A Quiz

Last week Dave and MGL both made points about how just about anything can happen in 40 inning stints. To hammer that point home a little harder, let’s do an exercise that shows just how much variance exists. Below I’m going to list a few starting pitcher lines from the last 30 days; I’m also going to list the names of the owners of these lines, but not in order. Your job is obviously to attempt and match the line with the name without cheating.

A. 44.1 IP, 40 H, 4 HR, 8 BB, 21 SO, 2.23 ERA
B. 43 IP, 58 H, 8 HR, 4 BB, 36 SO, 4.4 ERA
C. 42.2 IP, 42 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 52 SO, 4.22 ERA
D. 38 IP, 40 H, 9 HR, 8 BB, 32 SO, 4.97 ERA
E. 34.2 IP, 28 H, 2 HR, 13 BB, 28 SO, 2.08 ERA
F. 37.2 IP, 54 H, 6 HR, 7 BB, 12 SO, 6.21 ERA

Barry Zito
Mark Buehrle
Bronson Arroyo
Roy Halladay
Justin Verlander
Dan Haren

Answers after the jump.

Bronson Arroyo – 44.1 IP, 40 H, 4 HR, 8 BB, 21 SO, 2.23 ERA
Roy Halladay – 43 IP, 58 H, 8 HR, 4 BB, 36 SO, 4.4 ERA
Justin Verlander – 42.2 IP, 42 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 52 SO, 4.22 ERA
Dan Haren – 38 IP, 40 H, 9 HR, 8 BB, 32 SO, 4.97 ERA
Barry Zito 34.2 IP, 28 H, 2 HR, 13 BB, 28 SO, 2.08 ERA
Mark Buehrle 37.2 IP, 54 H, 6 HR, 7 BB, 12 SO, 6.21 ERA

The best and worst pitchers alike can have identity crisis within 40 innings. If we judged them like a lot of people judged John Smoltz last week, then Barry Zito is the best pitcher in baseball and Mark Buehrle just isn’t cut out for the majors.

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El Guapo
Guest
El Guapo

You’re comparing apples and oranges.

Smoltz is coming off of shoulder surgery and he’s 42 years old. He refused to pitch from the bullpen despite concerns (rightfully so) that he could not carry the workload of a starting pitcher in the AL East. Not to mention his 40 innings represented 100% of his contributions this year.

All the pitchers above have been healthy all year (and for the most part, the last few years) and their 40 innings, while certainly different from their career levels, only represent about 25% of their season numbers.

And also, none of them had an ERA over 8!

Nick
Guest

The point is that you can’t tell much about a pitcher based on his ERA or even his FIP, because there is way too much variance in a small sample size.

Even if Smoltz was severely hampered by the injury, and it’s possible that he was, you couldn’t tell that from a 40 inning sample because anyone can pitch poorly or well in that sample. If Smoltz had a 1.00 ERA, it still wouldn’t mean anything more than if he had a 8.00 ERA.