The 10 Levels Study: Second Hit

June 17, 2014

8.   The Won-Lost Record is 50% Luck

                Going back now to the thing that I didn’t know, which was that outstanding pitchers basically pitch well in 100% of their starts, or something very close to 100%; this was Part 4 of yesterday’s series of articles.

                My next thought, realizing that, was that winning percentages might be looked at as 50% luck, 50% a measure of how often the pitcher has pitched well.    If you think about it, truly dominant pitchers very often have winning percentages around .750.  .750 is the half-way point between always pitching well—1.000—and random luck--.500.

                Well, I thought, maybe I could study that issue.   If a group of pitchers pitches well in 80% of their starts, what is their winning percentage?

                If a pitcher’s won-lost record was 50% luck and 50% a result of pitching well, then a pitcher who pitched well in 80% of his starts would have a .650 winning percentage.  If he pitched well in 70% of his starts, he would have a .600 winning percentage. ..get it?

                And, in fact, this works phenomenally well.   Suppose that we take all of the pitchers in my data, and arrange them in declining order of "Good Game Percentages".   The top 500 pitchers in Good Game Percentage have a combined Good Game-Bad Game total of 1364 – 54, a .962 "Good Game Percentage".   If the theory is correct, they should have a winning percentage, in their charged decisions, of .731.

                It’s .722.   Just .009 from the theoretical number.    Most of those top 500 are guys who only had one start and pitched well in their one start, so that’s not a large sample even though there are 500 pitchers included.   Let’s do the top 1,000.

                The top 1,000 pitchers in terms of the percentage of their starts that were good starts had a total of 10,702 good starts, and 2,470 bad starts.  That’s a "Good Start Percentage" of .812.   If the theory works, their actual, real-life winning percentage should be about .656.

                And it actually is .656.   No shit; it works perfectly. 

                As we move down the list, the group of 1,000 pitchers who have a Good Game Percentage of .800 do in fact have a Winning Percentage of exactly .650.

                The group of 1000 pitchers who have a Good Game Percentage of .750 should have a Winning Percentage of .625.  It is actually .630.

                The group of 1000 pitchers who have a Good Game Percentage of .700 should have an aggregate winning percentage of .600.   It is actually .603.

                This is a chart summarizing these type of data points—in all cases based on groups of 1,000 pitcher/seasons:

Good Game Percentage

Winning Percentage

.812

.656

.800

.650

.750

.630

.700

.603

.650

.585

.600

.561

.550

.522

.500

.485

.450

.465

.400

.433

.350

.395

.300

.372

.250

.330

.200

.291

.150

.255

.100

.231

.050

.195

.000

.135

 

                A couple of points here.   First, this is data for groups of pitchers—not for individual pitchers.   For a group of 1000 pitchers, we can assume that the luck has evened out—not entirely, but largely.

                An individual pitcher who has a Good Game Percentage of .800 cannot be expected to have a winning percentage of .650, because you cannot assume that his luck will be .500.    His luck might be .600—in which case he will have a winning percentage of .700—or his luck might be .400, in which case he will have a winning percentage of .600.   Luck only evens out for large groups of pitchers.

                Second, the theory that a pitcher’s record is 50% a result of his Good Game Percentage and 50% a result of his luck, when you think about it, cannot be perfectly true, because a pitcher’s universe is not symmetrical.   A pitcher who pitches extremely well cannot allow fewer runs than zero, but a pitcher who pitches badly can allow a very large number of runs to score.   Because this is true, the "luck component" cannot be equal to the "performance component" at both ends of the scale.   The pitcher who pitches really, really badly all of the time cannot win 25% of his games by luck, because the importance of luck—assuming that it is randomly distributed—cannot be equal to the importance of performance on both ends of the scale, since the pitcher’s universe is asymmetrical.   Does that make sense?

                Let me try to explain that again.   If you pitch well, average luck may cost you 25% of your wins, and bad luck may cause you to lose more than 25% of your games.   But if you pitch badly—really badly—then luck isn’t going to win the game for you 25% of the time, because the difference between average pitching and bad pitching is larger than the difference between average pitching and good pitching.

                Still, I am very taken by the notion that a pitcher’s won-lost record is 50% performance, and 50% skill; it is a neat way to think about the problem, and the data demonstrates that it is essentially true.   If you pitch well 70% of the time, you should win 60% of your decisions

. 

9.   Quality of Opposition (Career)

                I have mentioned this before, I know, but when I was in college I used to argue with my friend Tony Bandle about the relative merits of Bob Gibson vs. Juan Marichal; I would argue for Marichal and Tony, who was from St. Louis, would object vigorously.   One of Tony’s arguments was that Marichal pitched more often against the weak sisters of the National League—the Mets, the Astros, the Cubs—whereas Gibson did not.

