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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Kawakami Hopes Not To Get Snakebit Again

Haadorakku is a Japanese word which means precisely what it sounds like: hard luck. Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami has had more than enough of that this season.

Expected to improve going into his second season as a major league pitcher, Kawakami has seemed to regress instead, sporting an 0-8 record with a 4.91 ERA (37 runs, 34 earned) and 1.380 WHIP in 62 1/3 innings pitched.

Those statistics, however, don't tell the whole story. An amount of factors caused the Braves' first Japanese pitcher become the first hurler to sport a winless, eight-loss record in 85 years. The Braves pitcher who first did it, spot starter Wilfred "Rosy" Ryan, didn't lose his eighth game until August.

The first, and probably most important factor, is run support. Kawakami's support out of the current Braves' starters is the worst on the team:

Hudson - 12 GS, 6.08 R/27 (6-1)
Lowe - 13 GS, 5.95 R/27 (8-5)
Hanson - 12 GS, 5.72 R/27 (6-3)
Medlen - 6 GS, 4.42 R/27 (3-1)
Kawakami - 11 GS, 3.25 R/27 (0-8)

In parentheses are their won-loss records.

It's not a coincidence that Derek Lowe has eight victories despite having similar statistics to Kawakami.

Lowe - 13 GS, 5.04 ERA, 75 IP, 77 H, 44 R, 42 ER, 32 BB, 44 SO, 80 ERA+, 1.453 WHIP
Kawakami - 11 GS, 4.91 ERA, 62 IP, 68 H, 37 R, 34 ER, 18 BB, 36 SO, 82 ERA+, 1.380 WHIP

Lowe has had four cheap wins (win with four or more earned runs allowed) and one tough loss (loss with quality start). Kawakami has had no cheap wins (naturally) and three tough losses. The Braves are 8-5 when Lowe starts and 3-8 when Kawakami starts.

The hardest Kawakami non-win to take was a start against Cincinnati. Kawakami shut out the Reds on five hits and one walk in six innings despite pitching with a blister and a strained back. However, Takashi Saito coughed up three runs in the eighth and Billy Wagner blew his second save of the year by giving up a pinch-hit solo homer to rookie Chris Heisey. The Braves eventually won in the bottom of the inning.

Kawakami's eighth loss charged to him really wasn't his fault. He gave up two runs in each of the first two innings against the Dodgers, but the Braves tied up the game at four in the top of the seventh, breaking through against Clayton Kershaw and Hong-Chih Kuo. In the bottom of the inning, Kawakami struck out leadoff hitter Matt Kemp. Then, Andre Ethier hit a ground-rule double. After intentionally walking Manny Ramirez, Kawakami was relieved by left-hander Eric O'Flaherty. Eric's first pitch was hit by James Loney for an RBI single. The Dodgers took the game by the 5-4 score from that single. Because it was Kawakami's runner that scored from second base, he was charged with the run and the loss that followed.

Now, entering his twelfth start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Kawakami will hope to avoid uncharted territory in Braves history by getting his first win of the season.

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