Roger Clemens, 1996, and the other unluckiest pitching seasons of all-time

In 1996, Roger Clemens had an offseason by his standards, off enough that it may have been the spur to get him on steroids.  It certainly earned him a ticket out of Boston, off to a new team and a career rebirth in Toronto, and at the time, his departure might not have seemed unwarranted. By traditional metrics, 1996 was but a mediocre prelude for Clemens to winning back-to-back Cy Young awards and going 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA over 1997 and 1998. Clemens went 10-13 with a 3.63 ERA for the Red Sox in 1996, walking the most batters of his career with 106. Pushing 35, he looked to be on the decline, a shell of his once-dominant self.

Clemens did lead the American League in strikeouts in 1996 with 257. And in hindsight, we also know that he led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.5 and finished second in WAR with 7.7. In fact, it’s one of the best  losing seasons for a starting pitcher in baseball history.

One of my colleagues here, Doug, did a post a few days ago on if Matt Cain was the unluckiest pitcher ever. The post got me thinking. Doug looked at Cain’s career numbers compared to other unlucky hurlers, so I decided to take another look and compile some of unluckiest seasons for pitchers in baseball history.

The first is the ten highest WARs posted by starting pitchers with sub .500 winning percentages:

Rk Player SO WAR ▾ W-L% Year Age Tm G GS CG SHO W L SV IP H R ER BB ERA ERA+
1 Ed Walsh 258 8.7 .474 1910 29 CHW 45 36 33 7 18 20 5 369.2 242 87 52 61 1.27 189
2 Jon Matlack 195 8.6 .464 1974 24 NYM 34 34 14 7 13 15 0 265.1 221 82 71 76 2.41 149
3 Phil Niekro 262 8.5 .444 1977 38 ATL 44 43 20 2 16 20 0 330.1 315 166 148 164 4.03 111
4 Dave Roberts 135 8.5 .452 1971 26 SDP 37 34 14 2 14 17 0 269.2 238 79 63 61 2.10 157
5 Roger Clemens 257 7.7 .435 1996 33 BOS 34 34 6 2 10 13 0 242.2 216 106 98 106 3.63 139
6 Turk Farrell 203 7.4 .333 1962 28 HOU 43 29 11 2 10 20 4 241.2 210 91 81 55 3.02 124
7 Nap Rucker 151 7.4 .462 1912 27 BRO 45 34 23 6 18 21 4 297.2 272 101 73 72 2.21 151
8 Ned Garver 85 7.1 .419 1950 24 SLB 37 31 22 2 13 18 0 260.0 264 120 98 108 3.39 146
9 Irv Young 156 7.0 .488 1905 27 BSN 43 42 41 7 20 21 0 378.0 337 146 122 71 2.90 106
10 Bert Blyleven 219 6.7 .448 1976 25 TOT 36 36 18 6 13 16 0 297.2 283 106 95 81 2.87 125


And here’s a list that looks at the ten best ERA+ scores for starting pitchers with losing records and at least 162 innings pitched:

Rk Player SO ERA+ ▾ W-L% IP Year Age Tm G GS CG SHO GF W L SV H R ER BB ERA
1 Ed Siever 36 197 .421 188.1 1902 27 DET 25 23 17 4 2 8 11 1 166 73 40 32 1.91
2 Ed Walsh 258 189 .474 369.2 1910 29 CHW 45 36 33 7 7 18 20 5 242 87 52 61 1.27
3 Ben Sheets 264 162 .462 237.0 2004 25 MIL 34 34 5 0 0 12 14 0 201 85 71 32 2.70
4 Hal Newhouser 103 162 .364 183.2 1942 21 DET 38 23 11 1 14 8 14 5 137 73 50 114 2.45
5 Joe Magrane 100 161 .357 165.1 1988 23 STL 24 24 4 3 0 5 9 0 133 57 40 51 2.18
6 Dave Koslo 64 160 .440 212.0 1949 29 NYG 38 23 15 0 12 11 14 4 193 72 59 43 2.50
7 Curt Schilling 194 159 .471 168.0 2003 36 ARI 24 24 3 2 0 8 9 0 144 58 55 32 2.95
8 Ned Garvin 94 159 .238 193.2 1904 30 TOT 25 24 16 2 1 5 16 0 155 85 37 80 1.72
9 Dave Roberts 135 157 .452 269.2 1971 26 SDP 37 34 14 2 3 14 17 0 238 79 63 61 2.10
10 [tie] Dolf Luque 140 156 .471 291.0 1925 34 CIN 36 36 22 4 0 16 18 0 263 109 85 78 2.63
10 [tie] Dutch Leonard 92 156 .414 225.2 1948 39 PHI 34 30 16 1 2 12 17 0 226 85 63 54 2.51


