Results tagged ‘ Analysis ’

The Great Arms Race

I’ve been doing a lot of analysis this offseason trying to see how the Pirates stacked up against their NL Central foes in certain aspects last season. I’ve taken a look at several areas of the offensive side of the game to date but as of yet I have not done so for the pitching or defensive side of the game. This is my first attempt at such a comparison. I wanted to take a look at how the Pirates stacked up against the other 4 remaining NL central teams last season on the basis of rotation spots (I’m speaking #1 starter, #2 … #5).

This of course presented problems with defining who I should slot into what rotation spot so as I usually do I made a couple simple, logical, rational decisions. My first decisions was to take all 162 starts from each team and assume a perfect distribution meaning the number 1 starter started 33 times, the number 2 starter started 33 times and the rest each started 32 times. Obviously it doesn’t work this way in reality but I needed a starting point. My next assumption was a way to solve who to slot into what spot. I opted to order all the players who started for a particular team according to the fWAR they produced per start. I then grouped the pitchers together until I compiled the necessary number of starts. Obviously this wasn’t a perfect solution as this caused some players to be counted in two different rotation spots. I handled that by calculating the starter’s average start and assigning the correct number of average starts to each group. The stats I opted to use are ERA, FIP, xFIP, WHIP, K:BB (strike out to walk ratio) and fWAR. For comparison sake I also did this exercise on the NL as a whole and included those results. So without further ado below are the results:

#1 Starter

Reds: 2.78 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 1.17 WHIP, 3.47 K:BB, 4.8 WAR

Cardinals: 3.81 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.35 xFIP, 1.30 WHIP, 3.38 K:BB, 4.8 WAR

Brewers: 3.33 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 3.08 xFIP, 1.21 WHIP, 3.69 K:BB, 5.5 WAR

Pirates: 3.53 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 2.94 K:BB, 3.6 WAR

Cubs: 3.04 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 1.13 WHIP, 3.15 K:BB, 4.1 WAR

National League: 3.14 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, 1.15 WHIP, 3.72 K:BB, 4.9 WAR

 

#2 Starter

Reds: 3.48 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 3.79 xFIP, 1.16 WHIP, 2.89 K:BB, 3.1 WAR

Cardinals: 3.51 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.52 xFIP, 1.18 WHIP, 3.61 K:BB, 4.2 WAR

Brewers: 3.76 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, 1.21 WHIP, 4.42 K:BB, 4.1 WAR

Pirates: 3.99 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, 1.22 WHIP, 2.59 K:BB, 2.6 WAR

Cubs: 3.79 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 3.89 xFIP, 1.22 WHIP, 2.73 K:BB, 2.8 WAR

National League: 3.72 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.80 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 2.90 K:BB, 3.3 WAR

 

#3 Starter

Reds: 3.68 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 3.94 xFIP, 1.24 WHIP, 3.23 K:BB, 2.7 WAR

Cardinals: 3.15 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.82 xFIP, 1.16 WHIP, 3.26 K:BB, 3.4 WAR

Brewers: 3.73 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 3.57 xFIP, 1.28 WHIP, 2.82 K:BB, 2.8 WAR

Pirates: 4.72 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 4.09 xFIP, 1.40 WHIP, 2.14 K:BB, 1.8 WAR

Cubs: 5.00 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 1.31 WHIP, 2.65 K:BB, 1.7 WAR

National League: 3.88 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 1.27 WHIP, 2.78 K:BB, 2.4 WAR

 

#4 Starter

Reds: 3.74 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 1.21 WHIP, 3.67 K:BB, 2.5 WAR

Cardinals: 3.82 ERA, 3.63 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, 1.34 WHIP, 2.47 K:BB, 2.9 WAR

Brewers: 3.68 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 3.93 xFIP, 1.28 WHIP, 2.59 K:BB, 2.3 WAR

Pirates: 4.15 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 4.30 xFIP, 1.33 WHIP, 2.08 K:BB, 1.4 WAR