                This argument is untrue; Gibson in his career had an opposition winning percentage of .495; Marichal, of .496.  A pitcher who pitches on good teams tends to draw slightly sub-.500 opponents, but only slightly.   But the larger question here isn’t Gibson vs. Marichal or "Don’t you have homework to do?", it is whether the quality of opposition is a legitimate variable over the course of a career.

                It is not.   It’s not an absolute zero, of course, but. . .it’s not a meaningful variable.   In my data, all of the pitchers who have the most extreme opposition winning percentages are a) pitchers from the 1950s, for whom we have gaps in the data which are not uniformly centered around .500, and b) pitchers who didn’t have very many starts.   Among pitchers for whom we have full-career data, the highest opposition winning percentage for any pitcher with 200 or more starts is .516, for Pedro Ramos; well, Rodrigo Lopez is a higher .516 than Ramos, but I’m treating Lopez as still active, because I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t.  Anyway, it’s an .016 "problem" is the most extreme case; on the other end is Tony Cloninger, facing .484 opposition in about the same number of starts.   The standard deviation of opposition winning percentage, career, for pitchers with 100 or more starts is .007; with 200 or more starts, .005; and with 300 or more starts, .004.

                As to what that means in terms of an ERA disadvantage. . .a 16-point advantage is opposition winning percentage is roughly equivalent to a 16-point advantage in ERA (0.16).   If you think about it, a team that outscores its opponents by one run per game, at normal levels of offense, has about a .600 winning percentage, so .100 in winning percentage = 1.00 runs; thus, .050 in winning percentage is roughly equal to 0.50 runs, and .020 in winning percentage is roughly equal to 0.20 in runs. 

                With modern computers we can easily track the opposition winning percentage, thus easily adjust for it in our evalautions of players, so. . .why not?   If we’re going to adjust for everything, we have to adjust for everything we can document.   Still, it’s not a meaningful variable over the course of a career.

 

10.  Steve Carlton, 1980

                The pitcher whose Good Game-Bad Game record was 34-1 was Steve Carlton in 1980.   1980 wasn’t Carlton’s best season; 1972 was the year he went 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA for a turable team.   In 1980 he was with the World Champions, but he was a mere 24-9 with 286 strikeouts and a 2.34 ERA.  

                Let’s look at his nine losses that year.  Against the Mets on April 21 he pitched 7 innings, giving up only 5 hits and 2 runs, but lost the game (3-0) as the Phillies were shut out.    That’s a Game Score of 62, a Compensation Score (based on the opposition and run context) of 8.9, total of 70.9; we score that game an "8", but it was a loss.

                May 10 against the Reds, matched up against Tom Seaver in Cincinnati; Carlton pitched 7 innings, only 4 hits, 11 strikeouts, 4 runs, 3 earned.   Game Score was 62, Compensation Score of 8.6; again, that’s an "8", but a 5-3 loss.

                Carlton didn’t lose again until June 27; by that time he was 13-2.    On June 27, again facing the Mets in Veterans Stadium, he pitched 7 innings, 8 hits, 3 runs, 6 strikeouts, no walks.   Game Score of 55, Compensation Score of 8.9, total of 63.9.   It’s a "6" effort on a 10-point scale, but he lost the game 3-2.

                His next start, July 2, facing Steve Rogers of the Expos, he was hit hard for the only time all season; 7 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 6 runs all earned, walked 6 batters.   Game Score of 39, Compensation Score of 7.7.   We score that game "2" on a 10-point scale, and he took a 6-1 loss.

                July 27 against the Reds in Riverfront again, matched up against Mario Soto, who was a great pitcher, too, but only for a few years.     Carlton had a borderline Quality Start—6 innings, 3 runs, 2 earned.      Game Score of 53; in our system it’s a "5"—neither a good effort nor a bad one—but he lost the game, 3-2.

                August 2 against the Reds, again; he pitched 8 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 10 strikeouts.   We score the game an "8", but he lost it 2-1.

                August 22 against the Giants, he pitched 10 innings and struck out 13 batters; again, we score the game an "8", but he lost 4-3.      

                September 5 at Dodger Stadium, Carlton gave up 1 run in 7 innings, lost the game 1-0 as Don Sutton was outstanding.   We score Carlton’s game, again, as an "8".

                September 27 at Montreal; the pennant race is still on.   The Phillies come into the game 85-68; the Expos, 84-70, a game and a half back with 8 to play.   Carlton is so-so; 7 innings, 7 strikeouts, one walk, but gives up 4 runs and loses, 4-3.   We score the game as a "6". His last five losses were by scores of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, and 4-3. 

