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Eaton Up
2007-08-16 10:11
by Mike Carminati
He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his.
—William "Author" Shakespeare re. Falstaff in Henry IV

Curious. Just when the debate over the fifth starter, Adam Eaton or J.D. Durbin, was heating up, —Surprise!—Eaton ends up on the DL with inflammation in his right shoulder. Durbin gets his spot in the rotation with his next start Friday, and Mike "Engelberg" Zagursky returns to the majors.

It was such a surprising move, the Phils' apparently semi-retired GM Pat "Who Me?" Gillick, didn't seem to see it coming, "I was surprised he got an injection. When you get an injection, it means there's some inflammation going on in there. It's not normal maintenance. We want to be cautious at this point." Somebody call this guy in Toronto…or is it Seattle now?

Pitching coach—at least that's what his resume says—Rich Dubee used his power of deduction and some fancy ciphering to figure out that Eaton, owner of a 1-3 record and 8.79 ERA since the All-Star break, was injured: "It depends on what his last three performances were like. If he was getting his arm slot up and getting a good angle on everything and commanding everything and pitching effectively and he could tolerate the pain, yeah, maybe [he could continue]. . . . Generally, when guys don't command well, there's an issue. Hell, if he had a 1.00 ERA over the last three games, he'd obviously be commanding the ball pretty good and throwing with a good angle."

Even Eaton himself seemed surprised and acknowledged his landing on the DL had more to do with performance than pain: "It's the beauty of the game, isn't it? If I was 3-0 in my last three starts with a sore shoulder, would it have happened? Probably not. Obviously, to be competitive at the highest level is the goal. Everybody knows right now I'm not at that level where I should be."

For the record, Eaton is 9-9 overall with a 6.36 ERA. I do not know why anybody, especially these people, are surprised. Eaton posted a 5.12 ERA along with a 7-4 record last year in Texas. That was prior to his signing the ludicrously generous three-year, $24 M contract with the Phils. He ahs never posted an ERA under 4.08 even though the bulk of his career was spent in a pitcher friendly ballpark in San Diego. He has not posted an ERA better than the park-adjusted league average since his rookie year, 2000. Overall, he is 12% worse than the league average for his career.

Eaton has always been a poor excuse for a pitcher and the three people who should now that better than anyone else are Gillick, Dubee, and Eaton himself—well, I'm crediting the Phils personnel with actually investigating his career before signing him. But c'mon, did they expect this guy to be the second coming of Steve Carlton? Might be closer to the second coming of Carlton Loewer.

Should Eaton remain on the DL for the rest of the year or at least keep up his current pace once he returns, he will have the fifth highest ERA for a pitcher with a winning record and at least nine wins. Here are all such pitchers with ERAs over 6.00:

PlayerYrWL ERA
Colby Lewis2003109 7.30
Chris George200396 7.11
Harry Staley18941210 6.81
Ryan Drese2002109 6.55
Adam Eaton200798 6.36
Wes Ferrell19381510 6.28
Mike Morgan19991310 6.24
Guy Bush19301510 6.20
Alex Ferguson192595 6.18
Ramon Martinez2000108 6.13
Ad Gumbert18941514 6.02

If you throw out the winning record requirement, Eaton drops to tenth:

PlayerYrWL ERA
Jim Walkup1937912 7.36
Colby Lewis2003109 7.30
Jack Knott1936917 7.29
Chris George200396 7.11
Harry Staley18941210 6.81
John Snyder1999912 6.68
Scott Stratton1894910 6.65
LaTroy Hawkins19991014 6.62
Ryan Drese2002109 6.55
Adam Eaton200798 6.36

Eaton has the highest ERA in the majors for all pitchers who currently qualify for the ERA title:

Adam EatonPHI986.36
Jose ContrerasCHW6146.24
Odalis PerezKAN7115.78
Jorge De La RosaKAN8115.46
Matt BelisleCIN685.4
Scott OlsenFLA995.39
Kip WellsSTL6135.24
Barry ZitoSFO8115.13
Woody WilliamsHOU6125.09
Braden LooperSTL1095.08
Dave BushMIL985.07

Eaton's ERA would be the 39th worst all time for pitchers qualifying for the ERA title (using today's rules universally). Here are the worst:

Bill French1873 9.0 01.000 12.00
Ed Stratton1873 27.0 03.000 8.33
Joe McDermott1872 63.0 07.000 8.29
Frank Selman1873 9.0 01.000 8.00
Les Sweetland1930 167.0 715.318 7.71
Bill Rhodes1893 151.7 512.294 7.60
Jack Wadsworth1894 173.0 418.182 7.60
Jim Deshaies1994 130.3 612.333 7.39
Jack Knott1936 192.7 917.346 7.29
Tom Colcolough1894 148.7 85.615 7.08
Jose Lima2005 168.7 516.238 6.99

