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When evaluating pitchers, some people use ERA, some use wins, others use defense-indpendent statistics like FIP. Scouts use stuff (velocity and movement), ultra-nerds use PITCH f/x -- but for the most part, I stick to simply looking at strikeouts and walks.
I've written a great deal about the value of just using strikeouts and walks before (you can read more here), but today I'd like to educate our readers on a way Ks and walks can be used correctly.
I subscribe to the philosophy that most pitching metrics should move away from using innings pitched in the denominator, and instead use plate appearances (or batters faced). For instance, my metric, predictive FiP (pFIP), uses plate appearances instead of innings pitched.
In October, on this very site, James Gentile wrote a great piece on why K% (K/PA) and BB% (BB/PA) were more useful statistics than their per inning counterparts (K/9 and BB/9).
Here's a solid quote from James, as to why this philosophy makes a lot of sense:
What happens when we use the 'per 9' metrics is that we lose accuracy, because our measurements have become subject to the tyrannical forces of BAbip. As a pitcher allows more Hits per Ball in Play, he becomes less efficient. He ends up facing more batters and getting fewer outs, which consequently means fewer innings. But if he's still striking out batters at the same rate (say 20%) all the while, his K/9 is going to look a lot shinier with those fewer Innings.
I agree with James on pretty much every single point in that piece. I think K% and BB%are the way to go, but I think we should take James's ideas a step further.
There's a commonly cited statistic that attempts to quantify a pitcher's ability to control the strike zone or his ability to strike out batters in comparison to the number of batters he walks.
That statistic is strikeout-to-walk ratio, it's more commonly referred to acronym is K/BB.
The metric is elegant, in that all it considers are strikeouts and walks (which is a good thing in my book), and that it simply takes number of batters a pitcher strikes out and divides that number by the number of batters he walks.
K/BB is featured prominently at sties like FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.
I used to use K/BB religiously in my evaluation of pitchers, as well as my writing. However, I no longer use the metric.
I'll tell you why.
My primary issue with the statistic is the fact that walks are in the denominator. Strikeouts are just as (if not more) important as walks, however when walks are the denominator, a pitcher who is very good at not walking batters, but not a great strikeout pitcher will end up with a high K/BB. It's simple math.
I prefer to stick with plate appearances as the denominator. Strikeouts minus walks, then divided by plate appearances -- (K-BB)/PA -- makes for a much more valuable statistic, in my opinion.
For those who feel like that statistic is too much work when K/BB is already calculated right there for use, think of (K-BB)/PA in a different sense.
(K-BB)/PA is the same thing as K% minus BB% (both statistics that are readily available). It's simply the percentage of batters that a pitcher strikes out minus the percentage of batters that same pitcher walks.
I'll use three hypothetical comparisons to demonstrate the value of using K% - BB% instead of K/BB.
**For reference, here are the 2012 starting pitcher averages for each of metrics that I'll focus on:
Both players threw the same number of innings and had the same above-average K/BB. Yet, Player A has a well above average K%-BB%, while Player B's is below-average.
If we assume that each pitcher gave up the same number of home runs -- for instance, 21 -- then Player A's FIP would be 3.22, seventy points better than player B's 3.92.
I think it's pretty clear that Player A was the more effective/valuable pitcher. Yet, based on their innings pitched and K/BBs, the pitchers look even. This discrepancy occurs because of Player B's very low walk-rate that inflates his K/BB.
Again, both pitchers have thrown the same number of innings. However, in this comparison Player Y has an above-average K/BB, while Player X's K/BB is about average.
When K/BB is used, one would conclude that Player Y was more effective pitcher, at least in terms of strikeouts and walks.
Yet when we consider K%-BB%, we see that Player X was actually the above-average pitcher in terms of those statistics. This discrepancy, like with the first comparison, comes from the fact that Player Y has a very low number of walks.
As I did in the first comparison, I assumed that each pitcher gave up 21 home runs, and then calculated each pitcher's FIP. Under this assumption, Player X would have a slightly better FIP (4.05 vs. Player Y's 4.09).