                That’s the nine losses; altogether in the 9 losses he pitched 66.1 innings—about 7 and a half innings per start—gave up 61 hits, struck out 68, walked 26 and had a 3.53 ERA.    We scored one of them a "2"—a bad game—and one a "5"—a neutral game.   Otherwise, he pitched well.  

 

11.  18-11

Suppose that a pitcher in a season made 29 starts in a season, went 18-11 with a 1.69 ERA.   Not a bad year, huh?

 

 10-Levels-1


                251 innings, 24 complete games, 5 shutouts.  

                That’s Gaylord Perry’s record in 1972 against teams that had .500 or better records.   He also made another 11 starts against teams with sub-.500 records.

 

 

12.  1975 Dodgers

                What is the best starting rotation of the last 50 years?  

                Other methods have other answers, but the list suggested by this method is as follows:

                5.  2002 Arizona Diamondbacks.    They had the two best starting pitchers in baseball, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and they won 98 games.   We credit them with a Good Start/Bad Start ratio of 103-51.  

                4.  1997 Atlanta Braves.   Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and Neagle.   103-46.

                3.  2013 Detroit Tigers.    Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Mister Fister.   It was just last year; you probably remember it.   104-48.

                2.  1998 Atlanta Braves.  104-45.

                1.  1975 Dodgers.

                OK, that one’s a little unexpected.  

                The 1975 Dodgers were a good team.   They won 88 games, and they led the majors in ERA, at 2.92.   The starting rotation was Don Sutton—a Hall of Famer—Andy Messersmith, Doug Rau, and Burt Hooton.

                Still, I didn’t expect to see them at the very top of the list.    According to this method, they pitched well 107 times, poorly 43 times—as opposed to the 1966 Dodgers, who were still very good, at 93-59, but actually nowhere near as good as the 1975 Dodgers.

                Here is a list of the 10 best starting pitchers in the National League in 1975, as ranked by the sum of the values of all of the pitcher’s starts:

 

 10-Levels-2

 

                Tom Seaver won the National League Cy Young Award in 1975, and obviously Seaver was a great pitcher, but I think the conclusion that Andy Messersmith was actually the best pitcher in the league that season is probably not surprising.  Messersmith didn’t win the Cy Young Award because his won-lost record was just 19-14, but he pitched more innings than Seaver with a better ERA.

                The worst starting rotations in my data are:

                5.  2005 Kansas City Royals.  46 Good Starts, 99 Bad Starts, team record 56-106. 

                4.  2003 Cincinnati Reds.   45 Good Starts, 100 Poor Starts; team record 69-93. 

                3. 1984 San Francisco Giants.   45 Good Starts, 104 Poor Starts, team record 66-96.

                2.  2013 Minnesota Twins.   44 Good Starts, 103 Poor Starts; team record 66-96.

                1.   The 1996 Detroit Tigers.    44 Good Starts, 106 Poor Starts; team record 53-109.   Omar Olivares led the team in wins, with 7, and in ERA, 4.89.     Three other pitchers made 15 or more starts for them:  Felipe Lira (6-14, 5.22 ERA), Brian Williams (3-10, 6.77) and Greg Gohr (4-8, 7.17).

 

13.  Don Drysdale, 1964

                Here’s a borderline incredible fact for you.   Don Drysdale made 40 starts in 1964, and the Dodgers outscored their opponents in those starts, 171 to 116—but lost 21 of the 40 games.   When you outscore your opponents by that margin you should go 28-12; they went 19-21.

                Drysdale lost four 1-0 games that year, which is a big deal; not very many pitchers have ever lost four 1-0 games in a year.   There was also one game in which Drysdale pitched ten shutout innings, left the game, and the bullpen lost it, 1-0.

                In addition to the 1-0 losses, they also lost one game 2-1 (in 15 innings), lost 3-2, and lost four games by the score of 4-3; that is 11 one-run losses, if you’re counting.   They lost a game 6-5; that’s 12.

                They lost 2-0, 4-2, and 3-1, so that’s 15 one- or two-run losses.  On the other hand, they won games started by Drysdale by scores of 6-0, 7-1, 9-1, 5-0, 10-3, 6-1, 5-0 again, 5-1, 15-4, 6-2, 9-0, 12-3 and 8-1.

 

14.  Nolan Ryan and John Halama

                We have won-lost records for each pitcher, and we have in this method a very careful count of how often each pitcher has pitched well.   It is therefore possible, for each pitcher, to measure the discrepancy between his wins and losses, and his "Good Games/Bad Games" totals.

