A slumping offense can affect the performance of a team in more ways than one, especially from a psychological angle. On Thursday, we saw the Dodgers push one run across the plate in the opener against the Brewers, spoiling a complete-game effort from starter Trevor Bauer. It wasn’t Bauer’s most brilliant endeavor with regards to strikeouts or runs surrendered, but he gave his club exactly what it needed in terms of bullpen conservation.
Bauer was always one of those pitchers who garnered decent run support from his team, especially during his five-year run with the Indians. From 2013-17, his team averaged more than 4.2 runs scored for every nine innings he was on the mound. It’s not an overwhelmingly great number, but it’s certainly more than most starting pitchers are accustomed to seeing.
In his Cy Young season with the Reds last year, Bauer received just 2.10 RS/9, something we’d expect from Cincinnati, a team who has seemingly struggled with offensive production the last few seasons. So far with the Dodgers, Bauer is averaging 2.70 runs for every nine innings he’s on the hill.
For those who are unaware, run support per nine innings measures how many runs an offense scores for a certain pitcher while that pitcher is in the game. That number is then set over a nine-inning timeframe. MLB.com is one of several sites who uses this calculation on its advanced stat section for pitchers. The site indicates that “it’s important to note that for this metric, run support constitutes only the runs that are scored for a pitcher while he is in the game.”
Staff ace Clayton Kershaw is actually getting less run support than Bauer this season, a figure that Kersh has become accustomed to seeing. So far this season, he’s getting an average of 2.33 runs for each nine innings he’s on the mound. Last year, he received 2.78 RS/9 which was a bit better than Bauer.
Back in 2016, Kersh garnered an unfortunate 1.87 RS/9, the lowest of his career. Although injuries limited him to just 21 starts, he threw the ball perhaps the best that season than any other year of his career, registering career-lows in ERA at a ridiculous 1.69 and WHIP at an insane 0.72. What’s more, throughout his 13+ year MLB career, Kershaw has received an average of just 2.43 runs per nine innings.
Walker Buehler has fared much better than both Bauer and Kershaw in terms of run support. Last year, Buehler collected an average of 4.42 runs per nine innings of work. So far this year, Buehler has received 3.16 RS/9. Over the course of his career, he has garnered 5.24 RS/9.
Dustin May is just a few ticks behind Buehler, having received 2.95 RS/9 so far this season. Julio Urias has gotten the most run support of all Los Angeles starters with a 3.52 mark, which isn’t high by any stretch of the imagination.
Because RS/9 is mostly out of a starting pitcher’s control, there really isn’t a moral to this story aside from the potential psychological effect it might have, alongside an unusually high number of hard-luck losses. Nevertheless, it’s still a fantastic example of how wins should not be emphasized when determining the overall success of a starter, especially when they’re throwing for a club that’s subject to stretches of offensive woes.