I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of players who are aware of advanced stats like FIP, and also find them useful. I went into this afraid half the answers were going to be win-loss record, but everyone seemed to realize it doesn’t mean anything in evaluating pitchers.
Comment by Chris Headley — August 19, 2013 @ 8:31 am
Oh and David, you’re from the U.P.? I had never noticed that before, where from exactly? It’s not often I see someone else online from up here.
Comment by Chris Headley — August 19, 2013 @ 8:36 am
I enjoy that James Shields offered as an example to not overvalue strikeouts despite the fact that he has struck out 220+ guys each of the last two seasons. Not that it’s Jon Lester responsibility to know other pitcher’s stats, but it is just interesting that sometimes perception doesn’t match reality.
Can you do an in-depth interview with Glen Perkins? I enjoy hearing about players who are aware of advanced stats and would like to hear about how they use them. This is the second time recently I have been impressed by one of his answers.
Comment by MustBunique — August 19, 2013 @ 9:09 am
Love Matt Cain starting it off by talking about luck.
Comment by Caveman Jones — August 19, 2013 @ 9:34 am
“Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants righthander: “You have to be lucky to get wins at times, because you can pitch well and go against another guy who pitches well.”
Says the guy who was 83-78 with a career 124ERA+ in 245GS coming into 2013, for comparison Sabathia has a 124ERA+ in 155GS as a Yankee and is 86-39.
Rally refreshing to see that starting pitchers don’t really care about wins. You should forward this over to half the announce booth’s in baseball.
Comment by eddiegaedel — August 19, 2013 @ 11:29 am
In terms of raw totals, he is #9 in strikeouts since 2008. He also pitches a lot of innings (#4 overall), which is what Lester was talking about. If you look at K/9, he is #93. He is #55 if you look at SP only.
Based on those three stats (K, IP, and K/9), I would agree with Lester that the reason Shields is good has more to do with how many innings he throws and less with how many strikeouts he has.
I was going to say it’s great to have a low zone contact %, but if you are walking too many, low zone % and have a high flyball rate, etc., not so great anyway.
Dempster, even if he has a good zone contact %, is still tied for 85th among 90 qualifiers with a 40.1 zone percentage. So he doesn’t throw it in the zone even though he can get guys to miss.
Oddly, he is tied with Kuroda, also at 40.1% zone %. And Kuroda is 69th among 90 qualifiers in zone contact % with 89.6. And Bartolo Colon is 80th with 91.1. Yet Kuroda and Colon are 11th and 25th in WAR among starters. Maybe that’s some of the luck Bannister is talking about, since they are lower in xFIP than FIP.
Lots of ways to be a good pitcher. I mean, King Felix is tied with Jeff Locke at 61st in that metric. It’s not the be all and end all.
It’s not the end all be all (what stat is?), bit it’s a fascinating process stat; it tells us how a lot of good pitchers do what they do. And it’s not surprising that a guy like Felix – whose pitches have such movement that many start in the heart of the plate and then run outside the zone – would rank poorly.
Comment by Gerald Westerby — August 19, 2013 @ 12:14 pm
That’s easy, don’t read their shit. Problem solved. I’m incapable of avoiding the in-game commentators (I guess I could mute it, but that would be weird).
Perkins answer of FIP offers the best all around judgment at this point in time, but I prefer Banister’s response because it points to where I think we’re going. As we get more and more comfortable with Pitch F/X, and especially if we ever get access to Hit F/X data, we’re going to be able to break down pitcher performance at the moment of, or the moment just before contact, rather than on outcome. I am hoping that we someday get to see the Hit F/X stuff and are able to judge pitchers based on the percentage of pitches that make barrel contact. The more you know about the exact moment of bat to ball contact, or lack there of, the more you know about the components of the game that a pitcher actually controls. We’ve been leaning on True outcomes for so long – and rightfully so – because we haven’t been able to really track and quantify the moment of contact; as that changes, a fuller picture of pitcher performance will emerge.
Comment by Gerald Westerby — August 19, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
I really enjoy the responses of players that simply use logic to deduce that certain traditional statistics are poor measures of talent. Players like Joba and Lance Berkman* may not be interested in devouring sabremetrics, but they grasp the benefits.
Comment by Alexander Nevermind — August 19, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
“There are times (Basically, my entire career coming into this year) where I’ve definitely gone out there and, numbers-wise, maybe not given up any runs, but guys were hitting balls right at guys.”
Comment by Sparkles Peterson — August 19, 2013 @ 12:56 pm
It was Bannister’s response that blew me away the most. Awareness of FIP is cool, but we’re already kind of beyond that, don’t you think? I mean, is it FIP or xFIP? Bannister’s digging the deepest. As noted above, maybe the stat he identifies isn’t the be-all-end-all one stat to rule them all, but it’s a core issue rather than a summary, for starters.
Nice to see that players recognize the difference between effectiveness and value. I think the awareness might be more prevalent on the pitching side because we have had true group separation for about 35 years (starters vs. relievers) but it’s nice to see such a nuanced understanding of the issue among current players.
