Angels lefty Joe Saunders turned 29 ten days ago and is pitching more like a 39-year-old of late. He has appeared dominant in a few games, pitching 2 CGs, one of which was a shutout. But after 15 games he basically rivals Scott Kazmir for the gutter of the team's starting pitching.
What is so different? Hokie Joe pitched 31 games in each of the past two seasons, so let's use this acceptable sample size to look at the numbers.
87 IP... Double this and you get 174. He had 186 IP in '09 and 198 IP in '08. Considering he only pitched one CG in each of those seasons, we can tell he is getting yanked from some blowup turkey starts. Of course, he lost 7 games in each of the past two seasons and has already lost 8 this year, so... yeah... Scioscia's hook has been because Joe takes a gascan out to the mound with him on two occasions: early and often.
39 BB ... (64/'09 ... 53/'08) ... He is walking way too many batters. Seems guys wait for his breaking stuff to hit the zone before they hack and there are plenty of ABs where that just does not happen. Hitters listen to advance scouts who, like us, have probably noticed that there is less late zip-n-twist to Joe's once legendary curve.
40 K ... (101/'09 ... 103/'08) ... 80 strikeouts this season would be a big drop, like his curve used to drop in there for strike three, which just seems to happen less and less. He cannot hit the zone and his nibbling for it that used to pay off with grounders and dramatic strikeouts now just contribute to that walk total.
Colonel Saunders has gone from a finger lickin' good 1.94 K/BB in his All Star 2008, to a respectable 1.54 K/BB in 2009 to his now hovering near 1.0 ... and throughout his career Saunders has not been a hot/cold pitcher (alá Ervin Santana). His good games and bad games were never too far apart in performance, and so there is little credibility to imagining that this rate will fluctuate up radically in his favor.
For a pitch-to-contact arm like Saundo, the lack of strikeouts meeting up with and inability to find the strike zone has given Angels fans something to groan about. He does not seem to be fighting through injury like last season and he has had glimmers of brilliance against mediocre teams that remind us he still knows the nuts and bolts of mixing pitches and hitting spots. But for all the grief that big ticket Scott Kazmir gets from the fan base, it is our own homegrown Hokie who is stuck wearing the inglorious badge of fifth starter.