Sunday, February 27, 2011

WERC for Tigers Relievers

As promised in my earlier article on reliever Weighted Component ERA (WERC), I'll now take a look at WERC for Tigers relievers.   Again, WERC is what a pitcher's ERA "should be" based on walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and hits.  A more detailed description was given in my introductory post.  

The table below shows that Jose Valverde had a much lower WERC (2.78) than FIP (3.78) in 2010 which says that he was very good at limiting hits.  Good relievers tend to be better at inducing weak contact on batted balls than starters and Valverde's .265 career BABIP suggests that he has that skill.  His FIP was hurt by an increased walk rate in the second half which was probably related to his injured elbow.  

Benoit was one of the most dominant relievers in the majors by any statistic in 2010.  The Tigers are paying him to repeat that performance in 2011 or at least have an ERA simlar to his 2010 FIP.  If he stays healthy, he should be a tremendous setup man behind Valverde.

Like Valverde, Ryan Perry had a better WERC (3.78) than FIP (4.23).  In his case, his FIP suffered from a relatively low strikeout rate (6.5 K/9) for a reliever. Last year, he was working on his control and was successful walking two fewer batters per nine innings than he did in 2009.  This year, the Tigers hope he'll put it all together and be their second set-up man 

With Phil Coke moving to the starting rotation, the Tigers are counting on Dan Schlereth to fill the top lefty reliever role.  His 4.62 WERC shows that he was hit pretty hard last year, but I don't think we need to be concerned about an 18 2/3 inning sample.  The biq question with him is control.   


Table 1: WERC for Tigers Relievers, 2010


Player
Team
G
IP
ERA
FIP
WERC
Joaquin Benoit
TBR
63
60.1
1.34
2.43
1.15
Joel Zumaya
DET
31
38.1
2.58
2.50
2.62
Jose Valverde
DET
60
63.0
3.00
3.78
2.78
Ryan Perry
DET
60
62.2
3.59
4.23
3.78
Phil Coke
DET
74
64.2
3.76
3.23
3.82
Brad Thomas
DET
49
69.1
3.89
4.39
4.49
Daniel Schlereth
DET
18
18.2
2.89
4.20
4.62

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Brief Review of Baseball Prospectus Annual

I received my Baseball Prospectus Annual yesterday and spent a couple of hours reading it last night.  The first thing I noticed is that the statistical profiles are less cluttered.  There used to be so many columns that I wasn't sure what to look at.  That's OK for the site database, but for the book, I think less is more.  I believe most people buy the book for the commentary more than the stats anyway.

The text is informative as always and generally entertaining.  There was a period a few years ago where I thought some of the writers got a little too cute with snarky comments and pop culture references.  Over the past few years, they've gotten away from that a bit while still remaining clever.  I also sense a somewhat more positive tone in this years book, which I think is a good thing. That's not to say they give cheery blue sky evaluations of every player.  That's not the case at all.  Rather, there is a good balance of critical analysis and optimism which I think is what most fans want to see in a pre-season preview.

The cover of the book still has the notorious "Deadly Accurate PECOTA Projections" phrase, but I think that's the work of the publisher rather than Baseball Prospectus.  It's false advertising, but at least it stops at the cover.  Inside the book, the writers don't give us the sense that the PECOTA projections are deadly accurate pointing out numerous cases where they should be viewed with caution.  They use the PECOTAs as a baseline rather than as the final word.   

On the back cover, Rob Neyer says that the Annual is "The best book of its kind".  This I think is accurate and this year's book might be their best product yet.

Now, for a few teasers about the Tigers:

Jacob Turner: "Unlike most debuting young flamethrowers, he avoided walks with aplomb and commanded his fastball exceptionally well, while scouts think his curve count eventually rival anyone's.  In short, he could be a behemoth."

Phil Coke: "The success of C.J. Wilson in escaping the bullpen will surely prompt a slew of copycat conversions, some better considered than others, but Coke's stuff makes him an excellent candidate for a transition to starting.

Nick Castellanos: "Castellanos's bat is what excites scouts, as he projects to hit for both average and power at a star level."

Will Rhymes:"Rhymes plays solid defense, works the count, takes his walks, lashes the occasional gapper, and most importantly looks like he belongs.  .  He doesn't have Sizemore's ceiling, but his broad-based skill set and patient lefty bat mean he'll probably have a career."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Statistic that WERCs for Relievers

I'm not really sure how good Weighted Component ERA (WERC) is for evaluating relievers, but it's a good statistic for silly blog titles.  I originally Introduced WERC in an earlier post and applied it to MLB starters in 2010.  To review, it serves as an intermediate step between ERA and FIP.  The FIP statistic estimates what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on fielding independent statistics - walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and home runs.  WERC is another ERA estimator, but it adds hits to everything that FIP includes.

