So the Chicago Cubs have this guy, Randy Wells. He's 26, and pitching pretty well this year after entering the year with just 5 1/3 innings to his name. He struck people out in the minors and didn't give up too many runs -- 3.74 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 2.99 K/BB -- but he didn't impress too many people, bounced from the Cubs to the Jays to the Cubs, and earned a straight grade C from John Sickels in 2008.
Fast-forward: in 2009, he's got a 1.80 ERA in 4 starts with 23 K and just 7 BB. He doesn't have worldbeating stuff: fastball around 90, secondary pitches (slider, cutter, change) all between 81 and 88. Of course, as they say, if you're missing bats, you're missing bats, and his 69% first-pitch strike percentage is a big help too. If he can't get a strike on the first pitch, he'll have a lot more trouble blowing guys away.
Kenshin Kawakami only has a 59% first-strike percentage (right around league average), and a slightly lower than hoped K% has combined with a slightly higher than hoped BB% to contribute to what has been a disappointing year so far. He's got a bit more rotation spot protection thanks to his multiyear contract, but the major league adjustment has clearly taken him a bit longer than we expected.
Neither of these guys is striking fear in the hearts of hitters, but Wells has kept runs off the board a whole lot better, and you know how much the Braves like facing rookies they've never seen before. One good thing: at least he's right-handed.
If the Braves win tonight, that will be good for their ninth two-game winning streak of the year. Still, they're 25-25, and due to the magnetic pull of the .500 record, no matter whether we win or lose tonight, we know that we won't be able to escape the clutches of an uneven number of wins and losses for long.
At least, not while Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Schafer, and Garret Anderson are getting 12 AB a game.