Sunday, June 24, 2012

Decisions, Decisions: Jon Rauch Has Plenty of Them

On Saturday night, Jon Rauch allowed a go-ahead home run to pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.  Since the Mets failed to tie the game after Chavez's opposite-field shot, Rauch was saddled with the loss, his seventh of the not-yet-half-completed season.  He is on pace to lose 15 games, a staggering number for a starting pitcher, let alone a reliever.

Although it is not uncommon for a reliever to rack up wins and losses, Rauch is on track to do some things that have never happened in Mets history, and it has everything to do with decisions, decisions, and more decisions.

Jon Rauch currently has seven losses on the season.  If Rauch were to reach double digits in losses, he would become the first Met since Greg McMichael in 1997 to do so.  McMichael went 7-10 for the '97 Mets, with all 73 of his appearances coming in relief.

Rauch does not just lose games.  He has also been on the winning end on three occasions.  His ten decisions put him on track to finish the campaign with over 20 combined wins and losses.  Only three Mets relievers have ever racked up a minimum of 20 decisions.  Skip Lockwood became the first Met to do so in 1978 when he went 7-13 in 57 relief appearances.  In 1983, Jesse Orosco joined Lockwood by going 13-7 in 62 relief appearances.  Finally, in 1986, Roger McDowell set the franchise record for wins (14) and decisions (23) for a relief pitcher when he went 14-9 in 75 appearances.

With his seven defeats, Jon Rauch is currently the team leader in losses.  Only twice in the Mets' 50-year history has a relief pitcher led the team in losses.  As detailed in the previous paragraph, Roger McDowell lost nine games for the Mets in 1986.  That was enough to lead the eventual World Series champions in losses that year, as starting pitcher Rick Aguilera was second on the team with seven defeats.  One year later, Jesse Orosco duplicated McDowell's feat.  In 1987, Orosco went 3-9 for a team that had none of its starters lose more than eight games (Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez both finished the season with identical 12-8 records).  Not since Orosco a quarter century ago has a reliever led the team in losses.  Jon Rauch has two more losses than starting pitcher Dillon Gee (5-5).  No other Met has more than three losses in 2012.

Jon Rauch is already in the Mets' record books for tallest player in team history.  But at his current pace, he might etch his name in those books in a few other categories.  Should he lose 14 games in relief, he would surpass Skip Lockwood's total from 1978 by one.  He could also become the fourth Met reliever to be credited with 20 decisions in a single season and the third Met to lead the team in losses out of the bullpen.

Fortunately for Rauch, all three relievers he would join or erase from the record books (Lockwood, McDowell, Orosco) were beloved Mets - players who were good enough to be nominated for best left-handed and right-handed relief pitchers on the recent all-time Mets team.  But surely Rauch would trade in those potential spots in the team's record books for more consistent pitching.  After a brilliant start to the season (no runs allowed in his first 11 appearances), Rauch has allowed the opponent to score in ten of his last 22 appearances, earning the loss in all but three of those ten games.

Jon Rauch is a very good pitcher.  But he can be better.  If he continues to pile up decisions, especially in the 'L' column, then Terry Collins might have to make a few decisions of his own when it comes to bringing in Rauch to pitch in a tight game or calling upon another member of the Mets bullpen.

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