Why might WERC be useful for relief pitchers?  There is growing evidence that relievers (especially very good ones) have more control over the results of batted balls than starters.  The phenomenon has been studied by Lewie Pollis of Wahoo Blues and Dave Studenmund at The Hardball Times among others.  It has been found that at least some relievers tend to allow fewer hits on batted balls throughout their careers than most starters.

One theory is that relievers only have to pitch to a few batters per game and can throw their best stuff on every pitch, whereas starters need to pace themselves throughout the game.  Therefore, relievers may be able to induce weaker contact than starters.  With this in mind, it might make sense to include hits in the evaluation of relievers even if it has been shown that most starters have limited control over batted balls.  Thus, WERC might be a good alternative to FIP in evaluating relievers. 

The top relievers (according to WERC) with 50 or more appearances in 2010 are listed in the table below.  Dodgers left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo led the majors with a fantastic 0.84 WERC.  He also finished first in ERA (1.20) and second in FIP (1.81).  His extremely low WERC along with his .206 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) both show that he was very good at limiting hits.  It's not likely that he can maintain the same WERC or BABIP next year, but relievers do tend to have lower BABIPs than starters.

New Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit finished third in the majors with a 1.15 WERC pitching for the Rays last year.  We'll look at more Tigers relievers in a later post.  

Table 1: Top 20 Relievers by WERC in 2010

Note: Some of the data for this article were taken from Baseball -Reference and FanGraphs

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guillen to Bat Sixth if Healthy

According to Steve Kornacki at MLive, Jim Leyland said this morning that Carlos Guillen will bat sixth if he's healthy at the beginning of the season:
“If Carlos is healthy and ready to go I’d like to bat him behind Victor,” Leyland said.He likes the thought of having a pair of veteran switch-hitters behind Cabrera to confound late-inning pitching changes and for their proven run-production abilities.

Guillen being healthy is always a big "if" but Lynn Henning writes that he is in good shape and may be ahead of schedule

With Austin Jackson leading off, and Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez batting in the three through five spots, the question is: Who will bat second? Leyland's answer was:
“Whoever makes the team,”

What does he mean by that? He could be trying to avoid the question or perhaps he doesn't want to give any young or developing players the impression that they have won a job.   Anyway, if Guillen is playing second base, then I think the obvious choice for the second slot in the order would be Ryan Raburn. In that case, the line-up would look like this:


Jackson CF
Raburn LF
Ordonez RF
Cabrera 1B
Martinez DH
Guillen 2B
Peralta SS
Inge 3B
Avila C

Even if he's healthy, I suspect Guillen would only be playing second base four or five games per week.  Perhaps, he would be designated hitter versus left-handed starters.  This might yield the following line-up

Jackson CF
Raburn LF
Ordonez RF
Cabrera 1B
Martinez C
Guillen DH
Peralta SS
Inge 3B
Rhymes/Sizemore 2B

Regardless, if Guillen is playing and there are no surprises (like a long rehab for Cabrera), I can't see anybody else that makes sense over Raburn in the second spot. 

Of course, we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves here.  Guillen staying healthy for a full season would certainly be a nice bonus, but not something I'd expect.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's Next for Cabrera?

It's spring training and I'd rather talk about baseball, but the biggest issue on Tigers fans minds right now is Miguel Cabrera's alcohol problem.  He is currently back home in Boca Raton, Florida after being charged with a DUI Thursday morning.  By all accounts, he is in excellent physical shape and would like to be in Lakeland working out with teammates right now, but he'll have to wait.

Early next week, the Tigers first baseman will meet with doctors selected by MLB and the player's union to decide the next course of action. General Manager Dave Dombrowski reports that Cabrera understands that he has an alcohol problem and is being very cooperative:
"He's cooperative and realizes he's had an alcohol problem in the past that he's addressed and has worked through, and he fell off of that program," Dombrowski said. "He acknowledges that and he will do what's necessary to get back on track. But I will also say he's extremely down. He wants to be here. He feels terrible but he understands the importance of making sure that this is properly evaluated." 
The Tigers slugger already underwent outpatient treatment for a few months at the end of 2009 following his late season drinking incident that year. It may have worked for a while, but this relapse could prompt further action.

