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Updated: May 18th, 2010 2:48pm
Mackey: A closer look at Carl Pavano's feast or famine lifestyle

Mackey: A closer look at Carl Pavano's feast or famine lifestyle

by Phil Mackey

Carl Pavano continued his run of feast or famine pitching this season by allowing six earned runs in four innings on Tuesday, as the Twins dropped a matinee contest to the Blue Jays 11-2. Pavano also allowed 10 hits and two home runs.

I've made reference to the notion that Pavano is a feast or famine pitcher at least once this season, and possibly more.

I'm not exactly sure how other people define a feast or famine pitcher, but the guidelines I used two weeks ago were simple: Any start where a pitcher allows two earned runs or fewer is a feast, and any start where a pitcher allows six earned runs or more is a famine.

This time around, let's add a few more variables: Any start where a pitcher fails to pitch beyond four innings is a famine. Any start where a pitcher goes at least eight innings while allowing three earned runs is a feast. And any start where a pitcher throws at least six innings while allowing two earned runs or fewer is a feast. Unless he throws five shutout innings. Then it's still a feast.

Anything in the middle, including the Scott Baker special (seven innings, four earned runs) and the Kyle Lohse special (six innings, three or four earned runs) doesn't count.

So far this season, Pavano has made eight starts, and ALL of them have fallen into my feast or famine categories. Six times Pavano has allowed two earned runs or fewer, and twice he's allowed at least six earned runs while failing to pitch beyond the fourth inning -- a double whammy famine.

No seven-inning, four earned run performances. No six-inning, three earned run performances. It's either been a blow-up, like today, or a gem.

It's hard to draw accurate comparisons between Pavano and other starting pitchers in the feast or famine debate because there are so many variables, but in 2009 four starting pitchers shared similar ERAs to the veteran right-hander, who finished with a 5.10 mark -- Braden Looper (5.22), Ricky Nolasco (5.06), Jeremy Guthrie (5.04), and Mike Pelfrey (5.03).

En route to those ERAs, Pavano tallied 14 feasts and seven famines in 33 starts (64%). Looper tallied 11 feasts and five famines in 34 starts (47%), Nolasco 12 feasts and seven famines in 31 starts (61%), Guthrie eight feasts and four famines in 33 starts (36%), and Pelfrey 10 feasts and five famines in 31 starts (48%).

Obviously the best ERA pitchers in the league aren't allowing six earned runs very often. Zack Greinke (2.16 ERA last season), for instance, had only one famine start all of last season. And out of his 33 starts, 24 were feasts.

If nothing else, the above numbers help to illustrate two things:

1.) Of pitchers with high ERAs in 2009, nobody was more wildly inconsistent than Pavano. And nobody in the 5.00+ ERA category threw as many gems (or feasts) as Pavano either.

2.) I've made this point numerous times, but I'll say it again; Pavano isn't nearly as bad as his 5.10 ERA last season suggests. But that's not to say his 5.10 ERA isn't justified. If you give up six earned runs multiple times per year, your ERA will skyrocket.

After his Rogers Centre shellacking on Tuesday, Pavano's ERA for this season rose from 3.30 to 4.11. Not terrible by any means, but looking back at the first two months of the season, my first thought was, 'man, Pavano's ERA is above 4.00? He's been awesome this season, how can that be?'

Feast or famine.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Scott Baker, Carl Pavano