It all starts here

While the sizzle in yesterday’s deals may have been around the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki by the Yankees, the stir-fry (for those of us non-carnivores, the “steak” for the rest of you), was the terrific deal made by the Tigers who picked up second baseman Omar Infante and right-hander Anibal Sanchez from Miami in exchange for 21-year-old righty Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.

In the long haul, this may prove to be a terrific deal for the Marlins, but for (at least) the remainder of this season the Tiger filled an offensive and defensive hole at second base by adding Infante who is hitting .287 with 10 stolen bases, but more importantly has added a front-line pitcher who can pitch for them now and is postseason quality. Despite the fact that Sanchez is a Scott-Boras free agent following this season, if he pitches Detroit to the World Series, don’t be surprised to see him wearing the Tigers “D” for awhile.

And, why is this deal so important? Because the name of the game is pitching, particularly starting pitching. If your starters go deep, your don’t tax your relievers as much, thereby you make your bullpen stronger. If your starters are effective and don’t put your team in a hole, your offense can be more creative playing long ball and small ball and risk going for the extra base. Your defense is more relaxed as well and the pressure shifts from your team to your opponent. If your starters don’t do as just described, you are the Boston Red Sox.

We are close to a hundred games into this season and we can see the degree of efficacy of teams’ starters to this point. Now obviously, we cannot predict injuries, cannot determine fatigue factors, or even how starting staffs will respond to the pressure of a pennant race. But we can see how team’s starters have done to this point and thereby get a sense of depth and direction.

Let’s start by looking at how many games starters have allowed three or fewer runs in a start. In all cases these are not necessarily earned runs, but runs allowed by a starter through games of July 23:

There are loads to take away from this. Here are some quick thoughts and I’m sure you can find others that you can add to the comments on Billy-Ball.com.

  • Washington and Pittsburgh’s success this season are due in large part to their starting pitching.
  • Minnesota and Colorado’s failureĀ this season are due in large part to their starting pitching.
  • Three of the bottom teams in this list are from the AL East.
  • Of the bottom 10 teams on this list, only the Orioles have some breathing room above the .500 mark.

Check out the next part of this article which tracks the frequency for teams whose starters have allowed 4-5 runs in a start.