There are a few different courses of treatment Cabrera could take. He could start off in a detoxification program for a week or two if necessary.  It does sound as if he is functioning well enough where that would not be necessary though.  Another possibility is that he would go in into inpatient treatment which could last a month or more.  It also might be a matter of more outpatient treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It's possible they will decide that he doesn't need treatment at this time, but that seems unlikely.

How long will he be out if he needs treatment?  If it's something like AA then he probably wouldn't miss time.  If he needs intensive inpatient treatment, then he won't be able play for a while.

There is some recent precedent of alcohol treatment for a major league player.  Last year, Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario was late for spring training after he was charged with a DUI in his native Venezuela and could not secure a work Visa.  That is not quite the same as Cabrera's situation.  However, later in the year, Belisario was placed on the restricted list when he entered substance abuse treatment.  As a result, he missed a month of action between early July and early August.   

If Cabrera follows the same course as Belisario, he could go into treatment next week and be out shortly before spring training ends.  In that case, he would miss very little of the regular season if any.  He would probably require follow up treatment on an outpatient basis after that, but it probably wouldn't require him to miss much time.

I still don't expect this problem to affect the baseball season much.  I expect him to play and to hit like he always does.  I also trust that Jim Leyland won't let the situation become too much of a distraction to the team.

Speaking as a baseball fan, I don't think we'll be affected too much by this situation other than tiring of hearing about it.  Speaking as as a compassionate human being, I hope he gets help for his sake and his family's sake.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cabrera Arrested for DUI

Things were looking really positive in the opening days of spring training. The Tigers had a productive off-season, most of the key players were reportedly in good health and all seemed well in Lakeland.  That all changed this morning when Miguel Cabrera was arrested for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol.

This is the second major incident involving Cabrera, the other one being the notorious confrontation with his wife occurring at the end of the 2009 season.  In today's arrest, he was reportedly uncooperative and confrontational with police and even continued to drink in front of the officers as he was being arrested.  This is a drinking problem that probably requires intervention and we can only hope he gets help at some point.

Unfair or not, the biggest concern for baseball fans is how his problems will affect his ability to play baseball. It sure doesn't seem as if it has hurt him as a player to this point. All you have to do is look at his numbers to see that.  If he hits .328 and slugs 38 home runs again next year, most of us will forget about his drinking incidents. You've got to think think that it could get to him eventually though and prevent him from having a long career.

How will the Tigers deal with it? Will they suspend him? Require him to go to rehabilitation? It seems unlikely that they'll let their star hitter and $20 million man miss much time, if any.  Of immediate concern is whether this latest incident could be a distraction to a team that seemed to have a lot of good things going for it this spring.
 
Instead of hearing reports on the second base battle or whether Brad Penny and Phil Coke can fill out the rotation, all we are going to hear about is Cabrera's drinking problem all spring. Hopefully, that's the worst that comes out of this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Handicapping the Second Base Race


Scott Sizemore Hopes to Start on Opening Day (Photo courtesy of Roger Dewitt/hueytaxi)
(Edit: I think the picture I had up there earlier was not Scott Sizemore)

There is only one real positional battle in the Detroit Tigers camp this spring.  They are apparently all set at catcher, first base, shortstop, third base, all three outfield positions and designated hitter.  Even the starting rotation is pretty much engraved in stone barring injuries or implosions.  The only starting job to be settled is second base.

General manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland have both said that Carlos Guillen will be the second baseman when he recovers from micro-fracture surgery on his knee, but he is not expected to be ready at the beginning of the season.  With his injury history, there is also no telling how long he can stay healthy once he gets back.  So, you've got to believe that the Tigers are hoping that somebody else will seize the job both short-term and long-term.

The main candidates are Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes and Danny Worth.  Sizemore was given the job last year after Placido Polanco entered free agency and signed with the Phillies.  However, Sizemore broke his ankle in the Arizona Fall League and was not fully recovered for the regular season.  As a result, he was never comfortable at the plate or in the field as a Tiger and ended up back in Toledo.  He is now reportedly fully healthy and ready for a second chance.  He is the only one of the middle infielders with power and has the best overall upside.  Thus, I'll consider him a little better than even money favorite to win the starting spot.

Will Rhymes took the starting job last year after Sizemore failed and Guillen was injured.  He made good contact and played a steady second base down the stretch.  He's a left-handed batter on a team that needs left-handed bats.  The scrappy infielder is also a favorite of Leyland.  However, he lacks the power of Sizemore and some believed he played over his head last year.  It's impossible to root against the fan-friendly and computer-savvy Rhymes, but he does not have the potential of Sizemore.  I'll say that he has a one out of three shot at claiming the open spot.

