James McDonald pitched well for the Pirates in the one-and-a-half seasons after they acquired him from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel in mid-2010, but so far this season he’s taken a major step forward at age 27 to emerge as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter.
McDonald threw 244 innings with a 4.15 ERA in 2010 and 2011, but after shutting out the Reds for eight innings Monday he now has a 2.20 ERA through 10 starts this year. And just as importantly his secondary numbers show a significant improvement that goes beyond ERA.
McDonald averaged 7.1 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine innings in 2010/2011, but this year he has 8.7 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings. He’s always had good raw stuff, but McDonald is throwing his straight fastball less and relying on his sinker/slider combination a lot more, resulting in 22 percent more missed bats and 10 percent more ground balls along with 35 percent fewer walks and a much better job keeping the ball in the ballpark.
Obviously 10 starts are just 10 starts, but McDonald’s performance looks much more like legitimate improvement than some sort of early season fluke and that would be a huge development in the Pirates’ never-ending quest for a winning record.
It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.
What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.
You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.
Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:
I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.
This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.