The return of Bryan Bullington was covered by our own R.J. Anderson last week. Entering yesterday’s start against the New York Yankees, Bullington was 0-7 with a 5.02 ERA and similarly poor peripheral statistics. Now, Bullington has a major league victory.
Some major league victories are cheap. Surely Brad Thomas earned his fifth win of the season after throwing all of one scoreless inning in a 21 run game between the White Sox and the Tigers. Surely Tyler Clippard earned win number nine after throwing two innings immediately after Stephen Strasburg struck out seven batters in only five innings. And surely Kyle Kendrick earned his eighth victory of the 2010 season last night, a season in which he has a 5.03 FIP.
Bullington’s first major league victory was not cheap, by any means. In eight innings, Bullington struck out five Yankees, walked only one, and allowed only two hits. It’s not like the Yankees were scorching the ball either – according to our data, the Yankees did not hit a single line drive against Bullington. Instead, it was 10 ground balls at infielders and 10 weak fly balls which stayed in the yard. Bullington had a fantastic start by any measure, particularly WPA, which had Bullington at +.612 in the Royals’ 1-0 victory over the AL East and MLB leading New York Yankees.
As R.J. noted, Bullington was a first overall draft pick with “middle of the rotation potential.” Perhaps the fact that his peak was a Jake Westbrook type pitcher says it all as to why the Pirates should have avoided Bullington as a first overall pick. It’s certainly not as if this one good start suggests that Bullington will go on to have a successful major league career in Kansas City, either.
Bullington’s career stats only support the notion that he was a mistake as a number one pick. Entering last night’s start, Bullington had struck out fewer than six batters per nine innings and walked nearly four. Toss in some home run issues – 1.38 HR/9 in 52.0 career innings pitched – and you have a pitcher who flirts with replacement level with every trip to the mound.
Given that 5,889 people had done it entering Sunday’s games, it’s hard to call the club that Bullington has joined “elite.” Still, Bullington pitched an extremely good game against one of the best lineups in the league today, making his performance on Sunday even more impressive. Bryan Bullington turns 30 next month, and it’s difficult to imagine anything great coming out of Bullington’s major league career over the next few years. Despite the struggles, his first victory is out of the way. Now he’s one step closer to joining an even more exclusive club: those 5,066 pitchers with at least two major league victories.