                I don’t want to get too much into this, because we have talked about lucky and unlucky pitchers many times before, and we don’t need to go over that again, and also this is not an article about won-lost records; it is about how well pitchers have actually pitched.   Won-lost records are strictly incidental, but we’ll give the topic just a moment.  

                Steve Carlton in 1980 was 24-9, but had a Good Game Record of 34-1, so his record was nine games short of how often he actually pitched well.   Andy Messersmith in 1975 was 19-14, but he had a Good Game Record of 29-5, so he was nine and a half games short comparing one to the other.    These actually are both historic margins.   There are not very many pitchers in the data who are nine or ten games short of the won-lost record that they arguably deserve. 

                Third quibble:   the Good Game Record is not exactly a measure of how often the pitcher deserved to win.    We are trying to measure how often the pitcher pitched well, under the circumstances, which is similar to how often he deserved to win, but not exactly the same.   Also, since we treat only "5s" as no-decisions, pitchers have more Good Games and Bad Games than they have Wins and Losses; the Good Game Records might match the Won-Lost records better if I ignored 4s, 5s and 6s, rather than just 5s.   But as I said, won-lost records aren’t the main focus here, so charging ahead. . . .

                The unluckiest pitcher in our data, by this method, is not a surprise; it is Nolan Ryan with the 1987 Astros.   Ryan pitched 212 innings, struck out 270 batters and led the league in ERA—but finished 8 and 16.  His Good Game Record was 25-4, so his won-lost log is 14 and a half games worse than his Good Game Record.  These are the 18 pitchers who finished at least ten games below divine justice:

 

Year

First

Last

Won

Lost

Good Games

Bad Games

Shortfall

1987

Nolan

Ryan

8

16

25

4

14.5

1964

Don

Drysdale

18

16

33

7

12

2004

Ben

Sheets

12

14

27

5

12

1963

Roger

Craig

5

21

18

11

11.5

1977

Jerry

Koosman

8

20

20

9

11.5

1992

Jim

Abbott

7

15

20

6

11

1977

Nolan

Ryan

19

16

30

5

11

1982

Mario

Soto

13

13

27

5

11

1984

Fernando

Valenzuela

12

17

24

7

11

1992

Melido

Perez

13

16

23

5

10.5

1967

Gaylord

Perry

15

16

28

8

10.5

1972

Gaylord

Perry

24

16

34

5

10.5

1986

Mike

Scott

18

10

33

4

10.5

1967

Jim

Bunning

17

15

30

8

10

1996

Roger

Clemens

10

13

24

7

10

1993

David

Cone

11

14

24

7

10

1962

Turk

Farrell

8

17

19

8

10

1969

Bob

Gibson

20

13

30

3

10

 

                I have made lists of unlucky seasons many times, but I think that’s the best list of Tough  Luck Seasons I have ever made.  A few notes:

                Bob Gibson in 1969 was actually unluckier than he was in 1968, when he lost 9 games despite posting a 1.12 ERA.  In 1968 his Good Game Record is 30-1, so his won-lost record (22-9) is eight games short.  In 1969 it is ten games short.

                Mike Scott won the Cy Young Award in 1986 despite a won-lost record that was 10 and a half games short of what he may have deserved. . . understanding that luck is a normal part of the game, and that a pitcher who has a Good Game record of 33 and 4 is not normally going to go 33 and 4. 

                We could say that the Cy Young voters saw through Scott’s bad luck in 1986, but the Boston Red Sox failed to see through Clemens’ bad luck ten years later.  Clemens pitched extremely well his last year in Boston—24 Good Games, 7 Bad—but the team didn’t see it.   They failed to see through it, I think, because Clemens had had several years of bad luck by that time, and, while an awareness of the flaws of won-lost records was growing by 1996, that awareness was not yet strong enough for people to accept that not only doesn’t run support even out over the course of a season, it doesn’t always even out over the course of four or five seasons, either.

                The most famous Tough Luck season which isn’t on the list is Dave Roberts in 1971; he was 14-17 with a 2.10 ERA.   We have him with a Good Game Record of 21 and 8.  

