Better than the team

May 8, 2017
 2017-24

 

Better Than the Team

              This is not a very significant study, but. . .it’s a study, so take it for what it is worth.   Suppose that we take the method outlined on Monday (A Day at the Beach), but ask this question:   By how much (how many wins) did the team exceed expectations with each starting pitcher on the mound?

              On April 23, 2003, the Detroit Tigers played the Oakland A’s in the Oakland Coliseum.   The Tigers were 43-119 that year; the A’s were 96-66—plus the A’s were at home, the Tigers on the road.     The Tigers were 20-61 on the road; the A’s were 57-24 at home.    Batting third for the A’s that day was Miguel Tejada, a shortstop who hit 30 homers and drove in 115 runs; batting third for the Tigers was Craig Paquette, who hit .152 that year and did not drive in a run.   The Tigers young pitcher Jeremy Bonderman entered the game, the fourth start of his rookie season, with a 10.22 ERA.   The A’s starter, Barry Zito, had won the Cy Young Award the previous season, 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA, and entered this game 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA, having pitched a shutout in his previous start.  You’d have to figure that the A’s are going to win that game. 

              But they didn’t, of course; why else would I have brought it up?    Bonderman was great; he pitched eight innings, three hits, one run, five strikeouts, no walks.   If he had done that all season he would have been Steve Carlton in ’72.  Bonderman finished the season 6-19, but. . .hey, heck of a game there.   

              Or, on the other hand, Jack Sanford in 1962.   Sanford was 24-7.   Not that I diminish that, but the team behind him was pretty good.    Willie Mays drove in 141 runs, the team won 103 games, led the majors in runs scored and scored easily more runs than the ’61 Yankees.   The offense was literally so good that Willie McCovey, with a .957 OPS, couldn’t crack the starting lineup; no exaggeration.   Matty Alou hit .292 for the Giants (.310 the previous year), but couldn’t get off the bench, either, as all three regular outfielders (Mays, Felipe Alou and Harvey Kuenn) hit .300, averaging 30 doubles and 28 homers apiece. They had two left-handed hitting catchers who, between them, had 526 at bats, hit 35 homers and drove in 100 runs, and also drew 93 walks.   Their catchers could hit cleanup for most teams, but they usually hit seventh for the Giants.   Their third catcher, John Orsino, got traded to the Orioles that winter, and hit .272 with 19 homers for the Orioles the next year, .824 OPS.  

              Anyway, on May 27, 1962, the Giants played the Mets in San Francisco.   The Giants were 103-62 on the season.   The Mets were 40-120.   The Giants were at home.   Probably we should figure that the Giants will win this game, and they did; Jack Sanford pitched seven strong innings, one of the catchers hit a homer, Felipe Alou drove in three runs and the Giants won, 7-1.  

              Sanford started against the Mets again in San Francisco on July 3, and beat them again, and started against them again in San Francisco on August 9, and beat them for a third time.   In the three starts he was 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.    My point is, though, that by traditional methods Jeremy Bonderman receives no more credit for beating the A’s with a horribly overmatched team, on the road, than Jack Sanford does for beating the hapless Mets at home with a great team behind him.    But now, given the method I introduced on Monday, we can fix that!!

              Sorry.  Sometimes I wish I could hype things.  The 1962 Giants at home against the Mets had an 83% chance of winning a game, so when they did win that game, the May 27 game, that exceeded expectations by .17 wins.    The 2003 Tigers in a road game against the A’s, had a 19.6% chance of winning a game, so when Bonderman beat the A’s, that exceeded expectations by .804 wins.   

              A simpler version of this line of analysis was actually popular in the 1970s.   The Sports Encyclopedia:  Baseball had just two or three pages of analytical stats, but one of their main features was a comparison of a pitcher’s won-lost record to the winning percentage of his teams.    What I am doing here is essentially the same as that—comparing a pitcher to his teammates—but it advances the ball three little steps.   First, my method considers all starts, rather than just credited wins and losses.   Second, this method is aware of whether the pitcher is at home or on the road, and third, this method is aware of (and takes account of) the quality of teams that the pitcher pitches against.  

