The First Few Starts

June 15, 2013

                I had the following question in "Hey, Bill" from Izzy or Izzynot 24:

Hi Bill. If you were to look historically at pitching prospects first three (or four or five) starts and separate them into prospects that went on to successful careers and those that didn't, would you see a big difference in performance between the two groups?

Asked by: izzy24

 

Answered: 6/13/2013

I wouldn't think you would see any performance difference in 3-5 starts.    I haven't run the study. . ..I probably should study it before I comment.   I'll try to get to it.  

 

                I did study that, and my answer. …spoiler alert. . .it turns out that my answer was completely wrong; there IS a meaningful separation in futures that occurs within the first few starts of a pitcher’s career.

                Let’s start by explaining the method (which is how I always start. . .pose the question, explain the method, etc.)    I used the database of game logs, taken from Retrosheet, gathered for me by my son Isaac, who is a software engineer.   The database runs from 1952 to 2012, missing a few early games.   I started by eliminating from the data all pitchers whose first start was before 1955 or after 1999—before 1955, because I was studying each pitcher’s first few career starts, thus had to eliminate pitchers who were in mid-career when the data starts, and post-1999, because pitchers who started in 2000 or later might still be in mid-career, thus might not be accurately classified as to their career success.

                I needed a "career success indicator", and I came up with this because it was easy to do with the data I had in the form that I had it.   It is also pretty interesting in itself, but that was an accident; I was just trying to do what was easy and accurate.    I developed the concept of "Game Scores Above Replacement" or GSAR for those of you who like acronyms.    If a pitcher’s Game Score in a particular game was less than 40, that was zero; if it was above 40, the GSAR contribution for that game is the Game Score, minus 40.      A Game Score of 40 is equivalent to a .224 winning percentage or a 6.22 ERA, so. . .that’s replacement level.

                As a measure of career or season’s performance, Game Scores Above Replacement works well.   About half the time the Cy Young winner is the starting pitcher who leads the league in this category; about half the time he isn’t.    In 2009 the two leaders were Greinke and Lincecum, who won the Cy Young Awards.   In 2010 they were Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay; same thing.   In 2011 the leaders were Verlander and Kershaw, both of whom won the award.   In 2012, however, the leaders were Verlander and Kershaw again, but the Cy Young Awards went to Rad Ickey, who was second in the NL, and David Price, who was third in the AL behind Verlander and Felix Hernandez.    In the career list all of the leaders are the Hall of Fame starting pitchers.

                So that works well enough, but we have many ways to rank starting pitchers and don’t need another one, so I’m not going to get hung up on that.    Our focus here is the first ten starts of a pitcher’s career.    In this data, the best first start was by Juan Marichal against the Phillies on July 19, 1960—a one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts, Game Score of 96.   These are the best debut games by starting pitchers in the 1955-1999 era:

Team

M

D

Year

Opponent

First

Last

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Score

Giants

7

19

1960

Phillies

Juan

Marichal

9

1

0

0

1

12

96

Brewers

7

28

1997

Blue Jays

Steve

Woodard

8

1

0

0

1

12

91

Padres

9

21

1986

Astros

Jimmy

Jones

9

1

0

0

0

5

90

Angels

4

18

1965

Tigers

Rudy

May

9

1

1

0

5

10

88

Dodgers

7

3

1992

Phillies

Pedro

Astacio

9

3

0

0

4

10

87

Indians

6

26

1962

Tigers

Bob

Hartman

10

3

1

1

3

7

86

Cardinals

10

2

1966

Cubs

Jim

Cosman

9

2

0

0

2

5

86

Mets

6

4

1969

Dodgers

Jack

DiLauro

9

2

0

0

2

5

86

Indians

7

19

1964

Yankees

Luis

Tiant

9

4

0

0

4

11

86

Cubs

5

31

1988

Reds

Jeff

Pico

9

4

0

0

0

6

85

Rockies

7

21

1998

Astros

Mark

Brownson

9

4

0

0

1

7

85

Reds

4

9

1970

Dodgers

Wayne

Simpson

9

2

0

0

0

2

85

Orioles

9

15

1966

Angels

Tom

Phoebus

9

4

0

0

2

8

85

Indians

5

25

1975

Athletics

Dennis

Eckersley

9

3

0

0

2

6

85

 

                As you can see, two of these pitchers are in the Hall of Fame (Marichal and Eckersley) and another one could be (Tiant), but most of the pitchers who had brilliant games in their major league starting debuts did not go on to distinguished careers.    This is a list of the pitchers who had the worst results in their major league starting debuts:

