You know the saying: "It's better to be lucky than good."
Well, Milwaukee Brewers starter Zach Davies has taken that to heart this season. The 24-year-old somehow owns 11 wins in spite of his dreadful 5.08 ERA.
Almost impressively, Davies ranks third in wins and 58th in ERA among 70 qualified starters.
Davies is on pace to post one of the more strangely historic seasons baseball has ever seen. According to Baseball Reference, only four pitchers have won 18 games in a season with an ERA over 5.00. Bartolo Colon was the most recent to do it; he put up an 18-12 record and a 5.01 ERA in 2004.
Detroit's Roxie Lawson has the "best worst season" of all-time. Lawson's grisly 5.28 ERA was masked by a solid 18-7 record (somehow, our old friend Roxie still finished 19th in the MVP voting that year - apparently, "Kill the Win" was not a trending topic in the 1930's).
The Brewers' dynamic offense deserves all of the credit for Davies' fortunate numbers. Davies is receiving nearly 6.5 runs per game from his offense, the second-highest total in baseball. Just look at Davies last start against Philadelphia as an example; Davies allowed six runs (five earned) in 5.1 innings pitched, but snagged the easy victory thanks to a Ryan Braun grand slam and a three-run blast by Orlando Arcia.
By comparison, Milwaukee's Jimmy Nelson is only getting 4.53 runs per game from the lineup. Nelson's vastly superior 3.27 ERA has led to only eight wins this season.
It's anyone's guess whether Davies can actually get to 18 wins (or more) this season if his struggles maintain. Winning games is a largely unpredictable statistic that relies on inconsistent factors outside of the pitcher's control.
The pitcher does have control over how deep he goes in games (the deeper he goes, the more likely he is to receive a win), but Davies isn't even especially good at that. He ranks 48th in innings pitched this season, and has only thrown more than six innings once this year.
Still, Davies has become an intriguing subplot while the Brewers race towards October. Can he keep pulling wins out of a hat while giving up five-plus runs? Will Milwaukee send him to the minors even if leads baseball in wins? Are the Brewers' batters simply toying with the rest of the pitching staff by only hitting well every fifth day?
These are the critical questions to ponder amidst a divisional pennant race.