A set of numbers follow every professional pitcher throughout the season. Augusta GreenJackets right-hander Clayton Blackburn (6-2) knows about the stats all too well. His six wins came only after he picked up his two losses.
But neither number is of much concern to Blackburn as he makes his 15th start tonight when the GreenJackets open an eight-game homestand at Lake Olmstead Stadium.
“In the minor leagues you don’t consider win/loss records to be a good indicator of how good a pitcher is doing,” the 19-year-old starter said. “Yes, you want to get the win. You want to help your team win. But you can only go out there and control what you can control.”
Though the win/loss record is often the most prominent statistic following a pitcher, it’s among the least-used gauge of success among players, managers, coaches and scouts. For a starting pitcher to earn a win, he must last at least five innings and leave the game with his team leading. His team must also maintain the lead the rest of the game, a factor the pitcher doesn’t have any control over.
Getting stuck with a loss simply means the pitcher gave the other team the lead for good. A pitcher could allow just one run in nine innings pitched, but if his team doesn’t offer any run support he gets the loss.
“Win/loss doesn’t mean much compared to the big picture,” manager Lispo Nava said. “It’s not really a factor. Look at (Edwin) Escobar. His past three outings have been more than decent but something happens that takes the win away.”
Similar circumstances allowed Blackburn, the team’s top starter in ERA (2.95), strikeouts (89) and innings pitched (79.1), to go six consecutive starts without a win.
Aside from one poor outing in which he gave up eight runs before being pulled in the second inning, Blackburn posted a 3.13 ERA through the second week of May.
The tall Texan finally got a win May 17. He got a pair of no decisions over his next two starts, but the numbers finally paid him back in June. Blackburn recorded a win in every start he made last month and will enter tonight’s outing having won five consecutive starts.
“I’ve been consistent,” he said. “That’s what matters to me. I just try to give the team a good chance to win the game.”
STRUGGLING: The GreenJackets could use another strong outing from Blackburn. The team dropped four of five games on the road last week in Asheville, N.C., and fell from a tie for second in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division standings into a tie for fourth.
Augusta hadn’t suffered such a losing skid since making its first trip to Asheville six weeks ago. The Tourists swept a four-game series with the GreenJackets May 31-June 3, knocking Augusta 17 games out of first in the division’s first-half race.
But that first trip to the North Carolina mountains might have served as a wakeup call for the GreenJackets, who went on to win 10 of their next 14 games leading up to the All-Star break.
Three of those wins came at the expense of the Greenville Drive, who will play four more games in Augusta starting tonight.
RETURNING: The GreenJackets’ starting rotation will change this week. Nava said left-handed starter Bryce Bandilla will return to Augusta in time for this week’s homestand.
The 22-year-old Californian posted an 0-3 record and 2.16 ERA in four starts for the GreenJackets in April and May before being sent down to the Arizona Rookie League.
Bandilla has allowed just three earned runs in four starts in Arizona.