Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pitching Runs in 2008

ERA is one of the best performance measures among traditional baseball statistics but it does have limitations. Like batting average and slugging percentage, ERA is unaffected by sample size and thus does not take durability into consideration. For example, Erik Bedard’s 3.67 ERA last year was better than A.J. Burnett’s 4.07 ERA. However, Bedard started just 15 games and Burnett had a full sesson of 34 starts. Which pitcher contributed more to his team? A fairly simple statistic called Pitching Runs developed by Pete Palmer and John Thorn in the 1980s answers this question better than ERA.


The formula for Pitching Runs is: IP x (Lge ERA/9) – ER. The middle term (league ERA divided by 9) is the average runs allowed per inning for all teams in the league. Multiplying that by the pitcher’s innings pitched gives us the number of runs the pitcher would have allowed in that many innings if he was an average pitcher. Finally, we take the difference between that number and the pitcher’s earned runs to determine his pitching runs or runs saved above average. Pitching Runs is better than ERA as it accounts for pitcher’s workload as well as his effectiveness. No, it’s not as sophisticated as VORP or Pitching Runs Created or something like that but it’s effective and its’ simplicity has value.


The pitching runs (PR) for Tigers starters in 2008 are listed in Table 1 below. Not surprisingly, Armando Galarraga lead the team with 12.4 pitching runs. An average pitcher would have zero pitching runs. So, the Big Cat saved 12.4 runs over the course of the season compared to an average American League pitcher. The three other most frequently used starters – Justin Verlander (-10.9), Kenny Rogers (-26.0) and Nate Robertson (-37.5) were well below average according this statistic. In fact, Robertson was the worst in the league.


Table 1: Pitching Runs for Detroit Tigers Starters in 2008


Name

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Galarraga

178.7

74

3.73

12.4

Miner

118.0

56

4.27

1.0

Bonderman

71.3

34

4.29

0.5

Verlander

201.0

108

4.84

-10.9

Rogers

173.7

110

5.70

-26.0

Robertson

168.7

119

6.35

-37.5



The American League leaders are shown in Table 2 below. You can see that the run-away leaders were Cliff Lee (44.9) and Roy Halliday (42.9). Justin Duchscherer finished third with 28.5 Pitching Runs.


Table 2: American Pitching Runs Leaders - 2008


Name

Team

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Lee

CLE

223.3

63

2.54

44.9

Halladay

TOR

246.0

76

2.78

42.9

Duchscherer

OAK

141.7

40

2.54

28.5

Matsuzaka

BOS

167.7

54

2.90

27.1

Lester

BOS

210.3

75

3.21

26.6

Danks

CHA

195.0

72

3.32

22.2

Mussina

NYA

200.3

75

3.37

21.8

Santana

LAA

219.0

85

3.49

20.8

Saunders

LAA

198.0

75

3.41

20.7

Hernandez

SEA

200.7

77

3.45

20.0

Greinke

KC

202.3

78

3.47

19.8

Chamberlain

NYA

100.3

29

2.60

19.5

Shields

TB

215.0

85

3.56

18.9

Baker

MIN

172.3

66

3.45

17.3

Harden

OAK

77.0

20

2.34

17.2

Marcum

TOR

151.3

57

3.39

16.1

Guthrie

BAL

190.7

77

3.63

15.2

Litsch

TOR

176.0

70

3.58

15.1

Kazmir

TB

152.3

59

3.49

14.6

Buehrle

CHA

218.7

92

3.79

13.7


Table 3 lists the National League leaders. That list is headed by Johan Santana (45.7), Tim Lincecum (42.2) and C.C. Sabathia (38.3). Sabathia had 45.4 Pitching Runs in both leagues combined.

Table 3: National League Pitching Runs Leaders - 2008

Name

Team

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Santana

NYN

234.3

66

2.53

45.7

Lincecum

SF

227.0

66

2.62

42.2

Sabathia

MIL

130.7

24

1.65

38.3

Dempster

CHN

206.7

68

2.96

30.5

Hamels

PHI

227.3

78

3.09

30.3

Peavy

SD

173.7

55

2.85

27.8

Sheets

MIL

198.3

68

3.09

26.5

Billingsley

LAN

200.7

70

3.14

25.7

Webb

ARI

226.7

83

3.30

25.1

Lowe

LAN

211.0

76

3.24

24.6

Volquez

CIN

196.0

70

3.21

23.4

Haren

ARI

216.0

80

3.33

23.0

Harden

CHN

71.0

14

1.77

19.8

Nolasco

FLA

212.3

83

3.52

18.2

Hudson

ATL

142.0

50

3.17

17.7

Oswalt

HOU

208.7

82

3.54

17.5

Wainwright

STL

132.0

47

3.20

15.9

Maholm

PIT

206.3

85

3.71

13.3

Volstad

FLA

84.3

27

2.88

13.2

Cain

SF

217.7

91

3.76

12.8

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