Team

M

D

Year

Opponent

First

Last

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Score

White Sox

10

4

1972

Twins

Goose

Gossage

3   

13

9

9

3

3

-3

Expos

8

15

1999

Rockies

Shayne

Bennett

4   

12

10

10

1

1

-2

Cardinals

4

7

1996

Braves

Mike

Busby

4

9

13

8

4

4

2

Orioles

8

19

1997

Royals

Esteban

Yan

4 1/3

11

8

8

3

1

7

Dodgers

9

28

1997

Rockies

Rick

Gorecki

2 1/3

7

9

9

4

4

7

Athletics

9

20

1955

Tigers

Glenn

Cox

1 1/3

8

7

7

1

0

9

Braves

6

13

1990

Reds

Steve

Avery

2 1/3

8

8

8

3

3

9

Senators

6

29

1958

White Sox

Jack

Spring

4   

10

7

7

5

1

10

Yankees

9

17

1982

Brewers

Stefan

Wever

2 2/3

6

9

8

3

2

11

Royals

5

30

1989

Twins

Stan

Clarke

1   

6

7

7

2

0

11

Phillies

9

29

1993

Pirates

Kevin

Foster

4   

9

8

8

4

3

11

 

 

                Apologies to Steve Avery, only one of those pitchers went on to a brilliant major league career, and that was in the bullpen.    Shayne Bennett’s first major league start was his last major league appearance.     In a few minutes we will need a way to generalize about player’s careers, so I set up this scale:

 

Career Game Scores Above Replacement

Description in Language

6000 or more

Great Pitchers

4500 to 5999

Distinguished Careers

3000 to 4499

Substantial Careers

1500 to 2999

Recognizable Pitchers

   

750 to 1499

Modest Careers

0 to 749

Very Limited Major League Success

 

                In more specifics….the three lowest-scoring pitchers who had what we could call "great" careers were Doug Drabek (6011), Ron Guidry (6018) and John Candelaria (6026).    The three highest-rated pitchers in the 4500-5999 "Distinguished Career" area were Mike Torrez (5993), Dennis Eckersley (5926) and Tim Wakefield (5917), while the three lowest-scoring pitchers in that group were Jim Slaton (4518), Todd Stottlemyre (4509) and Woody Williams (4509).   Generally speaking, you have to win about 130 games to fall into that category.

                The three highest-scoring pitchers in the "substantial careers" category were Scott Erickson (4433), Jose DeLeon (4423) and Woodie Fryman (4423).   The three lowest-scoring pitchers to fall into that category were Carl Morton, Dick Bosman and Steve Hargan.  

                The highest-scoring pitchers in the "Recognizable Names" group were Larry McWilliams, Andy Hawkins and Jim McGlothlin.    The lowest-scoring pitchers in that group were Scott Bankhead, Jeff D’Amico and Chris Hammond.  

                The highest-scoring pitchers in the "Modest Careers" group were Jesse Jefferson, Darren Dreifort and Wacky Bob Milacki.    The lowest-scoring pitchers to fall into that group were Al Santorini, Kevin Kobel, and the 1990s starting pitcher named Frankie Rodriguez.  

                The highest-scoring pitchers in the bottom group (Very Limited Major League Success) were David Clyde, Dennis Ribant and Runelvys Hernandez.  

                In a minute I will give percentages of pitchers who have "successful" major league careers.   That’s drawing an arbitrary line, of course, and I drew that line at 1500 Game Score Points Above Replacement—thus, between the "Recognizable Names" group and the "Modest Careers" group.    Chris Hammond (136 career starts, 42-52 record, 4.63 ERA as a starting pitcher) is considered to have had a "successful" career; Jesse Jefferson (144 starts, 35-72 record, 4.77 ERA as a starting pitcher) is not.   You have to draw a line somewhere; that’s where I drew it, between those two pitchers.

                In the study there are 2,224 starting pitchers, of whom only 481 met the standard of having "successful" careers as starting pitchers—and the standard, as you see, is not high.   That’s 22%, anyway; 22% of pitchers who get an opportunity to start in the major leagues will go on to have successful major league careers, using Chris Hammond and Scott Bankhead as the standard of what is a successful career.

