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Why the difference in voting? January 5, 2011

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Economics.
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As much as I love the Angels, I can’t take Jered’s side on this one.

Today, I was browsing the voting results from the various awards being voted on. Each league’s Cy Young award voting included the requisite two closers. No surprises there. There was also a beautiful case study of the AL Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, versus Jered Weaver. They had identical records (13-12) in an identical number of starts (34) and similar strikeouts (233 for Weaver versus 232 for Hernandez). What explains Hernandez’ winning total of 167 points contra Weaver’s fifth-place 24?

A few things come to mind:

  • Hernandez went longer. In the same number of games, wins, and losses, King Felix pitched 249 2/3 innings, whereas Weaver pitched 224 1/3. Those extra 25 1/3 innings show not only that Hernandez was considered more reliable by his manager but that he was, in fact, more reliable (since the extra innings didn’t result in his stats taking a hit). Hernandez also pitched a formidable 6 complete games with one shutout, whereas Weaver had no pips in either category.
  • Hernandez was more effective. Felix gave up fewer runs (80 versus 83) and had a much higher proportion of unearned runs – fully 21.25% of his runs were unearned, whereas Weaver had about 9.6% of runs unearned. That means that more of Hernandez’s runs are attributable to defensive mishaps than Weaver’s. That leads to Felix with a miniscule 2.27 ERA, much lower than Weaver’s respectable 3.01, and 6 wins above replacement compared with Weaver’s 5.4.
  • Hernandez was marginally more effective. He had six Tough Losses and no Cheap Wins, while Weaver had five Tough Losses and one Cheap Win. Felix couldn’t rely on his team to supply him with significant run support, while Weaver got that support in his one cheap win.
  • However, Hernandez’s control wasn’t as good. Felix walked 70 batters for a control ratio (Strikeouts over walks) of .30 and threw 14 wild pitches. Jered, on the other hand, walked only 54 batters, for a control ratio of .23, and only 7 wild pitches. Still, it seems reasonable to assume that control suffers exponentially as innings increase, so part of the apparent lack of control can be explained by Hernandez’s extra innings.

Overall, Felix’s marginal value over Weaver more than explains the difference in voting.


Weird Pitching Decisions Almanac in 2010 December 24, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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I’m a big fan of weird pitching decisions. A pitcher with a lot of tough losses pitches effectively but stands behind a team with crappy run support. A pitcher with a high proportion of cheap wins gets lucky more often than not. A reliever with a lot of vulture wins might as well be taking the loss.

In an earlier post, I defined a tough loss two ways. The official definition is a loss in which the starting pitcher made a quality start – that is, six or more innings with three or fewer runs. The Bill James definition is the same, except that James defines a quality start as having a game score of 50 or higher. In either case, tough losses result from solid pitching combined with anemic run support.

This year’s Tough Loss leaderboard had 457 games spread around 183 pitchers across both leagues. The Dodgers’ Hiroki Kuroda led the league with a whopping eight starts with game scores of 50 or more. He was followed by eight players with six tough losses, including Justin Verlander, Carl Pavano, Roy Oswalt, Rodrigo Lopez, Colby Lewis, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez, and Tommy Hanson. Kuroda’s Dodgers led the league with 23 tough losses, followed by the Mariners and the Cubs with 22 each.

There were fewer cheap wins, in which a pitcher does not make a quality start but does earn the win. The Cheap Win leaderboard had 248 games and 136 pitchers, led by John Lackey with six and Phil Hughes with 5. Hughes pitched to 18 wins, but Lackey’s six cheap wins were almost half of his 14-win total this year. That really shows what kind of run support he had. The Royals and the Red Sox were tied for first place with 15 team cheap wins each.

Finally, a vulture win is one for the relievers. I define a vulture win as a blown save and a win in the same game, so I searched Baseball Reference for players with blown saves and then looked for the largest number of wins. Tyler Clippard was the clear winner here. In six blown saves, he got 5 vulture wins. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeremy Affeldt each deserve credit, though – each had three blown saves and converted all three for vulture wins. (When I say “converted,” I mean “waited it out for their team to score more runs.”)

Pitchers with 4+ RBIs (Sorry, Mets fans) September 23, 2008

Posted by tomflesher in Academia, Baseball.
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Last night, the Cubs’ Jason Marquis hit a rare grand slam. Even rarer is that Marquis was the starting pitcher and got the win. Still rarer: Marquis had one hit and 5 RBIs.

That raises the question: just how common an event is Jason’s productivity?