I would absolutely love having an option to watch the game without commentators and just listen to the sounds of the game as if I was at the park watching it.
Comment by BubbaBiscuit — August 19, 2013 @ 1:29 pm
Yeah, true enough. It is a very telling stat. But k/bb or k%/bb% may tell us as much, even if it isn’t as granular. Have a very high zone percentage with decent zone contact % (Cliff Lee), or just a very low BB% (Colon), or have great movement inducing hitters to swing at pitches that end outside the zone (as you posit for Hernandez)-however you get there, the end result may be more and beyond k%/bb% we may be guilding the lily as to how it happened, as good as it is to know.
Absolutely Bubba, I don’t know how many times I have daydreamed about there being such an option. I wish it were an option for all sports.
Comment by MustBunique — August 19, 2013 @ 1:48 pm
It can’t just be innings pitched though. Since 2008, Buehrle is 10th in innings, Arroyo 11th and Guthrie 15th. That has value, but not as much as Scherzer, wainwright, Josh Johnson or Anibal Sanchez, none of whom have thrown nearly as many innings as the the aforesaid.
d probably rather have the first group, this year, but of course that is more results than how one got there. probably the contact percentage bodes well for Verlander, Dickey and Sabathia “bouncing back” and bodes well for Hector santiago if he gains some control.
But if one looks at the bottom 20 of the contact percentage list, one also sees some decent pitchers: Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, CJ Wilson, Kyle Lohse, Time Hudson, Jhoulys Chacin, Tim Hudson, Adam Wainwright. Not as sustainable, and some aren’t really great pitchers, but they are the worst at this metric and still pretty good to, in the case of Wainwright, very good or great even.
This is simply not true. You could learn that the players don’t share the view of old crotchety sports writers when in comes to W/L record.
But past that, this series of articles is designed to ask a question and just report the answers. Should they have sought out guys who did say wins and losses and only reported that? That is how you don’t learn anything.
Ah, so you are a ways west then. I’m in Kinross by the Soo, at least until I’m done with college.
Comment by Chris Headley — August 19, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
MLB.com produces only a single video for the “Condensed Game” version of each game and instead of choosing one set of announcers, they just use the sounds of the game. That means that it’s clearly possible and is being recorded.
For starting pitchers, I’ve been partial to strikeouts-per-100-pitches as a way of measuring both efficiency and dominance ever since seeing it on Rich Lederer’s site. It definitely has some FIP-related weakness in the denominator, but a single stat that measures all aspects of value while being intrinsically comprehensible is going to be tough to come by.
All of us love FIP, et al, but I still think the most interesting thing here is being reminded how much great players care about Wins (and RBI, for that matter). Like so many of us in our jobs – while the process is likely more important, the point is always a result you can take pride in.
Team wins, yes, of course. Individual wins… not so much. Sabathia seemed to be the highest on wins of all the players interviewed, and he still seems to value putting his team in a position to win more than going home with the W on his own statline.
I’ve got Breslow and Perkins on my first place team in a 10 team IQ League where the categories are (1) the player’s use of compound sentences in post game interview, (2) polysyllabic words, (3) number of time teammates refer to them as eggheads, and (4) compliments by Fangraphs commenters. I’m thinking of packaging them for Allen Craig, John Baker and Brennan Boesch.
BobM: if you set a minimum IP threshold of 800 IP to eliminate pitchers who haven’t thrown that much, Shields jumps to #17. I think it’s fair to say he’s top 25 in terms of K/9 for pitchers who have thrown comparable #s of innings.
He is #4 in IP, which is a testament to his quality as a pitcher and stuff. Even so, with that #4 in IP ranking, he is only #17 in WAR.
He’s been elite in IP. He’s been damn good in K/9. He’s been pretty good in value.
I think his k/9 and his value are close in the rankings, although his IP is elite. That tells me he pitches a LOT, strikes out quite a few guys, and has been good on a per-IP basis.
I watch the Yankees and I have to say, our color commentators are pretty good. Ken Singleton (a patient hitter who played under Earl Weaver), John Flaherty and the sabermetricly enlightened David Cone are rather intelligent in their analysis and usually don’t say silly things. They’re not all idiots.
It’s interesting to me that all of the answers are externally-tracked statistics. Surely there’s some pitcher nerdy enough to be tracking mistake rate or something similar, that we wouldn’t be able to? They should have the ability to abstract out the pitcher’s performance far better than we can just by virtue of knowing the catcher/managerial contribution to pitch-calling.
I wonder how much value, in WAR, a pitcher adds by saving the bullpen. It is really hard to quantify, since the effects of bullpen overuse can manifest not only in a higher ERA but also in more frequent injury and possibly even in an adjusted rotation.
Just don’t ask Dave Sims (Mariners broadcaster) what is the best stat to evaluate a pitcher/team. He would probably say touchdowns.
Comment by Bread n Mustard — August 20, 2013 @ 5:09 am
As a Twins fan, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Mauer say anything controversial. I think he tries harder than any other athlete I know to not say anything wrong. It’s not a bad strategy but it’s very obvious. I’m surprised he hasn’t shaved his sideburns for fear of offending someone.