Saturday, July 15, 2006

The law of averages

Edward Mujica isn't the next bullpen dynamo in baseball. But he's having one heck of a year.
He rode a streak of 47 1/3 innings without surrendering an earned run all the way to the majors, where Indians manager Eric Wedge saw fit to leave him in for the 10th inning of Friday's game against the Twins.
All good things must come to an end, and for Mujica, the earned run streak ended right then. And, in true Indians bullpen fashion, the result was a loss.
One flyout, then three straight singles and a 3-2 Twins victory.
Mujica's ERA jumped from 0.00 to 1.04, causing him to fall behind the ERAs of Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon (0.57) and Toronto closer B.J. Ryan (0.84). None of them have enough innings pitched to qualify for the official ERA standings, however.
After the game, Mujica reacted to his first taste of defeat in the Majors.
"I didn't want it to end," he told The Plain Dealer when asked about his streak.
No one probably expected it to last this long.
In a perfect world, Mujica, 22, would be a reincarnation of Julian Tavarez in 1995. A jack-of-all-trades rookie with limited stuff who simply spots his fastball well enough to be effective. But he has to get back on the horse and ride.
Too often, when a young pitcher gets his first taste of failure on the big stage, it spawns a huge slump as the youngster struggles to get his confidence back. That can be magnified if a young pitcher has had the the kind of absolute success Mujica has experienced so far this year.
This is where the Indians' nonexistent veteran leadership needs to finally make itself visible. Pitchers like Bob Wickman and Guillermo Mota need to pull Mujica aside and give him some encouragement before his next outing.
If Wickman and Mota depart via trade before the end of this month, there will be nobody left among the player ranks to give rookies like Mujica direction. Those of us left behind, fans and players alike, will have to deal with the consequences.

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