                On the other side of this highway would be John (Is Your Mama?) Halama with the 2000 Seattle Mariners.   Halama was 14-9 despite a Good Game Record of 3-22:

Year

First

Last

Won

Lost

Good Games

Bad Games

Good Fortune

2000

John

Halama

14

9

3

22

12

2009

Braden

Looper

14

7

7

21

10.5

1953

Russ

Meyer

15

4

11

20

10

1977

Paul

Splittorff

16

6

13

22

9.5

1990

Bob

Welch

27

6

17

13

8.5

1989

Storm

Davis

19

7

13

17

8

2005

Mark

Hendrickson

11

8

6

19

8

1982

Phil

Niekro

17

4

15

18

8

2006

Steve

Trachsel

15

8

8

17

8

2004

Ismael

Valdez

9

6

2

15

8

1971

Chuck

Dobson

15

5

11

16

7.5

2003

Ramon

Ortiz

16

13

8

20

7.5

2011

Brad

Penny

11

11

5

20

7.5

 

           

                Not only does Halama show up as the luckiest bastard in the pool, but the 3-22 Good Games Record is also the worst in the data, 20 or more starts.  (Well, three guys went 2-15.   2-15 is a worse percentage than 3-22.)    Halama had a lot of "4" games. . . .a lot of games that we are counting as Poor Starts, but they weren’t terrible.    In the 11 games that Halama "won" but did not pitch well he pitched 63.1 innings with a 4.41 ERA, and the Mariners outscored their opponents 92 to 50.  

                Other notes:   No pitcher shows up on both the "Tough Luck" list (above) and the "Good Luck" list (not so far above.)    Phil Niekro had several tough-luck seasons, but none of them quite made the list.

                Bob Welch is the only pitcher on the super-lucky list who won the Cy Young Award, just almost totally based on luck.   (Sorry, Bob.   This was written before you died.) 

                Most of the "Good Luck" pitchers got a hard dose of reality the next season.   Storm Davis, 19-7 in 1989, was 7-10 the next season.   Mark Hendrickson, known affectionately in our house as Mark the Giant, followed up his lucky season with a 6-15 campaign.  Braden Looper, known affectionately as Braden (Pooper) Looper, never pitched in the majors after 2009.    Ramon Ortiz, 16-13 in 2003, was knocked out of the rotation early in 2004, winning 5 games on the season. 

                Halama, however, continued to roll.   He was 10-7 in 2001, and didn’t pitch much better then than he had in 2000.

 
 

COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

MWeddell
In item 12, it's interesting to read that the 2013 American League had both an historically excellent and historically terrible team starting pitcher performance.

Makes me wonder if Bill had chosen to also adjust for defense whether the 2013 Detroit Tiger starting pitchers would have moved even higher than #3 overall. The Tiger team defensive runs saved was 66 runs below average in 2013, featuring an immobile Miguel Cabrera at third base.
12:46 PM Jun 19th
 
evanecurb
Given the results of the Orioles' pitchers' comparison (and thank you for taking the time to do it), it appears to me that there could be a
'sideburn effect' at work here. Dobson's sideburns with the Orioles reached lengths not seen since the days of Hoss Radbourne, and his sideburns were chopped off when he went to the Yankees. Grimsley, meanwhile, went with the Oscar Gamble / Harpo Marx hairdstyle, which does not work well in Baltimore due to danger of small pieces of crab meat or shell getting trapped in the hair, then falling in the pitcher's face at crucial points in the game.
8:52 AM Jun 19th
 
tangotiger
"The question from my standpoint is not whether a good defense creates an advantage for a pitcher, but whether this bias can be removed on a game-by-game basis."

But why not do the first one, while ignoring the second one? Right now, you are ignoring both.

Why for example do you adjust for opponent hitting and for the park? Both of those create an advantage or disadvantage for the pitcher. So, you adjust for it. I agree with the choice here.

But, both ALSO have a particular impact game-by-game. It's very hard to establish those effects on a game-by-game basis. So, you ignore it. I agree as well.

The issue of the fielding is similar. There's the overall landscape of the 1970s Orioles fielders on their pitchers. And then there's the specific accomplishments of the fielders on June 28, 1974.

***

Now, if the argument is that you can't even properly establish the overall landscape so that you don't really know how good the 1970s Orioles fielders are, then that's a good argument to make. At least with parks and opposing hitters, we have a great way to figure that out. With fielders, it has another layer of uncertainty.

If this is what you are talking about, then I can sort of agree with it.

