Four Under Four 

ERA isn't the best gauge of a pitcher's performance. It's heavily dependent on the defensive skills of his teammates. Swift outfielders will prevent pop-ups from falling in; slow infielders will let soft ground balls squirm through holes.

Still, it's a decent rule of thumb for a pitcher's effectiveness.* And if Noah Lowry and Matt Cain perform well in their next outings it's possible the Giants will have four starters with ERA's under 4.00. Despite a very inconsistent season, Lowry's ERA is right at 4, and Cain, at 4.11, needs six shutout innings or seven innings of one-run ball on Friday to dip below 4. Yes, I'm counting Brad Hennessey, whose ERA has steadily risen since his promotion to the rotation but remains at 3.72.

Lowry was supposed to start today but has been bumped because of elbow soreness. Cross your fingers that it's nothing serious, as the Giants are reporting this morning. And cross your fingers that Jonathan Sanchez has as stunning a debut in the rotation today as he did in the bullpen this summer, when he reeled off nearly nine innings without a hit and 13 without a run.

Other teams with at least three starters under 4.00:

Angels (Lackey, Escobar, Weaver)
Dodgers (Lowe, Penny, Billingsley)
Marlins (Willis, Johnson, Sanchez, with Scott Olsen at 4.04)
Reds (Arroyo, Harang, Lohse -- but if you only count his NL stats)
Yankees (Wang, Mussina, Lidle)

The only ML team with four under four are the Tigers, now that Mike Maroth is back and pitching well to join Robertson, Rogers, and Verlander. (Remember the rumors a couple years ago about the Giants trading Cain for Maroth straight up?)They could well have an entire rotation under 4.00 in a few days. Jeremy Bonderman is at 4.02.

* I could have used DIPS ERA -- a "defense-independent" statistic that supposedly measures a pitcher's skill without the complication of how good or bad his defense is -- but DIPS numbers are so out of whack I figure regular ERA is fair enough to use as long as I'm comparing league-wide statistics. In other words, whatever biases regular ERA has, at least everyone in my survey is affected by them.

For the record, the regular/DIPS splits for Giants starters:

Schmidt 3.39/3.75
Hennessey 3.72/5.11
Cain 4.11/3.96
Morris 4.54/4.39
Lowry 4.00/4.98


UPDATE: Sanchez just made the Reds look foolish for nearly 6 innings. Six starting pitchers -- it's a good problem to have. A couple other tidbits from the game:

- The Giants have two off-days, tomorrow and Monday, so Matt Morris could move up and pitch Sunday instead of Hennessey, who has not impressed since returning to the rotation.

- Todd Linden just had his best game of the year. He gave himself up to move Finley from 2nd to 3rd in the first inning, resulting in a sac fly by Hillenbrand, then he hit three line drives, one for a single and two right at infielders. He topped it off with a diving catch in the 9th. In the radio wrap Krukow bet that Linden will be one of the Giants starting corner outfielders on opening day 2007.

- Anyone want Shairon Martis back for Mike Stanton now?


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