And here are the ten best strikeouts per nine inning rates for starting pitchers with losing records and 162 innings pitched:

Rk Player SO SO/9 ▾ W-L% IP Year Age Tm G GS CG SHO GF W L SV H R ER BB ERA ERA+
1 Nolan Ryan 270 11.48 .333 211.2 1987 40 HOU 34 34 0 0 0 8 16 0 154 75 65 87 2.76 142
2 Curt Schilling 194 10.39 .471 168.0 2003 36 ARI 24 24 3 2 0 8 9 0 144 58 55 32 2.95 159
3 Nolan Ryan 327 10.35 .486 284.1 1976 29 CAL 39 39 21 7 0 17 18 0 193 117 106 183 3.36 99
4 Randy Johnson 241 10.31 .462 210.1 1992 28 SEA 31 31 6 2 0 12 14 0 154 104 88 144 3.77 105
5 Sandy Koufax 197 10.13 .381 175.0 1960 24 LAD 37 26 7 2 7 8 13 1 133 83 76 100 3.91 101
6 Ben Sheets 264 10.03 .462 237.0 2004 25 MIL 34 34 5 0 0 12 14 0 201 85 71 32 2.70 162
7 Nolan Ryan 260 9.97 .435 234.2 1978 31 CAL 31 31 14 3 0 10 13 0 183 106 97 148 3.72 98
8 Andy Benes 189 9.87 .300 172.1 1994 26 SDP 25 25 2 2 0 6 14 0 155 82 74 51 3.86 107
9 Jonathan Sanchez 177 9.75 .400 163.1 2009 26 SFG 32 29 1 1 2 8 12 0 135 82 77 88 4.24 101
10 Jake Peavy 215 9.56 .440 202.1 2006 25 SDP 32 32 2 0 0 11 14 0 187 93 92 62 4.09 99


Is this to suggest every man on these lists got screwed by his respective team? Maybe not. A number of factors can influence a pitcher’s win-loss record, and WAR, ERA+ and K/9 are all relative metrics that have varied between different eras in baseball history. Still, they offer a glimpse at pitchers who might have thrived in better environs.

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97 Comments on "Roger Clemens, 1996, and the other unluckiest pitching seasons of all-time"

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AlbaNate
Guest

Maybe better than K/9 for that last list would be K/BB. Ryan usually had a lot of both.

Doug
Editor

Nobody is on all three lists, but Walsh, Roberts, Schilling and Sheets are on two of them.

What a difference a decade made for Ryan. Comparing his 1987 and 1976 seasons, his K/9, a league-leading 10.4 in 1976, was still 10% higher as a 40 year-old in 1987. And, but his BB/9, even at an elevated 3.7, was down by more than a third. Net result: ERA+ up 43%.

Doug
Editor

Other big differennce – Ryan had 21 CG in 1976, none in 1987.

no statistician but
Guest
My problem with accepting WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a very accurate assessment of pitching—if you accept it for what it purports to be—is exemplified by Clemons 7.7 in this season. I simply can’t accept the notion that any credible replacement for Clemons would have a record of 2 and 20 on a team that won more games than it lost. WAR seems to favor pitchers of a particular range of skills and/or circumstance, and I don’t argue that it tells us something about those things. I don’t think it says much about who is the most valuable pitcher in… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

No stat, you are not a heretic at all. You must hold our feet to the fire and give the metrics a reality check.

When you put Clemon’s WAR in such stark replacement terms, it does expose the limitations of pitcher’s WAR.

I’m still a believer, though, not a heretic.

