Introducing Handsome-Independent Pitching

Barry Zito underperforms his handsome.

Highly Important Note: This post was composed prior to the author’s reading of Mr. Baumann’s quite similarly motivated post of earlier today We coordinated this completely on purpose.

Those of you who, for whatever reason — novelty, I suppose — read our “stepchild” site Fangraphs, in addition to Notgraphs proper, will have noted the dramatic rollout this week of the new metric “Fielding Dependent Pitching.” I applaud the Fangraphs team for their effort and encourage them to keep at it, but here at Notgraphs we remain, to put it politely, a step ahead. Here I would like to announce our newest product, an advanced metric that brings us a massive step closer to the holy grail of fully understanding and predicting pitcher performance.

It is a matter of folk wisdom that handsome players perform better on the baseball field. One need only compare the careers of “Handsome Lou” Boudreau and “Ugly Johnny” Dickshot for a case in point! Although the factors that mediate the impact of handsomeness on performance are many and obscure, we need not address them here — except to observe that handsomeness might be expected to be especially valuable for a pitcher, who is in a unique position to wield his looks, intimately and often, against his opponent. Let us begin, then, with the uncontroversial assumption that more handsome pitchers will, on average, be more effective. How shall we begin to quantify this?

As an initial step, I put together a sample of two (2) adult women, namely, my lovely and indulgent girlfriend and my gracious mother, and asked that they rate the handsomeness of all qualifying 2012 pitchers on a scale from 1 to 5. The coincidence of their ratings, notwithstanding their firm divergence over Tim Lincecum, encouraged me that the phenomena being measured here are indeed objective and universal. I then averaged their ratings and looked at the twenty pitchers who ranked highest and lowest. In the handsome corner, we have an indubitably illustrious group composed of Edwin Jackson, C.J. Wilson, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Cole Hamels, Clayton Richard, Ryan Vogelsong, Ryan Dempster, Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson, Jeremy Guthrie, J.A. Happ, David Price, Madison Bumgarner, Tommy Hanson, and Josh Beckett:

And in the less handsome corner, in no particular order, we have Aaron Harang, Bud Norris, Clay Buchholz, Mat Latos, R.A. Dickey, Trevor Cahill, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, James McDonald, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Harrison, Wandy Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Paul Maholm, Ricky Nolasco, Zack Greinke, Bronson Arroyo, Luke Hochevar, and Ricky Romero:

Observe, first, that a lack of handsomeness does not preordain poor performance. Indeed, there are three Cy Young winners on the latter list, and at least two contenders for this year’s awards — the Oscar Pistoriuses of baseball; men who, through a heroic exertion of willpower, have rejected and overcome their genetic disadvantages in spectacular fashion. Still, the overall pattern could not be more damning:

This table, for the first time, lends stark numbers to the truth that unhandsome pitchers are burdened with a substantial handicap. They strike out fewer batters, walk more, surrender more home runs, accumulate less value, and unsurprisingly lack longevity in comparison to their better-endowed counterparts.

Stay tuned for Part II of this series, in which we will unveil HIP (Handsome-Independent Pitching) and use it to assess pitchers’ true value with unprecedented rigor.

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30 Responses to “Introducing Handsome-Independent Pitching”

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  1. Johnny says:

    Tom Gorzelanny: forever outperforming his handsomeness.

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  2. Alex says:

    Did you even show them a picture of Jeff Karstens?

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  3. carpengui says:

    Is this data park-weighted?

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  4. olethros says:

    I expect to see a stat describing expected ERA as a function of length and girth soon.

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  5. Urban Shocker says:

    Mom says I’m handsome.

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  6. Jack says:

    Aaron Harang probably will get a couple Cy Youngs in adjustment from HIP.

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    • scout1222 says:

      Seriously, sad to say, I’m glad his name was listed first in that grouping because he immediately came to mind.

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  7. Lichtenstein says:

    If you put Josh Beckett in the ugly group where he belongs I believe your results will be vastly improved

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  8. Bob says:

    I see the women you polled had some sort of weird goatee fetish or something.

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  9. Resolution says:

    Mark Mulder always underperformed his handsomeness. So dreamy.

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  10. Mark Reynolds says:

    Clay Buchholz is totally handsome.

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  11. Snoorh says:

    I’m glad you brought up how NotGraphs is far superior to FanGraphs. I feel like it was the elephant in the room.

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    • MikeS says:

      If Notgraphs is a baseball site, it is undoubtedly the greatest baseball site on the Internet.

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      • Jack says:

        If Notgraphs is a french poetry site, the same holds true.

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        • Ian R. says:

          Huh. I can parse this comment in three distinct ways:

          1) If NotGraphs is a French poetry site, then NotGraphs is the greatest baseball site on the Internet.
          2) If NotGraphs is a French poetry site, then NotGraphs is the greatest French poetry site on the Internet.
          3) If NotGraphs is a French poetry site, then NotGraphs is a French poetry site.

          In conclusion, I’m confused.

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  12. A handsome commenter, indeed says:

    Et pornographie, oui, dictus. Et considérations sur le sens de la vie et de son insignifiance, le meme chose.

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  13. Ms Plum says:

    Question: what images did you use for the assessment? I’m wondering because I wouldn’t have put Zack Greinke in the unhandsome category, and the ESPN? MLB? head shot of Barry Zito is not the best indicator of his looks.

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  14. poopchute says:

    How DARE you place RA Dickey in the unhandsome category? Philistines and troglodytes… the whole lot of you

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  15. Phill says:

    OK…I don’t think asking your girlfriend and Mom is a representative sample size of judging the hotness of baseball players. I question some of the players included on the hot list. Furthermore, those are two people presumably attracted to you (dating you, and you have half her genes and the other half is someone she was attracted to). This could lead to a very skewed result in the favor of those resembling your appearance.

    Next time ask us gays – head on over to outsports. We live for this sort of thing…

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  16. Mississippi Matt's Sister says:

    As the sister of the author, who went unconsulted for this faux-scientific travesty (due to a lack of internet access, due to her residence in New Orleans, due to $#@& Hurricane Isaac), I would like to go on the record as saying that some of those “handsome” pitchers have about as good a chance at getting lucky as Don Mossi. There seems to be a preponderance of goofiness. And where, oh where, is Brandon Beachy?

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  17. henry says:

    aaron harang is just a flat out zombie, no other explanation. i was surprised homer bailey wasn’t in the ugly group, he strikes me as zombielike as well. also i’d say felix is pretty hot.

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  18. henry says:

    we need a notgraphs post about this: . brandon mccarthy’s apology to redsox fans.

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  19. Ruki Motomiya says:

    The sample size here is clearly too small. I demand a NotGraphs-wide poll for a more in-depth article to be made from.

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  20. JKG says:

    How is Matt Cain not in here, he is once-in-a-generation ugly

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