Saturday, August 31, 2013

Scherzer Trails Darvish in Raw Run Prevention

It looks like it could be a somewhat contentious Cy Young race in the American League this year with traditionalists pointing to Tigers current ace Max Scherzer's incredible 19-1 record and MLB.COM's Brian Kenny rallying to eliminate W-L record.  Most readers of this blog are not going to put much, if any, weight on pitcher W-L record in evaluating pitchers, but what is the best statistic to use?  There is no easy answer of course and it's best to look at a variety of numbers.  I will discuss some of my favorites in the coming weeks.

Before getting into more complex stuff like FIP and BABIP and team defense, I like to look at simple run prevention: How many runs did the pitcher allow in how many innings?  We know that not every run allowed is the pitcher's responsibility, but it's a good place to start.

Scherzer has allowed 62 runs (all runs, not just unearned runs) in 183 1/3 innings (IP) for a Run Average (RA) of 3.05.  Table 1 below shows that Scherzer is fourth in the league in RA behind Rangers right hander Yu Darvish (2.84), teammate Anibal Sanchez (2.87) and Bartolo Colon of the Athletics (3.00).

Table 1: AL RA Leaders

Pitcher
Team
IP
R
RA
Yu Darvish
Rangers
174.2
55
2.84
Anibal Sanchez
Tigers
144.2
46
2.87
Bartolo Colon
Athletics
159.1
53
3.00
Max Scherzer
Tigers
183.1
62
3.05
Hiroki Kuroda
Yankees
171.1
60
3.16
Felix Hernandez
Mariners
187.2
67
3.22
Hisashi Iwakuma
Mariners
184.0
66
3.23
James Shields
Royals
189.0
68
3.24
Derek Holland
Rangers
180.0
66
3.30
Chris Sale
White Sox
180.1
67
3.35
Jered Weaver
Angels
128.1
49
3.44
Matt Moore
Rays
121.1
47
3.49
Justin Masterson
Indians
188.1
74
3.54
John Lackey
Red Sox
155.0
61
3.54
Ervin Santana
Royals
180.2
72
3.60
 Data source: FanGraphs.com

The first thing you may have noticed is that Scherzer has more innings pitched than all the pitchers ahead of him and he needs to get credit for that.  In order to give pitchers credit for quantity of innings pitched as well as quality, Pete Palmer introduced the Pitching Runs (PR) statistic in 1984.  Pitching Runs tells us the number of runs saved or lost by a pitcher compared to league average.  It is based on a pitcher's IP, runs (R) and league RA.  Palmer actually used earned runs, but I prefer runs. 

The American League RA is 4.33, which is .48 runs per inning.  So, you would expect the average pitcher to have allowed 88.2 runs in 183 1/3 innings.  Thus, Scherzer has allowed 62 - 88.2 = 26.2 fewer runs than an average pitcher in the same innings, that is, he has 26.2 Pitching Runs.  The complete formula is:

PR = IP * (Lg RA / 9) - R  

or ( if you prefer earned runs):

PR = IP * (Lg ERA / 9) - ER

The AL leaders are listed in Table 2 below.  Darvish is still the leader with 28.8, but Scherzer moves up to second on this metric. 

Table 2: AL Pitching Runs Leaders

Pitcher
Team
IP
R
PR
Yu Darvish
Rangers
174.2
55
28.8
Max Scherzer
Tigers
183.1
62
26.1
Bartolo Colon
Athletics
159.1
53
23.5
Anibal Sanchez
Tigers
144.2
46
23.4
Felix Hernandez
Mariners
187.2
67
23.1
James Shields
Royals
189.0
68
22.9
Hisashi Iwakuma
Mariners
184.0
66
22.5
Hiroki Kuroda
Yankees
171.1
60
22.3
Derek Holland
Rangers
180.0
66
20.6
Chris Sale
White Sox
180.1
67
19.6
Justin Masterson
Indians
188.1
74
16.5
Ervin Santana
Royals
180.2
72
14.7
John Lackey
Red Sox
155.0
61
13.6
Jered Weaver
Angels
128.1
49
12.6
Chris Tillman
Orioles
167.0
68
12.3

Data source: FanGraphs.com

You can go one step further by considering ballpark environment. According to the FanGraphs.com, ballpark factors, Comerica Park allows about 2% more runs than average, so we would multiply Scherzer's pitching runs by 1.02 yielding 26.6 Adjusted Pitching Runs.  Table 3 shows that Darvish leads with 30.5 Adjusted Pitching Runs followed by Scherzer 26.6 and Sanchez (23.8).

Table 3: AL Adjusted Pitching Runs Leaders

Pitcher
Team
IP
R
PR Adj
Yu Darvish
Rangers
174.2
55
30.5
Max Scherzer
Tigers
183.1
62
26.6
Anibal Sanchez
Tigers
144.2
46
23.8
James Shields
Royals
189.0
68
23.4
Bartolo Colon
Athletics
159.1
53
22.8
Hiroki Kuroda
Yankees
171.1
60
22.8
Derek Holland
Rangers
180.0
66
21.8
Felix Hernandez
Mariners
187.2
67
21.7
Hisashi Iwakuma
Mariners
184.0
66
21.2
Chris Sale
White Sox
180.1
67
20.4
Justin Masterson
Indians
188.1
74
15.8
Ervin Santana
Royals
180.2
72
15.0
John Lackey
Red Sox
155.0
61
14.3
Chris Tillman
Orioles
167.0
68
12.7
Jered Weaver
Angels
128.1
49
12.1

Data source: FanGraphs.com

Pitching analysis does not end with runs scored of course.  We need to try to isolate a pitcher's responsibility for runs allowed from that of his defenders, but that's complicated and to some extent unknown.  I'll talk more about that later, but in terms of pure runs scored, Scherzer is currently a little behind Darvish with a month to go.   

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