Danny Worth is a better defender than either Sizemore or Rhymes and the Tigers certainly could use some defense up the middle with the steady but immoble Jhonny Peralta at shortstop.  Worth is a weak hitter though and his fielding is probably not strong enough to offset his offensive shortcomings.  He profiles as a utility player and is a long shot to win the starting job.

If all else fails, there is always Ramon Santiago.  The Tigers know what he can do - he'll play solid defense and provide passable offense.  They've always regarded him as a utility player though and that's probably what he'll be again this year.

Finally, I'll throw out a long long shot - Brandon Douglas.  The twenty-five-year-old rookie has a lifetime minor league batting average of .331 including .359 in 35 games at double-A Erie last year. He's a decent prospect who may have a future in Detroit, but he will almost surely head to the minors again this year.

So, Sizemore is the early favorite, but there is plenty of competition and this battle could go down to the final week of spring training. 

Table 1: Probability of Being the Starting Second baseman on Opening Day


Player
Percent
Scott Sizemore
55%
Will Rhymes
30%
Danny Worth
10%
Ramon Santiago
3%
Carlos Guillen
1%
Brandon Douglas
1%

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pitchers and Catchers Report


Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander in Lakeland. (Photo courtesy of Roger Dewitt/hueytaxi

One of the sweetest phrases for a baseball fan...Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Lakeland today.  Many have actually been there for a while, but today is the day they are officially required to be there.

This means that the end of the long cold winter - one of the worst in years in many parts of the country - is near.  Opening day is more than six weeks away, but the thought of pitchers and catcher's reporting to Florida and Arizona makes you feel the warmth of a summer night at the ballpark. 

Every injury prone veteran is healthy and in the best shape of his life.  Every rookie pitcher has a new pitch and is ready to blossom.  Every manager thinks the atmosphere in camp is the best he's seen in all his years.  Every fan's favorite team is in first place and is a legitimate contender for the playoffs.

This is the year Rick Porcello breaks out and becomes a dominant pitcher.  Phil Coke is going to adjust just fine to his new role as starter.  Brad Penny is going to be healthy this year.  We know that because he's already in the best shape of his life.  Joel Zumaya is finally going to make it through a full-season and be the pitcher he was in 2006

Ryan Raburn is going to put together two good halves.  Scott Sizemore is a new man this year - healthy and confident and primed to seize the second base job.  And even if he doesn't they'll be fine because Carlos Guillen is going to be healthy and Will Rhymes is solid.  Austin Jackson's going to be even better this year.  Alex Avila will be the most improved young catcher in baseball.

Everything is right with the world today and the Tigers are going all the way this year.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

PECOTA Comparables

Baseball Prospectus recently released its Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA) projections for 2011.  PECOTA is a complicated projection system created by Nate Silver and recently improved by Colin Wyers.  It uses the statistics and characteristics (age, height, weight, position) of a given player and the statistics and characteristics of similar players to arrive at projections for that player.

Accessing the data requires a subscription, so I can't reveal too much, but I will give you a look at a few players.  Rather than giving you statistical projections, I will present lists of players which were considered the closest comparisons to Tigers players.  These comparisons are fun, but should probably not be taken all that seriously. 

Austin Jackson

Roger Bernadina Felix Pie Adam Jones

Most systems are projecting a regression for Jackson in 2011 because of his high strikeout rate and probably unsustainable BABIP.  PECOTA is no different and the first two comparisons - Bernadina and Pie - are not very flattering.  Jones is a little better, although he's a different kind of hitter at this point (more power than Jackson)

Daniel Fields

Justin Upton B.J. Upton Adam Jones

These are certainly optimistic comparisons for a kid who has not played above single-A.  I wouldn't complain if he turned into any one of those players.  I think it's more of a best case scenario than something we can expect though.

Brandon Inge

Howard Johnson Ron Santo Al Smith

I don't know about you, but Brandon Inge does not remind me of Ron Santo.

Jacob Turner


Madison Bumgarner Don Drysdale Rick Porcello

As I said with Fields, it's pretty encouraging for a player coming out of single-A to compare with productive major leaguers, especially when one of them is Don Drysdale.


Rick Porcello

Mike Witt Bill Parsons Dave Rozema

Mike Witt makes sense because he debuted in the majors at a fairly young age and took some time before he increased his strikeout rate.  I hope Porcello is not Parsons because his career would soon be over.