              My data here starts in 1952, is incomplete for the early years and ends in 2013.   I apologize for that; I don’t have meaningful data for active pitchers, but I can’t get that data file updated.   I have partial-career data for guys like Warren Spahn and Early Wynn and Bob Lemon, and don’t have anything for Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove.   But here’s what I did with the data I have, if I haven’t already explained that.   When Jeremy Bonderman beats the A’s on the road with a badly overmatched team, I credit Bonderman with +.804 wins.   When Jack Sanford beats the Mets at home, he gets only +.170 wins.  Bonderman beating the A’s once is a bigger deal than Sanford beating the Mets three times.  

              Of course, there are inherent inequalities in the process.   Greg Maddux is implicitly being compared to John Smoltz and Tom Glavine; I am guessing you all know this.    Anyway, suppose we do this for every game of a pitcher’s career, counting positives and negatives.

 

1.  Hall of Famers

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Randy

Johnson

603

55.4

Tom

Seaver

647

42.7

Phil

Niekro

710

36.8

Ferguson

Jenkins

594

33.2

Steve

Carlton

709

29.7

Pedro

Martinez

409

28.8

Whitey

Ford

425

28.5

Juan

Marichal

457

27.9

Bob

Gibson

482

27.6

Sandy

Koufax

314

27.1

Warren

Spahn

425

25.1

Greg

Maddux

740

23.5

Tom

Glavine

682

22.3

Jim

Palmer

521

17.4

Bert

Blyleven

685

16.1

Nolan

Ryan

773

15.7

Don

Sutton

756

11.4

Catfish

Hunter

476

11.0

Robin

Roberts

454

10.4

Jim

Bunning

516

10.1

Gaylord

Perry

690

9.3

John

Smoltz

481

6.6

Bob

Lemon

188

5.6

Don

Drysdale

463

0.0

 

              I didn’t track the data season by season.   Carlton in ’72 was +13.5 wins, which I would assume is the record for a season.    Partial-career data there for Spahn, Roberts and Lemon, also missing 13 starts for Whitey Ford and 3 for Bunning, 2 for Drysdale.   Basically, if you improve your team by 20 games over the course of a career, that’s a Hall of Fame standard, and better than many of the Hall of Famers.

 

2.   Hall of Fame Candidates

              By that heading I mean plausible Hall of Fame candidates; I am not referring to where they are in the voting structure right now.   I just mean that these are guys that you could reasonably argue should be in the Hall of Fame, maybe.   

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Roger

Clemens

707

48.2

Roy

Halladay

390

37.7

Curt

Schilling

436

35.6

Tim

Hudson

426

30.8

Luis

Tiant

484

30.5

Mike

Mussina

536

28.4

Kevin

Brown

476

25.5

Tommy

John

700

19.8

Ron

Guidry

323

18.0

Vida

Blue

473

16.9

Dwight

Gooden

410

15.3

Andy

Pettitte

521

13.6

Jack

Morris

527

13.3

Jerry

Koosman

527

12.3

Milt

Pappas

462

11.3

Jimmy

Key

389

11.0

Jamie

Moyer

638

10.4

Don

Newcombe

192

8.1

Jim

Kaat

625

7.8

Bob

Welch

462

7.2

Billy

Pierce

345

7.1

Dave

Stewart

348

5.3

Mike

Cuellar

377

4.7

Bob

Buhl

339

3.2

Vic

Raschi

97

3.2

 

              Is Bob Buhl really a plausible Hall of Fame candidate?  Probably not.    Hey, he won 166 games; it is more than Koufax or Dizzy Dean.  

              I love Catfish Hunter and don’t want to kick him out of the Hall of Fame or anything, but I have to note Catfish and Luis Tiant.    Catfish made 476 starts in his career, Tiant 484.    Catfish was 224-166; Tiant was 229-172.   Both American League pitchers, same era, 1965-1979 for Catfish, 1964-1982 for Luis.   3.26 ERA for Catfish, 3.30 for Tiant; Tiant’s ERA is actually much better if you adjust for the parks.   

