Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Best Pitchers in Baseball Since 2011

Doug Fister was 15th in MLB in run prevention from 2011-2013
(Photo credit: AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio)

In earlier posts, I ranked the best pitchers in the American and National leagues in 2013 based on the aggregate of a few pitching measures.  There is no surefire way to determine the best pitchers in baseball, but a pitchers job is to prevent runs.  So, it's useful to estimate how many runs pitchers saved their teams compared to an average pitcher.  I calculated runs saved four different ways:
  • Pitching Runs -  Runs Saved Above Average based on innings and runs allowed. 
  • Base Runs -  Runs Saved Above Average based on batters faced and hits, walks, total bases and home runs allowed.
  • FIP Runs - Runs Saved Above Average based on innings, bases on balls, hit batsmen and home runs allowed and strikeouts.
I then took the average of the four measures to come up with an aggregate metric.  The AL and NL leaders in 2013 were Max Scherzer of the Tigers (33) and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers (44).  Pitcher performance varies a lot from one year to the next though, so it's good to look at more than one season of data in determining baseball's best pitchers.  Table 1 lists the MLB run prevention leaders from 2011-2013.

Kershaw was the run away leader with 122 runs saved over the three-year period.  The Tigers' Justin Verlander was first among AL pitchers with 89 runs saved.  Kershaw led Verlander in Pitching Runs (142 to 78), Base Runs (143 to 79) and FIP Runs (89 to 82), but trailed Verlander slightly in Adjusted Pitching Runs (116 to 114).  Other current Tigers among the leaders were Anibal Sanchez (21st) and Max Scherzer (25th).

Remember Doug Fister? He finished 15th with 46 runs prevented by this metric.  We probably should just accept his trade  to the Nationals at this point and see how things work out,  but he's been really good the last few years, better than a lot of people realize.
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Table 1: Major League Baseball Run Prevention Leaders, 2011-2013

Pitcher
IP
Pitching Runs
Adjusted Pitching Runs
Base Runs
FIP Runs
Average
Clayton Kershaw*
696
142
114
143
89
122
Justin Verlander
707
78
116
79
82
89
Cliff Lee*
665
96
100
78
77
88
Jered Weaver
578
79
90
66
31
67
Cole Hamels*
651
69
74
67
50
65
Felix Hernandez
669
51
61
64
76
63
Chris Sale*
477
53
78
48
53
58
David Price*
621
52
50
62
54
54
Johnny Cueto
433
67
56
62
26
53
Madison Bumgarner*
613
57
37
71
44
52
Matt Cain
624
60
39
77
24
50
Gio Gonzalez*
596
50
54
54
39
49
Jordan Zimmermann
569
60
50
50
31
48
James Shields
705
57
46
53
34
48
Doug Fister
586
30
59
41
55
46
Matt Harvey
237
45
41
45
36
42
Zack Greinke
561
45
32
41
45
41
Hiroki Kuroda
622
51
62
26
20
40
Stephen Strasburg
366
36
32
55
38
40
Yu Darvish
400
30
47
36
44
39
Anibal Sanchez
377
30
41
30
43
36
Kyle Lohse
597
54
38
46
1
35
R.A. Dickey
666
49
43
49
-2
35
Mat Latos
613
42
19
48
28
34
Max Scherzer
596
19
50
18
49
34
Adam Wainwright
439
29
21
41
46
34
Roy Halladay
451
28
27
46
33
34

Data source: Baseball-Reference.com

8 comments:

  1. All the words and all the stats regarding Fister over the last few weeks do nothing for me other than wish we did a different kind of trade. This whole saga is to me not about what is Fister worth, but what can we get for Fister. The first half of that doesn't really matter since it's the other team's determination which dictates what they are willing to give up. So I don't see the point of comparing what Fister is worth to what we got. I see it as comparing what would the package from the other 28 teams look like for each of their best offers for Fister, and of those 29 total packages, how do those rank?

    I didn't have a problem with trading Fister, I had an issue with this 1 of the 29 options. For all I know this COULD have been my #29 favorite of THOSE options. Surely, not #1, otherwise I don't know why it took me so long to realize no team in baseball wants Fister at all and I would have been forced to abandon the whole idea of trading Fister before I could have possibly figured out that this was the #1 best of all 29 options. Probably due to the lack of calls and the first 5 GMs having even worse offers, that would have just signaled to me ok well duh obviously I should be talking about trading ANY other pitcher.

    I would have rather picked the best of the other 28 (whatever those would have looked like), or had a different assortment from the team we did trade with, or package Fister with another significant player for a very different trade, or trade a different pitcher that can get a seemingly better leveraged haul in return than Fister. So that's 4 categorically different routes as opposed to the deal on the table, and the deal on the table was my #5 ranked preference of these choices.

    ReplyDelete
  2. DD makes trades by identifying needs and going to the teams that have players available to meet the needs. I am fairly certain the Nationals did not offer up those players. DD asked for them. There may have been some give and take but DD new what he wanted before contacting them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well naturally. I didn't like the trade at all, in fact I despise the trade. But DD loves the trade. That's the whole issue, is I don't like that he likes the trade. If the Nationals offered this trade to me, I just simply would have said well whatever those 3 guys are worth, give me different players worth that amount, because I do not want Steve, I do not want Ian, and I don't want Robbie. I'm not interested in ANY of those 3 players. I have my own targets, and on your team I am not targeting any of those 3 players.

      This basically is trading one better player for 3 lesser players. I do not want to dilute talent into larger quantity, I want to do the reverse. I want to consolidate 3 players for somebody else's 1 better player. I want to do to another team exactly what WAS did with us. DD wanted to do the reverse. I just had a difference of opinion and thought we should have done what WAS did, by finding a partner that will let us give multiple players that I can live with parting with in exchange for 1 of MY targets. Not DD's targets.

      Delete
  3. There is no doubt in my mind Dombrowski got someone he wanted and that he thinks very highly of Robbie Ray. I still don't like the trade. More often than not, the proven player for prospect deals benefit the team getting the proven player. It's not a move I like to see a contending team making.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lee, how can Adjusted Pitching Runs be greater than Pitching Runs? Doug Fister's "estimated Runs allowed by fielders" was -29? 30 - (-29) = 59. The Tigers' defense saved Fister 29 runs?

    ReplyDelete
  5. 59 is the number of runs Fister theoretically would have saved the Tigers if he was supported by an average fielding team. However, the fielding team COST him 29 runs. 59-29 = 30 is the number of runs the combination of Fister and his bad fielders saved the Tigers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Aha. Thanks, Lee. Trading Fister wouldn't have been my first choice, but I think this metric overrates him. I don't think he's regarded as one of the top 15 pitchers in MLB 2011-2013, or else he would have commanded a better offer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. He is probably not regarded in the top 15 from a scouting perspective as his stuff is not overwhelming. His actual performance has been better than his stuff though and I don't think this metric overrates his performance. If you just use FIP runs instead, he finished in the top 10.

    The bigger question, of course, is future performance. Teams probably think he can't sustain what he accomplished the past three years and they may be right. If he does sustain it though, he'll be really tough to replace.

    ReplyDelete

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