BryanM
Guest
No S but.. ; Scepticism is always an appropriate reaction when one is confronted with a complex chain of math reasoning, so Keep on with it. That said, Accepting that WAR for pitchers has limitations, and it does, It is not trying to say that a replacement pitcher would have gone 2-20 in Clemens particular starts; It says nothing about what would have happened with another pitcher in those individual games. There are several gaps to close to get to what it is saying. First, it is talking about team wins , not wins attributed to the starting pitcher; Clemens… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Let’s see what minds greater than ours have to say, not on precisely this topic, but on the nature of what lies beneath the strategies and assumptions involved in something like “a complex chain of math reasoning.” John Stuart Mill: “Strange it is that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being ‘pushed to an extreme’; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.” It is the last half of Mill’s argument that I believe applies here. Alfred Korzybski: “The map… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

No stat, I haven’t a dose of philosphophy and logic like your post since my university days. 🙂

So which side do you come down on with respect to WAR? Are we relying on it blindly to provide a degree of certainty that it is not capable of providing or is it still a step forward from traditional counting stats?

no statistician but
Guest
My opinion, since you ask, is that the problem lies with uncritical acceptance of it as a perfect measure for all things. It works far better for batting stats, I feel, than pitching and fielding, although, even with batting, where there is far more that is genuinely quantifiable, someone still is deciding what weight to give, what to include or ignore. Used alongside traditional stats but not as a replacement, WAR gives a view that can help clarify what went on in general terms, just as OPS+ and the other mathematical formulas (if formulas is the right term) do. Several… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
No Stat — the map is not the territory, but anyone trying to negotiate an unknown territory would prefer a map to no map, and of course a good map to a bad map. I agree with what i think are your main points, and have a minor quibble with what I think is a side issue. 1) WAR for pitchers is a not-very-relaible estimate of the value of the player’s contribution over time ,born of the strong desire by some people to sum up complex issues in a single number . We have little or no idea whether a… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
this is a reply to #63 – I somehow screwed up… No Stat — the map is not the territory, but anyone trying to negotiate an unknown territory would prefer a map to no map, and of course a good map to a bad map. I agree with what i think are your main points, and have a minor quibble with what I think is a side issue. 1) WAR for pitchers is a not-very-relaible estimate of the value of the player’s contribution over time ,born of the strong desire by some people to sum up complex issues in a… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

Having only skimmed this thread, I’ll have to assume that the statement “every statistic is an estimate” makes sense in the context of the exchange. Taken by itself, it’s a head-scratcher.

Ed
Guest

Interesting discussion guys! Bryan..that’s a great point re: the lack of confidence intervals. As someone whose taken multiple classes in advanced stats, that thought never crossed my mind. I’m now going to hang my head in shame.

no statistician but
Guest

Mill wasn’t talking about logic but about truth. Otherwise, I don’t disagree with most of what you’re saying, but I have one proviso:
lots of players have great half-seasons or great months interspersed with mediocrity, so even as a measure of “a period as short as a season” WAR as a map can fall short of depicting the territory with accuracy.

Doug
Editor
I wonder if the D-Backs after the 2003 season were thinking the same way as the Red Sox after 1996. Schilling was soon to be 37, had lost time to injury in the year, and did have that 8-9 W-L. But, he also just had the best ERA+ season of his career, his 3rd best K/9 and 4th best WHIP. Schilling also pitched into the 6th inning of ALL 24 of his starts, and into the 8th inning in 14 of them. Nevertheless, Arizona just couldn’t resist Boston’s package offer of Michael Goss, Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge De… Read more »
DaveKingman
Guest

Quantity for Quality. Chuckle. Snort.

Re: Larry Himes trade of Greg Maddux from the Cubs to the Braves.

Ed
Guest

Huh??? Maddux signed as a free agent with the Braves. He wasn’t traded.

Evil Squirrel
Guest
When I think of Clemens and unlucky seasons, I always immediately think of his start to the 2005 season. 11 starts, 76 innings pitched, 1.30 ERA, and a 3-3 record to show for it. The Astros scored a whopping 18 runs for him in those 11 starts, and he got three straight no decisions in 1-0 games in which he went 7 scoreless innings. Clemens would go on to lead the NL with a 1.87 ERA and a 226 ERA+ (both personal bests), but his mediocre 13-8 record thanks to that unlucky start probably cost him the Cy Young that… Read more »
bstar
Guest

It’s only been seven years, but I think if a pitcher puts up a 223 ERA+ and only wins 13 games in 2012, he’ll win the Cy hands down. Just ask Greinke and King Felix.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

What version of karma, Evil?
Hindu, Buddhist, Falun Gong, Sikh, or Western Casual?
________________________

I’m a big Niekro fan, and it certainly was bad luck for him to be on a team with a 78 ops+, (and he didn’t help that cause (-6 ops+)), but this seems like a case where WAR is more of a Counting Stat than an indicator of quality.

The Braves had 13 starters that year.
Knucksie had twice the IP of the #2 guy, and more than thrice the #3.