              But Catfish, pitching for much better teams for most of his career, improved his teams by 11 games; Tiant, by a little more than 30 games.   Just noted.   Buhl should have been in the next group, which is "Probably Not a Hall of Fame Candidate":

 

3.   Probably Not a Hall of Fame Candidate

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Johan

Santana

283

28.2

Kenny

Rogers

474

27.7

Mark

Buehrle

429

24.9

Chuck

Finley

467

24.8

Rick

Sutcliffe

392

22.7

John

Candelaria

356

22.7

Mark

Langston

428

22.4

Bret

Saberhagen

371

22.4

Ramon

Martinez

297

21.8

Frank

Viola

420

21.2

Mike

Krukow

355

20.7

Rick

Reuschel

529

20.5

Kevin

Appier

402

19.9

Orel

Hershiser

466

19.5

Roy

Oswalt

342

19.5

Bill

Monbouquette

262

18.3

Carlos

Zambrano

302

18.3

Vern

Law

292

18.1

David

Cone

419

18.0

John

Tudor

263

17.7

Bruce

Hurst

359

17.6

David

Wells

489

17.2

Tom

Browning

300

17.2

Camilo

Pascual

403

17.1

Cliff

Lee

311

16.7

J.R.

Richard

221

16.6

Frank

Tanana

616

16.1

Jason

Schmidt

314

16.0

Jim

Maloney

262

15.1

Chan Ho

Park

287

14.9

Bill

Gullickson

390

14.6

Larry

Dierker

324

14.3

Dave

Stieb

412

13.5

Charlie

Hough

440

13.3

John

Denny

322

13.2

Al

Leiter

382

12.4

Sam

McDowell

346

11.7

Mike

Flanagan

404

10.5

Claude

Osteen

488

9.9

Mel

Stottlemyre

356

9.7

Mike

Boddicker

309

9.3

Mark

Mulder

203

9.3

Sal

Maglie

152

9.2

Larry

Gura

261

9.2

Harvey

Haddix

250

9.0

Mel

Parnell

105

8.9

Mike

Torrez

456

8.8

Larry

Jackson

420

8.6

Bob

Friend

419

8.5

Josh

Beckett

312

7.8

Andy

Benes

387

7.5

Javier

Vazquez

443

7.3

 

              Kenny Rogers is an interesting name here—219 career wins with almost 300 career relief appearances, and, as we see here, it wasn’t his teams that were carrying him; he was carrying his teams.    Ramon Martinez, Pedro’s older brother, is another interesting name way up on the list; people forget how good he really was.    If he had stayed healthy, he’d be in the Hall of Fame, too.    Chuck Finley is comparable in this data to Rogers; he had 200 career wins as well.     You can make a Hall of Fame case for Buehrle or Saberhagen.  You CAN make a Hall of Fame case for some of these guys, not the ones below:

 

4.   Definitely not a Hall of Fame Candidate

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Mark

Portugal

283

13.8

Wilson

Alvarez

263

13.7

Carl

Pavano

284

13.6

Doc

Medich

287

13.2

Kirk

Rueter

336

13.1

Bob

Tewksbury

277

13.1

Bill

Swift

220

13.1

Bob

Rush

173

12.8

Denny

Neagle

286

12.7

Bob

Veale

240

12.6

Storm

Davis

239

11.5

Denny

McLain

264

11.3

Moose

Haas

252

10.9

Mike

Caldwell

308

10.9

Floyd

Bannister

363

10.2

Gary

Peters

286

10.1

Andy

Messersmith

295

10.1

Bryn

Smith

255

9.6

Vicente

Padilla

237

9.3

Alex

Kellner

159

8.5

Dick

Bosman

229

8.5

Richard

Dotson

262

8.4

Tom

Brewer

214

8.4

Rick

Helling

234

7.9

Don

Robinson

229

7.8

Steve

Renko

364

7.7

Pete

Harnisch

318

7.6

Ben

Sheets

250

7.4

Mike

Maroth

150

7.4

Al

Fitzmorris

159

7.2

Earl

Wilson

310

7.2

Mark

Leiter

149

7.2

Dick

Donovan

268

7.2

David

Palmer

176

7.2

Randy

Jones

284

7.2

Charlie

Leibrandt

346

7.1

Trevor

Cahill

153

7.1

Noah

Lowry

100

6.9

Mario

Soto

225

6.9

Fritz

Peterson

330

6.9

Steve

Trout

236

6.8

Joe Jr.

