Baseball Expert Tony DeMarco has been covering the big leagues since 1987, and been casting Hall of Fame ballots for the last 14 years. He answers questions weekly here:
Q. What can the Yankees realistically expect to get out of Andy Pettitte this season?
— Devin Anderson
A. Nobody, Pettitte included, knows the answer to that question. But Pettitte wouldn't have tried this unless he thought he still could pitch at the level he did in the last few seasons before his first retirement.
Watching Jamie Moyer's successful comeback from Tommy John surgery at age 49 tells us this can be done. Pettitte is 10 years younger than Moyer (he'll turn 40 in June), and isn't coming off a major injury.
He's had a couple of bumps in the road so far — especially in his May 5 start for Triple-A Scranton, when he allowed five runs in five innings — and that's to be expected.
After all, he's basically in spring training, off an 18-month layoff.
But overall, the peripheral numbers from his minor-league outings — walks per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings, etc. — are in line with his career big-league numbers. So assuming no health-related issues adversely affect his performance, it's not unreasonable to think he can pitch similarly to the last time we saw him in pinstripes.
And his numbers from 2010: 21 starts, 129 innings, 11-3-3.28, 123 hits, 41 walks, 101 strikeouts.
The W/L record and ERA aren't likely to be matched — his career ERA is 3.88, and he hadn't been below 4.00 from 2006-09. But something along these lines seems likely to me.
And I might add, that would be an improvement from what the Yankees have been getting from the No. 5 spot in their rotation so far this season.
Q. How long before the Orioles fade back toward the bottom of the AL East, where they're supposed to be?
— Jim Gibson, New York
A. Before a highly-probable pullback occurs, let's look at what's going right with the Orioles:
Anybody who has read this column awhile knows there is admiration for how Buck Showalter runs a club and manages in-game.
Three nice position-player pieces are in place in Matt Wieters, Adam Jones (at least for now, as he is an impending free agent) and Nick Markakis.
The offense is eighth in runs and fifth in slugging percentage.
I'm also buying into Jake Arrieta as a front-end pitcher, and Jim Johnson has converted 15 consecutive save opportunities dating back to last Aug. 14 — leading a bullpen that currently has five sub-2.00 ERAs.
And when your first baseman (Chris Davis) can throw two scoreless innings of relief in Fenway Park to pick up a victory (the first by a position player since Colorado's Brent Mayne in 2000), maybe things are breaking your way for a change.
But just when you start thinking this can continue long-term — and a 5-1 week against the Yankees and Red Sox will do that — reality bites.
No. 1, the schedule will get tougher. In their 19-9 start, the Orioles had series against the Twins, A's and White Sox, and caught the struggling Angels at the right time.
But here's what the Orioles will be looking at through June 10: Series with the Rangers, Rays, Yankees, Royals, Nationals, Red Sox, Royals, Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Phillies.
If after that the Orioles are still nine games above .500 (as they currently are), then you can believe a winning season is possible.
The Red Sox are more vulnerable than in recent years, but the AL East clearly is the game's toughest division, making the Orioles' attempted climb that much more difficult.
And here's one thing that won't continue — the Orioles' AL-low 2.99 staff ERA — with only the Rangers within one-half run allowed. A 14-3 loss to Texas on Monday spiked the Orioles' team ERA from 2.78, and a climb to the mid-to-upper 3s seems inevitable over the next couple of months.
Brian Matusz's struggles continued against Texas, and a case can be made for a regression from Jason Hammel, currently the staff leader in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Hammel, 29, had pitched his way out of Colorado's rotation by late last season, and is 38-46-4.85 lifetime including his great 2012 start.
That said, the hope is for talented Zack Britton to return to the rotation in June.
Q. What has happened to Phil Humber since his perfect game? Is he going to end up being one of the worst pitchers to accomplish the feat?
— Jennifer York
A. The results have been terrible for Humber since the perfecto: 13 1/3 innings, 20 earned runs, 21 hits, five homers, 11 walks.
His 13.50 ERA in those starts is the worst in the first three starts after any of the 21 perfect games in history. Humber also is on course for the worst season during which a pitcher threw a perfect game, as his ERA sits at 6.83 after five starts.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
And let's face reality here: Humber is the No. 5 starter in the White Sox's rotation, and at 29 has had an injury-interrupted, journeyman-like career since being the third overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Mets. His current career big-league numbers: 12-12-4.43 in 59 games and 242 innings with only one full season (2011).
When you look at the list of perfect-game pitchers, perhaps only Dallas Braden (whose career has been interrupted by injury) compares with Humber in terms of a lack of career accomplishments:
The list since 1900 is littered with Hall of Famers and All-Stars: Cy Young, Addie Joss, Charlie Robertson, Don Larsen, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Len Barker, Mike Witt, Tom Browning, Dennis Martinez, Kenny Rogers, David Wells, David Cone, Randy Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Braden, Roy Halladay, Humber.
In fact, the better comparison for Humber may be to a pitcher whose shot at perfection was ruined by a missed call on the would-be 27th out — Armando Galarraga.
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