FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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.

    Comment by Jeff — August 19, 2013 @ 8:57 am

  4. Love this series. Thanks.

    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

  5. Love Matt Cain starting it off by talking about luck.

    Comment by Caveman Jones — August 19, 2013 @ 9:34 am


    Comment by Kris — August 19, 2013 @ 9:36 am

  7. So, you’re saying there’s a chance?

    Comment by MustBunique — August 19, 2013 @ 9:38 am

  8. By far the best of this great series so far. Shocking to see how much sabr-talk has filtered down to the players. Some really really thoughtful answers. Brian Bannister’s response blew my mind.

    Comment by BDF — August 19, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  9. My favorite answers were a tie between all the guys that basically said pitchers wins don’t matter. Now go tell that to the idiots that broadcast the games.

    Comment by TKDC — August 19, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  10. Bannister’s been a known stat guy for 5 years or so.

    Comment by Drew — August 19, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  11. Also, most beat writers, ESPN commentators, BBWAA voters…

    Comment by Drew — August 19, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  12. If only every ESPN analyst listened to Glen Perkins talk.

    Comment by Guy — August 19, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  13. Chris: I grew up where they make Trenary Toast.

    Comment by David Laurila — August 19, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  14. I wonder how Jack Morris feels about these responses….

    Comment by mike wants wins — August 19, 2013 @ 10:05 am

  15. 1 Max Scherzer 81.40%
    2 Anibal Sanchez 82.50%
    3 Hector Santiago 82.70%
    4 R.A. Dickey 82.80%
    5 Chris Sale 82.90%
    6 Justin Verlander 83.30%
    7 Yu Darvish 83.60%
    8 Ryan Dempster 83.90%
    9 Julio Teheran 84.00%
    10 Matt Harvey 84.00%
    11 CC Sabathia 84.10%
    12 Jeremy Hellickson 84.30%
    13 Clayton Kershaw 84.40%
    14 Ian Kennedy 84.60%
    15 Shelby Miller 84.80%
    16 Madison Bumgarner 84.80%
    17 Cole Hamels 85.10%
    18 Stephen Strasburg 85.30%
    19 Gio Gonzalez 85.50%
    20 Homer Bailey 85.50%

    Comment by Dave S (the original) — August 19, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  16. lowest zone contact % among qualifiers

    Comment by Dave S (the original) — August 19, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  17. would never have guessed Hector Santiago was top 3, or that Ian Kennedy was #14.

    Comment by Dave S (the original) — August 19, 2013 @ 10:08 am

  18. Whoa, fellow Yoopers. Go 906!

    Comment by mcf1417 — August 19, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  19. “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.

    Comment by Tommy — August 19, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  20. What David didn’t mention in the article is that Matt Cain broke down and started sobbing midway through his answer while talking about the luck involved in wins.

    Comment by Daniel — August 19, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  21. “James Shields has had a couple of years with pretty good strikeout numbers, but for the most part he pitches to contact and goes deep into games.”

    Comment by ned — August 19, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  22. Love that all these players agree that pitcher wins and losses are dumb. Can we work on RBI next?

    Comment by Ian R. — August 19, 2013 @ 10:51 am

  23. Series remains awesome, Glen Perkins strengthens bid to become most awesome person, ever.

    Comment by Dan Ugglas Forearm — August 19, 2013 @ 10:52 am

  24. Johan Santa had a sweet swing. Wonder why he couldn’t make it out of rookie ball.

    Comment by Will — August 19, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  25. There’s maybe 5 guys that have had more Ks than Shields over the last 5 years. That’s not “a couple of years”, thats elite strikeout stuff year in, year out.

    I think its a valid point, most players are remarkably out of tune with how management-types value them.

    Comment by MLB Rainmaker — August 19, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  26. Definitely “P/BI”. Though CC’s been doing more “belly-itching” than “pitching” this season.

    Comment by Cory — August 19, 2013 @ 11:20 am

  27. 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

  28. 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.