Coleman

340

6.8

 

              Not Hall of Fame candidates, but these were good pitchers.    The guys below were good pitchers or REALLY good pitchers, but in short careers.   We’ve talked a lot about Fidrych, but who remembers Tom Filer and Brian Tollberg?

 

Good Short Careers

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Teddy

Higuera

185

17.4

Pete

Vuckovich

186

16.0

Cal

Eldred

192

15.4

Brandon

Webb

198

13.7

Don

Gullett

185

11.6

Rich

Harden

160

11.5

Jeff M.

Robinson

117

10.0

Esteban

Loaiza

333

9.6

Bobby

Shantz

112

9.5

Scott

Karl

161

9.2

Kent

Mercker

151

8.5

Josh

Johnson

160

8.4

Mark

Fidrych

56

8.3

Chad

Gaudin

87

8.3

Tommy

Greene

97

8.2

Joe

Hesketh

114

8.2

Pat

Zachry

154

8.1

Jim

Nash

166

8.0

Art

Mahaffey

148

7.9

Dennis

Ribant

56

6.9

Brian

Tollberg

52

6.8

Steve

Busby

150

6.7

Cal

McLish

175

6.7

Dave

Fleming

97

6.5

Roy

Smith

93

6.5

Chuck

Rainey

106

6.4

Kevin

Correia

190

6.4

Don

Schwall

101

6.3

Chien-Ming

Wang

126

6.3

Charlie

Lea

144

6.3

Bob

Hendley

122

6.2

Tom

Filer

51

6.2

Eric

Stults

72

5.8

 

              There are some good short careers on the other charts, of course. . . J. R. Richard, Master Johan, Jim Maloney, Sal Maglie and Mike Maroth.    Herb Score was actually under water, -2.1, in part because he pitched for teams with other Hall of Famers in the rotation.   The Cleveland Indians of the 1950s were the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s, with a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher on the mound more days than not.  

 

Not as Good by this Method as I would assume they would be

              Some guys, this method doesn’t seem to like.    I always think of Jose Rijo as being a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher who just couldn’t stay healthy, but this method doesn’t think so:

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Mike

Scott

319

6.1

Frank

Lary

292

5.8

Jose

Rijo

269

4.4

Chris

Short

308

2.6

Dave

Righetti

89

2.6

Dean

Chance

294

1.9

Clay

Kirby

236

1.9

Ed

Figueroa

179

1.2

Dave

Roberts

276

0.8

Scott

McGregor

309

-0.2

Lew

Burdette

346

-1.1

Joe

Horlen

290

-2.3

Joaquin

Andujar

305

-2.4

Mike

Witt

299

-3.5

Dock

Ellis

316

-7.8

Chris

Bosio

246

-9.4

 

              I always think of Chris Short as an outstanding pitcher, but the method doesn’t like him.   Dean Chance was a Cy Young winner in 1964, a 20-game winner in 1967, a 128-game winner in his career, but the method sees him as being not much better than his teams.   Clay Kirby was an outstanding starter for the expansion Padres for a couple of years; I expected him to do well, but he doesn’t.   Joe Horlen had a 1.88 ERA in 1964, was 19-7 with a 2.06 ERA in 1967, but for his career his teams did better without him on the mound than with him.    People love Dock Ellis and love to talk about him, but he wasn’t really helping his teams a whole lot.   Some guys had long careers with relatively low numbers:

 

