Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is an Ace? 2011

I asked this question after the 2010 season and these were the results.

According to fWAR the top 30 pitchers in baseball had an average line of:
14 - 10, 3.23 ERA in 32 starts, 212 innings

The main point that I wanted to wait was that the average fan likely underrated the performance of most pitchers.

I'd imagine that most people would see a pitcher with a 14 - 10 record with a 3.23 ERA and think that he was a 'good' pitcher and not representative of the best 30 pitchers in baseball. 

I decided to take another look this season.  I used a similar methodology as linked to above.  I sorted by fWAR and divided the pitchers into groups of about 30.  I didn't cut off at exactly 30 because sometimes (often) the cutoff was between pitchers with identical WAR.  That didn't make sense.  So, where there was a tie, I included all pitchers with that WAR.  That makes the difference between 3.5 and 3.4 WAR significant when it really isn't, but I had to make cutoffs somewhere.

Pitchers in the "Ace" group (8.2 to 3.6 WAR) includes the obvious names like Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee.  It also includes less obvious names such as Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez and Derek Holland.  These are the true dominant 'ace' pitchers and guys who were all able to pitch a lot of good but not great innings.

The #2 starter group (3.5 to 2.5 WAR) includes Gio Gonzalez, Alexi Ogando, Jordan Zimmermann, Max Scherzer, Roy Oswalt and Derek Lowe.   Mostly guys who made all, or nearly all, of their starts and pitched will during those starts.

The #3 group (2.4 to 1.5 WAR) starts to get a little stranger.  There are the solid but not spectacular pitchers that you would expect;  Hiroki Kuroda, Colby Lewis, and Chad Billingsley but also guys who pitched well but only for a limited time.  Names like: Josh Johnson, Cory Luebke, Josh Colmenter and Felipe Paulino.

The #4 starters (1.4 to 1.0 WAR) are a few guys like Randy Wolf and Joe Saunders who made all their starts but who aren't that good but mostly pitchers who missed more than a handful of starts.  Guys like Brett Anderson and Clay Buchholz.  Stephen Strasburg's 5 dominating starts were enough to land him here as well.

The #5 group (.9 to .5 WAR) again has a few full time starters - Brad Penny, Wade Davis and Aaron Harang but is mostly guys who made 10 to 20 starts during the season.  These names are: Phil Hughes,  Alfredo Simon,  Kyle Davis, and Jonathan Sanchez.

The last group, the AAA pitchers (less than .5 WAR) has some full time starters who were dreadful (Bronson Arroyo, Dillan Gee and JA Happ), a ton of part-time starters (Rich Harden, Chin-Ming Wang, Randy Wells and Kevin Slowey) and guys trying to make a name in the bigs (Matt Moore, Tom Millone, Nate Eovaldi, Lance Lynn and Julio Tehran).

*embiggening available by clicking

Unsurprisingly, ace pitchers are credited with more wins, pitch more innings, make more starts, strike out more batters, walk less batters, give up less home runs and hits, get more ground balls and produce more WAR than other pitchers.  Also not surprising, each level of pitcher produces less than the level above them in most every statistic.

The surprising thing, I think, is just how quickly things fall of after the top pitchers.  The top pitchers can be expected to hold the opposition to just over 3 runs per 9 innings pitched.  While the second tier is giving up nearly 4.

An average #3 pitcher in 2011 went 9 - 10 with a 4.10 ERA in just 162 innings.  I think most people would look at that number and think back of the rotation starter - a guy you'd be looking to upgrade.  In reality, he represents the 50% mark.  Half of pitchers are better than him and half are worse.

The other point that I wanted to make was how important the quantity of innings pitched is.  The number of innings for each group drops off.  That makes sense as I grouped the players by number of runs saved and one can save more runs in more innings.  But it doesn't change the fact that a good pitcher pitching a lot of innings is better than a good pitcher throwing a few innings or a bad pitcher throwing a lot of innings.

Look at the number of starts.  Teams get 32 starts from their aces, 29 from the #2's, 27 from the #3's, 21 from the #4's, and just 15 from the #5's.  That leaves 38 starts for the AAA group.  Some of these guys are prospects making their way into the bigs, some are major league quality pitchers who didn't make it through the season due to injury, but a lot are guys forced into action because someone has to make those starts.

Here's an opportunity to talk about replacement level.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by ace level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 32 in this sample.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by #2 level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 23 in this sample.  Teams would like those 38 starts to be made by #3 or #4 or even #5 level pitchers-but there aren't enough to go around-only 94 in this sample.  108 players made up the AAA group.  This is replacement level.   The supply of useful players is exhausted.  There are roughly 30 players capable of producing at each of the higher levels, but over 100 capable of producing at this level.  Thus, the value of these players drops off considerably - basically to zero.  If a team can't get Kevin Correia  to make a start, they can get John Ely or Yuneski Maya or Alex Sanabia...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fili's GOD for 8/22/2012: DBacks vs Marlins

Today's Game Of the Day features the debuts of two starting pitchers.

The first to debut, by virtue of pitching for the home team, will be Tyler Skaggs.  Skaggs' average rank on three prospect lists was 11th.

Skaggs' best pitch is a curveball.   He also throws a 90-92 MPH fastball and an 80-82 MPH change up.  His ground ball rates are averageish (40-44% in the minors) and his K-rates have dropped off considerably pitching in AA and AAA this year (lower 20% as compared to lower 30% at higher levels).  He shows good control with a walk rate around 7.5%.

