There were two separate moments last night when many Jays fans on Twitter let their displeasure be known.
The first came in the bottom of the 7th when Kyle Drabek, already around the 100 pitch mark, walked to the mound to continue his outing – “why is Drabek still out there?”.
The second was after the game, when his performance was dissected – “I wasn’t impressed with his performance tonight” .
Needless to say, I do not support those views. In fact, I stand firmly in the opposite camp: I thought it was a fantastic performance by the rookie.
Were the numbers impressive on the surface? Of course not. Drabek threw 113 pitches, and only 58 of them (51.3%) were strikes. He walked 6 batters. He only struck out 2. He got off to a horrendous start in the first, and barely survived it.
But I don’t care about that. The only thing I care about is the win. And why did the Blue Jays win last night? Because 23-year old rookie Kyle Drabek allowed only one run. Despite not having his best stuff, despite not having his best command, he fought through the six walks and he fought through the many 3-ball counts to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard. He very easily could have crumbled in the first inning, completely fallen apart and let the game get out of reach.
He induced a timely double play ball. He picked off a runner. He allowed only three base hits all night.
In other words, he won the game, proving to the team that he can indeed win without his “A” game.
In a different context, compare Drabek’s line from last night to that of two other pitchers, Paul Maholm of the Pirates (from yesterday) and the great Roy Halladay (from Sunday):
Drabek – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 6 BB, 2 K, 113 pitches, 58 strikes (51.3 %)
Maholm – 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 102 pitches, 67 strikes (65.7%)
Halladay – 8.0 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 119 pitches, 74 strikes (62.2%)
Looking at those numbers in that fashion it can be easily judged that Maholm and Halladay had better performances on the mound. They walked fewer batters, had more strikeouts, and a far greater percentage of strikes thrown.
Each of their teams lost the game.
This is not meant to be a column defending the importance of a pitcher’s win-loss record. That’s not the point. Clearly Maholm and Halladay had better control of their pitches and likely deserved to win. Drabek didn’t have great control and maybe deserved to lose.
But he didn’t. And that’s what makes last night so impressive to me.
I’m not an idiot. I know that winning games while walking six and throwing 48% of pitches for balls is not sustainable.
But the last time I checked playoff spots are awarded based on wins.
Not on fewest walks.
And that to me means one thing:
Great job Drabek.