Monday, October 26, 2015

Who was the Best Pitcher in the National League in 2015?

Cubs right hander Jake Arrieta was among the best at preventing runs in 2015
(Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune)

Yesterday, I listed the American League run prevention leaders starting with Astros southpaw Dallas Keuchel.  Today I will look at the National League leaders.       

There is no surefire way to determine the best pitchers in baseball, but a pitcher's job is to prevent runs.  So, it's useful to estimate how many runs pitchers saved their teams compared to an average pitcher.  There are several different ways to do this:   
  • 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.
These measures are discussed in more detail in an earlier post.  After computing them, you can aggregate them using weights depending on which measures you trust the most.  Here, they are calculated using a simple average.

The 2015 National League leaders are presented in Table 1 below.  The top three should be familiar if you have been reading about Cy Young Award contenders:
  • Cubs ace Jake Arrieta led in Base Runs with 56 and was second in Pitching Runs (55), Adjusted Pitching Runs (54) and FIP Runs (47).  That comes out to an NL best average of 53.
  • Dodgers right hander Zack Greinke was first in Pitching Runs (61) and Adjusted Pitching Runs (56) and second in Base  Runs (53).  However, he was just fourth in FIP Runs (33).  His Average was 51.
  • Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw led in FIP (55) by a good margin while finishing third in Pitching Runs (47), Adjusted Pitching Runs (42) and Base Runs (52) giving him an average of 49.
So which one should be the Cy Young Award winner?  If you subscribe the FanGraphs school, you might choose Kershaw and his strong FIP.  If you place more weight on runs allowed, you might go with Greinke.  If you fall somewhere in between, you might select Arrieta.  I don't think you can go wrong with any of the big three, but I personally am leaning towards Arrieta who finished first or second on all four measures.  

Table 1: National League Run Prevention Leaders, 2015
Pitcher
Team
IP
Pitching Runs
Adjusted Pitching Runs
Base Runs
FIP Runs
Average
Jake Arrieta
CHC
229
55
54
56
47
53
Zack Greinke
LAD
222.2
61
56
53
33
51
Clayton Kershaw*
LAD
232.2
47
42
52
55
49
Max Scherzer
WSN
228.2
33
34
32
36
34
Jacob deGrom
NYM
191
30
28
33
30
30
Gerrit Cole
PIT
208
26
23
29
33
28
Madison Bumgarner*
SFG
218.1
29
19
29
26
26
Matt Harvey
NYM
189.1
26
24
26
22
24
John Lackey
STL
218
31
30
14
14
22
Johnny Cueto
CIN
130.2
19
21
22
15
19
Jon Lester*
CHC
205
13
12
19
29
18
Carlos Martinez
STL
179.2
19
18
9
19
16
Tyson Ross
SDP
196
14
11
17
23
16
Shelby Miller
ATL
205.1
14
15
14
16
15
Francisco Liriano*
PIT
186.2
12
9
18
18
14
Lance Lynn
STL
175.1
16
15
2
14
12
Noah Syndergaard
NYM
150
10
8
14
14
11
A.J. Burnett
PIT
164
13
10
3
13
10
Michael Wacha
STL
181.1
11
10
10
5
9
Kyle Hendricks
CHC
180
2
1
12
17
8
Gio Gonzalez*
WSN
175.2
3
4
1
23
8
Data source: Baseball-Rerence.com

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