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The big question

The first two months of the MLB season are prime overreaction time.

For instance, Hideki Matsui breaks his wrist and the New York media proposed every option for the Yankees short off digging up Ruth, DiMaggio, and Mantle and reassembling them into some sort of super player to replace their outfielder. (What this guy would hit? Now that's the kind of question I wish Baseball Prospectus would answer.).

Of course, we're a little more laid back on the west coast. Beautiful weather will do that to you. Still, I was a little surprised that there has been hardly a mention of the extent to which Brett Tomko is out performing Matt Morris right now.

For those of you who aren't veterans of this blog (I'm proposing the term blogerans for those loyal readers), I'm a big Tomko guy. I've probably devoted more words to him than anyone else, including Barry Bonds, especially when comparing him to Matt Morris. I even proposed a disorder named after Tomko that has not yet been approved by the AMA, but I expect to receive word soon.

Tomko has a 3.86 ERA in nearly 61 innings for the freakin' Dodgers, while Morris has stumbled out of the gate en route to a 5.40 ERA in 65 innings.

So the question, other than why would God do this to Giants fans, is when will things get back to normal?

I wish I could stop other Giants fans from jumping into McCovey Cove without life preservers, but it doesn't look like it will get much better.

Look!!! a visual

The logic this early in the season is to chalk everything up to bad luck, but Morris peripherals have been just as brutal as his luck, as is evident above. Tomko's struck out more batters, walked fewer, and has pitched significantly better with men on base. That is why Morris's numbers are so bad.

Whether or not performance with men on base is a reproducible skill or a matter of luck is still a question (Studes says it is reproducible to a point). How much of it can be attributed to the pitcher rather than the choices and plays of the defense is also a question. What is not a question is whether how a pitcher pitches with men on base is crucial to the game. It is and Morris has succeeded in this area while Morris has failed.

Tomko's LOB% (see link for explanation) has improved this season, up from 69.4 in 2004 and 70.5 in 2005. Morris's LOB% has declined. He's way down from 69.3 in 2004 and 68.5 in 2005. The difference between the fortunes of the two players is evident.

I think Morris has no choice but to improve, even if his peripherals are terrible, because at the very least, he has history and small sample sizes in his favor. Tomko's numbers aren't way off the chart, so it is tough to tell, without having seen him pitch thus far into the season, if he will suffer any decline.

Tomko has exceeded expectations thus far, but the one bad mark on Tomko's record this year his is 5.46 ERA away from Chavez Ravine. It is not strange for him to pitch so poorly outside of a park that doesn't hurt home run hitters. He had an ERA over 5.00 on the road last year and was under 3.00 at Pac Bell. Still, I thought it was possible that perhaps Tomko wasn't that bad on the road, but because of random scheduling, had faced tougher competition on the road.

Average RPG of Tomko opponents
Home: 4.40
Away: 4.61

The teams Tomko has faced on the road average 4.61 RPG overall while the teams he has faced at home average 4.40 RPG overall. So while he has faced worse offenses at home, the difference in the teams he's face alone should not cause a three run difference in his home and away ERA. The major difference between his road and home ERA's is his latest start, a May 26th loss at Washington.

So the sad story for Giants fans continues. Despite Morris's poor start and few indicators in his favor I can't help but think he will improve. Whether Tomko will turn into a pumpkin before the season ends is still the big $21 million question.