Friday, March 25, 2011

When easy is hard

My wife has the best handwriting in the world. Line after line of perfection flows from her graceful hand. With similar nonchalance my friend Jeff can bounce a golf ball off a sand wedge for several minutes, even when he's agitated. I'm not easily impressed, but these actions impress me. When someone makes something look easy that isn't easy, be impressed.

Take the Padres and their front five starting pitchers last year. Each did his job well enough that Bud Black continued to hand him the ball. And all five stayed healthy enough to start at least 25 games. It was almost boring. Seemed easy, too. Doubly impressed, I was intrigued, so I researched the last time the Padres had five pitchers start 25 games. The answer: Never. In 42 seasons, the most was four pitchers each starting 25, and that happened only eight times.

Stability isn't without its drawbacks, you might say, and you could be right. Maybe Black should've subbed Tim Stauffer for Kevin Correia sooner, which would've meant fewer than 25 starts for Correia (UPDATE: The Pirates, heading for a 19th consecutive losing season, have named Correia as their Opening Day starter). The larger point: The Padres had an exceptionally stable rotation last year after losing their nominal No. 1 starter, Chris Young, when his surgical shoulder, to no one's surprise, acted up. Seems reasonable to expect more drama within the rotation this year. For a team built on pitching, that's not a comforting prospect.

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