It’s a wonder seeing a starting pitcher winless this far into the season. After 13 or 14 starts, one would expect several wins, losses, and no decisions from them. When you’re paying a guy over $7 million to pitch for your team, you expect a few wins, especially if your team’s in first place.

The Baltimore Orioles feel this way about Kevin Millwood, certainly. He has 14 appearances, a 5.16 ERA, an 0-8 record, and leads the American League in home runs and hits allowed. It could be that his career is nearing his end.

He’s not the hard-luck pitcher of 2005, but a battered down shell of himself.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, on the other hand, could be the new heir to the hard luck crown, or an absolute joke, depending on one’s view.

He currently has an 0-9 record, a 4.42 ERA, 25 walks, 50 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.418  in 13 games. Most of those stats look like ones from your typical 4th or 5th starter, except for that first one.

In Kawakami’s case, should he really be winless this far into the season? That answer is a resounding no. Atlanta’s 3-10 when he starts, which isn’t good by any means, but let’s look at those three wins:

May 14 vs. Arizona—Four runs, three earned in 4.1 innings. The Braves won thanks to a two-run ninth, 6-5, so no credit to Kawakami there.

May 19 vs. Cincinnati—Kawakami threw six shutout innings with five strikeouts, but the Reds scored eight runs in the eighth to tie the game and give Kawakami the no decision. He would have gotten the win if not for a rare bad performance by Takashi Saito.

June 9 vs. Arizona—Same story. Six shutout innings, eight K’s, but no run support until the eighth inning. Should have a win.

So Kawakami should have at least two wins in those shutouts. Does he deserve the losses he has though? He gave up at least three runs in each of those losses, so I can’t write any of them off.

A 2-9 record is nonetheless still quite poor, and still keeps him in the company of Wandy Rodriguez and Charlie Morton, both of whom have nine losses, though they have wins at least.

Kawakami’s other stats also seem to support the hard-luck theory. He’s not in the top 10 NL pitchers in any bad categories (hits allowed, earned runs, wild pitches, etc.) and his WAR is a very average 0.0. In fact, his WAR, ERA+, and WHIP are all better, albeit slightly, than fellow Braves’ pitcher Derek Lowe, who is sitting pretty with an 8-5 record.

To argue the side of him being bad though, he needs to keep the earned runs down if he wants to win. If he allows three earned and the Braves lose, 3-2, then oh well, he should’ve allowed fewer. Furthermore, he has one very concerning stat: He has never finished out the seventh inning, and five times he failed to make it past the fifth.

It’s hard to win a game when you don’t pitch a good deal of it.

Nonetheless, I’m going to fall into the camp that thinks Braves’ fans need to give the guy a break. He’s not pitching all that well, but he’s not terrible. Some teams would love to have him. I’m sure the Orioles would trade Millwood for him, and the Pirates could use a decent starter (Never said they were good teams).

It’s difficult to think of a pitcher for a first place team as hard-luck, but if anyone falls under that umbrella besides Zack Greinke, it’s Kawakami. He allows some earned runs, but they’re few enough that Heyward or Prado should be able to knock a few runs in for him.

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