It’s very rare, if not impossible, for a pitcher to earn a decision (a win or a loss) in every single start during a full season. Even this early in the season, nearly all starting pitchers have not had a decision in two or more starts. Some exceptions are Roy Oswalt (5-9 in 15 starts), Ubaldo Jimenez (13-1 in 15 starts), Adam Wainwright (10-5 in 16 starts), and Roy Halladay (9-6 in 16 starts).* All of these pitchers, even despite Oswalt’s record, are very good pitchers. However, they have been unable to match a feat that Carl Pavano has done this season. After today’s complete game shutout against the New York Mets, Pavano is now 9-6 in 15 starts. From my count, of all major league pitchers with at least 14 starts in 2010, only Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox (10-4 in 14 starts)** and Jamie Moyer of the Philadelphia Phillies (8-6 in 14 starts) have also earned a decision in every single one of their 2010 starts.
* The fact that these 4 pitchers are all in the National League is likely just coincidental.
** Update: Buchholz started tonight against San Francisco and left the game after only one inning with an injury. He did not get the decision, so now Moyer and Pavano are the only two pitchers in the majors with at least 14 starts and a decision from every start.
When the Twins traded minor league pitcher Yohan Pino to the Cleveland Indians for Pavano last season, many Twins fans were disappointed. Although Pavano was 9-8 at the time of the trade, that record was accompanied by a 5.37 ERA. To many fans, that ERA put Pavano in the same category as Ramon Ortiz, Livan Hernandez, etc., but he proved these fans wrong. As you likely know by now, Pavano was hurt by the poor Cleveland Indians defense, and the switch to Minnesota improved many of his pitching statistics.
During the offseason, the Twins chose to offer arbitration to Pavano, who was due to become a free agent. Perhaps due to the knowledge that he would make more money through arbitration than as a free agent, or because he liked playing in Minnesota, or a combination of the two, Pavano chose to accept the arbitration offer. So far, Pavano’s return to the Twins has paid off immensely. After today’s start, he now has a 3.33 ERA and a 3.81 FIP, which are both easily above-average.
How has he been so successful this year? First, Pavano has limited his walks this season. Before today’s game, Pavano was 3rd in the majors in fewest walks per 9 innings, just behind Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. His strikeout rate is below average (19th worst), but the lack of walks has put his strikeout/walk ratio at 11th in the majors. Combined with a .249 opponent’s batting average, he has had a very good 1.08 WHIP. Simply put, Pavano is not allowing many baserunners this year. This lack of baserunners has allowed Pavano to limit his number of pitches per game, which also has allowed him to average about 7 innings per start.
Maybe the best part of Pavano’s success with the Twins is that he’s been exhibiting durability ever since he joined the Indians last season. Another thing you all likely know about is that Pavano made only 26 starts in 4 seasons for the New York Yankees, due to a myriad of injuries. The quantity of injuries that Pavano suffered earned him the label of not being a durable pitcher, even though one injury was a couple of broken ribs from a car accident, and another was bruised buttocks from falling on his rear during a spring training game. These two injuries sound like they were just freak accidents, and in my opinion, they unfairly caused Pavano to be labeled as being an injury-prone pitcher. He’s been proving the skeptics wrong by making 33 starts last season, and he’s on pace to finish with above 30 starts again this year.
Combine all of these together, and you get a pitcher that has helped Twins fans forget about the poor starts by Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey from this National League road trip. It’s also encouraged me to bring back this little thing that I made after Pavano’s first start as a Twin last season.