When will Jeremy Guthrie get some respect?

I can still remember it now.

I wrote a column last winter that got some readers very stirred up. It brought me what felt like an avalanche of criticism. Some questioned my sanity, not to mention my intelligence about baseball.

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The comment I made was pretty simple. I wrote that, at his best, Jeremy Guthrie is in John Lackey's class as a pitcher.

I'd like to remind you that I wrote that about a pitcher coming off a season where he led the league in losses and had an ERA of 5.04.

But I remembered how well Guthrie pitched in 2007 and 2008 and liked his chances to pitch a lot better in the coming season.

I also should point out that I never said Guthrie was as good as, or better than Lackey. Lackey was in the news because he was a sought-after free agent and would go on to sign a five-year, $82 million deal with Boston last winter.

Here is how both pitchers did in 2010:
Lackey: 14-11, 4.40......215 IP.......277 average against.......765 OPS.........1.419 WHIP.
Guthrie: 11-14, 3.83......209 IP.......243 average against.......714 OPS.........1.161 WHIP.

I know Lackey dealt with some elbow issues, but he also made 33 starts and pitched 215 innings.

To me the bigger point of all this is why doesn't Guthrie get more respect?

Last year some fans of the new metrics claimed Guthrie had just been somewhat lucky in posting an
ERA of 3.70 in 2007 (13th in the AL) and 3.63 in 2008 (14th in the AL).

They felt the "real" Guthrie was more like the 2009 version.

I disagreed.

This past season, Guthrie was 22nd in the AL in ERA, 17th in opponent batting average, 14th in innings and 7th in WHIP.

If that is luck, may all O's pitchers be so fortunate.

Guthrie's ERA last year was better than those of Matt Garza, Gavin Floyd, Zach Greinke, Brian Matusz, Rick Porcello, Mark Buerhle, Phil Hughes, James Shields, Scott Baker, Jeremy Bonderman and A.J. Burnett.

I have heard many fans say "Guthrie is a third or fourth starter on a good team." That may be somewhat true, but he would certainly be better than a three or four on most teams.

Any team that can say Guthrie is their third or fourth best starter must have a really good rotation.

Guthrie is one of those guys you probably need to see pitch over a long time to impress you. He won't often have a dominant game that makes you say "wow." He's just pretty steady and consistent and yes, pretty good.

He's had three very solid years for an O's team that picked him up on a waiver claim. He is not just lucky.

And, yes, at his best, he is in Lackey's class as a pitcher.

By the way, thanks to MASNsports.com management for locating one of those stories from last winter about Guthrie & Lackey. We could not retrieve the comments, but the stories I wrote on this topic garnered a lot of them.

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