He led the league in almost every counting stat, both good and bad, except for wins.

Neil L.
Guest

Voomo, a great comment, if I fully catch your meaning.

Under what conditions, do you think WAR for pitchers exhibits all the weaknessness of a counting stat like wins or losses?

bstar
Guest

Of course, WAR is a counting stat for hitters, too.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
@21 Exactly. So what would the equivalent be for a hitter? Niekro pitched 330 innings. Here’s the NL starters for 1977: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/NL/1977-starter-pitching.shtml 41 guys started at least 25 games. The low inning count was 150. 8 guys topped 240 240 Sutton 252 Reuschel 258 Ed Halicki 261 Tom Seaver 267 J.R. Richard 283 Steve Carlton 302 Steve Rogers 330 Philip Henry Niekro Just eyeballing it I’m saying that the Average Full Time Starter pitched 200 innings. There were a handful of elite workhorses and Niekro was 10% beyond the one other anomaly. Niekro pitched 1.6x the average. 12 team league… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

~Bows in awe to Voomo.~

Wow, how do you pack so much provocative knowledge into one comment?

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I am procrastinating in a major way right now, that’s how.

Here’s another delightful waste of time, if you’re into it. Just set up a free seven player challenge at fanduel for tomorrow’s afternoon games:

http://www.fanduel.com/entry/PVHGXX

Ed
Guest

I hear where you’re coming from Zoomo. But doesn’t Niekro deserve some credit for being able to throw more innings than other pitchers? Also, as others on here have taught me, there’s not a direct relationship between ERA+ and WAR. The latter takes into account defense and supposedly the Braves had a particularly bad defense back then.

Richard Chester
Guest

Just for comparison purposes since 1920 there have been 27 seasons of pitchers with > 330 IP. They all have WAR of 5.1 or higher. Niekro ranks 12th in WAR (8.5), 26th in ERA+ (111), 27th in wins (16) and tied for 1st in losses (20).

Doug
Editor

I’m still trying to understand how Niekro could have a 111 ERA+ with a 4.03 ERA. When the NL average ERA that year was 3.91.

Can anybody explain that?

Doug
Editor

Thanks, Graham.

That would make sense in homer-friendly Fulton County Stadium. The pitching park factor that year was a stratospheric 117.

Ed
Guest

Highest ERA with an ERA+ above 110…Pedro Astacio with the 1999 Rockies. (5.04 ERA, 115 ERA+).

At the 100 ERA+ threshold, the highest ERA was 5.26 by Tommy Thomas with the 1926 Browns. (5.26 ERA, 102 ERA+).

Evil Squirrel
Guest

What version of karma, Evil?
Hindu, Buddhist, Falun Gong, Sikh, or Western Casual?

I don’t know. I’m lazy, so I only use Instant Karma…

kds
Guest

LoL. Of course, Joe Morgan always insisted that sabermetric karma could not run over his “I was a player so I know everything about baseball analysis” dogma.

vivaeljason
Guest

Man…Ned Garvin had an especially rough 1904. A 1.72 ERA was really good even in the deadball era…but to go 5-16?!? AND ON MULTIPLE TEAMS?!? Jeez.

Mike L
Guest

The Niekro 1977 season jumps out at me. 8.5 WAR with a ERA of 4.03 and an ERA+ of 111?

Neil L.
Guest
Graham, a very technical post. I am trying to wrap my head around what Roger Clemons’ position on the first list means. First off, he didn’t appear on either of the other lists. Second, his ERA for the 1996 season was the second highest on your list and was the highest for a power pitcher. My point, Graham, is that was he not the author of his own unluckiness? His walk total and ERA, at least partially, contributed to his poor record. Granted that he could not control his team’s offense in his starts, but your WHIP will catch up… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest
Not at all, Graham. Don’t backpeddle in the slightest. We all refine our understanding of the game by having something to reflect on and react to. Your blog, with its lists, is a nice brain-builder. It requires a careful look at the various columns in the tables to try and discern cause and effect. I personally think that the WAR’s of pitchers in the 1900-1920 era is artificially boosted by the number of innings they pitched. By artificially, I mean the quality of batters they faced. Even though they come up in P-I searches, I don’t think it is a… Read more »
Shping
Guest
Ahhh, yes, my first time back here in many months and it’s great to see that the well-rounded baseball discussions continue! And to see that the WAR debate continues as well. Thanks NoStat for the heretical/helpful example that helps validate some of my misgivings too. And yet the WAR proponents continue to respond in polite, reasonable fashion. Curse them and their open-mindedness 🙂 If the WAR-ists really want input, tho, my incredibly mundane suggestion/first step would be to multiply it by 10. It just sounds more impressive to compare an 87 score to a 77 and is easier to get… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

Shping, (is that code for shipping? 🙂 ), does memory fail me or were part of the B-Ref cutting-edge community?

