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Rangers relying on a shaky Game 4 starter of their own in Tommy Hunter

Oct 19, 2010, 10:48 AM EDT

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers

Lost in the various teeth-gnashing over Joe Girardi sticking with A.J. Burnett for tonight is that the Rangers are turning to a less than stellar Game 4 starter of their own in Tommy Hunter.

On the surface Hunter’s numbers this season look great, as he went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 starts, but a deeper look reveals a pitcher the Yankees have a very good chance of teeing off on.

Hunter served up 21 long balls in 128 innings, which works out to 1.5 homers per nine innings. Among all the AL pitchers who threw at least 120 innings this season only Javier Vazquez and Brian Bannister had a higher home run rate. And he’ll be facing a Yankees lineup that was one of just three MLB teams to smack 200 or more homers this season.

Beyond his overall difficulty keeping the ball in the ballpark Hunter is like most right-handed pitchers in that he’s far worse against left-handed batters than right-handers batters, and seven of the nine hitters in the Yankees’ lineup tonight will be swinging from the left side.

During his 250-inning career left-handed batters have hit .285 with an .832 OPS against Hunter, compared to .241 with a .678 OPS by right-handed batters. Not surprisingly in two previous starts against the Yankees he’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, allowing seven runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings. He also lasted just four innings against the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS, taking the loss.

Burnett has been horrible for months now, so there’s a good chance he’ll be horrible tonight, but his struggling would hardly guarantee a Rangers victory. Hunter is a run-of-the-mill back-of-the-rotation starter whose great-looking record this season is due largely to excellent run support and the Yankees present a particularly tough matchup for a right-handed pitcher who struggles versus left-handed power bats. New York may not be able to out-pitch Texas tonight, but out-slugging them is still very possible.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    I’m not trying to start a fight here, but how does a 13-4 record with a 3.73 ERA show that his record is due to excellent run support? I could see if his record were 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA(ahem, Phil Hughes). But Hunter’s ERA would be in the top 15 if he pitched enough innings this year. The guy had 2 horrendous starts and two others that were not very good(4 ER). Otherwise, he was very solid and gave up 2 or less Earned Runs in 14 of his starts this year.

    It’s unfair to say his record is due largely to excellent run support.

    • okobojicat - Oct 19, 2010 at 12:08 PM

      Its not actually run support, but more luck. Hunter has gotten exceedingly lucky this year. His BABIP is .264 while league average is .300 and we know that BABIP is a luck stat because it fluctuates so much (Hell, Cliff Lee’s BABIP is .302). Also, his LOB% is 80% which is very high and also a luck stat.

      His FIP/xFIP is 4.99/4.70. Both stats do much better at predicting future outcomes than ERA.

      Hunter is a league avg pitcher to slightly below league average. He’s a solid 4th or 5th starter. But you really don’t want him starting against the Yankees in the ALCS with all those lefties. Hope everyone is ready for HR Derby.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 12:21 PM

        All of that may be true, and we can debate whether those stats are as meaningful as you think another time. However, that’s not what the writer said…he said “whose great-looking record this season is due largely to excellent run support ” That is clearly wrong, whether you believe in xFIP and BABIP or not. Personally, I think he is going to get creamed tonight. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he had a very good season. Whether the BABIP and xFIP project future good seasons, that’s not relevant to his success this season. This year, he gave up 2 ER or less in 14 of 22 starts. That’s pretty good any way the xFIP and BABIP slice it.

  2. BC - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Bet the over tonight.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

      I was thinking they probably adjusted it to double-digits, but the total is actually only 9′ tonight. That’s a pretty solid over line if I was going to bet it, although it is a good 2 runs lower than I thought, so the line might be telling me to bet under. Maybe I’ll just pass.

  3. BC - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Jeez, I just noticed the photo. Mr. Hunter needs to spend a little less time at the buffet table.

  4. theolgoaler - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    As the Dominican Zen Master Joaquin Andujar said… “Youneverknow.” Jeff Suppan beat Roger Freakin’ Clemens in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS.

    Playoff baseball is The Triumph Of Small Sample Size…

  5. yetisizz - Oct 19, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Tommy Hunter was a back-to-back Junior Olympic judo champion before being drafted by the Rangers in 2007, so if he is wild don’t charge the mound.

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