We don’t give reliable back-end starting pitchers enough credit. I’ve thought as much since, as a Phillies fan, I watched nearly a decade of Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick certainly wasn’t a perennial Cy Young candidate, but he made 30 starts in four of his eight seasons with the Phillies and even worked out of the bullpen, particularly in 2011-12. Fans didn’t like Kendrick, though, because when he got hit, he got hit hard. I’d imagine Yankees fans feel similarly about Ivan Nova.
I preface that because Nick Tropeano is going for the Angels tonight against the Rangers’ A.J. Griffin in a 10:05 PM EDT start at Angel Stadium. Tropeano wasn’t supposed to be in the Angels’ rotation, but Andrew Heaney suffered a flexor strain at the start of the season. Tropeano, 25, made seven starts and one relief appearance for the Angels last year, serving mostly as an emergency starter until rosters expanded in September. He finished with a 3.82 ERA and a 38/10 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings. Very solid numbers. So far this year, Tropeano has a 3.12 ERA with a 66/30 K/BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings spanning 12 starts.
Assuming he’s able to continue pitching well through the end of the season, Tropeano has likely secured himself a spot in the Angels’ rotation next year, as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will become free agents. The rotation will then include Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and Heaney.
Tropeano has pitched excellently, but he would still be plenty valuable even if his ERA were 4.12 instead of 3.12. Maybe even 5.12. Nearly a decade ago, Jeff Sackmann of The Hardball Times found that the MLB average ERA for a number five starter was 5.94. As run-scoring has gone down since then — 4.86 runs per game in ’06, 4.48 in ’16 — it’s not quite that bad, but still shows just how tough it is to get reliable starting pitching at the back of the starting rotation.
To the Kyle Kendricks, Ivan Novas, and Nick Tropeanos of the world: I see you, and I respect you.
The rest of Monday’s action…
Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman) @ New York Yankees (Ivan Nova), 7:05 PM EDT
Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola), 7:05 PM EDT
Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco) @ Detroit Tigers (Matt Boyd), 7:10 PM EDT