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
@22 No, I have no idea what the recipe is for WAR. Looked it up once, and concluded that even with my pretty good head for math that I couldn’t calculate it in any kind of real-time meaningful way. And what is the fun in that? …Suddenly I am nostalgic for the GWRBI. Remember that one? The guy who hit that run-scoring forceout in the 2nd inning would sometimes get the GWRBI? I was sitting with the Bleacher Creatures on June 11th, 1988 when Billy Martin started Rick Rhoden at DH. Rhoden had a sac fly that was the GWRBI.… Read more »
Shping
Guest

Hee hee — gotta love the GWRBI. I might have to go look up an ’80s boxscore for old times sake, just to see, underneath the line score, “GWRBI: Kittle(7)”

Will we ever see Saves the same way?

Ed
Guest

Shping – I agree 100% about the need for WAR publishers to be more transparent with how the numbers are calculated. The fact that they haven’t is a big black mark in my opinion.

Shping
Guest

For some reason, i’m suddenly thinking about Tom Hanks in “Castaway”, trying to figure out the sounds of the coconuts falling from trees, saying, “What is that?!?”

bstar
Guest
Well, shping, WAR does stand for Wins Above Replacement, so an 8.7 WAR player contributed ~9 more wins to his team than a replacement player would have. That’s pretty easy to digest and understand. It helps us to better quantify, “How much is player X actually helping his team?”. If you multiply it by 10, you would have to change the name of the stat and “87” would just become an arbitrary score. I, like you, was slow to warm to the WAR concept. But once you spend time with it, you learn to think in WAR terms. For example,… Read more »
Shping
Guest

I know, i know, thanks. I can see how it becomes a matter of habit. I’m trying to embrace it. Still trying. Getting better with OPS. But i still need to be able to grasp exactly what the stat is saying in a way that WAR doesn’t do for me.

And i still say moving the decimal would help WAR. Just like we know that a “500” team is actually a 50 percent team that wins half its games, i think it would work the same way.

Hartvig
Guest

My issue with OPS/OPS+ is that it tends to undervalue players like Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines and even though I know when I look at their numbers I still get this visceral “Oh… well…” feeling in my gut.

My issue with WAR is a) it’s incredible complexity and b) the fact that there is more than one formula and, on occasion at least, the outcomes vary wildly.

Shping
Guest
Thanks for the input guys — enjoyed all of the info and references. Like i said, i’m trying to embrace WAR. Lots of objections still, as are being discussed here, along with simple issues of lifelong habits, stubborness and fact that we all need to remind ourselves from time to time that no stat of any type is perfect, the ultimate 3.1444 or e=mc2 that ultimately explains everything! 🙂 I don’t think or hope that anyone is actually saying that about WAR, right? But i think we’re guilty on both sides of the WAR arguments at times of either trying… Read more »
kds
Guest
rWAR for a starting pitcher. Take his RA, not earned runs. Compare this to his adjusted replacement level. Gross replacement level is about 1.25* league average RA. (Maybe a little less, (1.2?) I’m reverse engineering this from various sources.) You then adjust for park. And for his team’s defense. So a bad defense, in a hitter’s park, in a high scoring league, will give you a higher replacement level than if you reversed all those factors. 1996 was a high scoring year in the AL. Fenway had a one year park factor of 106. The Sox’s defense suxed that year… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

I don’t think I’ve read as succinct a description of RAR as yours, kds.

One newbie question, though. Why is the gross replacement level for pitchers about 1.2-1.25 times the league average runs allowed? Why is not the league average itself?

Is the bump up of RA the differene between a replacemnet pitcher from the minors and an average major-leaguer?

