How's this for a third-inning performance by right-hander Alfredo Aceves of the Boston Red Sox:
He allowed six runs and three hits, he walked three batters, he committed two balks, he was late covering first base and — on the same play — he made a throwing error. And all it took was 42 pitches, an extremely high total for one inning. Other than that, Mrs. Yastrzemski, how did you like the Oakland Athletics 13-0 rout in seven innings against the Red Sox?
Aceves' third inning: 6R, 3H, 3BB, 2BK, E, didn't cover 1B. "How'd you do that? I'm not even mad... That's amazing."
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) April 23, 2013
Oh, they're probably mad in Boston. It has to be the ugliest inning in the history of Fenway Park. Perhaps in the history of baseball. Maybe, in the history of ugly. OK, maybe that's all subject to debate. But, whoa. After the game, during an introspective session with reporters, Aceves took responsibility for what happened. Oh, wait, as the video above shows, no he didn't.
Aceves complained about the size of umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's strike zone. He complained about the awful weather (by saying he wasn't complaining about it). He complained that his teammates didn't have his back. Or that nobody had anybody's back. No backs were had, OK?! Backs and hacks:
“Also, we got our hacks. Why don’t we hit?”
In the small picture, Aceves had a memorably bad inning. In the big picture, he made it worse by complaining about his teammates not covering up his/the umpire's/Mother Nature's mistakes. In the really big picture, he's been terrible for the Red Sox since 2012 started, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports:
Entering the 2012 season, then, Aceves owned a career record of 24-3 with a 2.93 ERA over 240 innings. He had a WHIP of 1.083.
Since then, he's 3-11 with a 5.93 ERA.
How did he fall so far?
The answer is that Aceves might not have been quite that good to begin with. Fielding-independent pitching measures what you can reasonably expect a pitcher's ERA to be based off strikeouts, walks and home runs — the three true outcomes over which a pitcher possesses the most control. And from 2008 through 2011, Aceves' ERA was consistently better than his FIP, suggesting a regression was in the works.
The regression apparently includes sassy backtalk and heavy doses of denial. Ugly, ugly stuff.