As with Zach’s rankings, we are limiting ourselves to pitchers with more than 140 IP this year, giving us a list of 101 starting pitchers, including a few whose values varied greatly between 5×5 and linear weights points leagues. One slight change from hitters to pitchers – because an IP is so valuable in linear weights (almost every team should be using up all 1500 IP over the season in an ottoneu league), we are going to rank pitchers based on Points/IP, not based on total points.
ottoneu’s True Loves
Five SP ranked at least 30 spots higher in linear weights than they did in 5×5 and, not surprisingly, four of ottoneu’s favorite pitchers (relatively speaking) are players who posted very low HR/9. Josh Johnson (61st in 5×5, 23rd in linear weights), Chad Billingsley (58th, 26th), and Edinson Volquez (75th, 45th) all posted HR/9 below .7 and Kevin Millwood (87th, 57th) was not far behind (.73). And linear weights will absolutely punish a pitcher who gives up too many HR. Here’s an example of a bad inning from two different pitchers:
Pitcher A: 1 IP, 1 K, 4 BB, 3 ER, 0 H, 0 HR
Pitcher B: 1 IP, 1 K, 0 BB, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 HR
In 5×5, you clearly prefer the results from Pitcher B (WHIP of 1, ERA of 9) compared to Pitcher A (WHIP of 4, ERA of 27). But in linear weights? The four walks hurt, but the HR allowed by Pitcher B is a killer. Total points for A = -2.6; total points for B = -5.5.
All three of these guys had their own issues in 2012, including low win totals (for all four), high walk rates (for Volquez and Millwood), average-to-below average K/9 (for Johnson, Billingsley and Millwood), and more, but simply by keeping the ball in the yard, they kept their ottoneu values relatively high.
The fifth riser for ottoneu was Francisco Liriano (92nd, 59th) and his increased value seems to have more to do with bad luck in 5×5 than anything he did right in linear weights. His high K/9 (9.59) certainly helped, but his BB/9 (5.00) and HR/9 (1.09) did him no favors. Instead, he appeared near the very bottom of Sanders’s list and near the middle of mine largely due to a terrible LOB%. His 66.5% LOB% was the fourth lowest on the list and all those extra runners coming around to score beat up his ERA to the point that it was a full run higher than his FIP (5.34 vs. 4.34). Linear weights will always value a pitcher closer to his FIP than his ERA. In fact, of the 15 pitchers with an FIP at least half a run better than their ERA, all 15 posted higher rankings in ottoneu than 5×5.
ottoneu’s Worst Enemies
So who did ottoneu not love? For starters, guys who can’t get Ks. Of the four pitchers with rankings at least 30 spots worse in ottoneu than 5×5, three had K/9 below 6.5. Jason Vargas (33rd, 81st), Jeremy Hellickson (42nd, 75th), and Clayton Richard (57th, 89th) all put up double digit wins, all maintain sub-4.00 ERA, but all posted unimpressive strike out numbers. Even with low HR/9 numbers (which none of these three had), the lack of strike outs severely limits upside in pitchers. Another A vs. B, this time over a season.
If you had two pitchers throwing the same number of innings with all the same stats EXCEPT for one pitcher with a K/9 of 8 and the other with a K/9 of 7, over the course of 180 innings, the former will be worth 40 more points than the latter. Instead, if you compare Richard’s 4.4 K/9 to Liriano’s 9.59, you are talking about Liriano having a more-than-one-point-per-IP advantage, assuming all the other numbers are the same. That is an awfully big gap to overcome.
The fourth pitcher ottoneu disliked is a reminder of an issue mentioned earlier — ottoneu despises HR-prone pitching. Phil Hughes (47th, 85th) post a 1.65 HR/9, outdone only by Ervin Santana‘s 1.97 (Santana, by the way, ranked 83rd in 5×5 and, despite having no room to fall, still fell to 97th in ottoneu). His other numbers weren’t terrible, including 7.76 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, and a relatively low BABIP (.285), all of which are things ottoneu should reward. But if you are giving up a HR every time out, not much else matters. A pitcher who goes out and strikes out the side but gives up a HR in the middle has just LOST points for your team (7.4 for the innings + 6 for the Ks – 14.9 for the HR leaves you with -1.5 total). A pitcher who strikes out the side but in the middle walks four players has done BETTER for you (7.4 for the inning + 6 for the Ks – 12 for the BBs leaves you with 1.4).
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