Brian McCann's far from the only person who wants to give Kris Medlen a hug right now.
This site has become something like Kris Medlen Central lately, but that only makes sense, given his fantastic performance since moving into the starting rotation. His current statistics are so overwhelming that I am having a hard time narrowing down my "Kris Medlen Facts" into a post of readable length.
Let's start with the basics. Medlen's 1.56 ERA is easily the best in baseball among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched (he's at 104 IP). Another Braves pitcher, Brandon Beachy, is second with a 2.00 ERA in 81 IP, figures that sadly will not change this season. Felix Hernandez is next best, with a 2.51 ERA in 100 more innings than Medlen.
If Medlen's season ended today, his ERA would be the best for a pitcher with at least 100 IP since Greg Maddux posted a 1.56 ERA in 1994. Medlen's ERA+ is 260, which means his ERA is 160% better than a league average pitcher who pitched in the same parks. That's a huge number; in fact, it'd be the second-best since the 1994-95 Player's Strike (min. 100 IP):
Pretty good company, eh? That's not to say Medlen is as good a pitcher as Maddux or Mariano Rivera, but his ERA so far has been about as good as their bests. That ERA is not a total fluke, either, as Medlen's peripherals are flat-out fantastic. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP, which combines home run, strikeout, and walk rates into an ERA-like number) is 2.22. Again, that is the best of 2012 by a sizeable margin (min. 80 IP). Stephen Strasburg's 2.64 FIP in 156 IP is second-best.
More Kris Medlen Facts after the jump.
The biggest driving factor in Medlen's phenomenal FIP is his absurdly low home run rate. He's allowed just 2 homers in 104 IP, which is good for a 0.17 HR/9 figure, easily the best in 2012 and one of the best since 1995:
Once again, that is an amazing group of pitchers to be associated with (plus Charlie Morton!).
Normally, with a pitcher who spent most of the year in relief, I'd be pointing out how his overall rates only look so good because of the advantages of pitching in short stints out of the bullpen. Yet somehow Medlen's numbers are much better as a starter (0.54 ERA, 1.66 FIP, 50 K to 5 BB) than as a reliever (2.48 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 36 K to 13 BB). He's allowed 1 homer in each role, in roughly the same number of innings.
All this just speaks to the freakish streak that Medlen is on as a starter; no one is as good as he's been pitching lately, so we know it won't last indefinitely. But it has been amazing to watch so far.
Speaking of streaks, Medlen has thrown 4 straight starts now without allowing an earned run. He also went at least 7 innings in each start. Since 1995, only a few pitchers have had a longer streak meeting those criteria (though coincidentally, one was just a few months ago):
|Chan Ho Park||2000-09-19||2001-04-02||4||1||32.0||15||0||11||41||LAD|
Look at Medlen's strikeout and walk numbers in those 4 starts: 34 Ks to 1 BB. He's faced some fairly weak competition, but that's still insane (and even better than the 25-to-1 ratio that Maddux had during his streak). By the way, the all-time longest streak is 6, held by two Dodgers greats, Orel Hershiser and Don Drysdale.
Medlen probably has 5 more starts left this year, which should put him at around 135 to 140 IP; there's basically no chance that he qualifies for the ERA title. That means that even if his numbers end up in the same stratosphere where they currently reside, he won't be setting many "official" MLB records. But if he can keep his numbers from slipping too far in the final month, he'll appear in a lot of lists like the ones above, with arbitrary inning cutoffs allowing him to mingle with all-time greats.
Regardless of how Medlen's season ends, what he's done to this point has been difficult to describe, and perhaps even more difficult to put into a proper context. His half reliever/half starter profile makes fair comparisons all but impossible. All I can really say is that it's been one of the most dominant stints of starting pitching in recent memory, and one of the most surprising, given Medlen's very-good-but-not-great track record before returning to the rotation.
Are there any Cy Young Awards in Medlen's future? Probably not. I hope, however, that there are a few more "Kris Medlen Facts" posts in my future.