Could Use a Little Help

Continuing on from my previous post, here now are the five most unlucky pitchers thus far baseball.

First, a word of explanation on what I mean when I use the term luck. It actually comprises three distinct realms: defense, park and noise. A pitcher may change his or her approach depending on the quality of the defense behind him, though I am not sure if we have ever seen an extensive study really delve into the topic, but I consider the presence of a good or bad defense behind the pitcher to be outside of his control and thus, a pitcher is lucky if he has a good one and unlucky if he does not. Ditto on pitcher’s versus hitter’s parks. The last part is the actual luck, or noise as we statisticians are more apt to label it.

Manny Parra has certainly not been outstanding this season. His 55 strikeouts to 41 walks should be enough to see that. His FIP stands at 5.14 in the National League. Still, that is a far cry from his 7.52 ERA and for that you put the bulk of the blame on his .368 BABIP. He has pitched a bit worse this year than last, but I would agree with ZiPS and say that if given a chance, a 4.30 FIP going forward sounds about right.

Jorge De La Rosa gets to pitch in Colorado, and no matter the reduced effect over the early 2000s, it is still a friendly place to hitters thanks to its large outfield dimensions. De La Rosa has actually improved on his good 2008 season but a .343 BABIP and 61.6% LOB% do much to hide that.

Chien-Ming Wang might be no surprise given his 12.65 ERA. After all, it is awfully hard to earn an ERA that high. Then again, Wang’s appearance on this list despite just 26.1 innings thrown is remarkable. But that is what can happen with a .458 BABIP and a 50.4% strand rate. That is not to say that Wang has actually been fine and just unlucky. No, he has been legitimately terrible. Just not 12.65 terrible.

Ricky Nolasco plays on the team that is currently second worst in the Majors in UZR. That right there will make you a prime candidate to appear on any unlucky pitcher list. Nolasco’s 4.10 FIP is not far off his 2008 mark of 3.77 but his BABIP has risen from .284 to .399, though a decent part of that is his own fault as he the rate of line drives that Nolasco has allowed has risen from 19% to 25%.

Brett Anderson plays in front of a good defense housed inside a pitcher friendly park. It is pretty remarkable then that he has managed to accrue the fifth most unlucky runs scored against him in 2009. You would not think so looking at the spread between his FIP (5.30) and his ERA (5.77), but it is true nonetheless because of the key factor that FIP ignores, batted balls. Anderson’s low 14.4% line drive rate should help keep his BABIP below the league average, especially when paired with a good defense. Instead, it sits at .329.

As you might have noticed, one of the major differences between this list and the previous list is that a majority of these pitchers (four) are still poor even after we account for their good fortune, whereas in the last list all but Matt Cain were bad pitchers looking good because of good luck. These are bad pitchers looking worse.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

8 Responses to “Could Use a Little Help”

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  1. The problem was location with Nolasco early on, thus the high LD%. Watching tape on him was like watching a different pitcher than the second half Nolasco from 08. He was leaving way too much down the middle. Still his LOB% is only 54.7%, which is ridiculously low. When you have an outfield of Coghlan in left, Ross in center and Hermida in right a lot of hits are going to fall in (Even Maybin wasn’t all that good in center). This is especially bad for a pitcher who tends to get more flyballs like Nolasco.

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  2. Matt says:

    Wang’s latest start he was actually fairly good, besides the slight control issue. There were alot of grounders pulled through the right side hole, and a few calls went the way of the Nats. He could have very easily won that game, but thems the breaks.

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  3. R M says:

    So Ricky Nolasco, Chien Ming Wang, and Manny Parra are bad pitchers because they have struggled the first 3rd of one season?

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    • FishFrenzy says:

      I don’t think that’s what Matt was saying. Three of those pitchers are posting FIPS below league average (assuming the league average is normalized to 4.50). Only Nolasco has a better FIP than league average. If your pitcher is worse than league average, it’s reasonable to consider him “bad.”

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  4. J.J. Hardy says:

    You must not have seen Parra pitch. He just cannot locate anything. Any success he’s had this year has been wholly serendipitous.

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  5. Reuben says:

    How many female pitchers are there in MLB?

    “A pitcher may change his or her approach depending on the quality of the defense behind him”

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  6. Ed Nelson says:

    Well Parra does still have great stuff and can dominate for a few innings. The problem is he seems to lose it and then not be able to find it again. He is striking out almost 8 guys per nine so there’s talent there. The question is if he wouldn’t be better suited to a role as a setup man or closer, although he wouldn’t be the first lefty to have a hard time harnessing his stuff and then find his way as he gets older.

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