In the Mailbag column on Orioles.com, Spencer Fordin was asked if Steve Trachsel could actually be better than Kris Benson might have been this year. Fordin doesn't think so (and I agree with him) but one part of his response got me thinking:
"Benson's ERA was skewed by a couple abysmal starts in 2006, but for the most
part, he pitched relatively well in his AL adjustment year."
That didn't ring true to me. I seemed to remember Benson having flashes of briliance followed by ineffective starts and many mediocre ones. Regardless, I decided to test Fordin's assertion that "a couple" of bad starts were to blame for Benson's poor ERA.
Benson had 9 starts where he went only 5 innings or less but we'll throw out what were his worst two starts. On May 24th, he gave up 6 earned over two innings in a 7-4 loss at Seattle and on September 27th, Benson gave up a whopping 8 earned runs over 2.2 innings at Yankee Stadium.
So, throwing out those two dismal starts gives Benson an drop in his ERA all the way down to...4.23. Much better obviously, even if it's still nothing to write home about.
Of course, if you're going to remove the extremes at one end, you should remove the extremes on the other end. It's only fair and gives you a pretty good idea of what a pitcher can be reasonably expected to deliver on the average night. Removing Benson's May 19th game against Washington where he pitched a complete game with a lone run allowed and his June 17th outing against the Mets where he gave up one run over 8 IP, his new ERA is...4.57. The league average ERA last year was 4.52. So, at best, Benson was a mediocrity last year.
I think the bottom line here is that Benson was not just the victim of a couple of bad outings; he really was pretty lousy last year.