In order to keep from being redundant, I'll be brief with this comparison. Player R had an average K/BB, while Player Q's is below-average. However, Player Q has a much better K%-BB%, and given the 21 home run assumption that we've been working with, Player Q's FIP (4.23) would also best Player R's (4.31).
In order to continue expressing my point, I'd like to step away from hypothetical situations, and look at what actually happened in 2012:
The 2012 Season:
I'll start with a blind comparison of two 2012 starters:
The pitchers threw roughly the same amount of innings, but Player 2 had an extremely good K/BB, while Player 1 was just average. Their K%-BB%s are almost equivalent though.
Thus, despite what maybe would have been originally assumed, there's a chance that Player 1 was the more effective pitcher.
I'll leave the comparison at that.
I've also listed the top-10 qualified starters in K/BB, side-by-side with the top-10 starters in terms of K%-BB%:
1. Cliff Lee
1. Max Scherzer
2. Joe Blanton
2. Cliff Lee
3. CC Sabathia
3. R.A. Dickey
4. R.A. Dickey
4. Cole Hamels
5. Cole Hamels
6. CC Sabathia
7. Justin Verlander
8. Jake Peavy
8. Chris Sale
9. Felix Hernandez
10. Wade Miley
10. James Shields
The two leaderboards are almost nearly identical, expect for four pitchers.
K/BB includes, Blanton, Peavy, Bumgarner and Miley, while K%-BB% includes Scherzer, Kershaw, Sale and Shields. I'm only looking at the top-10 in each stat for a single season, but I'll let the readers decide which list they prefer.
I ran a few linear regressions to test the predictive value of K%-BB% and K/BB.
First, I gathered a sample of starting pitchers who had at least 120 IP in the predictor year, and at least 100 IP in the outcome year from 2004-12. Then I ran a linear regression with K%-BB% as the predictor and RA9 as the dependent variable in the outcome year.
Below, I listed the r-squared for each test:
The r-squared tells us that K%-BB% explained 17.92 percent of the variation in future RA9, while K/BB explained less than 10 percent of the variation.
I tested a similar sample, but for the years 1996-2004, to see if K%-BB% would continue to beat K/BB, in terms of predictive value, and found these results:
K%-BB% did not have as large of an advantage based on this sample, but it still beat K/BB by a significant margin.
K%-BB% offers a great improvement, in terms of predicting RA9, over K/BB.
This, in my opinion, lends evidence to the conclusion that subtracting walks from strikeouts and using plate appearances in the denominator is a better reflection of true talent level than dividing strikeouts by walks.
Incorporating hit-by-pitches and intentional walks will also improve this simple measure. Tom Tango has shown this with his strikeouts-and-walks-based ERA estimator (kwERA).
This ERA estimator that subtracts a modified version of walks from strikeouts and then divides that number by plate appearances, stacks up against any of the widely-accepted ERA estimators.
Even if IBBs and HBPs are ignored, I would urge readers to attempt to step away from using K/BB, and move towards always using plate appearances in the denominator.
This will give you a better idea of actual effectiveness and skill when evaluating pitchers.
All statistics come from our friends at FanGraphs.
You can follow Glenn on Twitter @Glenn_DuPaul
The Braves have re-signed left handed reliever Dusty Hughes and catcher Shawn McGill to Minor League contracts. Both had become free agents earlier this month and were free to sign with any team. This season with AAA Gwinnett, the 30 year old Hughes went 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA, a 1.61 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, and 1.5 K/BB in 65.1 innings over 54 appearances, collecting 4 saves. He has a 4.99 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP in 83 innings over 80 appearances in the Majors with the Royals and Twins from 2009 to 2011.
McGill, who will turn 29 in February, began his career by spending 2 seasons in the Phillies organization, then spent 3 seasons with the independent Lincoln Saltdogs before the Braves signed him in the middle of the 2010 season. This year he bounced between High A Lynchburg, AA Mississippi, and Gwinnett, combining to hit .178 with a .511 OPS, 4 doubles, 2 homers, and 13 RBI in just 112 plate appearances. During the season he expressed a love of the Braves organization, but a need for more consistent playing time, at the very least spending the season as a backup with one team, a need that might force him to change teams through free agency. His re-signing with the Braves seems like an indication that he'll have a more settled role in the organization in 2013, likely serving as the backup catcher for Mississippi or Gwinnett.