Max Scherzer

Roger Clemens Zack Greinke Len Barker

Roger Clemens!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

WERC for Everyone

My recent post about Weighted Component ERA (WERC) sparked more interest than expected, so I have created a database for WERC for every pitcher and put it into google spreadsheets. The statistics on the table are:

PA - Plate Appearances
IP = Innings Pitched
ERA=Earned Run Average
FIP = Fielding Independent Pitching
wOBAA = Weighted On Base Average Against
RAA = Runs Above Average
WERC = Weighted Component ERA

An explanation of wOBAA, RAA and WERC can be found in the earlier post.  To be clear, WERC is not any kind of sabermetric breakthrough.  It's just the linear weights version of Bill James' Component ERA (WERC).  It's another option falling within the ERA to FIP spectrum.  It's best use might be as an alternative to ERA for evaluating past performance.       

Note: Some of the data for this table were taken from Baseball -Reference and FanGraphs

Monday, February 07, 2011

Tigers Annual Coming Soon



As I mentioned previously, the 2011 Maple Street Press Tigers Annual will be on sale at Michigan newstands on March 1. Kurt Mensching of Bless You Boys is the editor and head writer of the book and and he recently revealed the table of contents.  The book can be pre-ordered now at Maple Street Press

I wrote articles on Austin Jackson and 1930s and 40s slugger Rudy York, but that's only a small part of the book.  Other authors include John Parent and Matt Snyder of Motor City Bengals,   Detroit News writer Tom Gage, Ian Casselberry of Big League Stew, Michael McClary of Daily Fungo, and Bill Ferris of TigsTown  among others.  Even Tigers second baseman Will Rhymes contributed an article discussing what it's like to be a major league rookie. 

It is 128 pages about the Tigers with beautiful photography and no advertisements.  It includes previews of the upcoming season, detailed prospect reports, historical pieces and much more.  It should be great spring training reading, so check it out now at Maple Street Press.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Which Tigers Pitchers did the Best WERC in 2010?

Yesterday, I introduced yet another pitching statistic - Weighted Component ERA (WERC).  which serves as a supplement to the Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS). The WERC metric is similar to Bill James' component ERA except that it's based on linear weights rather than runs created.   If you read the previous post, you will learn how WERC is calculated and how it can be used. Today, I'll touch upon the main points and then use it to examine the Tigers starting staff.

Most readers of Tiger Tales are familiar with the Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) statistic.  FIP estimates what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on events over which he has the most control - walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and home runs.  Other DIPS (tERA, SIERA,etc.) do the same thing, but they add batted ball data (ground ball, fly ball, infield fly and line drive rates) to the equation.

All of the DIPS metrics remove results of batted balls (hits and outs recorded by fielders) and sequencing of events (e.g. stringing together hits and walks versus spreading them out throughout a game) from pitcher evaluation.  This is done because it has been shown that pitchers have less (although not zero) control over these things than they do on DIPS components

WERC estimates what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on walks, hit batsmen strikeouts and home runs plus results of batted balls (hits and outs).  So, it removes less potential noise than say FIP, but it still does not take sequencing of events into consideration.  It is useful for at least two reasons:
  • It can be used as an alternative to ERA for evaluating past pitcher performance.  It is especially useful if you think that a pitcher was either lucky or unlucky in his sequencing (e.g extremely high or low left on base percentage).
  • In cases where a pitcher's ERA is much different than his FIP, WERC can be useful in determining whether the difference was caused more by results of batted balls in play or something else such as sequencing.   
The table below compares Tigers starters in 2010 and 2011 on ERA, FIP and WERC.

Table 1: ERA, FIP and WERC for Tigers 2010, 2011 Starters


Some items which I found to be interesting are:
  • The Tigers five projected starters for 2011 - Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Brad Penny - ranked ahead of the two departing starters - Armando Galarraga and Jeremy Bondermam - on both FIP and WERC.  That bodes well for 2011, but keep in mind the small sample sizes for Coke and Penny.
  • Verlander ranked only 11th in the American League on ERA, but finished third in FIP and sixth in WERC.  That is another positive sign because it's an indication that his ERA may be lower this year if he pitches similarly to 2010. 
  • Penny's WERC (4.10) was much higher than his ERA (3.23) and FIP (3.40) which says that he may have fared poorly on batted balls. His BABIP of .326 backs that up.
  • Porcello's ERA (4.92) was much higher than either his FIP (4.31) or WERC (4.42).  Because his FIP and WERC are so similar, the discrepancy between ERA and FIP would appear to be the result of sequencing rather than batted balls.  His 65.9 LOB% tells us a similar story.
I personally find WERC to be informative and will be using it again in the future, but I welcome any feedback from others.  If there is a better way to calculate it or if anyone has different thoughts on how it should be used, I'd like to hear them.


