Every game at this stage of the season is critical, and yet any individual game can become really difficult to predict. We can guess at some of the probabilities of victory based on the starting pitchers and the lineups, but even then there are nights like May 12th where the White Sox sent Chris Sale to the mound against Luke Hochevar and took a 5-0 defeat.
Speaking of Mr. Hochevar, he is the White Sox’ opponent tonight. Lots of Royals pitchers – most notably Bruce Chen and to a lesser degree Jeremy Guthrie – have received attention for dominating the White Sox despite being pretty mediocre against the rest of the majors. Should Hochevar be included in this group?
Luke Hochevar is a bad pitcher. He walks too many guys, doesn’t get enough strikeouts, and only induces a moderate amount of grounders. In 2012 at age 28, Hochevar’s ERA/ERA+ of 5.46/76 are right about in line with his career numbers of 5.33/79. Theoretically Hochevar has been the victim of some bad defense. Yuniesky Betancourt was his shortstop for a number of years, and this year the Royals have fielded the 26th rated defense according to defensive efficiency. However, none of his BABIP figures really stand out in any direction.
Ah, but wait! What about when he faces the White Sox offense? Well, despite his peripherals getting even worse – a 36:25 K:BB ratio – his ERA is 4.05, over a full run beneath his career in general. This year in two starts Hochevar has thrown 12 innings against the White Sox and allowed only 3 runs.
Obviously the samples we’re talking about here are tiny, and it’s almost certainly just random statistical noise that’s occurring. But it is something to think about when looking ahead at match ups and trying to determine which “should” be wins or losses. Although coming out of the Detroit series we’ve also seen that some guys who are awful at baseball generally like Delmon Young (career slash line of .286/.319/.427) can manage to sustain success against a particular opponent (324 PAs at .333/.386/.544 against the White Sox).
What’s the lesson in all of this? The White Sox should beat Luke Hochevar tonight. Will they? I have no freakin’ clue.