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An Open Letter to David Herndon on the Day Mike Stutes's ERA Climbed Above His

Dear David Herndon

It's nothing personal, I swear. For all I know, you are a perfectly fine human being. By that same token, for all I know you are a closeted neo-Nazi who impales chinchillas with a pitchfork, sets them on fire, and uses them to light his basement torture dungeon. I don't care. 

It's not about who you are. 

It's about what you do on the baseball diamond and how you are perceived and treated by Phillies fans--in particular, the apparent disconnect between those two things. So, it's about justice. 

For some reason, people in this city really hate you. If many fans had their way, you would be consigned to mop-up duty. Your entrance into close games is still greeted with groans and angry mutterings of "Oh God, Herndon? Really?!" 

They can't possibly be looking objectively at your performance this season, because if they did that, they'd recognize that you have actually been quite good. Rather, fan opinion of you seems to have been poisoned by your replacement-level 2010 campaign and your rough start this season. You're not a bad pitcher, but damnit if people don't really want you to be a bad pitcher. 

During your horrid start to this season (which I'm sure you would prefer not to remember) a number of fans insisted that you were simply performing to your true talent level and that your prospects for success at the Major League level were grim. On May 1, I came to your defense, arguing that you possess two valuable skills as a pitcher: an ability to generate loads of groundballs and good control. If you could improve your K-rate (something your minor league numbers indicated there was a precedent for), I said, you could turn out to be quite a nice piece in the Phillies bullpen. 

You did, and I was right. 

So at the beginning of this month, I wrote a follow-up piece arguing that based on your respective peripheral stats, right now you are a better pitcher than fan and media darling Michael Stutes. The crux of my argument was that despite your ERA estimators all being better than Stutes's, your ERA itself was higher because an unsustainably high proportion of your flyballs were leaving the ballpark while an unsustainably low proportion of balls put in play against Stutes were being turned into outs. My conclusions didn't sit well with some of the people who are predisposed to disliking you. 

Implicit in that piece was the notion that as you both continued to pitch and as both of your luck continued to normalize, your ERA would, in turn, dip below Stutes's. Since posting that piece, you have pitched nine scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Stutes has pitched 8.1 innings with six earned runs, two homers, two walks, and five strikeouts.

With his two inning appearance yesterday in which he allowed three earned runs, Stutes's ERA climbed to 3.75. At the time, your ERA was 3.61 (after your scoreless inning today, it is 3.53). Do you know what this means? It means you are really, actually better than Mike Stutes! Isn't that exciting?! 

Well, actually, my second post was built on the idea that ERA is less indicative of a pitcher's true performance than defense independent metrics like xFIP and SIERA. Since I wrote that article, the gap between Stutes's and your DIPS has widened even further. Stutes is now at 4.47/3.77 (xFIP/SIERA), you are at 3.59/3.11. But ERA was the last rickety leg your haters (and saber-bashers) had to stand on. Now that your ERA is better, their whole poorly-constructed Ikea table has toppled over. Or it should have, at least. Of course, as the old dictum goes, "haters gon' hate." Continue to be strong, don't ever let them get you down. 

This all may seem like a bunch of highfalutin mumbo jumbo to you. That's fine. If there's one thing you should take away from this letter, it is that sense of restrained smugness that comes along with knowing you are better than a more popular teammate. 

Finally, be more confident in yourself. Your accomplishments do not go unnoticed by those of us who try as hard as we can to approach baseball objectively.