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Fun With The Bill James Handbook, Part I....

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My favorite curiosity from the 2005 Bill James Handbook:

Fastest Average Fastball, National League:
  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. Randy Johnson
  3. Jason Schmidt
  4. Ben Sheets
  5. Carlos Zambrano
  6. Oliver Perez
  7. Jaret Wright
  8. Roger Clemens

No real surprises. And then....
9. Brett Tomko

Tomko's late year success has been attributed to a number of things. He had his best games against the Brewers and Diamondbacks, and that's what the Glass Half-Empty Armada point to first. The optimists among Giants fans note his improvement nicely coincided with regular visits to a sports psychiatrist. Artists are such tortured souls.

The idea that some bearded Robin Williams-type is behind Tomko's success does not inspire much confidence. We would always hear about how Shawn Estes was perpetually about to turn the corner with help from a sports psychiatrist. That particular doctor couldn't determine the roots of Estes' impenetrable fear of the strike zone. Maybe it went back to when Estes went to the circus, and a strike zone killed his dad.

The above list lends statistical support to what both optimists and pessimists could agree on. About 90% of the time, it sure looked like Tomko was a good pitcher. Not that fastball speed directly correlates with success, but the pitchers above Tomko on the list were all excellent last year. The other 10% of the time he was a Charlie Brown-like heap on the mound, and play would have to stop as he found his missing socks.

The other list Tomko appeared on was "Highest Percentage of Fastballs Thrown", where he again ranked ninth. So, last year he was throwing fastballs with good velocity and throwing them often. Could that be the difference? The mistakes he made weren't necessarily minimized by Pac Bell, either. He gave up 12 homers at home, and only seven on the road. If he can continue avoiding homeruns everywhere, the Giants have a very good pitcher.

A lot of the optimism I personally have about the Giants starting staff revolves around the precept that post-All Star break Tomko is the real thing. Like the time I applied for a music critic position at Pitchforkmedia.com, and let it slip I really, really enjoy the song "What a Fool Believes" by The Doobie Brothers, some things are best kept inside. Optimism about the Giants starting pitching is not something shared by everyone reading this, and credibility is a finite thing. But whether by shrink or manifest destiny, I am expecting good things from Tomko this year.