9:18 AM Jun 18th
 
bjames
The question from my standpoint is not whether a good defense creates an advantage for a pitcher, but whether this bias can be removed on a game-by-game basis. I don’t question that a Baltimore Oriole-type defense makes pitchers look better than they are; I simply do not see how one can remove this bias game by game. We represent the performance of the pitcher-and-defense combination as if it were the performance of the pitcher. It is an entirely different problem to (a) assess accurately the strength of the forces arrayed against the pitcher/defense on any given day, and (b) divide the performance the pitcher/fielder combination in a single game into a pitchers’ contribution and a fielders’ contribution. . ..just a totally, radically different problem. From my standpoint, to attempt to package these two very different problems into one seems like sabermetric lunacy. We’ve already bitten off more than we can chew here; the suggestion that we could have taken a larger bite is in no way constructive.
On the issue of the pitchers you named. ..Pat Dobson shows as dramatically better in his time with the Orioles than the rest of his career, but nobody else does. The Good Games/Bad Games count for Cuellar in his three years with Houston before coming to Baltimore are 17-7 (1966), 17-12 (1967) and 14-7 (1968). Coming to Baltimore in 1969 he was 27-12, 20-16, 22-12 and 23-10 in his first four seasons—many more starts per season in Baltimore, but 48-26 in Houston (.649) and 92-50 in Baltimore (.648). After 1972 he was in decline although his ’73-’74 won-lost records don’t show it, with Good Game records of 17-15, 21-16, 18-17 and 3-15.
Grimsley was very good his FIRST year in Baltimore, 23-14, but in his three years in Cincinnati (1971-73) he was 36-36 (10-11, 12-12, 14-13), whereas with Baltimore he was 50-59 (23-14, 11-18, 5-8, 11-19), and his first year with Montreal he was 20-13, so actually he shows as worse with Baltimore than with other teams. Doyle Alexander was 6-6 with LA in 1971 (the same as his won-lost record), then, with Baltimore, 3-6, 15-11, 5-7, 6-5, and 1-5 early in 1976. He started 1-5 with Baltimore in ’76, was traded to the Janquis and was 11-8 the rest of the year, then 18-16 with Texas in 1977. . .overall worse with Baltimore than with the other teams.
Torrez’ was a nomad, pitching from 1971 to 1978 with the Cardinals, Expos, Orioles, A’s and Yankees; with Baltimore in ’75 his “official” won-lost log was 20-9, the best of his career. We show with a Good Game record of 21-11, as opposed to 20-13 with Oakland in 1976, 18-16 (mostly with the Yankees) in 1977. The 21-11 with Bal’more in 1975 was his best record, but not by a meaningful margin. Rudy May was 12-9 with the Orioles in ’76, 19-18 in 1977, whereas with other teams he was 18-13 in 1975, 5-6 in 1976, 13-10 in 1978, 5-2 in 1979, 14-3 in 1980; those total up to .534 with the Orioles and .618 with other teams in those years. Jesse Jefferson was 8-7 and 1-1 for the Orioles in ’73-’74 before Movin’ on Up to the South Side of Chicago in ’75, where he was 10-11.
Pat Dobson, on the other hand, shows as dramatically better in Baltimore than before or after Baltimore. With San Diego in 1970 he was 16-15 (Good Game Record); after leaving Baltimore for, as I recall, Atlanta, New York and Cleveland, he was 9-17, 20-17, 9-15, 18-15 and 2-14. But with Baltimore he was great not only in 1971, when he had an official won-lost log of 20-8, but also in 1972, when he was officially 16-18. We make him 23-10 in ’71 and 25-8 in 1972, by far the best years of his career. Pat Dobson is to Jim Palmer as Denny Neagle is to Greg Maddux.

1:52 AM Jun 18th
 
wdr1946
The ESPN baseball encyclopedias included "support" received by all pitchers in all seasons. These are calculated individually, so that, say, Koufax and Drysdale in 1965 had different levels of support- anything above 100 was more support than club average, and so on. My question is: do some pitchers receive greater than average levels of team batting support because of who they were, compared with other pitchers on their team, because of who they were? Koufax received more support than Drysdale- did Dodger batters bust themselves because they didn't want to let the great Sandy down? Bob Gibson (and Drysdale) appear to have had the opposite effect. It was sometimes said that the Yankees gave 200% when Joe DiMaggio was playing because they didn't want to let him down. Is this credible?
1:15 AM Jun 18th
 
evanecurb
I second OBS's comments. I am looking forward to the rest of the series.
11:00 PM Jun 17th
 
OldBackstop
Bill, I think this is a breakthrough piece of work. Congratulations.
10:02 PM Jun 17th
 
chuck
Yes- to evanecurb's request. I'd specifically love to see the 1968 and 1969 seasons for Mike Cuellar, who went 8-11 in 1968 with a terrible-looking Houston team, and then went 24-8 in 1969 with the Orioles. Was he better in '69, or actually close to the same by your new start measures?
9:36 PM Jun 17th
 
evanecurb
The Belanger-Blair-Robinson Orioles (we'll call them the 1968-1975 Orioles) were famous for their defense. It would be interesting to see how the good game/bad game splits for starting pitchers who were on those Oriole teams for one or two years compare to their good game/bad game records for other teams. Admittedly, the sample size is small, because McNally and Palmer pitched only for Baltimore, and Cuellar pitched mostly for Baltimore. But I'd still like to see good game/bad game results for these pitchers, split into two groups: their non-Oriole years and their Oriole years:

Cuellar
Dobson
Grimsley
Torrez

Small sample size, but would be interested to see it.

