Home Editorials It’s not fair! – Barry Koplen

It’s not fair! – Barry Koplen

Like so many American men, I’ve loved baseball since the times I was a little boy. Thanks to my father and his sister-in-law (a Yankee and Doger fan from New York City), I was introduced to the sport.

Frequently, after work, Dad would take me for a ride whenever he had to run errands for my mother. That’s when I remember listening to baseball games on the radio. We didn’t talk then because the games were too exciting.

As for my aunt, she loved to watch baseball games when I came to visit on weekends. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Although I played Little League ball, I was never first string. Nonetheless, I was both a fan and a student of the game. All the baseball stats fascinated me.

Even so, one of those statistics has never seemed fair. Known as E.R.A., it’s the earned run average that every pitcher accumulates with each inning he pitches. It’s not hard to calculate. By adding all of the ‘earned’ runs opponents have scored against that pitcher and dividing that total by nine (as in nine innings of a regular baseball game), the answer is the pitcher’s E.R.A.

Anything below three is excellent. That said, an E.R.A. below two is beyond extraordinary.

There is a problem with those numbers as they relate to relief pitchers. Relievers are called on to take the place of starters for a number of reasons. But the main reason for substituting a relief pitcher for the starting pitcher is because the starter is being scored against considerably by the other team.

That where the E.R.A. takes its toll.

Consider this. Imagine that the starting pitcher pitches six innings of the game and the reliever is called on to pitch the final three innings. Both pitchers allow one run. Although the team wins and the reliever saved the victory, the winner’s E.R.A. is about 1.67 while the reliever’s is double that.

Despite saving the game, the reliever has a much higher E.R.A. although he never gets to pitch as many innings as the starter. Indeed, he’s not supposed to.

That’s why starters SHOULD be measured by their E.R.A. But relievers should be rated by their R.P.A., the number of runs allowed per appearance.

Justice would be served by creating that R.P.A. as a statistic equal in importance to the starter’s E.R.A.

Please share your thoughts with me about this, and, if you agree, with the Commissioner of Baseball too!