Monday, November 12, 2012

Verlander, Price and Hernandez were best at Preventing Runs in 2012

Evaluations of pitchers will be incomplete until we get a better understanding of how much of run prevention is pitching and how much is fielding and how much this breakdown varies among pitchers.  A good place to start though is with the simplest of pitching statistics - runs allowed. 

Rays left hander David Price allowed 63 runs in 211 innings in 2012.  Angels right hander Jered Weaver also allowed 63 runs, but in fewer innings (188 2/3).  Thus, we calculate runs per nine innings (RA):  Price 2.69 and Weaver (3.01).  That, of course, is the same as ERA except runs are used instead of earned runs.

In order to give pitchers credit for quantity of innings pitched as well as quality, Pete Palmer introduced the pitching runs statistic in 1984.  Pitching runs tells us the number of runs saved or lost by a pitcher compared to league average.  The American League average RA in 2012 was 4.43, so the average pitcher would allow (4.43*211)/9=104 runs in 211 innings.  Therefore, Price had 104-63=41 pitching runs.  In other words, he saved his team 41 runs compared to the average pitcher in the same number of innings.

Remember that Price works in a pretty favorable pitching environment at Tropicana Field in Tampa.  Based on Brandon Heipp's five-year park factors, an average pitcher pitching half his games for Tampa can expect his runs allowed to be deflated by about four percent.  So, Price's pitching runs adjusted for ballpark is 39.    Table 1 below shows that Price led the American League in pitching runs while Tigers fire baller Justin Verlander was second with 37. 

Table 1: AL Pitching Runs Leaders, 2012


Player
Team
G
IP
R
RA
Adjusted Pitching Runs
David Price*
TBR
31
211.0
63
2.69
39
Justin Verlander
DET
33
238.1
81
3.06
37
Chris Sale*
CHW
30
192.0
66
3.09
30
Jered Weaver
LAA
30
188.2
63
3.01
30
Felix Hernandez
SEA
33
232.0
84
3.26
28
Matt Harrison*
TEX
32
213.1
82
3.46
24
Hiroki Kuroda
NYY
33
219.2
86
3.53
23
Jake Peavy
CHW
32
219.0
88
3.62
21
Jeremy Hellickson
TBR
31
177.0
68
3.46
18
Jarrod Parker
OAK
29
181.1
71
3.53
18
Jason Vargas*
SEA
33
217.1
94
3.90
12
Max Scherzer
DET
32
187.2
82
3.94
10
CC Sabathia*
NYY
28
200.0
89
4.01
10
Scott Diamond*
MIN
27
173.0
76
3.95
9
James Shields
TBR
33
227.2
103
4.08
8
  Data source: Baseball-Reference.com

One limitation of pitching runs is that it assumes that pitchers have complete control over timing of hits, walks, home runs, etc.  This was addressed in the previous post about base runs.  The Base Runs statistics estimates the number of runs a pitcher should have allowed, based on base runners, total bases and home runs allowed.  Similar to runs/pitching runs, Based Runs can be translated to runs saved above average.  As seen in the post linked above Verlander, was a league-leading 40 base runs better than average.  He was followed by Price at 35.

Another drawback of pitching runs is that it gives pitchers full credit/blame for results of batted balls in play despite the fact that they share that responsibility with fielders. Thus, Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS) such as FIP have been developed to remove some of the noise of runs based statistics.  FIP is based on things that pitchers do control for the most part - walks, hit batsmen, strikeouts and home runs.  Like runs and base runs, FIP can also be expressed in terms of runs saved above average.  The leader by that method is Mariners ace Felix Hernandez with 32 followed by Verlander (31).

So, we now have three measures of runs saved above average: pitching runs, base runs above average and FIP runs.  Which one you choose depends on how much control you think pitchers have over timing and batted balls.  Table 2 below ranks the AL starters based the average of the three measures.  The three top pitchers are Verlander (36), Price (33) and Hernandez (31).

Table 2: AL Aggregate Runs Saved Above Average Leaders, 2012



Player
Team
Adjusted Pitching Runs
Base Runs Above Average
FIP Runs
Aggregate
Justin Verlander
DET
37
40
31
36
David Price*
TBR
39
35
25
33
Felix Hernandez
SEA
28
33
32
31
Chris Sale*
CHW
30
22
19
24
Jered Weaver
LAA
30
31
7
22
Jake Peavy
CHW
21
23
9
17
Jarrod Parker
OAK
18
17
14
16
CC Sabathia*
NYY
10
18
17
15
Hiroki Kuroda
NYY
23
15
6
15
James Shields
TBR
8
17
16
14
Yu Darvish
TEX
5
18
17
13
Matt Harrison*
TEX
24
9
1
12
Max Scherzer
DET
10
5
18
11
Doug Fister
DET
6
12
12
10
Scott Diamond*
MIN
9
6
3
6
  Data source: Baseball-Reference.com







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