                A little more messing around with the fun stuff, and then I’ll get to the results of the study.    Through two starts, the most successful starting pitchers in the data were:

1

Juan

Marichal

2

Tom

Phoebus

3

Don

Ferrarese

4

Fernando

Valenzuela

5

John

Hiller

6

Dave

McNally

6 tie

Dennis

Eckersley

8

Luis

Tiant

9

Wayne

Simpson

10 tie

Don

Aase

10 tie

Ron

Piche

10 tie

Rick

Reuschel

10 tie

Billy

Rohr

10 tie

Jim

Cosman

 

                Not a bad list.   Marichal followed up his one-hit debut by beating  the eventual World Champions, Pittsburgh, 3-1 with a complete-game 4-hitter.    Tom Phoebus threw two shutouts in his first two starts as a late-season callup in 1966; at the time it seemed like a big deal that he wasn’t eligible for the World Series.    Don Ferrarese struck out 13 batters in his first start in 1956, then pitched a 2-hit shutout in his second start.

                Through three starts, the most successful pitchers in the study were these:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Juan

Marichal

3

Jose

DeLeon

4

Wayne

Simpson

5

Bob

Milacki

6

Dave

McNally

7

John

Hiller

8

Don

Ferrarese

9 tie

Joe

Sparma

9 tie

Steve

Rogers

 

                Through 4 starts,  Mark Fidrych and Kansas City legend Steve Busby are on the list:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Wayne

Simpson

3

Burt

Hooton

4

Bruce

Howard

5

Steve

Rogers

6

Juan

Marichal

7

Danny

McDevitt

8 tie

Mark

Fidrych

8 tie

Steve

Busby

10

Jim

Wright

 

                Fernando, by the way, is way ahead at this point; he has 171 GSAR points, while Simpson is second at 143.    Through 4 starts Fernando had pitched 3 shutouts and given up one run in the other game, giving him an ERA as a starter of 0.25.   He pitched another shutout in his fifth career start, pushing him further ahead:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Bruce

Howard

3 tie

Steve

Rogers

3 tie

Burt

Hooton

5

Luis

Tiant

6

Mark

Fidrych

7

Orel

Hershiser

8

Bucky

Brandon

9 tie

Chuck

Cary

9 tie

Dave

Morehead

 

                Bruce Howard had an 0.81 ERA as a late-season callup in 1963, then dominated his first two starts in ’64.   Through six starts:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Orel

Hershiser

3

Steve

Rogers

4

Dick

Hughes

5

Wayne

Simpson

6

Mark

Fidrych

7

Bruce

Howard

8

Jose

DeLeon

9

Chuck

Cary

10

Chuck

Taylor

 

Seven Starts:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Jose

DeLeon

3

Orel

Hershiser

4

Dick

Hughes

5

Steve

Rogers

6

Chuck

Taylor

7

Phil

Niekro

8

Luis

Tiant

9

Bill

Slayback

10

Kelvim

Escobar

 

                DeLeon through seven major league starts in 1983 had a 1.92 ERA and 73 strikeouts.    Still, he was closer to Escobar, in 10th place, than he was to Valenzuela.   DeLeon struck out eleven more in his 8th start.    Through eight starts:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Orel

Hershiser

3

Jose

DeLeon

4

Dick

Hughes

5

Phil

Niekro

6

Steve

Rogers

7

Luis

Tiant

8

Mark

Fidrych

9

Herb

Score

10

Chuck

Taylor

 

                Chuck Taylor was with the Cardinals in ’69.    Bill Slayback was with the Tigers in ’72.   Through 9 starts:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Jose

DeLeon

3

Orel

Hershiser

4

Steve

Rogers

5

Dick

Hughes

6

Phil

Niekro

7

Bill

Parsons

8 tie

Mark

Fidrych

8 tie

Luis

Tiant

10 tie

Jim

Nash

10 tie

Herb

Score

           

                And through their first ten major league starts:

1

Fernando

Valenzuela

2

Orel

Hershiser

3

Dick

Hughes

4

Steve

Rogers

5

Jose

DeLeon

6

Phil

Niekro

7

Mark

Fidrych

8

Bill

Parsons

9

Kerry

Wood

10

Milt

Wilcox

 

                Wandering now toward the real question which is the foundation of this research.    Izzy’s query can be interpreted either of two ways:

                1)  Are pitchers who go on to have good careers more effective than other pitchers (and lesser pitchers) in their first few starts, or

                2)  Are pitchers who are very effective in their first few starts meaningfully more likely to go on to have really good careers than pitchers who struggle in their first few starts?

