Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Last year, Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox was one of the biggest surprise stories of the major League baseball season. He had been a relief pitcher seeing very limited action in the big time with the NY Mets and Kansas City Royals. The Chisox decided to give him a shot as a starter. BOOM!
HUMBER IN 2011
3.75 ERA (good because home games were in a hitter’s park)
1.18 WHIP (stellar in context in the DH league)
.243 opponents’ batting average
.357 opponent’s slugging percentage (wow!)
That was quite a debut. The White Sox had found a stud pitcher out of the blue. They certainly assumed he would be able to throw effectively in 2012, even if he dropped off a little bit from those impressive numbers.
That’s not what happened. In fact, Humber has been HORRIBLE all season. Those same numbers this season heading into tonight’s game on the road against the Texas Rangers are…
HUMBER IN 2012
.271 opponent’s batting average
.472 opponent’s slugging percentage
Teams are hitting Humber, and they’re hitting him hard. Normally teams wouldn’t put up with those kinds of numbers. But, Humber’s performance in 2011 has given him a long leash. Management is hopeful he’ll recapture last year’s magic. And, he can’t do that if he’s throwing once or twice a week in long relief.
We’re skeptical that’s going to happen. Among the reasons:
*Humber is part of a group of pitchers who typically struggle. His innings pitched at the Major League level jumped WAY up last year from a guy who rarely got big time innings to a guy who threw 163 innings. Handicappers and Vegas sharps have known you’re supposed to avoid guys like this in Year Two as a starter. Note that Humber recently spent a month on the Disabled List with what was called a “sore elbow.”
*Humber didn’t have a great strikeout rate last season. His mark of 6.41 as a starter was below average. That means he was relying on his fielders a bit too much, and on the random luck of where balls land after they get hit. This plus the innings load was a big red flag.
*Humber has fly ball tendencies…which puts a pitcher at the mercy of weather conditions. It’s been a hot year. And, he plays his home games in a great home run park. That magnified his potential for doom.
In his last start vs. Detroit, the Tigers hit 14 fly balls and only one ground ball while scoring six runs in three innings. Four of those fly balls went over the fence for homers! In his last home start vs. Houston (before his DL stay), the Astros hit 11 fly balls and only two ground balls while scoring six runs in 5.1 innings. Three of those fly balls were homers.
And, THAT’S who’s going to pitch tonight in a hitter’s paradise against the Texas Rangers! This has ugly written all over it. But, the fact that Josh Hamilton is in a two-month SLUMP FROM HELL might help matters a bit. Plus…Chicago’s offense loves hitting in this park too. They might be able to score enough runs to make up for whatever Humber allows.
Chicago/Texas is one of many great games on the Saturday card. FOX has regional coverage this afternoon of Boston/NY Yankees and LA Dodgers/San Francisco. Oakland visits Baltimore tonight in a huge game for both teams. Same is true for Tampa Bay at the LA Angels.
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