Despite Ten Wins, Kevin Slowey Still Not an Ace

slowey

By Shaymus McLaughlin

There are only two pitchers with ten wins in the major leagues. Unsurprisingly, one is Roy Halladay, the all-star caliber Blue Jays pitcher whose 2.53 ERA, 88 strikeouts, and 1.04 WHIP are all within close proximity to the league leader in those categories. It makes perfect sense that he has accumulated ten wins already this season.

The other one actually shocked me. As I was catching up on the Twins game against the Astros last Friday, I noticed an odd piece of information: Kevin Slowey had just become the baseball’s second ten-game winner.

Um, what?

Slowey is a good pitcher, without a doubt, but really? 10 wins? I’ve watched him pitch a number of times this year, and although I’m never disappointed in what I see, I’m rarely in awe like I am when watching his ten-win counterpart Halladay pitch. I had no idea he was actually pitching that well.

After the game, plenty of credit was given to Slowey on the internet and nightly sports recap shows for having hit the win mark so quickly. And rightfully so. 10 wins and only 2 losses in a measly 14 starts is very good. But how the heck did he do it? Slowey has never been seen as the potential ace of the Twins’ young staff. That moniker has been given to Francisco Liriano pre-injury and Scott Baker after his stellar conclusion to last year, but people have never talked about Slowey as a great pitcher until now. And frankly, despite his 10 wins, calling Kevin Slowey a great pitcher at this point seems premature. Just look at the numbers.

His statistics are respectable, but outside of the abnormally high win total, they look simply decent. Currently, he sports a 4.04 ERA, which doesn’t even match the likes of Randy Wolf (3.29), Aaron Harang (3.66) or Matt “We seriously got this guy for Delmon Young” Garza (3.83). It’s solid, but it’s not even good enough to crack the 25 best starting pitchers.

This guy has a better ERA than Kevin Slowey

His 1.37 WHIP places him on the same level as his ERA: It’s not embarrassing, but not elite by any means. Once again he’s outside the top-25. He’s a stunning 8-0 at home, compared to 2-2 on the road, but it’s not because he’s pitching any better. His ERA at home (4.07) is actually 8 points higher than on the road (3.99). Slowey’s numbers against lefties (37.1 IP, 36 K, 12 BB, 1.82 WHIP and a .348 BAA) are below-average at best, but he manages to balance it with his solid pitching against righties (47.1 IP, 31 K, 2 BB, 1.01 WHIP, .260 BAA).

So how has he managed to scrape together a league-leading 10 wins?

It’s simple. He’s gotten lucky.

To start, he’s had to pitch on the road only five times this season. As evidenced above, location doesn’t seem to affect the way he pitches, but it does change the way the offense performs. The offense bats only .264 on the road and scores an average of 4.09 runs per game. If we discount the anomaly that was the 20-run outburst at Chicago, their run production drops to 3.58 runs per game. At home, the offense spikes significantly. The team hits at a .280 clip and provides an average of 5.38 runs. Since Slowey has been able to pitch at home in nine of his starts, he’s generally received better offensive production than his staff counterparts.

Consequently, the run support for Slowey has been much better than it has for any of the other starters. The offense generates an average of 5.5 runs per game when Slowey starts the ball game. Conversely, Nick Blackburn, whose 3.09 ERA leads the Twins, is given only an average of 4.23 runs per game (discounting the fluke 20-1 White Sox win once again), and has only won 6 games as a result. Perkins (5.22 runs/game), Baker (5.0 r/g) and Liriano (a shockingly low 3.64 r/g) also receive less run support from the Twins’ offense than Slowey does.

Most importantly, Slowey seems to be immune to the disease known as TBS (Twins’ Bullpen Syndrome), in which leads hemorrhage away and once-healthy games turn into rotting, losses. Slowey has only two no-decisions this year, and only one in which he left the game with a lead, only to watch the Twins’ bullpen blow the game (an 8-6 loss to Toronto). In every other game, the bullpen has managed to uphold the lead that Slowey exited with. Compare this to Blackburn, who has seen six games in which he exited with a lead or tie, only to be let down by those same relief pitchers.

Even Twins bat boys are not safe from TBS

This is not meant to discredit Kevin Slowey. He’s pitched some wonderful games for the Twins this season, and clearly has the ability to be an effective starting pitcher for years to come. He just isn’t quite the ten-win ace that Roy Halladay is.

At least yet.