May be a dumb question but thanks in advance for your patience.

kds
Guest
Your second paragraph basically has the correct answer to the first. Replacement level is what can get, from your minors or free agent signing, waiver deals, etc., for the league minimum. You should expect these to be worse than league average. A big question, not totally settled is where is replacement level? Tom Tango (insidethebook.com) thinks that replacement level for a starting pitcher is W/L = .380. I think this means that if you took the theoretical replacement level pitcher, had him pitch for a gazillion innings, (to avoid sample size issues), looked at his runs allowed, gave his “team”… Read more »
Shping
Guest

…But i also had to ask Voomo @ 14 and the EvilSquirrel @10:

Which kind of karma would bring Clemens back as, say, Steve Bartman, or Mario Mendoza?, or young Moonlight Graham? I’ll pick that one. (Samsara?)

Shping
Guest

Hey Neil — Ha ha, thanks i guess. I dont think i could ever describe myself as cutting edge, but i was definitely a BB-Ref devotee/participator for awhile in 2010-11. And i does like to ramble on at times and think about this amazing game of baseball and all the glorious history and stats and comparisons and random possibilities, and hear others do same — so be forewarned, i’ll be visiting again! — defending Braun’s honor as often as necessary too!

Neil L.
Guest

Shping, be a regular here.

bstar
Guest

I will happily defend Ryan Braun’s honor with you, shping. Guilty until proven 100% innocent turns my stomach.

Shping
Guest

Wow, an invitation even. Ok, no problem.

Teach me something about triples this year. Possibilities, trends, ballpark tendencies, something. Kind of a pet curiosity of mine.

kds
Guest

Triples have the highest Home Field Advantage of any batting event. Probably because home outfielders are much better at judging the wall and how the ball will bounce. They have a high variability in park factor also. Partly because of park size and partly because of the way the shape and texture of the outfield walls affects the number of odd bounces.

Neil L.
Guest

Why are triples on a slow but steady decline as a percentage of all plate appearances? Shouldn’t new “retro” parks have the dimensional quirkiness to create more triples?

I can vaguely remember having a few discussions about triples and their frequency back in B-Ref, but don’t recall any firm conclusions being reached.

Ed
Guest

Braun has honor???? 🙂

Ed
Guest

Oops…in reply to Shping #26.

Shping
Guest

Hmmmm, not sure if or where the sarcasm is with Braun — i’ll accept your offer though bstar! — and we can save that topic for another time.

How bout that Ben Sheets as one of the unluckiest pitchers of all time, on two lists? He was dominating in Milw. Wonder if he’ll ever pitch again.

Could we possibly see a list of the luckiest picthers of all time? I’ll bet Pete Vuckovich is on that one, bless his heart!

Shping
Guest

I won’t deny that WAR can be useful, especially when it suits my purposes. 🙂 Sheets was unlucky.

Poor Matt Cain too. Easy guy to root for.

John Williams
Guest
With WAR, ERA+ and K/9 as newer metrics; could be see a starting pitching with .500 or even a losing record win or finish in the top 5 or so for a Cy Young? Félix Hernández won in 2010 with 13-12 2.27. Below is a list of the .500 and under starting pitchers with votes for the Cy Young Award. 12 are on the list with 9 in the NL and half since 2000. Also, 9 were finished 6th place or lower in the voting and none in the top three. 2 are Hall of Famers (Ryan and Perry) and… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
John Autin @68 A definition of statistical inference is the drawing of conclusions about a population by studying a sample (usually a random sample ) a true statistic (say the mean, or Standard deviation of the sample ) is always an estimate or guess about the population . (the mean of the sample is not the mean of the population) WAR is a detailed calculation, which is an estimate ,or guess, about the impact of a player on a team’s wins it doesn’t measure wins, it measures other things , and uses those things to guess about wins. The thread… Read more »
bstar
Guest
Bryan, I think WAR for starting pitchers is pretty solid. If you look at the all-time leaders in b-ref WAR, this list really, really passes the sniff test. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises; whomever, by general opinion, you think should be at the top is at the top and it just flows down from there. It’s actually pretty hard to look at one pitcher and say, “Wow, his WAR total looks way too high/low.” It’s a pretty solid list overall. What about relievers? Despite a lot of people making noise that perhaps leverage index should be weighted more… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
bstar, so do I . I made the same point about the career list that you do , back in @67 (thread starts @5) , when the sample size gets smaller ,like a season, the estimate gets less accurate, but in my opinion, still pretty good. The debate here is about how good . In 1996 Clemens went 10-13 for the Sawks with a 7.7 WAR , got no Cy votes , a young Andy Pettitte went 21-8 with a 5.7 WAR, 2nd in CY. Now was Clemens better than Pettitte in 1996, or not? Without confidence intervals, we can’t… Read more »
Neil L.
Guest

Trying to distil your thoughts down about WAR as a reliable statistic for pitcher quality, Bryan, while not being perfect, do you think it is the best we’ve got?

