Kudos to the evil, evil minds at Fire Joe Morgan for having the intestinal fortitude to make it through another afternoon of Michael Kay program on NY’s ESPN 1050. I’ve heard of hurlers “pitching to contact” (something Steve Traschel was very, very adept at in his one NLCS start), yet I’m intrigued by Kay’s views on “pitching to the runs you are given.”

Kay : Randy Johnson won 17 games last year in the toughest division in baseball…. People say he didn’t win in the playoffs. Neither did Mike Mussina and we signed him to a two-year extension.

He’s well worth they money he has on his contract….16 million. He won 17 games…please don’t forget that.

(now a caller, Chris in West Nyack)

Chris – You keep saying that it’s important that Randy Johnson won 17 games, but equally as important is, he had a five ERA.

Kay – Why does that matter? Only thing that matters is the W.

Chris – The win is the function of the team. But the ERA is more indicative of how he pitched.

Kay – How come Mike Mussina didn’t win 17 games?

Chris – This isn’t about Mike Mussina. How many pitchers in the AL would win 17 games if they pitched behind the Yankees. With that run support?

Kay – But…but…It doesn’t matt…I again I tell you I understand what you’re saying that it’s a function of a team but I also say it’s a function to a…You’re a Yankee fan right? They scored eight runs he gave up six…they won, so what….he’s a veteran pitcher that knows how to pitch to the score so his ERA is going to be higher. It doesn’t matter. All that matter is if he wins and loses.

Chris – Any pitcher who gives up six runs a game under your scenario would win 17 games.

Kay – Pitchers pitch to the runs they are given. Good pitchers do that.

Chris – That’s not true. Pitchers are going out there to give up the fewest runs possible.

Kay – No. If the Yankees score 8 runs in five innings he’s not going for the shutout!

Chris – What about the year Jason Marquis won 15 games and had a 6.21 ERA. Are you impressed with that?

Kay – No, not in the national league.

Chris – What if he did it in the American League?

Kay – Yeah. I would.

Chris – So you would take someone like that over Kevin Millwood in ’04 who went 9-13 in and won the ERA title with Cleveland.

Kay – I’m gonna tell you why, and you are bringing up good points so I am not going to say that you are 100% wrong here. I believe by watching baseball my whole life and being involved with it for 25 years is that there is nothing harder to do in sports than to win a game by a pitcher. That’s why the era of the 300 win pitcher is going. It’s not easy to win games. And there is an art to it. So if the art is to win 17 games and have a 5.00 ERA I don’t care. All these Sabermatricians get locked up with all of these stats and I don’t. You know what stat I care about? Did he win the game?

On a completely unrelated note, Faith & Fear In Flushing reveals the one and only occasion in history when someone has tried to pass themselves off as Glendon Rusch.