The Milwaukee Brewers have been a distinctly different offensive team without Prince Fielder. Despite the narrative on TV and in most media, the Brewers’ offense has still been slightly above average this season, scoring 4.1 runs per game in a league scoring just 4.0. Still, it’s undeniable that May has been a tough month for Brewers bats. Highlighted by five shutout innings at the hand of Jeff Suppan — Jeff Suppan!! — the Brewers were scoring just 3.5 runs per game in the month of May entering Monday night’s contest against the New York Mets and Miguel Batista.
This is the same Miguel Batista who last made 20 starts in a season in 2008 with Seattle. The result? A 6.26 ERA that defines “glaring” and a 73:79 K:BB ratio that redefines it. So, naturally, Batista went right out there for the Mets and shut out the Brewers over seven innings. It wasn’t as if the Brewers hit him around and he escaped jam after jam either — Batista allowed just five baserunners, the same number of batters as he struck out. It was a banner performance for the 41-year-old righty; not only was it his best start in recent memory, it was arguably one of the best starts of his 18-year MLB career.
According to Game Score, a handy Bill James metric for easily comparing starts on their merit, Miguel Batista finished with a 73. For reference, average is 50, whereas Phil Humber’s perfect game and Matt Cain’s one-hitter tie for the best of 2012 so far at 96. Zack Greinke’s eight shutout innings in last week’s loss against Cincinnati checks in at 89.
Batista was making his 246th career start Monday night at Citi Field. Only 12 of his previous 245 exceeded his mark of 73; only 19 times did he even get over 70. The list:
|2||2011-09-28||NYM||CIN||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||2||0||0||2||5||0||86|
|3||2004-06-09||TOR||LAD||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||4||0||0||2||8||0||85|
|4||2002-07-24||ARI||COL||W 7-1||CG 9 ,W||9.0||3||1||1||1||7||1||83|
|5||1999-06-05||MON||TOR||W 5-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||3||0||0||5||6||0||82|
|6||2003-07-18||ARI||SDP||W 6-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||5||0||0||2||5||0||80|
|7||2006-07-01||ARI||OAK||W 7-2||CG 9 ,W||9.0||3||2||2||1||6||1||78|
|9||1999-04-14||MON||MIL||W 15-1||CG 9 ,W||9.0||6||1||1||0||6||0||77|
|10||2003-05-05||ARI||PHI||W 10-1||CG 9 ,W||9.0||7||1||0||0||5||0||76|
|11||2007-09-29||SEA||TEX||W 5-1||GS-8 ,W||8.0||3||1||1||2||5||0||75|
|12||2006-07-19||ARI||LAD||W 8-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||6||0||0||2||2||0||75|
Of course, seeing a 41-year-old journeyman carve up one’s favorite team is never an encouraging sign. There is, however, one entry on this list Brewers fans can take some solace in: the September 28th, 2011 start against the Cincinnati Reds in which Batista dealt a two-hit shutout. Although it wasn’t Cincinnati’s best lineup — Paul Janish was at second base instead of Brandon Phillips — the Reds still had some mashers in the lineup, most notably Joey Voto and Jay Bruce. Both sluggers went hitless for the game, with only Chris Heisey and aged wonder Edgar Renteria notching base hits against Batista.
Last year’s Reds scored 4.54 runs per game, only outdone by the Cardinals at 4.70 in the National League. It is justifiably frustrating to watch the Brewers flail against pitching of the caliber of Batista, but let it also serve as an important reminder: even those players considered the dregs of the major leagues are incredibly talented, and when everything goes right even the Miguel Batistas of the world are tough for any lineup to hit.