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Joe

Niekro

500

6.3

Scott

Sanderson

407

5.9

Dave

McNally

396

4.4

Jim

Perry

447

4.4

Mickey

Lolich

496

3.6

Rick

Rhoden

380

2.6

Barry

Zito

419

2.6

Jerry

Reuss

547

2.4

Rick

Wise

455

1.4

Ken

Holtzman

410

0.2

John

Burkett

423

0.0

Bob

Knepper

413

-1.2

Bob

Forsch

422

-1.8

Steve

Rogers

393

-2.2

Paul

Splittorff

392

-2.3

Fernando

Valenzuela

424

-3.3

Kevin

Millwood

443

-3.3

Bobby

Witt

397

-3.9

Doug

Drabek

387

-4.7

Jeff

Suppan

417

-4.7

Jim

Clancy

381

-4.7

Tom

Candiotti

410

-4.9

Steve

Trachsel

417

-5.2

Livan

Hernandez

474

-6.5

Dennis

Martinez

562

-6.9

Doyle

Alexander

464

-9.0

Ray

Sadecki

328

-9.2

Mike

Moore

440

-10.7

Tim

Wakefield

463

-11.2

 

              And then, some guys just had REALLY low numbers:

First

Last

Starts

Wins Above Expectation

Jim

Abbott

254

-19.3

Mike

Morgan

411

-17.6

Danny

Jackson

324

-16.3

Jason

Johnson

221

-15.8

Jack

Armstrong

130

-15.2

Jake

Westbrook

273

-15.2

Jon

Garland

342

-14.8

Jason

Marquis

309

-14.3

Frank

Castillo

268

-14.1

Walt

Terrell

294

-13.7

Johnny

Podres

340

-13.6

Eric

Rasmussen

145

-13.4

Kip

Wells

219

-13.3

Jose

DeLeon

264

-12.9

Ismael

Valdes

250

-12.6

Edwin

Jackson

235

-12.1

Lary

Sorensen

235

-11.8

Juan

Pizarro

241

-11.6

Matt

Young

163

-11.4

Dave

Bush

171

-11.4

 

              Jeremy Bonderman in his career had 200 starts and was +2.7; just tying up a loose end.  Again, don’t make more of it than it is; it’s just one more way of looking at the general question.  

              While I was doing this I got interested in the question of how to treat no-decisions, how to think about them.    Each start by a starting pitcher is one of four things:

              1)  A win for the pitcher,

              2)  A loss for the starting pitcher,

              3)  A no-decision for the starting pitcher, but a win for the team,

              4)  A no-decision for the starting pitcher, and a loss for the team. 

 

              In my data there are 86,638 wins for pitchers, 89,131 losses for starting pitchers, 33,999 no-decision/wins and 31,506 no-decision/losses. 

              In Wins, starting pitchers pitched an average of 7 and a half innings, and had an ERA of 2.00 (actually 1.998).   In losses, starting pitchers pitched an average of 5.4 innings and had an ERA of 6.61.  But what about the no-decisions?

              In No-Decision/Wins, starting pitchers had an ERA of 4.71; in No-Decision/Losses, an ERA of 4.16, pitching about five and a half innings a start in either group.    So that means that pitchers who had a no-decision but their team WON the game actually pitched worse than pitchers who had a no-decision but the team LOST.   I did not know that; until I did that study I didn’t know which way that would go.  That kind of makes sense when you think about it, but anyway, what interested me is that this data can be used either as an argument for or against this method. 

              Against:   This method gives a pitcher credit when he has a no-decision but his team wins, but gives him a negative number when he has a no-decision but his team loses.    But research shows that pitchers who have no-decisions in losses actually pitch BETTER than pitchers who have no-decisions in losses.   What kind of sense does it make, then, to give positive credit for appearances with a 4.71 ERA, but no credit for appearances with a 4.16 ERA?  

       For:   The data shows that the ERAs of pitchers who have no decision in a game are about half-way between the ERAs of pitchers who win, and those who lose.   Doesn’t it make sense, then, to give the pitcher half credit for those games?    This is what we do, when we give him credit but for only half of the games.  

       Yes, the ERA is a little bit better when the no-decision is a loss, but really, that’s a very small difference compared to the 4.61-run difference between wins and losses—or even compared to the difference between wins and no-decisions.  

