On Thursday evening, right-hander Wily Peralta was on the receiving end of yet another dose of bad luck on the mound. He was dinked and dunked to death by the St. Louis Cardinals, who scored six runs in the third inning on seven singles — including three broken-bat singles and two bloop singles.
This left many Brewers fans lamenting the Brewers’ lack of luck against the Cardinals. After all, Peralta didn’t deserve that fate, and it certainly didn’t feel like the Cardinals deserved any of the six runs they scored in the third inning. It stung even more when the final score was 6-5 and the fluky six-run third proved to be the difference.
When talking about luck and pitching, though, it’s important to realize that there are ways to lessen the amount in which a starting rotation is forced to cope with luck — whether it be good or bad luck. Primarily, it’s centered around not allowing the opposing team to put the bat on the baseball. Swinging strikes have very little (if anything) to do with luck and the best starting rotations generate a ton of them.
Of the starting rotations that compiled a swinging-strike rate above 9.0% last season, only the White Sox and Rangers failed to rank inside top half of the league in ERA. That’s only 22.2% (2-of-9) of the teams that had a swinging-strike rate above 9.0%.
Coming into Monday’s off day, the Brewers’ starting staff has the third-lowest swinging-strike rate in the National League in 2013. Their 7.9% SwStr% ranks better than only the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Brewers, Padres, and Rockies all have ERAs north of 4.50 in their starting rotation.
This is not to say the Brewers will necessarily find success if they miss more bats, nor is it to say the Brewers’ rotation will not find success if they continue to show an inability to do so. Instead, this is meant to illustrate that the Brewers will have to deal with some bad luck occasionally because baseballs put in play can fail to find gloves, even if hit poorly. And at times, those will be strung together for big innings.
If you’re looking for an example of the inverse, Marco Estrada showed that on Sunday afternoon against the very same Cardinals. He had a runner on first and third with nobody out, yet he escaped unscathed because he induced a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. He didn’t have to deal with bloopers or seeing-eye singles. He simply eliminated luck from the equation and did the work himself.
Granted, he proceeded to have the worst outing of his big-league career. Estrada had never issued more than three walks in a game, and the most earned runs he had surrendered in a single appearance prior to Sunday was five runs. But in the first inning, he provided a great example of what missing bats can do to help minimize damage and lessen the reliance on — or perhaps simply the impact of — luck.
As a whole, though, the Brewers’ starting rotation is currently not missing many bats. As a result, games lost due to what feels like bad luck will happen.