Since returning to the Nationals from some much needed R&R down in the minors, Jay Bergmann has been, in a word, great. People will tell you it’s all about the ERs, he hasn’t allowed any in his 19 2/3 IP since coming back. Yeah, that’s nice, but some of it is luck. It’s not like he hasn’t given up any hits in that time (although his WHIP since then is under 1.00), it’s 3 outings, plenty of perfectly bad pitchers muster up 3 great outings in a row. What this is all about, though, is his strikeouts. Bergmann has struck out 22 batters in this time, and it’s not because of wildly inconsistent pitching that may lead some batters to be tentative – he’s only walked 6. It’s from genuine, honest-to-goodness pitching.
The thing about this is, it’s not coming out of nowhere. Last season in the majors he struck out 86 in 115 1/3 IP. But if we split up his games between good starts and bad ones, an interesting picture emerges. He had 11 starts that I am going to consider good: 10 of them are quality starts (6+ IP, 3 or less ER) and one where he only went 4 IP, gave up 1 ER, looked good the whole game, and was pinch hit for (unsuccessfully) in the 5th. Then he had 10 starts that I am counting as “bad” starts, those are all the rest. Here is what his totals look like:
Bergmann is so streaky, that when he is good he becomes the kind of pitcher that could be the Ace of a rotation. Not only his his K/BB ratio over 3/1, he would be on pace to strike out about 200 batters over the course of a season. While in his bad starts, he makes one long for Mike Bacsik. Meanwhile, in the minor leagues he has been more of the good than the bad. His 2005 totals were 74 IP, 29 BB, 76 K with a 2.19 ERA and his 2006 totals were 60 IP, 20 BB, 62 K with a 3.30 ERA. This is someone that has 419 minor league Ks in 472 total innings, he can definitely make hitters swing and miss.
Bergmann is very good when he is pitching well, he is not one of those guys that gives up a whole lot of hits. In his good games last year, he never gave up more than a hit per inning (and only matched 1 for 1 three out of the eleven times) while in his bad games, he never gave up less than a hit per inning. Another interesting thing, to further highlight his streaky-ness was when these games were played. For the bulk of these, he had 4 good starts in a row, one bad, 3 more good, then 5 bad starts, then 3 good ones. This is the definition of streaky.
Now, can you do something like this split analysis with alot of pitchers? Yeah, maybe, but it’s not this pronounced. And these good starts weren’t all against bad teams, neither were the bad starts all good matchups. This year, he’s done well against the Mets, Phillies and Brewers. Last year he had some great starts against those 3 teams as well as Atlanta, while some of his biggest stinkers were against Pittsburgh and Florida.
What I’ll be looking for with Bergmann whenever he goes out now is two things. First, is he making people miss bats? If he is striking people out, it is a very good sign. Then, after a couple of innings, are they getting more than a couple hits off of him? If so, it’s probably too late, they’ve already scored on him.
Thinking about that, I did a quick check to see how he’s done early in games. I checked to see which games teams scored on him early, deciding early would be 2 ER or more in the first 3 IP. This was arbitrary, but i figured if it was 3 ER that was the limit for a QS so it wouldn’t probably end up being one anyway… well whatever, I found that in 8 of his 11 good games he wasn’t touched up early while in 7 of his 10 bad games he was. I’m really not sure if this is significant, much more than his streaky factor, I would guess numbers like these are pretty prevalent among many pitchers, but just some more food for thought on the Bergmann.