The Braves have signed right handed reliever James Hoyt to a Minor League contract. The 26 year old, who stands 6'6", began his professional career in 2011 with the independent Yuma Scorpions, going 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP 37.1 innings over 19 appearances. He began 2012 with the independent Edinburg Roadrunners, posting a 1.04 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 17.1 innings over 12 appearances, then moved on to the independent Wichita Wrangers, where he went 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP in 10.1 innings over 11 appearance. He finished the season with Olmecas de Tabasco in the Mexican League, going 0-2 with a 2.02 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 13.1 innings over 11 appearances. In 78.1 career innings he's averaged 11.9 K/9, but he's also allowed 5.3 BB/9. He'll likely compete for a bullpen spot with Mississippi or Lynchburg.
The Braves have released right handed pitcher Kevin McKague, left handed pitchers Matt Fouch, Elvin Garcia, and Mike Hashem, catcher Ryan Query, infielders Mike Spina, Luis Madrid, and Angel Vargas, and outfielders Emmanuel Daniel and Kurt Fleming.
The 23 year old McKague was drafted in the 23rd round this season out of the Army, officially the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 5 appearances in the GCL, he had a 15.19 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP in 5.1 innings. Fouch was also drafted out of the Army, in the 34th round in 2010. That season he threw 9 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10 in 6 appearances for Danville and Rome before he was forced to leave to fulfill his military obligation. Now 25 year old, he hasn't pitched since.
The Braves signed Garcia as a free agent out of Nicaragua and the 22 year old spent 3 seasons in the system, going 2-2 with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 28 innings over 12 appearances in the GCL this year. Hashem was drafted in the 35th round in 2011 and after going 0-2 with a 5.30 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in 18.2 innings over 14 appearances in the GCL that season, he was 3-1 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP in 20 innings over 16 appearances for Danville in 2012.
The Braves signed Query as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2010 season and the 25 year old made it as high as AA Mississippi. He split 2012 between Rome and Lynchburg, batting .217 with a .585 OPS, 8 doubles, 3 homers, and 16 RBI in 202 plate appearances. Spina joined the Braves organization in July after being released by the Athletics, and the 25 year old first baseman hit .222 with a .707 OPS, 7 doubles, 1 homer, and 12 RBI in 95 plate appearances for Lynchburg.
Madrid was signed as a free agent out of Panama and spent 3 seasons in the organization. The 19 year old second baseman hit .216 with a .545 OPS, 4 doubles, and 8 RBI in 124 plate appearances in the GCL this season. The 24 year old Vargas played just 1 season in the system, as the Venezuelan third baseman hit .140 with a .446 OPS in 54 plate appearances in the GCL this year.
The Braves signed Daniel as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic and the 20 year old spent 3 seasons in the system, hitting .192 with a .460 OPS in 76 plate appearances in the GCL this season. Fleming was drafted out of high school in the 8th round in 2010. The 21 year old spent parts of 3 seasons with Danville, including 2012, when he also spent a part of the year with Rome, combining to hit .214 with a .578 OPS, 7 doubles, and 15 RBI in 132 plate appearances. His brother Kenny also spent 2 seasons in the Braves organization, and the two were teammates at Danville in 2010 and 2011.
Lost Free Agents
Catcher JC Boscan has signed with the Cubs. The soon-to-be 33 year old has spent 14 of his 16 professional seasons in the Braves organization, including going 5-19 in 11 games in the Majors between 2010 and 2012. The Braves likely still hope to have Boscan become a coach in the organization once his playing days are over, but after hitting under .200 for the last 2 seasons in AAA, they likely wanted more offense out of their third string catcher.
Right handed pitcher Erik Cordier and outfielder Felix Pie have signed with the Pirates. The 26 year old was acquired in exchange for Tony Pena Jr. prior to the 2008 season, and posted a 5.85 ERA and a 2.07 WHIP in just 32.1 innings over 17 appearances between Gwinnett, Mississippi, and the GCL this season. Pie joined Gwinnett in May after being signed away from and independent team. The 27 year old, who has over a thousand plate appearances in the Majors with the Cubs and Orioles, hit .285 with a .797 OPS, 26 doubles, 7 triples, 6 homers, 51 RBI, and 16 steals in 365 plate appearances with the G-Braves.
