Here are the career numbers of three right-handed relief pitchers (numbers gleaned early Wednesday from Baseball Reference and may not reflect last night's play):
Pitcher A (age 32): 443 innings, 3.70 ERA, 1.0 HR/9. 2.8 BB/9, 7.3K/9
Pitcher B (age 31) 439 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.1 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
Pitcher C (age 28): 346.1 IP, 3.56 ERA, 0.8 HR9. 3.3 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
Pretty interchangable, right? Pitcher A has a higher strikeout rate, but his ERA is the worst. Pitcher B has the best ERA, but he's a bit more prone to the gopher ball. Pitcher C walks a few more men than the other two, but he does a better job of keeping the ball in the park. But these are small differences. None is great; all are useful.
Pitcher A is Jon Rauch. Pitcher B is Matt Guerrier. And Pitcher C, as you probably inferred from the blog title, is Jesse Crain.
Every team has players its fans love to hate. Crain is one of those for the Twins.
Crain pitched the eighth inning Tuesday to protect a one-run lead, and the Star Tribune game story noted that his ERA over his past 19 appearances is 1.04. This overstates his effectiveness; on June 10 he allowed three unearned runs — two hits and a walk in two-third of an inning — in a game the Twins lost by one. It helped his ERA, but he didn't get the job done that day.
He has been on most days, however. The fans may not trust him as much as they do Rauch and Guerrier, but that merely illustrates the limits of fan understanding.
A belated recap of last week's poll, on predicting Johan Santana's career wins total:
We had 27 responses. One said Santana would win less than 150 games; 13 (48 percent) said 150-199 wins; another 13 said 200-249. Nobody (in this poll) thinks he'll get past 250, and that probably means that nobody voting in this poll thinks he'll get into the Hall of Fame.