Cubs: 4.80 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 4.61 xFIP, 1.31 WHIP, 2.08 K:BB, 0.7 WAR

National League: 4.49 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 4.22 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP, 2.12 K:BB, 1.5 WAR

 

#5 Starter

Reds: 4.66 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 1.39 WHIP, 2.59 K:BB, 1.4 WAR

Cardinals: 3.84 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, 1.38 WHIP, 2.03 K:BB, 2.1 WAR

Brewers: 5.52 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 4.55 xFIP, 1.53 WHIP, 2.06 K:BB, 0.0 WAR

Pirates: 4.82 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 1.34 WHIP, 2.37 K:BB, 0.6 WAR

Cubs: 6.52 ERA, 5.46 FIP, 5.03 xFIP, 1.74 WHIP, 1.23 K:BB, -0.3 WAR

National League: 5.27 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 4.68 xFIP, 1.50 WHIP, 1.74 K:BB, 0.1 WAR

Statistically speaking the Pirates #1 and #2 starters in 2012 performed the worst of the 5 remaining teams in NL Central. The performance of the Cubs pitchers are relatively close but as for the 3 teams that finished ahead of them there is no contest. The #3 and #4 starters for the Pirates performed slightly better than their Cubs counterparts but once again were lagging behind the rest of the division. The #5 starter for the Pirates performed better than the same rotation spot for the Cubs and Brewers but once again was behind the Reds and Cardinals. The numbers I presented seem to suggest the Pirates had the worst rotation in the NL Central last season (Astros excluded) and that actually probably isn’t far off from reality. There could be an argument between them and the Cubs but I would lean towards putting the Cubs ahead of them based upon the numbers.

Obviously this is something the Pirates are going to need to improve upon in 2013. The team can’t be successful if every team in the division is out performing them rotation spot for rotation spot. If you look at the numbers closely you may see the same pattern I do and that is the Pirates appear to be about a rotation spot behind. What I mean by that is the Pirates #1 starter would have made a solid #2 last season and the #2 would have been a solid #3 and so on. The Pirates did not add an ace caliber arm this offseason and though there are some arms in the rotation with that capability (McDonald and Liriano) it is unlikely to expect one will emerge. Down the line Cole may give the Pirates that boost but in the mean time the gap has got to be made up in other ways. The only way to fix this problem without becoming better at the top end is to become stronger and deeper throughout. The Cardinals and Reds last season got below NL average production from their #1 starter but the rest of the rotation (aside from the Reds #2) performed above, and in some cases well above, NL average. That is the same plan the Pirates must use in 2013 but actually to an even greater extent. The Pirates do not have a 5 WAR pitcher to sit atop the rotation so what they need is a rotation of 3 WAR players to help balance out the disparity. Rodriguez, Burnett, McDonald, Liriano and some combination of Karstens, Locke, McPherson, Cole, etc has the talent to do that but it is going to take a little luck to get there but if the Pirates don’t get there and a true ace does not emerge 2013 will likely be yet another season in which the Pirates fall out of contention early on.

Defining the Rotation Spots

Sometimes for no reason at all I like to look at baseball related things and analyze them. There is really no larger purpose to this article except I had a curiosity and looked to solve it. Essentially my question is what makes a number one starter a number one starter and so on and so forth. Is it a certain ERA, strike outs, being tough to hit. What is it that defines a top pitcher. Well I’m not a big statistical researcher so I don’t like to delve into things too deep without some sort of general idea what I’m looking at so I usually make some sort of assumption, see what that gives me and proceed from there. Well this is my first attempt at answering that question and as usual I went with an assumption. I decided for general purposes to call a #1 starter a player who posts a WAR greater than or equal to 4.0 and for each subsequent spot I drop 1 WAR (ie a 3.0-3.9 WAR player is a #2 starter). I then wanted to know what the ERA, WHIP and K/BB were for each group in 2012. The result can be seen below:

