Pitcher Win Values Explained: Part One

Since we released the Win Values for hitters here on the site, one of the main questions was when we were going to add them for pitchers. The answer: today. If you go to a pitcher’s player page here on FanGraphs, you’ll see the newly added Value section down at the bottom.

For example, here’s Johan Santana’s Win Values for the past five years:

2004: +7.6 wins
2005: +7.2 wins
2006: +7.1 wins
2007: +3.4 wins
2008: +4.6 wins

During his stretch of dominance with the Twins, he was consistently amazing. He took a step back in his last year in Minnesota though, and while he rebounded somewhat this year, he hasn’t been the same elite guy that he was in his prime during the last two years. Still very good, certainly, as a +4.6 win pitcher is among the best in the game, but not quite the guy he was from 2004 to 2006.

Other fun pitchers to look at: Brad Lidge (+3 wins from a closer in ’08 – quite the addition for Philly), Barry Zito (the Giants should have seen this coming), and Ben Sheets (seriously, someone should give this guy some money).

So, now, for the obvious question – how on earth did we come up with these things?

Starting tomorrow, we’ll do a week long series explaining the calculations behind pitcher win values and the questions that arose during the process. They’re far more complicated that hitter win values, honestly – there’s issues of run environments, leverage, and context that had to be accounted for, and in many cases, the decisions of how to handle these things aren’t cut and dried. So, over the next few days, we’ll dig into those issues and talk about how we arrived at the values we did, and what the positives and negatives of those decisions are.

We hoped you liked reading Pitcher Win Values Explained: Part One by Dave Cameron!

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Is the reason that win values are only shown from 2002 on also relating to the dollar values that have been previously calculated? Or is there certain information used in the run calculations that are not available prior to 2002? But this is great, another fun thing to play around with on Fangraphs

David Appelman

Yep, there’s certain information that I have only going back to 2002, mainly for the batter win values. UZR only going back to 2002 is the main reason.

We could do pitcher values going back to 1974 right now, and possibly 1954 later on, but there is a leverage index component in the pitcher values which makes going back before that not possible.


Not possible for now. If Retrosheet is able to get all of the play-by-plays then you guys go and get the LI’s.