Of course, given the highly uneven scheduling employing in the nineteenth century leagues, qualifying for the ERA title is somewhat meaningless for a good part of the 1800s. Since 1900, just 18 pitchers qualified for the ERA title with a worse ERA than Eaton's (and four came in the strike-shortened 1994 season):

Les Sweetland1930 167.0 715.318 7.71
Jim Deshaies1994 130.3 612.333 7.39
Jack Knott1936 192.7 917.346 7.29
Jose Lima2005 168.7 516.238 6.99
Jose Lima2000 196.3 716.304 6.65
Greg Harris1994 130.0 312.200 6.65
LaTroy Hawkins1999 175.3 1014.417 6.62
Chubby Dean1940 159.3 613.316 6.61
Darryl Kile1999 190.7 813.381 6.61
Nels Potter1939 196.3 812.400 6.60
Ernie Wingard1927 156.3 213.133 6.56
George Caster1940 178.3 419.174 6.56
Terry Mulholland1994 120.7 67.462 6.49
Eric Milton2005 186.3 815.348 6.47
Dave Fleming1994 117.0 711.389 6.46
Jimmy Ring1928 173.0 417.190 6.40
Jaime Navarro1998 172.7 816.333 6.36
Joel Pineiro2006 165.7 813.381 6.36

Eaton, at least to me, is the leader of the many Hydes on the Phils' staff that have complemented the very few Dr. Jekylls (Hamels, Madson, and Kendrick) that have worn Phillies unis while on the mound this year. The Phils have four pitchers so far this year with ERAs over 10.00 (Anderson Garcia, Fabio Castro, J.A. Happ, and Matt Smith) and 13 over 5.00 (Hernandez, Myers, Geary, Condrey, Garcia, Eaton, Sanches, Rosario, Segovia, and the other four). That's half of their 26 pitchers. Only Tampa Bay has more (16). The teams with the most pitchers with 10.00+ ERAs are:

TeamYrWLERAs over 10.00
Texas Rangers200579837
Kansas City Athletics195563917
Detroit Tigers1996531096
Colorado Rockies200082806
Toronto Blue Jays199984786
Baltimore Orioles200670926
Seattle Mariners200678846

Only ten teams have ever made the postseason with at least four 10+ ERA'ed pitchers:

TeamYrWLWon Div?Won WC?Won Lg?Won WS?ERAs over 10.00
New York Yankees20059567YNNN5
Cleveland Indians19999765YNNN5
Atlanta Braves199910359YNYN5
Boston Red Sox19958658YNNN5
St. Louis Cardinals200510062YNNN4
Detroit Tigers19728670Y NN4
New York Yankees20008774YNYY4
Boston Red Sox20059567NYNN4
New York Mets20009468NYYN4
Cleveland Indians19489758 YY4

As for playoff teams with the most pitchers with ERAs over 5.00 the Phils have a shot at the "record" of 17 by the division-winning 2005 Yankees:

TeamYrWLWon Div?Won WC?Won Lg?Won WS?ERAs over 5.00
New York Yankees20059567YNNN17
Boston Red Sox20039567NYNN16
Seattle Mariners19979072YNNN16
Seattle Mariners19957966YNNN14
New York Yankees19969270YNYY14
Cleveland Indians19988973YNNN13
Boston Red Sox19958658YNNN13
Boston Red Sox20059567NYNN13

Even the D-Rays will have a hard time reaching the all-time "record" for 5.00+ ERA pitchers, 23, set last season by the execrable Royal staff:

TeamYrWLERAs over 5.00
Kansas City Royals20066210023
Detroit Tigers19965310922
Texas Rangers2003719121
San Diego Padres2002669621
Kansas City Athletics1955639120
Colorado Rockies1993679519
Texas Rangers2005798319
Montreal Expos2000679519
Oakland Athletics1997659719

So somehow this dysfunctional team remains in the playoff hunt even with arguably its best player (Chase Utley) on the DL and without a starting major-league right fielder and third baseman. Half the team is highly talented and the other half is barely at replacement level. Whatever happens this year, this team has Eaton's contract as a decent sized albatross around their necks for two more years.

Their offseason signings are reason enough to fire superannuated Gillick. Rod Barrajas has been a ham-handed defensive signing behind the plate. Wes Helms has been execrable both defensively at third base and offensively. At least they are gone at the end of the season having been signed to one-year deals. Meanwhile, his latest pickup is Russell Branyan who became superfluous to the Padres after they picked up Morgan Ensberg, who the Astros made available for a song (or a low-level prospect and some cash). Ensberg could have solved their third base problem. Couple that with the Phils' discarding Justin Germano, a possible number five starter, earlier this year, and you have two mid-level players on the Padres, and who's leading the Phils in the wild card hunt again?

Eaton is a veteran in the first year of a three-year deal who has lost his starting spot to career minor-leaguer who is on his fourth organization this year and was an emergency replacement from Double-A. Where will Eaton be in year three of his contract? Double-A? Don't be surprised if you see Eaton punching your ticket at Citizens Bank Park sometime in 2009.

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