Jacob Turner will be making his Miami Marlins debut today as well.  Turner came to Miami from Detroit in the Omar Infante and Annibal Sanchez deal.  Turner's average rank was 25 on the prospect lists.  Turner has 6 starts and 121 major league batters faced under his belt from his time in Detroit.  He was unsuccessful, striking out only 12% while walking 9%.  He did show a good ground ball rate (47%) but gave up way too many HR's (2.5 per 9 on a crazy high 20% HR/FB rate).

Even in the minors, Turner's never had a great strike out rate.  In his career he's struck out 18% of hitters (that's Jarod Parker and Tom Millone territory for comparison).  Likewise, his walk rates haven't been outstanding - 9%.  His minor league GB rate is about the same as his major league rate as well - 47%.  He certainly didn't have the same home runs problems in the minors as he has in his major league time, giving up just .56 HR per 9 innings.

Two young pitchers squaring off.

Probably, it will be a 10 -7 final score.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maybe we shouldn't be quite so eager to get rid of the umpires

Robot Umps?

Can they do this?

Joyce administered CPR to a Diamondbacks' game-day employee in a tunnel leading to the umpires' dressing room minutes on his way into the ballpark Monday, saving her life in a moment nobody who was in the vicinity at Chase Field will soon forget.
Good on you Jim Joyce.

Can you save a life?  Learn how

Red Cross

Saturday, August 18, 2012

They travel in packs, don't they?

So, home runs are cool.  Especially when your team is hitting them.

My team is the LA Dodgers and they haven't been hitting a lot of home runs this season.  They've hit 77 home runs which is tied with the SF Giants for the least in baseball this season.

Before today, it was worse.

The Dodgers hit 4 home runs today off of Atlanta Braves pitchers.  Hanley Ramirez went deep twice, James Loney once and Luis Cruz once.

The first home run came on a 1-1 pitch to Hanley Ramirez with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was tied 0 - 0 and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 48%.

The second home run came on a 1-0 pitch to James Loney with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was 1 - 0 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 58%.

The third home run came on the first pitch to Luis Cruz with 1 out in the top of the 2nd.  The score was 2 - 0 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 68%.

The fourth home run came on a 3 - 0 pitch to Hanley Ramirez with 2 outs in the top of the 6th.  The score was 3 - 1 Dodgers and the Dodgers' win expectancy was 75%.

Now, if you were paying attention, you'd have noticed that 3 of those home runs came consecutively.  Not only that, they came in the span of 4 pitches by Ben Sheets.

Let's take a look at those pitches.

Pay closest attention to the light blue pitches.  They should be somewhat easy to find as they are all right in the middle of the plate.  According to Brooksbaseball, Sheets threw 18 pitches in the inning and 12 were strikes. This data includes pitches out of the strike zone that Dodgers batters offered at.  By my count 8 of the 18 pitches Sheets threw were right down the middle, 7 of the pitches were well outside of the strike zone and 3 were borderline.  I don't think that's a recipe for success.  Looks like Sheets was having trouble locating his pitches in the second inning.  

Another interesting thing was Sheets' approach to the Dodger hitters.  This next chart shows pitches as if all batters were right-handed.  That is, inside pitches to left-handed hitters appear to the left of the chart while outside pitches to left-handed hitters appear to the right of the chart.  The same as to right-handed batters in both instances.

Easy to see that Sheets was trying to stay away from Dodger hitters, and generally missing with his location.  There are 9 pitches to the outside edge of the plate.  Dodger hitters took 7 of them.  5 were called balls.  

Sheets was missing away with pitches and was orced to throw back over the plate where Dodger hitters could drive the ball over the fence.   

Of course, any time I am discussing Dodger back-to-back home run streaks I'm reminded of one of the most exciting moments in Dodger history.

Trailing 9 - 5 in the bottom of the 9th inning the Dodgers had a 3% chance of winning the game.  

Jeff Kent homered; 7% chance of winning.
JD Drew homered; 14% chance of winning.
Russ Martin homered; 27% chance of winning.
Marlin Anderson homered; 68% chance of winning.

Then, to top if off, Nomar Garciaparra homored in the 11th inning to give the Dodgers the win.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yakety Sax: The Windy City (8/10/12)

It gets windy in Chicago, so I hear.

Especially in Wrigley field.

Maybe these players can use that as an excuse

Cue the music

Enjoy the these gifs from Chad Moriyama

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Yakety Sax: Houston Astros Defense (8/7/12)

It's been almost a year since my last 'Yakey Sax' post.

Thanks to the Houston Astros defense for reminding me of this theme.

Watch the video


play the music


The play begins in the top of the 11th inning of the Astros and Nationals game on August 6th.   With no outs newly acquired catcher Kurt Suzuki attempts to sacrifice Roger Bernadina to 2nd base.  A successful sacrifice would have left the Astros with a 44% win expectancy.   The resulting errors allowed Bernadina to score and Suzuki to reach 3rd base leaving the Astros with only a 20% win expectancy.  This single play cost the Astros about 25% win expectancy.

Other Yakety Sax plays
Chicago Cubs
Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals
Jonathan Herrera
New York Yankees
LA Dodger baserunning