Dustin McGowan, we've all seen, has a dazzling repertoire of pitches yet hasn't registered the results we should expect. His plus fastball averages over 94 mph for his career, his slider/curve/changeup combination should miss many bats, but he's been a 4.00 FIP pitcher during his starting career. (A 4.00 FIP isn't awful by any stretch, I'd say it equates nicely to a 2/3 level starter.) He's never quite been able to put it all together, aside from the second half of 2007. Even then, a few interesting things stick out:
- He went 3-1 in July of 2007 with an 2.78 ERA. Awesome, though his FIP was closer to 5, indicating a lot of luck that month.
- He pitched the exact same number of innings (32.1) in August 2007 as July. He struck out 10 more batters, walked 4 fewer, and surrendered the same number (4) home runs. The result? A record of 1-3, and ERA increase of more than a run but a FIP decrease by that same full run.
- League Average strand rate runs around 73%. McGowan's never really approached that number. Check out this graph, matching him with Justin Verlander. Similar names, similar heaters, slightly different perceptions and track records. Verlander stranded more runners than average twice. Two seasons in which he won 17 and 18 games.
The other problem McGowan had is similar to the challenges facing David Purcey, wildness in and out of the strike zone. Too many walks some days, but he can battle with his excellent stuff. Few walks other days, but a couple misplaced breaking pitches leave the yard and his day is done quickly.
So what was the point of this whole thing in the first place? Ah yes, Dustin McGowan wasn't that great in 2008, not quite irreplaceable anyway. David Purcey and McGowan are very similar pitchers, and The M-Bird pointed out last year. Same age, similar K numbers, similar fly ball tendencies, sadly familiar walk rates. Eventually they project around two thirds of a run differently, the edge going to McGowan.
So we can bemoan the loss of McGowan for most of the first half, but let's remember he missed just as much of 2008, and when he stuck around he didn't dominate as we'd like. A guy like Purcey can stand in nicely for McGowan's heartbreaking ways.