BryanM
Guest
Neil — I thinks it’s close for starters , perhaps RA+ would be a little better — ( add back the unearned runs and recalculate ERA+ ) ERA is biased in favor of weaker pitchers. If the Phillies give the other team 4 outs with Doc on the mound , it may not matter – if a bad pitcher allows 3 unearned after an error, his ERA looks fine, he’s still pitched badly, the team still loses. For relievers , i think WHIP (include HBP?) is better because of the whole inherited runner issue. What are your thoughts/
Neil L.
Guest

At risk of sounding like an HHS “recruiter”, will you post more frequently here or are you too involved at other baseball sites?

Neil L.
Guest

Don’t want to give you a superficial reply, Bryan, so I won’t respond in detail until tomorrow. I’m finding my own thinking is being clarified by your posts.

I’m working a little mini-study involving teams blowing four saves in their first eight games …. trying to find how rare/common it is.

I hope to put the results up in a few minutes, perhaps Doug’s blog. (I realize it will be a hijack, but there is nowhere else to send it)

Thanks.

John Autin
Editor

Neil, remember that not all blown saves happen in the late innings. Every reliever who enters with a lead* is technically working on a save opportunity, even if he’s a LOOGY working in the 6th inning.
__________
*And when a prior pitcher is eligible for the win.

John Autin
Editor

To clarify … I sense that you are seeking a cohort for Toronto’s early-season experience of blowing 4 late leads. My point is that searching for “blown save” is not necessarily going to pick out the games you’re after. If you want to catch late-inning blown saves, you might consider adding a WPA requirement — say, minus-0.25 or less.

Neil L.
Guest

I’m just using the official version of the stat, JA. Of course, what you say in true.

John Autin
Editor

Bryan, thanks for the capsule summary.

I can tell you know your way around the subject and the language (probably better than I do), so you don’t need me to tell you that using the word “statistic” with no modifier in a sentence like “every statistic is an estimate” is liable to create confusion among an audience to whom “statistics” include simple counts of events like home runs and wins.

So, um, I won’t say that. 🙂

BryanM
Guest
John , Thanks for that . What our exchange has shown me is that I need to be more careful in my terminology. When we say that Albert Pujols drove in 99 runs last year, calling that a “statistic” is just fine, and it’s clearly not an estimate (but what about Hack Wilson’s 190 or 191? ) . Emphasizing “guess” in my posts is a way of protesting against the sort of argument that goes “A had more blue jellybeans than B last year, had almost twice as many red marbles, and was only picked off once, so clearly A… Read more »
BryanM
Guest
Part deux .. a long digression. I remember precisely when the light went on for me about counting one thing when you are really interested in something related, but different. Fall of 1970, the Orioles were on a tour of Japan after the season , and with the no-split-screen TV technology of the day, they were interviewing Earl Weaver in the dugout with the game in progress. Earl had his back to the field when Frank Robinson’s bat made an unmistakeable sound. Weaver, who was in mid sentence, interrupted himself to say “there’s two” in a calm voice without looking… Read more »
BryanM
Guest

there was a man on base at the time

Shping
Guest

Great allegory BryanM.

And i thought you were simply going to tell the story about Weaver, sitting in his underwear in office and smoking a stogie during the natl anthem, telling a reporter, “Don’t worry kid. We do this every day”!

That aside, it seems like Weaver was definitely ahead of his time in a lot of what we call sabermetric thinking. (“The heck with wasting an out on a sacrifice; i’ll take my chances with the lefty hitting a 3-run homer” is a deceptively simple yet advanced point of view.)

Andy
Admin

Graham has come out on HHS on fire, generating tons of comments on his weekly posts…wow!

Neil L.
Guest

I’ve learned a lot about WAR, Andy, from Graham’s post and the intelligent debate in the comments.

A lot of things I felt hesitant to ask about WAR for pitchers.

Kudos, Graham!! ~thumbs up, high five~

BryanM
Guest

Graham has hit rich vein of ore with a simple proposition ; Find one stat that “says” not very good, correlate it with one that says “real good” ,add an emotion-soaked adjective like “unlucky” and stand back. This thread is/was great and I have learned a lot from Graham and the other posters,

Much thanks, Graham

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