Bill James Handbook 2013 Leaderboards (Part II)

December 17, 2012

Last week in the Stat of the Week we shared a few of the Hitter Leaderboards from The Bill James Handbook 2013. This week, let’s take a look at a few leaderboards for pitchers.

% Pitches In Strike Zone
(minimum 162 IP)
Cliff Lee Phi 51.9
R.A. Dickey NYM 49.3
Matt Moore TB 47.1
Matt Harrison Tex 46.9
Wandy Rodriguez Hou-Pit 46.6
Phil Hughes NYY 46.5
Henderson Alvarez Tor 46.2
Wei-Yin Chen Bal 46.1
A.J. Burnett Pit 46.0
Chris Sale CWS 45.9
  • Cliff Lee is the only qualifying pitcher in baseball with over half his pitches thrown in the strike zone.
  • It is remarkable to see a knuckleballer second on this list. Given how the break of a knuckleball is so unpredictable, knuckleball pitchers have historically had control problems. But not R.A. Dickey. This is a very good indication of why he is so successful.
  • In three seasons with the Mets, Dickey has not exceeded 2.33 walks per nine innings in a season. In contrast, fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield only once walked fewer than 2.72 batters per nine innings in his 19-year career.
  • Seven of the 10 pitchers had an ERA below 4.00.
  • Five of the 10 pitchers were also on the Highest Fastball Percentage Leaderboard.

OBP vs. Leadoff Hitter
(minimum 150 BF)
Johnny Cueto Cin 0.234
Bartolo Colon Oak 0.236
Homer Bailey Cin 0.236
Bronson Arroyo Cin 0.244
Jered Weaver LAA 0.255
Stephen Strasburg Was 0.256
Wade Miley Ari 0.265
Matt Harrison Tex 0.266
Jake Westbrook StL 0.267
Kyle Lohse StL 0.267
  • Three of the top four pitchers are from the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds clearly make it a priority to keep that first batter of the inning off base. Their staff allowed the third fewest total of walks per nine innings in 2012, and they were tied with the Dodgers for the third-lowest ERA in baseball behind the Rays and the Nationals.
  • Isn’t it amazing to see Bartolo Colon second on this list?

Pitches 100+ Velocity
Aroldis Chapman Cin 242
Kelvin Herrera KC 162
Andrew Cashner SD 104
Henry Rodriguez Was 58
Justin Verlander Det 44
Carter Capps Sea 43
Nate Jones CWS 33
Bobby Parnell NYM 28
Trevor Rosenthal StL 12
Fernando Rodney TB 10
  • Aroldis Chapman comfortably led all pitchers in baseball throwing 242 pitches with a velocity of 100 mph or greater, though Kelvin Herrera’s total of 162 blazers was not too shabby. It will be interesting to see how Chapman’s velocity changes as he transitions from reliever to starter.
  • Justin Verlander is the only full-time starter from 2012 to make the list.
  • Everyone on the list had at least 8.00 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Seven of the 10 pitchers had an ERA below 3.00.

Win Shares
Justin Verlander Det 23
Aroldis Chapman Cin 21
Johnny Cueto Cin 20
David Price TB 19
Fernando Rodney TB 19
Chris Sale CWS 19
R.A. Dickey NYM 19
Clayton Kershaw LAD 19
Matt Harrison Tex 18
Cole Hamels Phi 18
Craig Kimbrel Atl 18
Kris Medlen Atl 18


Win Shares is a calculation of the number of wins a player contributed to his team and is adjusted for park, league, and era.

  • Aroldis Chapman led all National League pitchers with 21 Win Shares. It’s impressive to see a reliever as the top pitcher in the NL in this category.
  • Fernando Rodney and Craig Kimbrel are also full-time relievers on this list of pitchers who produced 18 or more Win Shares. Mariano Rivera in 2008 was the only other reliever to exceed 17 Win Shares in the last five seasons.
  • Justin Verlander led all pitchers in 2012 with 23 Win Shares. He topped the 2011 list has well.

Cheap Wins
Clay Buchholz Bos 5
Nick Blackburn Min 4
Kevin Correia Pit 4
Wade Miley Ari 4
Ricky Nolasco Mia 4
Barry Zito SF 4


A Cheap Win happens when a starter wins a game where his Game Score was under 50. Game Score measures the quality of a pitcher performance by adding points for outs, strikeouts, and pitching deep into games and by subtracting points for hits, walks, and runs allowed. Basically, a Cheap Win is a win that is not the result of a strong outing.

  • Nick Blackburn finished 4-9 on the season. He did not record a win that wasn’t a Cheap Win.
  • Collectively, these pitchers finished 70-60. If you take away all of their Cheap Wins (and to be fair, their Tough Losses), their records would be a combined 45-54.
  • Wade Miley was the only pitcher on the list with an ERA under 4.00.

Tough Losses
Josh Johnson Mia 7
Jeff Samardzija ChC 7
Travis Wood ChC 7
Jake Peavy CWS 6
Gio Gonzalez Was 6
Clayton Kershaw LAD 6


A Tough Loss happens when a starter loses a game where his Game Score was over 50. Game Score measures the quality of a pitcher performance by adding points for outs, strikeouts, and pitching deep into games and by subtracting points for hits, walks, and runs allowed. Basically, a Tough Loss is a loss that is not the result of a poor outing.

  • Six of Gio Gonzalez’s eight total losses were Tough Losses. Six of Clayton Kershaw’s nine total losses were Tough Losses.
  • Collectively, these pitchers finished 69-69. If you take away all of their Tough Losses (and Cheap Wins), their records would be a combined 61-30.
  • The Marlins and the Cubs scored the second and third-fewest runs in baseball and were responsible for the top three names on the list. The Astros scored the fewest runs, but none of their pitchers were singled out for run support punishment.

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

To clarify something stated in the article, a Win Share represents a third of a win.
8:44 AM Dec 25th
About the knuckler giving up more/less walks than average...I'd cite the comments BJ had about guys shaped like Kirby Puckett.

Now there's no real way of measuring this, but generally, guys shaped like Kirby Puckett have never frequented MLB. They're squat and round. So when a player looking like that makes it to the show, they must have obvious talent. They were too talented to be explained away as having a "bad body" or "too slow", etc (accurate or not).

So I'd say any and all knucklers who make it to the majors have to be better than average pitchers, better than a 'maybe' guy, better than a 3rd-starter-type player.

Just my 2 cents.
7:05 PM Dec 22nd
RE: "Given how the break of a knuckleball is so unpredictable, knuckleball pitchers have historically had control problems."

The actual historical trend is the exact opposite. Knuckleballers generally have LOWER walk rates than the league average. By my count there have been 19 pitchers in the Live Ball Era who were predominantly knuckleballers and threw over 1000 innings in the majors. Sixteen (84%) had better than average walk rates.

You have mistakenly jumped from the fact that the pitch has unpredictable movement to an assumption that makes it difficult to throw for strikes.

If you had to throw most of your pitches on the edges of the strike zone, as most traditional pitchers have to do to be successful in the big leagues, then throwing a knuckleball would give you control problems.

But the pitch's unpredictable movement gives the knuckleballer the opportunity to take a bigger bite of the plate. He can aim more for the middle of the strike zone, making it relatively easy to throw strikes once you gain basic consistent control of the knuckleball.

9:40 AM Dec 19th
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