 

              This second argument somewhat miss-states the evidence, when it says that we are giving "half credit" to the pitchers for those games.   If half of those are wins and half are losses, then it is a wash, and on balance there is no credit being given.    It is what it is; it is only what it is.   Thanks for reading.  

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

msandler
This is an interesting concept. I think it's actually more illuminating and useful when comparing pitchers *within* a giving team/rotation rather than across teams, leagues, seasons, etc. Like Bill alluded to, this is inherently comparing a given pitcher against his teammates(the example he gave was Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz) and I think that maybe he should lean into that more. I think you can gain more insight by who had the more impressive body of work relative to what the team was "expected" to do between Maddux and Glavine on the '93 Braves, or between Bob Welch and Dave Stewart on the '90 A's, etc, than by comparing the career performance against team expectation for Jeremy Bonderman and Barry Zito.
1:00 PM May 17th
 
BobGill
Oh, THAT'S the typo. Now I get it. D'oh! As for what I wrote before, never mind.
6:38 PM May 15th
 
JohnPontoon
BobGill: It IS a typo, the word "losses" appears twice, but the second one should say "wins."
5:42 PM May 15th
 
BobGill
To Les Lein: I don't think it's a typo. If a starter doesn't get the decision and the team loses, that often means he left with a lead, in which case he could've pitched very well. If he gets no decision and they win, that often means he left trailing, which might imply that he pitched no so well. Not that this is true in every case, but the difference between the two ERA's isn't really that big, and I wouldn't be surprised if this explanation accounts for it.

3:06 PM May 14th
 
LesLein
Chris Short's numbers are probably much higher if you stop at 1968. He suffered a bad back injury in 1969 and was never the same.
11:50 AM May 14th
 
LesLein
"But research shows that pitchers who have no-decisions in losses actually pitch BETTER than pitchers who have no-decisions in losses."

I think this is a typo.
11:41 AM May 14th
 
JohnPontoon
Mark Fidrych was the greatest pitcher ever!
Okay, yeah, not so. We know that. BUT... for shits 'n' giggles, I decided to calculate the per-game WAE for all of the pitchers named in Bill's article. Well, all the guys with a positive number, anyhow. The sucky pitchers have suffered enough. THEN, because the resultant small decimal numbers aren't very exiting, I decided to multiply those numbers by the highest number of Games Started on this list Nolan Ryan's 773. So, then, here are the numbers for the top 15 pitchers on a "per-773-games-started" basis:
Mark Fidrych 114.6 GSC
Brian Tollberg 101.1 GSC
Dennis Ribant 95.2 GSC
Tom Filer 94.0 GSC
Johan Santana 77.0 PNC
Roy Halladay 74.7 HFC
Chad Gaudin 73.7 GSC
Teddy Higuera 72.7 GSC
Randy Johnson 71.0 HoF
Sandy Koufax 66.7 HoF
Pete Vuckovich 66.5 GSC
Jeff M. Robinson 66.1 GSC
Bobby Shantz 65.6 GSC
Mel Parnell 65.5 PNC
Tommy Greene 65.3 GSC

The last thing up there is my abbreviation for Bill's groupings. Unsurprisingly, the list is dominated by men from the "Good Short Careers" list. The winning game plan there is to be as good as possible in a completely unsustainable way and then flame out utterly.

Here's the top 15 if we eliminate pitchers with less than 100 starts:
Johan Santana 77.0 PNC
Roy Halladay 74.7 HFC
Teddy Higuera 72.7 GSC
Randy Johnson 71.0 HoF
Sandy Koufax 66.7 HoF
Pete Vuckovich 66.5 GSC
Jeff M. Robinson 66.1 GSC
Bobby Shantz 65.6 GSC
Mel Parnell 65.5 PNC
Curt Schilling 63.1 HFC
Cal Eldred 62.0 GSC
J.R. Richard 58.1 PNC
Bob Rush 57.2 DNC
Ramon Martinez 56.7 PNC
Tim Hudson 55.9 HFC

