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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Calling out John Kruk



John I want to like John Kruk, really I do. He seems like a decent enough fella and was a pretty good ballplayer, too. He played hard, but also had a good sense of humor. He never took himself too seriously. And, many of nights on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, he makes good points and relays them to the audience in a digestable manner. Maybe he doesn't get his point across with the poetic flair of a Roger Angell or Tom Boswell, and maybe he's not as smooth on camera as, say, Anderson Cooper. But that's fine. He's a meat-and-potatoes analyst, who talks like the guy sitting at the corner of the bar. And I like the guy sitting at the corner of the bar.

But Kruk's biggest flaw is going a little too far to make a point and he ends saying things that just aren't true. Often, his original point is a valid one, but he loses credibility by speeding around the corner and knocking out a good chunk of the guard rail. Take Sunday. Kruk brought up the theory that the Rays might not make the playoffs. (Certainly, a vaild argument.)  And the reason they might miss the postseason is because of its starting rotation. (Not as strong of an argument, but not outlandish either.) Kruk mentioned that the Rays' starters have been inconsistent. (Okay, that's fair.) Here's, however, where he loses points: Kruk said "every pitcher'' in the rotation has "struggled mightily'' at one point or another this season. Stop right there. Every pitcher has struggled mightily?

Let's break it down.

Yes, James Shields has struggled, and yes, struggled mighitly of late. He hasn't won a game since May 20 and he has given up 20 earned runs in his past three starts. Wade Davis has a 6-6 record, which is pretty decent for a No. 5 starter. If you want to argue he has "struggled mightily'' at times, you probably could make a case. Not a strong case, but a case. One one hand, in his 12 starts, he has allowed more than three runs only four times. On the other hand, he has allowed fewer than three runs only four times. In other words, he's pitching like a No. 5 pitcher.

Matt Garza went through a stretch where he lost four of five starts, but it should be noted that he has allowed more than four runs in a start only twice this season.

Then there's the other two starters in the Rays rotation and where Kruk's statement falls apart.

David Price is tied for the American League lead with nine victories and his 2.23 ERA is the best in the A.L. In his two losses, he gave up three runs in seven innings and three runs in six innings. He has started 12 games, allowing no earned four times, allowing one earned run twice, two earned runs twice and three earned runs three times. Only once has he allowed more than three earned runs in a start and that was five in five innings. And the Rays won that game. When can you say that Price has struggled at all, let alone struggled "mightily?'' In fact, he is probably the leading candidate for Cy Young right now.

Then there's Jeff Niemann, who lost for the first time Sunday Throw out the game when he was injured in the second inning by a line drive and Niemann has allowed one or no earned runs in seven of his 12 starts. The most he has allowed in a game is five earned runs and that has happened twice.

Now, "quality starts'' (at least six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs allowed) isn't exactly the greatest barometer in the world, but Niemann has 10 quality starts in 12 starts if you don't count the game when he was injured.

Break it down any way you want and you can't make a valid case that Niemann or Price have struggled at all. Now if you want to say the offense has stuggled mightily, you can talk for days. And if you honestly believe the Rays starting pitching won't hold up, well, that's debatable. But to say that every member of the Rays starting rotation has "struggled mightily?'' That's just not true. Not as of now.

All of this isn't to pick on Kruk or to act holier-than-thou. But points can be made without exaggeration. It's what separates the good analyst on TV from the not-so-good. When you start to say things that simply aren't true or can't be reasonably argued then you sound like, well, the guy at the corner of the bar.

[Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 3:17pm]


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