The Royals have signed both outfielder Luis Durango and first baseman Ian Gac. The 26 year old Durango led the International League with 46 steals this season, hitting .289 with a .687 OPS, 13 doubles, 5 triples, and 45 RBI in 565 plate appearances for Gwinnett. The 27 year old Gac hit .247 with a .782 OPS, 27 doubles, 7 homers, and 35 RBI in 292 plate appearances for Mississippi. Jason Christian has signed with the Twins. The 25 year old shortstop hit .219 with a .570 OPS in 181 plate appearances for Mississppi.
Eric Davis 1991 Fleer Man oh man, that Yellow that Fleer used on its 1991 design is B-R-I-G-H-T!!! Thankfully, they gave us an equally awesome photo of Eric Davis to use to help offset the card’s design. This image is … Continue reading →
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Catcher Wilin Rosario has been cleared to make his Dominican Winter League debut for the 2012/2013 season and could play for Cibao as early as today. Meanwhile in the same league, Charlie Blackmon continues to hit pretty well for the Toros del Este, batting .323 while showing good patience at the plate, albeit it looks like he took off for Thanksgiving as he hasn't seen game action since the 20th. Without power, Blackmon absolutely needs to have both a high average and OBP to have value in the outfield.
In other winter league action, Jhoulys Chacin still hasn't righted his ship, going through his second straight poor start (six runs allowed in four innings) in yesterday's game for Caracas. Josh Outman (for the Toros) has been racking up a decent amount of K's but has otherwise been pedestrian overall in his starts. The Rockies moves of the off-season to date, namely losing Josh Roenicke and Matt Reynolds in spots Outman could fill on the depth chart, have reinforced his expected contribution in 2013 more than any other Rockies player.
The New York Daily News' Bill Madden applies a turkey label to former Rockies general manager (current something or other) Dan O'Dowd and to former Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez for their performances in 2012. Madden definitely seems to have a bee in his bonnet with regards to the Rockies front office of late, it's a bit disturbing that he's spending so much of his column space on the Colorado team when there's plenty to write about in Metsville these days.
Sam Mellinger writes about the Royals, their moves so far in resigning Jeremy Guthrie and their[...]
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The Marlins are slowly rounding out their 40-man roster with the addition of 22-year old outfielder Marcell Ozuna. It would be a long shot for Ozuna to make the Major League roster, but it creates a nice opportunity to look at the current Marlins outfield situation. Earlier this week, President David Samson gave an awfully [...]
While Clack was taking a look at the x-BABIP for Astros hitters I was putting together these lovely links for your long weekend viewing pleasure.
Farmstros: 'Tis the Season... To Rate Prospects
Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose | FanGraphs Baseball
By Dave Cameron
Why the future of live sports is in ESPN's hands | The Verge
By David Pierce
Q&A: Hector Santiago, Screwball Artist | FanGraphs Baseball
By David Laurila
The Next Great Knuckleballer | FanGraphs Baseball
By Bradley Woodrum
Happy Birthday Joe DiMaggio!!! The power of Joe DiMaggio’s name still carries an incredible amount of weight with it 59 years after his retirement from the game. “Joe D” personified what baseball and specifically what baseball in New York was … Continue reading →
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I have done almost nothing to dispel the charge, lately leveled at Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, that I am "mostly-inactive" here; too true, too true. I didn't even mention Mike Trout's Rookie of the Year award, f'r chrissakes. I'm not particularly worried about that at the moment, though I suppose I should be.
Anyway, the short version is that the Dodgers are said to be closing in on a $6-7 billion deal over 25 years, which would put the average annual return for the Dodgers at $280M at the high end. That stupendous valuation remains a product of a great deal of unfinished selling. I remain to be convinced that Dodgers fans won't end up as 42% of Padres fans have, blacked out of their home team's broadcasts thanks to contractual disputes between the network and the cable operators.
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