Pitching is hard. It is hard for the players to consistently do well and it is hard for organizations to assess those players.
Pitching is a cruel and fickle craft. Even when it looks like a pitcher has everything figured out to consistently be successful, all it takes is one slip-up, one undetected change is arm slot, one minor injury, and that pitcher seems to lose it all. For example, Tim Lincecum has been dominant for the last five years. He won multiple Cy Young awards and pitched on a World Series champion. Yet despite all of that, he entered the All-Star Break two weeks ago with the highest ERA in all of baseball. Even with a solid start recently, he inexplicably still finds himself searching.
P.S. – did you know that Lincecum’s middle name is LeRoy? That’s unexpected, right? Timothy LeRoy? I suppose I don’t know what I would expect instead. Maybe Norville. Or something. Definitely not LeRoy.
Pitching is mentally exhausting. Both pitchers in tonight’s match-up between the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals have experienced this truth firsthand. The Kansas City Royals selected Luke Hochevar with the number one overall pick is the 2006 draft. Any player selected that high is expected to be a sure thing, “can’t miss” player. Even if the results are not necessarily spectacular, they better consistently be good. That is what was expected of Hochevar.
It has not worked out that way. After going 6-12 and 7-13 in his first two seasons, he had his best season to date last year with a career best 4.68 ERA. You read that right. A career best 4.68 ERA. Just when Hochevar looks like he has his career on track, he will deliver a string of disappointing performances. The lack of predictability of pitching claims many victims, even the ones who are supposed to be predictable or “sure things.”
For Blackburn the expectations were never that high. In his six year career all the Twins have asked him to be is steady. Throw strikes and be consistent. Keep the team in games. Up until this year he has mostly been able to do that, logging double digit wins three seasons in a row from 2008-2010, even if his peripherals have never been spectacular. While he struggled last year, there were no indications that the Twins would be asking too much of Blackburn if they expected him to be steady once again in 2012. Unfortunately, he lost his arm slot and experienced the slippery slope of his profession in a matter of months. He went from consistent performer to AAA demotee.
Pitching is maddening. Pitching is elusive. For different reasons, both starting pitchers in tonight’s game are trying to overcome those challenges and correct their career paths.
Pitching is hard. Seriously. Take these guys’ word for it.