9:20 PM Jun 17th
 
tangotiger
As for the idea of the 50% luck:

From the perspective of the pitcher, everything he doesn't control is random variation. Since we've assigned the entirety of the defensive performance to the pitcher, and since off and def are each 50% of the equation, then the result is as Bill is showing.

Or, in strat-o-matic talk: in order to get someone get a .400 OBP in a league of .320 OBP, you have to show his card with a .480 OBP. That's because 50% of the time, it's his performance (.480 OBP) and 50% of the time, it's the opponent (or "luck").

9:02 PM Jun 17th
 
MarisFan61
Anyone else willing to raise his hand and admit he had no idea Marichal ever pitched for the DODGERS? :-)
In fact, I must have been working too hard in the '70's. I had no idea he was with anyone but the Giants.
8:19 PM Jun 17th
 
Hal10000
Your first point about "luck": is that "luck" some combination of luck as well as offensive and defensive support?
7:53 PM Jun 17th
 
jdw
Thanks Bill!

The 1974 Dodgers are one of the strong teams that time forgot, buried by their loss to the A's in the Series and the Reds going over the top the following two seasons. Seeing the 1975 Rotation pop up here beings it all back to mind. The 1974 offense had been terrific, not really taking much of back seat to the 1975 Reds offense. It declined by 150 runs in 1975, while the pitching was remained fairly similar with the exception of Marshall's sharp decline. The team dropped from 102 wins to 88 wins. One of my first lessons that the hitting side had as much impact as the pitching side.
7:27 PM Jun 17th
 
bjames
In Hooton's last 16 starts in 1975 he was 12-1 with a 1.95 ERA, 100 strikeouts, 38 walks in 105.1 innings. The loss was the first of those games; he gave up 2 runs in 7 innings to the Pirates--a good hitting team--the bullpen gave up 2 more, and he lost 4-1. But then he ended the season with a 12-game winning streak and no cheapies.
4:17 PM Jun 17th
 
bjames
Good Starts/Bad Starts for the 1975 Dodgers. ..Messersmith 29-5, Sutton 24-9, Hooton 23-7 (as you surmised), Rau 21-13, Downing 4 and 2, Marichal 0 and 2, Rhodent 6 and 5. Rhoden started 0 and 4, but then was 6-1 after he returned to the rotation in August. Burt Hooten was 0-3 with the Cubs before he came to LA, and was just 7-7 in his first 14 starts with the Dodgers, through July 5--but then ended the season with a string of 16 consecutive good starts.

The average "Compensation Score" is 8.47.
4:12 PM Jun 17th
 
jdw
Bill - on the 1975 Dodgers, do you have the Good-Bad numbers of the other SP's that year (Marichal, Rhoden and Downing), along with what Hooton did as a Dodger?

Happy started poorly for the Cubs. 2 or 3 of his Bad Starts were probably with the Cubs, taking him to 23-7 as a Dodger?

That would make the top 4 in the 97-34 to 97-35 range, which would put the balance in the 10-9 to 10-8 range.

Marichal bombed out, which led to the Dodgers going shopping and coming up with Hooton. Looks like 0-2 Good-Bad in his two starts.

Downing is interesting as a sport starter. Of his six starts, only one looks bad. The rest look in the good to neutral range. Also kind of interesting that 5 of them were away from Dodger Stadium.

Rhoden was also interesting: the initial solution to Marichal bombing out, Rick himself bombed out in April. He then got back in the rotation in late August, and looks to have pitched very well in 6 of his 7 starts to close the season.

Looks like the Dodgers got 17 starts out of Downing and Rhoden with a 3.08 ERA. 10 Good Starts, either 7 or 6 Bad?

Not bad out of the spot/5th starters.​
1:32 PM Jun 17th
 
tangotiger
I think it's an interesting choice that is being made. With regards to parks, Bill is treating a park as a constant for that team-season. Whether the wind is blowing in or out, whether it's hot or not, whether you have a FB pitcher or GB pitcher, there's one park factor.

But, with regards to team fielding, Bill is saying that because he can't attribute the exact fielding accomplishments for that game, then he won't apply a generic fielding adjustment for all games. In short, if Mike Trout saves a HR, the readers here would suggest to give each pitcher of a team a share of 1HR/1400IP, while Bill is saying we need to attribute the HR saving to that game, or not count it at all. No estimating.

And if a pitcher has Ozzie, he doesn't want to give a generic adjustment, because Ozzie's talent might not have been needed that day.

That's fine. But, for parks, Bill *is* doing that. He is applying a generic adjustment.