                The answer to both questions is "yes", but I’m going to focus mainly on the second question, since that is the more natural way of looking at the question.   When you see a young pitcher who struggles in his first few starts, like Gausman, as opposed to a young pitcher who comes up and is successful right away, like Matt Harvey. ..is that a meaningful thing?  Or should we remind ourselves not to overreact to that, because the first few games aren’t a real test?

                The first few games are a real and meaningful test.   Remember, only 22% of pitchers who get a shot will be successful.   Let’s start with one start.    I divided pitchers (again) into six groups, by their success in their very first start.   I tried to do—

Top 100 pitchers

Group Six

Next 200 pitchers

Group Five

Next 300 pitchers

Group Four

Next 400 pitchers

Group Three

All other pitchers who had some limited success

Group Two

Pitchers who had zero success (Game Score <40)

Group One

               

                Because of ties, the groups don’t work out exactly that way, but. . .of the 100 pitchers who were most successful in their very first major league starts, 30% went on to successful major league careers.   Of those pitchers who got rocked in their major league debuts, only 17% went on to successful major league careers:

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

776

135

17%

2

413

86

21%

3

431

90

21%

4

297

75

25%

5

206

65

32%

6

101

30

30%

 

                When we look at the first two starts, the pitchers who are most successful (in their first two starts) begin to pull away from the pack:

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

266

43

16%

2

731

151

21%

3

392

100

26%

4

322

84

26%

5

191

60

31%

6

107

43

40%

 

                Now 40% of the top group go on to successful careers, whereas only 16% of those who are hit hard in both of their first two starts will go on to successful careers.   That’s far from any kind of a guarantee, but it is clearly a meaningful separation.

                The bottom group—debut group 1—consists of pitchers who have ZERO success as measured by this method, which means that they have never had a Game Score over 40.   The number of pitchers in that group decays rapidly, as pitchers either:

                a)  Have some success, or

                b)  Run out of chances.  

                There are only 6 pitchers in our data who got five starts without having a Game Score of at least 41 at least once—and none of those was ultimately a successful starter:

Debut Group

Starts

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

1

776

135

17%

1

2

266

43

16%

1

3

75

11

15%

1

4

15

2

13%

1

5

6

0

0%

1

6

2

0

0%

1

7

1

0

0%

 

                The one pitcher who made it through seven starts with zero success was Yankees hopeful Brian Boehringer.   He made three starts in 1995, three in 1996 and one in 1998, and was hit hard all seven times.     He was eventually to make 21 major league starts, with a 4-13 record, 5.97 ERA.  

                Anyway, if we focus on the "six" group—the most successful pitchers in their first few starts—a growing percentage of them will go on to successful major league careers.

Debut Group

Starts

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

6

1

101

30

30%

6

2

107

43

40%

6

3

98

48

49%

6

4

100

51

51%

6

5

99

53

54%

6

6

103

58

56%

6

7

100

61

61%

6

8

101

56

55%

6

9

100

58

58%

6

10

100

59

59%

 

                Of the pitchers who dominate right out of the gate, like Harvey, about 60% will go on to successful major league careers.

                Since we have six groups of success levels and ten starts, we have 60 data points to describe the pattern of separation that occurs.   Not quite 60, because the "zero success group" disappears in less than ten starts:

 

Through One Start

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

776

135

17%

2

413

86

21%

3

431

90

21%

4

297

75

25%

5

206

65

32%

6

101

30

30%

 

   

 

Through Two Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

266

43

16%

2

731

151

21%

3

392

100

26%

4

322

84

26%

5

191

60

31%

6

107

43

40%

 

   

 

Through Three Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

75

11

15%

2

791

168

21%

3

401

102

25%

4

294

80

27%

5

203

72

35%

6

98

48

49%

 

   

 

Through Four Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

15

2

13%

2

749

153

20%

3

399

105

26%

4

301

91

30%

5

200

79

40%

6

100

51

51%

 

   

 

Through Five Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

6

0

0%

2

670

147

22%

3

401

105

26%

4

295

104

35%

5

206

72

35%

6

99

53

54%

 

   

 

Through Six Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

2

0

0%

2

596

125

21%

3

407

113

28%

4

303

102

34%

5

201

83

41%

6

103

58

56%

 

   

 

Through Seven Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

1

1

0

0%

2

552

114

21%

3

401

118

29%

4

301

105

35%

5

196

83

42%

6

100

61

61%

 

   

 

Through Eight Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

2

502

108

22%

3

390

119

31%

4

308

107

35%

5

196

91

46%

6

101

56

55%

 

   

 

Through Nine Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

2

462

100

22%

3

395

124

31%

4

306

117

38%

5

198

82

41%

6

100

58

58%

 

