Tim Benz: Dear Pirates pitchers, I’m sorry for everything I did
Don’t blame Trevor Williams for that rough outing in St. Louis on Monday. That was on me.
Williams’ first rocky start since the All-Star break — four earned runs allowed in five innings pitched — was a result of bad timing and nothing more.
It just happened to be his first start since I wrote something good about him. And me writing something positive about a Pirates pitcher is even more likely to be a kiss of death than seeing St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter at the plate with the bases loaded.
Invariably this season, whenever I shower a Pirates pitcher with praise, his wheels come off the wagon.
Williams has been a victim twice in 2018. This rare poor outing from him came on the heels of a story I posted after his last start on Sept. 3, where I turned him into the new Kyle Hendricks. Those four earned runs the righty allowed against the Cardinals matched his entire post-All-Star break total.
Back in April, I wrote about how Williams had been excellent to start 2018. He was pulled with a no-hitter going in his first start. Then he allowed just three total runs in 11 1⁄3 innings over his next two.
From the point when my column posted until the end of May, Williams won just twice and saw his ERA soar from 1.56 to 3.84. At one point before the All-Star game, it got as high as 4.60.
Coincidence? I think not.
Actually, it’s 100 percent coincidence. But I’m self-loathing enough to take the blame.
Need further proof? Look what “Breakfast With Benz” did to Chad Kuhl. During a six-start stretch between early May and mid-June, the young right-hander posted five quality starts. Since pitching through the sixth inning was something Kuhl could barely do in 2017, we felt it warranted a column on June 7.
I suppose the baseball gods disagreed. Kuhl immediately cooled off, allowing 14 runs over 17 innings pitched. Then he ended up on the 60-day disabled list.
You’re welcome, Chad.
Then there’s Jameson Taillon. The team’s perceived ace had an ERA of 0.89 on April 14 after three starts. So I penned an ode to his early season performance which ran on April 18. The next day, he gave up five earned runs to the Phillies and couldn’t make it out of the second inning. By the end of May, Taillon’s ERA was 4.53.
At least he bounced back from my curse of positivity. Perhaps intentionally, I’ve stayed away from writing about Taillon since. As a result, it appears he has gotten back on track and has a solid 12-9 record with a respectable 3.40 ERA.
All thing considered, especially the heavy burden of the jinx of this page, that’s a good turnaround.
Heck, I even ruined the Chris Archer trade before it happened when I stated that the Pirates should consider acquiring him from Tampa. Look how that turned out!
For all this bad karma via good intentions, I apologize to the Pirates pitching staff. The good news is the season is almost over, and I really can’t doom it more than I already have.
The bad news is, I think the starting staff has a chance to be pretty good next year. I smell a big spring training feature series brewing pitcher-by-pitcher.
Look out Joe Musgrove. You’re up first.