Here are 200+ GS:
Johan Santana 77.0 PNC
Roy Halladay 74.7 HFC
Randy Johnson 71.0 HoF
Sandy Koufax 66.7 HoF
Curt Schilling 63.1 HFC
J.R. Richard 58.1 PNC
Ramon Martinez 56.7 PNC
Tim Hudson 55.9 HFC
Pedro Martinez 54.4 HoF
Bill Monbouquette 54.0 PNC
Roger Clemens 52.7 HFC
John Tudor 52.0 PNC
Whitey Ford 51.8 HoF
Tom Seaver 51.0 HoF
John Candelaria 49.3 PNC

...and 300 or more:
Roy Halladay 74.7 HFC
Randy Johnson 71.0 HoF
Sandy Koufax 66.7 HoF
Curt Schilling 63.1 HFC
Tim Hudson 55.9 HFC
Pedro Martinez 54.4 HoF
Roger Clemens 52.7 HFC
Whitey Ford 51.8 HoF
Tom Seaver 51.0 HoF
John Candelaria 49.3 PNC
Luis Tiant 48.7 HFC
Juan Marichal 47.2 HoF
Carlos Zambrano 46.8 PNC
Bret Saberhagen 46.7 PNC
Warren Spahn 45.7 HoF

And beyond that, the exercise seems even more academic than it already actually is. Its only real utility is settling arguments where so-and-so claims that Pedro would be the greatest pitcher of all time (if time began in 1953) if he only could have stayed healthy forever. Which, you know, isn't NOT fun, as far as these "let's pretend" type exercises go.

One final question for Mr. Bill James: would it increase the accuracy &/or value of your study if you combined your numbers herein with the results of your "Random and Responsive Performance by Starting Pitchers" studies? Just wondering.

Anyhow, thank you for your time and your art.
7:17 PM May 13th
 
shthar
When is a guy with a lower WAE but more starts worth more than a guy with a great WAE, but less starts?

Should we just multiply starts by WAE and go by that #?
12:04 PM May 11th
 
chuck
Thanks, Marisfan- I'd forgotten about that thread.
1:31 AM May 11th
 
MarisFan61
P.S. In that second thread, I said that the strength of a pitcher's opposition was "not taken into account in any simple analytic comparison."

Bill's work right here takes care of that.
10:46 PM May 10th
 
MarisFan61
HEY CHUCK -- guess what: It really was "we," because it wasn't just me.

And the other guy who did some work on it was....Chuck. :ha:

I went and looked for the Reader Posts discussion without waiting for anyone to ask. I found that it was actually in 2 different threads, a month apart.

Here's the first one. The data and discussion begin with the post in this link (post #26), and continue for a good while thereafter in the thread:
boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?5460-Whitey-Ford-Thread&p=81443&viewfull=1#po​st81443

.....and here's the second thread, in which the data and discussion begin with a post BY YOU (and continue thereafter):
boards.billjamesonline.com/showthread.php?5568-Gaylord-Perry-vs.-Whitey-Ford&p=83710&viewfull=1#post83710


10:43 PM May 10th
 
MarisFan61
Chuck: A big part of the reason Ford shows so well is probably that he really was spotted preferentially against the best opponents -- and that he was able to have such an extremely high W-L percentage despite that.

I'm sure you know that it is often said that Stengel (who never really had a pitching "rotation") saved Ford for the best opponents. We looked at that a year or two ago on Reader Posts (OK, I looked at it) :-) ....and, as I remember, it showed as really being true, pretty bigly.

His W-L percentage was impressively above-team even in naked terms. But, if it's really true that he tended to pitch against the best opponents, and since this method gives recognition for that, it's no surprise at all that he shows so well.

If you or anyone else is interested in the data and discussion from that little study, I'd work at finding it.​
10:29 PM May 10th
 
chuck
Thanks for the very interesting articles, Bill. I was a bit surprised at how high Whitey Ford's wins above team were, considering 1), he already was on an outstanding team most of his career, and 2), that I think your method takes run support and defense into account somewhat, as its formula is winning-percentage based.