Now, we can argue that parks are more "stable", and so, we don't get into these extreme kinds of situations. Except, we kinda do. A HR in one park is an out in another park, or it's still a HR in another park. We just don't know for that particular game.

And maybe the idea that parks may be more extreme than fielding teams and are more stable, then it might be a good reason to apply generic adjustments to each game for parks, but not do that for fielders.

Maybe.

12:58 PM Jun 17th
 
MarisFan61
(Sorry, and thanks!)
12:06 PM Jun 17th
 
bjames
1) Roger Craig was 5 - 21 as a starting pitcher. He also pitched 15 times in relief and was 0 - 1 in relief.

2) Bob Gill apparently assumes that compensation scores are zero-centered, but nothing in the article says that, implies or suggests that. They're zero-based, rather than zero-centered. The lowest compensation score for any game is about 0.1, and the average is. . .I don't know. I would guess it is 7 or 8 or something.

3) Should have given a better explanation about the fielding. The problem with adjusting anything for Batting Averages on Balls in Play is that the differences involved are both a) small, and b) derivative. We only know what Batting Averages on Balls in Play are by taking several OTHER categories of the record and comparing them, deriving a residue. Derivative stats are by their nature highly unstable, and SMALL derivative stats are fantastically unstable.

This is not to say that derivative stats are not interesting or that we should not look at them. I've looked at Defensive Efficiency Records (which are essentially the defensive equivalent of batting average on balls in play) since about 1977. It's a useful way to TRY to evaluate a defense.

Useful--but speculative. We like to PRETEND that Defensive Efficiency s a measure of defensive performance, but the reality is that it to some degree a measure of defense, to a very large degree a measure of park effects, and to a very large degree a measure of luck. Applying a .03 difference with a highly speculative pedigree to small units of performance is just not a viable approach.
12:02 PM Jun 17th
 
BobGill
I guess I should've asked why Carlton's compensation scores are consistently POSITIVE, rather than high. You make adjustments based on whether the league scoring is above or below 4.68; the NL in 1980 was about a half-run per game worse than that. Quality of the opposition's offense; obviously the Mets were below the league's already low average. So it seems to me that in any game against the Mets, the compensation score would REDUCE Carlton's game score on those two counts. And for a game in Shea, I'd think it would score as negative on all three counts. But it's +8. That's what stumps me.
11:43 AM Jun 17th
 
MarisFan61
The most minor of minor quibbles: Sorry to point this out (I hate people who do this) :-) but.....In portion 14, Roger Craig in 1963 was even a little unluckier than how you have him, and moves up to a tie with Drysdale and Sheets. His record was 5-22, not 5-21. If you grew up in Queens watching the Mets grow up, seeing the better record of 5-21 hurts the eyes a little and causes some "if only" wishful thinking. :-)
11:40 AM Jun 17th
 
bjames
Responding to evanecurb. ...no, the system does not do that, and the idea of doing that (in my opinion) is frankly crazy, since it would be highly speculative, and the difference between the best defense and worst defense would have zero reliability on a game-by-game basis.
11:18 AM Jun 17th
 
bjames
Responding to evanecurb. ...no, the system does not do that, and the idea of doing that (in my opinion) is frankly crazy, since it would be highly speculative, and the difference between the best defense and worst defense would have zero reliability on a game-by-game basis.
11:18 AM Jun 17th
 
chuck
I was going to ask about defense luck, that is, the luck of spending a career or a great majority of it with a good or bad defensive team. Right now, that luck is bundled into the game scores.
How much did pitching for the Orioles (as opposed to an average defense) contribute to the average start value of a McNally or Palmer, and how much did pitching for a low-rated defense detract from the average start value of a Reuschel or a Ned Garver?
10:38 AM Jun 17th
 
evanecurb
Bill,

Does your data adjust for team defense, i.e. BABIP of the pitcher's team's defense relative to the league?
9:53 AM Jun 17th
 
bjames
The compensation scores for Carlton AREN'T high. A high compensation score is like 20 or 30.
8:54 AM Jun 17th
 
BobGill
I love this concept, but one thing stopped me cold: Why are the compensation scores so consistently high for Steve Carlton in 1980? I reread the explanation in the first part, and I'm still confused. The compensation is based on the run environment; OK, that's plain enough, but the "normal" figure is 4.68 runs per game, and the 1980 NL was BELOW that. And to take just one team: the Mets scored the third-fewest runs in the league, but Carlton's game scores against them are still increased by about 8 each time. So that's a very low-scoring team in a league that's below the normal figure to start with -- but Carlton still gets a bonus? I can't see how that works.

8:16 AM Jun 17th
 
 
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