Alright, I'm a poor writer and an even poorer sabremetrician, but somebody had to write this post. Feelings regarding Nick Blackburn appear to run pretty hot around here. Last night during the game thread we had a pretty heated 'discussion' regarding Blackburn. Nothing in that thread is really worth linking to, but some of the arguments pro and con are worth repeating in a more structured way so that the larger TwinkieTown audience can have a say. Here goes:
LAUGH: Nick Blackburn is unofficially titled "Big Game" because time after time he seems to have the ability to step his performance up when he starts important games. Last night was no exception as we were all a little depressed about the beatdown the Yankees have given us again this season. Blackburn came in and stopped the bleeding when we needed it.
Nick's numbers aren't so hot, except for the numbers which ultimately matter (just ask Dan Gladden) because Nick has a W-L record of 6-1. When Blackburn takes the mound the Twins win. In his 9 starts this season, the Twins are 8-1! Certainly some of that is attributable to luck, but at what point does sustained success despite poor peripherals count? Is it possible that the team has confidence in Nick, and plays better because of it? While this might be a poor analogy I know that hockey teams have a lot more confidence when their number one goaltender takes the ice. Is it possible the same thing happens with pitchers?
Nick had a rough start this year going 1-1 in the month of April while posting a scary 6.85 era, but he had poor starts in April of 2009 too. He had 5 starts in the month of May going 5-0 with 5 quality starts, one complete game (giving Blyleven and Morris Twin(s) erections no doubt) and an era of 2.65. THAT is awesome, no matter what his peripheral numbers suggest.
CRY: Blackburn has some terrible numbers, and despite Jack Morris' atavistic belief system that the only 'thing' that matters is the "W" baby, Blackburn has some terrible numbers that count over the course of a season, or a contract.
His strikeout/nine inning ratio is a league low of 2.5 which means that Nick Blackburn does not miss bats. This would be 'acceptable' if he had a phenomenally low walk rate, but his walk rate/nine innings is (while good) only a little bit better than league average at 1.92. With such a low SO rate it isn't surprising to see that he has a pretty poor WHIP as well at 1.41. That's quite a few runners put on the basepaths through walks or hits. Last night was no exception as he put nine runners on base through seven innings. A win under those conditions just doesn't appear to be sustainable.
With numbers that bad, Blackburn is the type of pitcher who needshelp from some good defense, which appears to be the case as his field independant pitching is a pretty bad 4.9. If his luck doesn't hold out he's bound to put up a bunch of stinkers and end up (at best) with a .500 winning percentage like last season.
SUMMARY: So far, Blackburn has chugged along giving us Twins' fans some solid seasons despite poor numbers. This season though, his numbers so far seem lower than seasons past, making Blackburn skeptics turn from puzzled cynicism, to outright apoplectic apathy.
But, the season is early, and Blackburn appears to be doing what he always does: Win games despite the numbers. This season he's distributing hugs and kisses too!
So, when you think about Nick Blackburn's contract extension what do you do, 'laugh' or 'cry'?