I did wonder if Ford perhaps got a lot better run support in his starts than did other Yankee pitchers. Using BB-Reference's stats, I compared on a season-by-season basis Ford's support per start with the rest of the starters' support. Over his career, Ford's support was only about 1 to 2 % above that of the other starters, as a group (1.6%). That's a bit less than a tenth of a run per start, or only about a couple runs per season.

As it happens, BB-Reference says Ford, as a batter, was 36 runs above average. Using that number and his 438 starts, that comes out to a bit less than a tenth of a run per start; so his support over teammates can be viewed as coming from his own hitting.
9:32 PM May 10th
 
jemanji
Maris ... oh, he might show up well.

He has been a great pitcher, no doubts there, but there were scads of seasons with frustrating run support. Records of 9-11, 14-14, 13-13, stuff like that.

He HAS had a couple-three big W-L seasons among his dozen seas, though, and now that I look his W-L is like +45, so maybe that's the way it works. Good pitchers on bad teams alternating .500 records with good season.

:: daps ::


9:27 PM May 10th
 
OldBackstop
"But research shows that pitchers who have no-decisions in losses actually pitch BETTER than pitchers who have no-decisions in losses."

I would think it would be pretty even :-)
8:32 PM May 10th
 
MarisFan61
Jemanji: WHY would you expect Felix not to show very well on this?

I think the total opposite, and I hope Bill might be able to tell us something. I think Felix is absolutely the kind of pitcher who would do not just very well on such a thing, but (for the reason I talked about below) even better than he 'should.'
I would expect an extraordinarily impressive number for him.
8:04 PM May 10th
 
jemanji
Classic article. ::golfclap::

One thing is, probably stated in the article and I missed it, is if you fit into a great team as a normal player there that is a compliment, right ? If your nephew played for the Bird – Magic dream team, he was a good player?

Would be curious about current notable players – Wonderware Felix has been. Not super high, I wouldn't think.


6:10 PM May 10th
 
MarisFan61
Maroth was another name I loved seeing. He became one of my favorite pitchers when he was the "ace" of that awful team. I rooted hard for him to not lose 20. He was, as we say, "better than his record indicated" (laughing permitted), and I'm glad to see that this method suggests it.

It's been mentioned in "Hey Bill" that Bob Gibson looked like he was trying to fly. I think Maroth did even more so. His delivery was a treat.
2:02 PM May 10th
 
henryfyfe
Since all Ps are compared to team in a 0 sum game, it makes sense that, by random chance, some Ps are going to have low number who are still above replacement level. For example, it's not surprising to see Johnny Podres on the low number list (against Newk, Koufax, Drysdale, etc), but I don't think anyone would argue that he was absolutely no good. My point being, having a low number is not quite the same thing as a guy "not helping his team"
1:02 PM May 10th
 
henryfyfe
Mike Maroth 2003 - 21 losses, .300 winning percentage, outperforms team by .035. What a season
12:58 PM May 10th
 
Glwall3
1, 2, 3, and 10 for the good short careers all pitched for the Brewers.
10:27 AM May 10th
 
MarisFan61
As you say and imply a few times, it's harder for a pitcher on a team with a very good pitching staff to pile up positive numbers on this. We can also say it this other way: pitchers on weaker pitching staffs have an advantage. Of course this doesn't rule the lists; some pitchers who were usually on good pitching staffs show well, and conversely. But, it seems that this factor does significantly affect (I would say distort) the numbers. I don't know how possible it would be to come up with a way to adjust for it.

But screw that. :-)
Very interesting method, very interesting lists.
And, as always with such things, it's great and sometimes heartwarming to see those old names that we don't much otherwise see. I love seeing names like Pascual, Medich, Rush, McLish showing well. Denny Neagle, I always thought of him as just "a #5 starter." Some guys who don't show well, I still like coming across their names although I'm disappointed: Valenzuela, Podres.....and I imagine you would have preferred Wakefield and Danny Jackson (among others) to show better.
10:26 AM May 10th
 
 
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