As we read Roch Kubatko's article on Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, Kubatko comes out with this gem:
How many Orioles fans were outraged by the February trade that sent No. 1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom?
How many national publications ripped it to shreds - one of them calling it the worst deal of the offseason?
Not that I'm entirely taking this article at face value, but where was Guthrie for Hammel and Lindstrom panned as the worst deal of the offseason? I mean really? Guthrie was no ace, and Hammel had to prove he hadn't lost his fastball for good.
Coming back to the 2012 season, we're talking about some - yes, here it comes again - small samples here. Hammel wasn't that great in Tampa Bay, and he was OK as a Rockie, never posting an ERA below 4, but now he's sitting pretty on a 1.73 ERA with increased strikeout numbers and excellent home run prevention in his 4 starts in Baltimore.
See, I'm not trying to eschew Hammel's performance thus far; we have people who like digging through BABIP and FIP regressions to do that. But speaking of Fangraphs, Jason Hammel is currently the 2nd most "popular" player on the site behind Albert Pujols and ahead of Jose Altuve. I suppose most people aren't buying his numbers, either.
The SABR brass tacks of the matter say that Guthrie will be more valuable because of innings pitched. That's certainly an advantage he has over Hammel: Hammel would allow 6 runs on a bad day and they'd all come in the 4th and the Rockies would have to go to the bullpen; Guthrie allows 6 runs on a bad day, and he still goes 7 innings and saves the pen. (I'm awfully concerned about Jhoulys Chacin pitching in similar fashion to Hammel in that "5 runs in one inning" way.)
At the moment, it is looking like Guthrie was a bad decision, what with his near-6 ERA and sub-2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. Amusingly enough, over his 4 miserable starts, Guthrie has compiled a 2-1 record. While pitching wins are 99.95% meaningless, Guthrie: Pitched long enough in at least 2 of those games for his team to take the lead and to be fair, is averaging 6 innings a start. That sounds exactly like the job description that Guthrie fulfilled when he was traded for.
Remember, too, that Guthrie likely has 28-30 starts ahead of him yet.
Here is a shortened list of important pitchers doing worse than Jeremy Guthrie in 2012: Clay Buchholz, Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, and Jon Lester. Granted, FIP says that most of these guys are pitching considerably better than their ERA suggests, but it's hard to make much out of 4 games.
Subjectively speaking, Guthrie's been lousy, but he's been like Livan Hernandez lousy. That's a special kind of lousy, but that special kind of lousy often gets re-translated into "Knows how to stem the bleeding". I don't want the bullpen to be completely taxed by season's end, whether winning or losing, and having a horse like Guthrie is going to save their bacon. And yes, I realize the oddity of praising a pitcher for pitching a lot of innings when the innings have a tendency to be lousy innings.