Jeff Suppan started his ninth game of the season for the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday. The 35-year-old starter, acquired after the Brewers released him and his albatross contract, pitched five innings against the Astros, allowing four earned runs on four walks, three hits, and one home run while striking out only one batter. With this start in the books, Suppan has now struck out 19 batters, walked 19 batters, and allowed eight home runs in his 46.1 innings pitched for St. Louis. Prior to tonight’s start, Suppan had a 5.53 FIP and a 5.14 xFIP as a Cardinal, both numbers which will only climb after yesterday’s poor start.
And yet, despite how utterly horribly Suppan has pitched, he comes out of that start against Houston with merely a 4.47 ERA. Suppan has stranded a ridiculous 82.8% of baserunners allowed, and for that reason he has managed to get away relatively unscathed despite no other mark suggesting anything even resembling major league talent. It’s not even as if Suppan has been good at preventing hits, either- he has allowed 57 hits in 47.1 innings now and a BABIP of .323. Either it’s a fantastically wily veteran wherewithal on the mound or Suppan has been incredibly lucky with runners on base, and it shouldn’t be hard to guess which side of the issue on which I fall.
And yet, despite the fact that Suppan has allowed only slightly more runs than the average, Suppan has a 1-5 record as a Cardinal and the club is 3-6 in games started by him, with one win ranking as the Cardinals most fantastic comeback win of the season. The universe has corrected itself through the paltry run support the Cardinals have given Suppan. In his nine starts, the Cardinals have given him 3, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 3, and 2 runs in support, respectively, and Suppan simply isn’t good enough or lucky enough to win with so little offense behind him.
Somehow, Suppan has managed to avoid giving up loads of runs, but the Cardinals haven’t managed to take advantage of it and win. The fact that Jeff Suppan has already received nine starts is a big reason why the Cardinals are now eight games back. If he’s not the worst starting pitcher in the National League, he’s close, and it’s simply poetic justice that his teammates aren’t putting up runs behind his lucky performances to date. The Cardinals shouldn’t expect an ERA below 5.00 as Suppan racks up the innings, and they certainly shouldn’t expect to win with him on the mound down the stretch either.