This is my first attempt at posting. Any comments or constructive criticism will be appreciated.
(I know Andrew_G did a similar piece on OD, but this is a subject I've wanted to write about for a while)
I lately got into a discussion online with another baseball fan when I called Guts "a legitimate #2 on any team." He has a strong saber-slant, as do I, and although by looking at Guts' advanced stats it may not show, I still believe he is a solid pitcher and a deserving ace until either Matusz or Britton are ready.
Never a strikeout pitcher (5.5 career K/9), Guts' ability to limit his baserunners depends on his ability to limit his walks. Between 2007-2010, or in other words, since joining the O's and becoming a regular SP, he ranks 23 among qualified starters in BB/9 with just 2.5, giving him a 2.2 K/BB rate.
During his terrible 2009, which has left a real black mark on his reputation, many of his career ratios took a turn for the worse. His HR/9 jumped to 1.58, riding a change in FB%, which jumped from 38 to 46.5%. This change came with a drop in his GB%, which reached a career low 34.7%. In addition, the percentage of batters he stranded dropped almost 6 percent from 76.7 to 70.9.
2009 was also the only year when Guthrie's BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) even approached league average, as he logged a BABIP of .286 (league average is between .290-.300). His figures for the other years? .270, .259, .254.
Many things can lower BABIP, mostly a good fielding team behind you and a high GB% or low LD% (ground balls are the least likely to be hits, line drives the most). We can all agree that for the past 4 years the O's haven't fielded great defensive teams, to say the least, and Guts' career ground ball and line drive rates are just about average.
So why the success? The only two stats I could find that are either far above or below average were LOB% and BABIP. These two stats, coincidentally, are the two most associated with luck. But when someone can keep being "lucky" over 3 of 4 full seasons, you start to wonder if the dice are loaded. Apparently, Guts is just one of those cases that (thankfully) remind us that stats can't predict everything, and that "stuff", that elusive, unquantifiable quality, is just as real as wOBAcon (had to get that in there somehow). And Guts has "stuff". By consistently outperforming his peripheral stats, Jeremy Guthrie has given us a legit staff ace during difficult times.