Note: Some of the data for this article were taken from Baseball -Reference and FanGraphs

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Filling the Gap Between ERA and FIP

(Note: This is a heavily sabermetric post rather than a Detroit Tigers post.  I'll apply the results to the Tigers in a later post.)

The limitations of ERA are well known in the blogosophere.  Two of the biggest issues are:

(1) ERA gives pitchers full responsibility for all hits allowed despite the fact that their control over batted balls is limited.  For example, a pitcher with a strong defense behind him will give up less hits (and thus fewer runs) than if he had a poor defense behind him.

(2) ERA gives pitchers full responsibility for sequencing of events.  That is, it assumes that they can control when they give up hits and walks. For example, if a pitcher pitches extraordinarily well with runners in scoring position in a given year, he will have a lower ERA than if he had a typical year in those situations.

In reality, pitchers have limited control over both the number of hits they allow and sequencing of events.  Thus, Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS) such as FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA have been developed to remove some of the noise of ERA.  DIPS are based on things that pitchers do control for the most part - walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts, home runs and types of batted balls (ground balls , fly balls, line drives, pop flies). 

Because they are based on things that pitchers essentially control, the DIPS metrics are said to be better measures of true talent than ERA.  As a result, they are also better than ERA at predicting future performance. However, they only measure a portion of a pitcher's talent and should be used as complements to ERA rather than as replacements.

While pitchers do have less control over results of batted balls (hits and outs) than they do over walks, strikeouts, homers and ground balls, they do have SOME influence on results of batted balls.  Some pitchers are indeed better than others at preventing hits on balls in play.  Pitchers also have some control over sequencing of events.  Specifically, some pitchers are better than others at pitching with runners on base.

There is a big leap in going from ERA to FIP.  Instead of removing hit prevention and sequencing in one step, it might be better to remove one factor at a time.  Bill James did that with his Component ERA (ERC).  Applying the runs created methodology to pitchers, he determined what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on walks, hit batsmen,  strikeouts, homers AND hits allowed.  The runs created model is not used much anymore though and linear weights are better, so I wanted to find a similar statistic based on linear weights.

J.T. Jordan at Hardball Times got us part of the way there.  He used the Baseball -Reference data on batting against pitchers to calculate wOBA against (or wOBAA).  wOBAA for pitchers is calculated the same as wOBA for hitters.  The MLB leaders for 2010 are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: MLB wOBAA Leaders in 2010


One good feature of wOBA is that it can easily be translated into runs above average (wRAA or RAA).  To calculate RAA, subtract league average wOBAA from a player's wOBAA, divide by 1.25 (that number changes from year to year but is usually between 1.15 and 1.25) and multiply by plate appearances.  The 2010 leaders are listed in Table 2.  Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez tops the list at 45 RAA.  This means that he saved his team an estimated 45 runs compared to the average pitcher.

Table 2: MLB RAA Leaders in 2010



So, we are almost there.  All we need to do is turn RAA into an ERA.  Here are the steps:


(1) Calculate MLB average runs scored per nine innings (4.44 in 2010)

(2) Subtract a pitcher' runs above average per nine innings pitched from the league average:
4.44- 9 x RAA/IP

(3) About 93% of runs are earned, so multiply the result in step (2) by .93.  The final result is a linear weights component ERA.  I'll call it WERC.

Table 3 shows that King Felix led the majors with a 2.60 WERC in 2010.  

Table 3: MLB WERC Leaders in 2010


WERC is useful because it gives us an intermediate step between ERA and FIP.  For example, Braves right-hander Tim Hudson had a big discrepancy between ERA (2.83) and FIP (4.09)
His WERC was 3.03 which is a lot closer to his ERA.  This tells us that a large amount of the difference between FIP and ERA was due to batted balls in play rather than sequencing.  We could have figured this out by examining other numbers such as BABIP and LOB%, but it's more convenient to compare three stats on the ERA scale. 

Another example is National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.  Halladay's ERA (2.44) was lower than his FIP (3.01).  However, his WERC was 3.05 which tells us that the discrepancy was not due to hits allowed but rather sequencing.

I will apply these statistics to Tigers pitchers in a later post.

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