    Comment by Bob M — August 19, 2013 @ 11:53 am

  29. Perkins and Bannister are well-versed in advanced metrics. I think they even read FanGraphs sometimes. (Hello, Glen and Brian!)

    Comment by Dan Rozenson — August 19, 2013 @ 11:54 am

  30. Ryan Dempster.

    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.

    Comment by Wobatus — August 19, 2013 @ 11:57 am

  31. Good stuff David. Nice to hear the players thoughts on stats. I agree with those who think “IP” is a bit overlooked.

    Comment by Jon E (former 906) — August 19, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

  32. Actually this is what i would look to see. same question to 10 Tv/Radio broadcast heads

    Comment by jeff — August 19, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

  33. 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

  34. 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).

    Comment by TKDC — August 19, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

  35. 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

  36. 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

  37. “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

  38. 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.

    Comment by wiggly — August 19, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

  39. 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.

    Great series, I’m enjoying this very much..

    Comment by fergie348 — August 19, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  40. I also like the emphasis on the significance of IP. Obviously that’s not perfect either, since Mo is more valuable than Lucas Harrell, but it’s too easy to overlook the value of an innings eater.

    Comment by wiggly — August 19, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

  41. I’m the fourth! I’ve got a sack of Trenary Toast in my pantry right now (got a delivery from my grandparents last week; already ate one).

    How about a Fan/Beergraphs meetup when Bells opens their brewery in Esky?

    Comment by Micah Stupak — August 19, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

  42. 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

  43. 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.

    Comment by Wobatus — August 19, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

  44. Yeh. Felix is no longer a guy who uses his fastball to get swings and misses in the zone. Not surprising to see Harvey/Verlander/Darvish/Scherzer near the top because they have wicked heaters.

    Comment by Marty — August 19, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  45. In his defense, he’s got a lot of belly to get itchy…

    Comment by jruby — August 19, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  46. More Brian Bannister, please.

    Comment by Chris — August 19, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  47. 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

  48. 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.

    Comment by Wobatus — August 19, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  49. I think Mauer voted for IP, opponent’s BA, opponent’s BA again, ERA twice, and IP again.

    Comment by drewcorb — August 19, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  50. I find it interesting that so many commenters seem to prefer answers when players confirm their beliefs. …you can’t really learn anything that way…

    Comment by DNA+ — August 19, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

  51. i would have liked to hear a few hitter’s perspectives. What type of pitchers do hitters least like to face?

    Comment by DNA+ — August 19, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  52. Interesting, if you look at the top 20 in K/BB and zone contact %, 9 guys make both lists. Here are the 11 in the top 20 in k/bb who don’t make the zone contact list:

    1. Wainwright
    3. Price
    4. Lee
    7. Haren
    8. Felix Hernandez
    9. Iwakuma
    12. Minor
    13. Kuroda
    14. Fister
    17. Lackey
    19. Zimmerman

    Here’s the 11 in zone contact top 20 who didn’t make the k/bb top 20.

    2. Anibal Sanchez (just missed k/bb top 20 at 22)
    3. Santiago
    4. Dickey
    6. Verlander
    8. Dempster
    11. Sabathia
    12. Hellickson
    14. Kennedy
    16. Bugarner
    18. Strasburgh
    19. Gio Gonzalez

    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.

    Comment by Wobatus — August 19, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

  53. “…but it’s too easy to overlook the value of an innings eater.”– Unless you’re a member of the Twins personnel office, motto: we’re going to be bad, but let’s try to not be embarrassing.

    Comment by mgraves — August 19, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

  54. 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.

    Comment by TKDC — August 19, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

  55. 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

  56. 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.

    Comment by EL — August 19, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  57. 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.

    Comment by EL — August 19, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

  58. 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.

    Comment by Grohman — August 19, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

  59. 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.

    Comment by Ian R. — August 19, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  60. 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.