4.0+ WAR: 3.15 ERA, 1.142 WHIP, 3.78 K/BB

3.0-3.9 WAR: 3.43 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 3.05 K/BB

2.0-2.9 WAR: 3.95 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 2.71 K/BB

1.0-1.9 WAR: 4.33 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 2.45 K/BB

0.0-0.9 WAR: 4.85 ERA, 1.434, 1.92 K/BB

-0.1 or lower WAR: 6.14 ERA, 1.588 WHIP, 1.46 K/BB

On its surface that makes sense to me. I always felt that roughly speaking the difference between each rotation spot should be about a half run of ERA. While that isn’t exactly what I have here is it is roughly close. However upon closer look I’m not sure these numbers really tell the whole story. I looked at the percentage of starts made by each group of pitchers:

4.0+: 12%

3.0-3.9: 12%

2.0-2.9: 23%

1.0-1.9: 24%

0.0-0.9: 21%

-0.1-: 8%

In an ideal world the first 5 groups would all be even at 20% and the last group would not exist but of course we all know this isn’t an ideal world. Still the low % of starts made by pitchers on the top end suggest I’m setting the bar too high. I decided to take a different approach and order the pitchers by WAR and then split them into 5 groups each of which started approximately 972 games. In case it’s not obvious where that number comes from that is the number of major league baseball games in a year multiplied by 2 since there are 2 starting pitchers divided by 5 since there are 5 rotation spots. I didn’t bother with splitting the data set exactly as I’m just looking for a rough figure here:

#1: 3.23 ERA, 1.162 WHIP, 3.48 K/BB

#2: 3.76 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 2.88 K/BB

#3: 4.35 ERA, 1.324 WHIP, 2.50 K/BB

#4: 4.28 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, 2.25 K/BB

5: 5.64 ERA, 1.539 WHIP, 1.64 K/BB

Relatively speaking the effect this new classification has on #1 and #4 starters in minimal but the #5 starter group is greatly impacted by the dreadful performance of the negative WAR group. Also the #2 and #3 starters are severely dragged down and it is actually an insignificant amount separating a #3 and a #4 starter. Needless to say there are plenty of problems with this data set.

In the past I have always used the rule of thumb that a 3.25 ERA was the average for a number one starter and that for each additional starter you add half a run. So number two would be 3.75, number 3 4.25, number 4 4.75 and number 5 would be 5.25. I’m not sure how accurate that really is though and my above attempts really don’t do much to enforce the opinion or not. Taking one last look at this for now I decided to ignore all the pitchers who posted a negative WAR and all the pitchers with fewer than 5 starts and focus on the remaining group. This left me with 203 starters totaling 4406 starts or about just over 880 starts per rotation spot. The results can be seen below:

#1: 3.20 ERA, 1.157 WHIP, 3.56 K/BB

#2: 3.74 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 2.87 K/BB

#3: 4.17 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, 2.60 K/BB

#4: 4.31 ERA, 1.334 WHIP, 2.37 K/BB

#5: 4.96 ERA, 1.447 WHIP, 1.90 K/BB

Once again I am surprised by the relatively little separation between a number 3 and number 4 starter. Also surprisingly in all 3 measurements the values for a number 4 starter as remained relatively constant giving me a fairly good idea of what a number 4 starter really is. Once again the #5 spot is subject to some wild fluctuations based on a handful of horrible starters. My method made an attempt to remove some so the number is not way out of line.

Bottom line I think I need to study all this in more detail and try a few other methods of looking at how to define each rotation spot but I think these three methods give me a good starting place. My original idea of a .5 run step in ERA appears to fit the first 3 rotation spots fairly well but the drop off to the fourth small is less significant while the drop off to the 5th spot is difficult to determine which much accuracy but it can be though of as around .5 run. I want to make an attempt to research this more in-depth at a later date and I’ll make sure to share my findings but as an initial survey I thought this was fairly interesting while not all that informative.

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