   

 

Through Ten Starts

Debut Group

Pitchers

Successful

Success Pct

2

430

97

23%

3

392

117

30%

4

304

116

38%

5

200

92

46%

6

100

59

59%

 

           

                I’ll annoy you with one more fun fact before I go.   Among the "6" group through ten starts—the most successful pitchers in their first ten starts—the least successful major league career belonged to a pitcher named Herb Moford.   I had never heard of Herb Moford, and I’ve heard of everybody, so I had to chase that down.    Here is Herb Moford’s major league record:

 

 Moford

 

                You look at that, and you think "wait a minute. . .how can that guy possibly have been one of the 100 most successful pitchers in the group through his first ten starts?

                Here’s how it happened.    Herb Moford was a minor league veteran, signed by the Cardinals in 1947.   He went 20-4 at Salisbury, a Class D League, in 1948.    He went 14-7 at Allentown, a B League, in 1952, and 17-14 at Columbus, a top minor league, in 1954.

                The Cardinals in the spring of 1955 were trying to re-build a pitching staff that had posted a 4.49 ERA in 1954, 42 points over the league, and they brought several rookies out of their bloated minor league system to help with effort, among them Larry Jackson, Luis Arroyo, and Herb Moford, as well as knuckleballers Bobby Tiefenaur and Barney Schultz.  

                Mofford was in the bullpen except for one start, June 12 against the Giants, and it was a bad start; he was hit hard, and the Cardinals lost 8-3.     Moford was returned to the minor leagues after that start.

                He pitched well enough in the minors in ’56 (13-10), and was traded to the Tigers in a minor league transaction in 1957.     In 1958, pitching for the Tigers’ top minor league team, he started the season 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA, pitching in relief except for three starts, two of them shutouts.    He was called to the majors in early June, 1958.  

                Pitching out of the bullpen, he posted a 5.30 ERA through 8 appearances, 18 and a third innings.    Nonetheless he was given a start—his second major league start—facing the Baltimore Orioles on July 14, facing Skinny Brown in front of 2,742 people at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.   The game was 1-1 through 7 innings.   Moford gave up a home run to Bob Boyd in the 8th inning, and lost the game 2-1, but did pitch a complete game, giving up only 6 hits and 2 runs.   He cut his ERA from 5.30 to 4.39.

                He went back to the bullpen then, and was no more effective than before (out of the bullpen);  over his next four appearances he gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, his ERA going back up to 4.68.     He started again against the Washington Senators on July 28, and pitched another complete game, beating Washington 9-1 on six hits.  A triple by the opposing starting pitcher, John Romonosky, deprived him of a shutout. 

                That made his record 1-3, 3.89 ERA.    He pitched once more in relief, then started again against Baltimore on August 1, this time facing Jack Harshman.   He beat Harshman 3-1 with a complete game five-hitter.   

                Moford has now started three times in 1958, has completed all three starts and has a 1.04 ERA as a starting pitcher, but, because of his bullpen work, his record is just 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA.      He started again against the White Sox on August 9, and that was not a good one; he was hit hard in that one.   But then he started against Cleveland on August 13, matched up against Hoyt Wilhelm, and pitched a complete game 3-hitter, defeating Wilhelm (and Rocky Colavito, who pitched three innings of hitless relief in the game), 3-2.    That’s four outstanding starts in six tries.  

                He started again against the Senators and Camilo Pascual on August 19.   He gave up three runs in six innings, but lost the game 3-1, as Pascual dominated the Tigers. 

                He started against the Yankees on August 24.   He pitched a complete game, limiting the Yankees to 4 hits and three runs—but lost the game, 3-2, to Bobby Shantz.    

                He started against the White Sox on August 29.  He gave the White Sox only three runs in six and a third—but took another loss as the Tigers were shut out.    He is now 3-7 with a 3.71 ERA.  

                He started against the Kansas City A’s in Kansas City on September 2, 1958, in front of 2,655 fans, his tenth major league start.   He pitched a 2-hit complete game, defeating Kansas City 6-1.   A 7th-inning home run by Bob Cerv denied him a shutout.

                So in his first ten major league starts, Moford completed six of the ten contests and had a 1.73 ERA in those games, giving up 26 hits and 10 runs (all earned) in 52 innings.    Of the other four starts, two would qualify as Quality Starts, although he lost both games, giving him eight quality starts in his first ten tries.   