    Comment by Hirohitahomerun already — August 19, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

  61. 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’d rather have 15-20 SP before him.

    Comment by Travis L — August 19, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

  62. U.P., Yoopers, Kinross, Soo

    are these places on Mars?

    Comment by bleh — August 19, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  63. I suspect he’d love the ip stuff.

    Comment by Ian — August 19, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

  64. Fox Sports Detroit did this for one of the Tigers’ broadcasts against the Nationals. It was pretty cool, but got boring quickly.

    Comment by bada bing — August 19, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

  65. Bannister and Perkins gave awesome philosophical answers.

    Comment by Kevin — August 19, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  66. 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.

    Comment by Billy — August 19, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  67. 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.

    Comment by Tim — August 19, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

  68. In an attempt to explain that less obtusely: a pitcher who always throws the pitch called in the location called is still a great pitcher even if Dusty Baker the manager has no idea what he’s doing.

    Comment by Tim — August 19, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

  69. I start by looking at OPS against, although I like to look at OPS against vLHB & vRHB even more.

    1 Clayton Kershaw LAD .495
    2 Matt Harvey NYM .521
    3 Jose Fernandez MIA .531
    4 Max Scherzer DET .557
    5 M. Bumgarner SF .574
    6 Yu Darvish TEX .589
    7 S. Strasburg WSH .594
    8 Anibal Sanchez DET .601
    9 Patrick Corbin ARI .605
    10 Chris Sale CHW .615
    11 Travis Wood CHC .616
    12 Hiroki Kuroda NYY .618
    13 J. Masterson CLE .628
    14 Adam Wainwright STL .629
    15 Felix Hernandez SEA .634
    16 Hisashi Iwakuma SEA .638
    17 Cliff Lee PHI .641
    18 A.J. Burnett PIT .652
    19 Ervin Santana KC .652
    20 Mike Minor ATL .653
    21 Jeff Locke PIT .657
    22 Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD .658
    23 Shelby Miller STL .661
    24 Tim Hudson ATL .662
    25 Jhoulys Chacin COL .663
    26 Matt Cain SF .664
    27 J. Zimmermann WSH .665
    28 David Price TB .665
    29 Gio Gonzalez WSH .666
    30 Scott Feldman BAL/CHC .668
    31 Derek Holland TEX .669
    32 Bartolo Colon OAK .670
    33 Lance Lynn STL .672
    34 Homer Bailey CIN .675
    35 Mat Latos CIN .680
    36 Bronson Arroyo CIN .686
    37 C.J. Wilson LAA .688
    38 Doug Fister DET .690
    39 Tim Lincecum SF .692
    40 A.J. Griffin OAK .692

    Comment by algionfriddo — August 19, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

  70. You missed my point. I probably wasn’t particularly clear. …in any case it was more of a throwaway comment and not worth explaining….

    Comment by DNA+ — August 19, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  71. Ill take my Joey Votto and Brandon McCarthy thankyouverymuch

    Comment by David — August 19, 2013 @ 11:13 pm

  72. More remote… Fuckin Michigan

    Comment by David — August 19, 2013 @ 11:16 pm

  73. Going to the fangraphs leaderboard and sorting by Z-Contact % blew mine. It does seem to correlate pretty strongly with success.

    Comment by buddyglass — August 20, 2013 @ 12:57 am

  74. Better than listening to Chris Berman talk. Or do anything.

    Comment by Andy — August 20, 2013 @ 1:15 am

  75. There’s not 1 stat that tells you everything. No, not even WAR.

    Comment by Andy — August 20, 2013 @ 1:22 am

  76. Don’t forget Ross Ohlendorf.

    Comment by Jake — August 20, 2013 @ 2:19 am

  77. 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.

    Comment by Bip — August 20, 2013 @ 3:32 am

  78. 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

  79. 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.

    Comment by N8*K — August 20, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

  80. “Mattingly, I thought I told you to shave those sideburns, you hippie!”

    Comment by C. Montgomery — August 20, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

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