched eight scoreless innings. And once again, it had not been enough.
“Bottom line is I didn’t finish the job,” Fister said June 5. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Actually, what it came down to was a lack of run support.
On May 25, Fister went seven innings, and the Tigers lost 3-2 to Minnesota. On May 30, he pitched seven innings again and watched his team fall 1-0 to Pittsburgh. In the most recent debacle, he pitched eight and one-third, and the Tigers lost to the Rays 3-0.
Kansas City’s James Shields can empathize. Over his first four starts in May, Shields allowed just six runs through 31 innings. His win-loss record was 0-4.
Few baseball transgressions anger fans more than wasting respectable pitching performances. The Royals and Tigers, who meet for a three-game series this week, know this better than most.
The collective ERA of the Royals is 3.52, the fourth highest in MLB. The Tigers’ collective number is 3.58, the eighth-highest in the league. Both clubs have three hurlers who rank by ERA in the top 20 of the American League – Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Fister for Detroit and Ervin Santana, Jeremy Guthrie and Shields for Kansas City.
Though the Tigers have done well this season (in first place in the AL Central with a 35-26 record) and the Royals largely have not (in third place with a 28-32 record), they share a bad habit of too often squandering great outings by their pitchers.
If giving up three or fewer runs in six or more innings constitutes a quality start, it stands to reason that three or fewer runs allowed by a pitching staff in a game should be recognized as solid overall pitching.
Seven of the Tigers’ 26 losses have come despite such quality pitching performances; the Royals have wasted that kind of pitching proficiency in nine of their 32 losses.
Detroit and Kansas City are not the only teams that do this. Six teams whose pitching staffs rank in the top 10 in ERA have lost at least seven games in which the teams allowed three runs or fewer.
The Washington Nationals are the worst offenders, having given away 12 games in which their defense allowed three or fewer runs, but the New York Yankees are almost as bad. They frittered away 10 such performances. The Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates have each squandered nine.
The St. Louis Cardinals, on the other hand, have let only three such games get away. The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics only recorded five losses each in which their pitchers allowed three or fewer runs.
Detroit is in the middle of the pack, and Kansas City is not the worst, but that does not make it any easier for players like Fister and Shields, who have taken losses despite great performances because of insufficient offense.
As frustrating as the last three starts have been for Fister, Shields’ situation in May was just as awful.
On May 6, Shields went eight innings, and the Royals lost to Chicago 2-1. On May 11, Shields again went eight innings, but Kansas City fell 3-2 to the Yankees. On May 17, he went eight innings for a third straight outing – a complete game on the road – but the Royals again could not finish and lost 2-1 to Oakland. On May 22, Kansas City lost 3-1 after seven innings by Shields.
So Fister should take comfort. It could be worse. He could be in Kansas City.