                Because he mixed in relief appearances that were not good, Moford did not have a brilliant ERA.   Because he lost four games in which he pitched well (and one game in which he did not pitch well, and some games out of the bullpen) he did not have a good won-lost record.   Because he was just a 30-year-old minor league veteran, nobody really cared anyway.     But through his first ten major league starts, Herb Moford was one of the 100 best in the study.

                Thanks for reading.

                Bill James

 
 

COMMENTS (16 Comments, most recent shown first)

strikethree
Of the first nine, only Hartman and DiLauro were not making their debut.
8:45 PM Jun 26th
 
bjames
I have no idea how many were first appearances. I'd have to look them up one at a time.
12:26 PM Jun 24th
 
strikethree
Of your original list of best first starts, how many we're actually first MLB appearances, as in Tiant's case?
6:36 PM Jun 23rd
 
strikethree
Not surprised Tiant's start is on the list. It was a bit more unique than the line score suggests, coming against Whitey Ford in Yankee Stadium. Who did Luis replace in Indians roster? Tommy John, who 3 days earlier had blown. 7-run first inning lead in KC, sent down with a 3-7 record.
6:09 AM Jun 23rd
 
bjames
Gooden through his first six starts was 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA. He's not in the top 300.
4:57 PM Jun 18th
 
DavidTodd
Terrific article.
Why no Dwight Gooden.
His rookie season was incredible, and a 19 year old as well.
12:12 PM Jun 18th
 
bjames
Well, I don't have age in that file, so that's beyond my ability. Prospect status is probably (for the most part) a predictable function of things that are not difficult to track such as draft position, minor league success, and age at debut. Studying those things in a package is messy and complicated, and I would be surprised if anyone could pull it off convincingly.
4:03 PM Jun 17th
 
myachimantis
This is difficult to do historically since prospect rankings didn't exist like they do today, but I wonder if a players' first ten starts provides much information beyond what we would expect from top prospects.

For instance, both Gausman and Harvey were considered top prospects upon their debut. Does the fact that Harvey and Gausman had different debuts mean much? Do top prospects who debut poorly have a noticeable decline in career performance vs those who debut successfully? Gausman's group now likely contains a lot of minor league veterans, when really, he should be compared to top prospects who had similar debuts.

Perhaps there would be an advantage to filtering out players who debuted over the age of 25.
2:12 PM Jun 17th
 
Brian
If game scores above replacement were used as a rating tool rather than a study, an advantage it would have is that the replacement number could be moved according to era, park, etc.

Great article.
10:31 AM Jun 17th
 
tangotiger
I like phil's suggestion. To make it more mangeable, how about looking at the first 10 starts of all pitchers at age 27?

What's the difference for rest-of-career?
8:14 AM Jun 17th
 
110phil
If you took ten random starts from each pitcher's career, instead of the first ten starts, would the results be similar? Or do you suspect there's something about the first starts that's special?
12:28 AM Jun 17th
 
hotstatrat
sgoldleaf: "What quality would you say a pitcher has to be successful as a starter but ineffective in relief?"

You could speculate that he needs longer prep time.
11:17 PM Jun 16th
 
bjames
Responding to Goldleaf. .. .I would say it was luck, but you never know. A starter uses a deeper pitch mix than a reliever. Particularly in that era, most relievers were known for one pitch--the knuckleball (Wilhelm) or the forkball (Face) or the fastball (Duren). A starter almost always uses 3-4 pitches. If he was a guy who depended on upsetting the hitter's timing, making him lunge and the change and swing a little late at the fastball, then he could have been more effective as a starter. But I suspect it was mostly luck.
7:49 PM Jun 16th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Thanks for the thorough report. I had heard of Herb Moford but only because I had thoroughly researched and evaluated each of the 1962 Mets, a job that left Moford just another unsuccessful name to me. You have to wonder if his potential as a starting pitcher was overlooked in the messy picture of his overall MLB career. Clearly when the inverse is true, when a pitcher is successful in relief but not in a starting role, we easily say "Poor stamina" and put the guy in the pen for his career. What quality would you say a pitcher has to be successful as a starter but ineffective in relief?
7:41 AM Jun 16th
 
izzy24
Bill, thanks a lot for putting so much research into my question. In regards to my question, it was the second query I was wondering about. I'm pleasantly surprised that there is a meaningful difference between prospects that go on to have good careers and those that don't. Like you, I originally didn't think there would be.
7:55 PM Jun 15th
 
tigerlily
Thanks Bill. Great article! At first blush, I like the concept of GSAR for starting pitchers.
2:03 PM Jun 15th
 
 
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