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May 3, 2002

Aim For The Head

Dropping the Worst Starts

by Keith Woolner

One common defense you hear of a pitcher--usually one of the speaker's favorites--whose season statistics don't quite measure up is something like: "Yeah, but if you take away the two starts when he got pounded and the manager left him in, his ERA is really good!"

There's some merit to the argument that a few starts can skew a pitcher's cumulative line, and there have been attempts, such as Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral statistics to better model the maximum impact a single game can have on a pitcher's value.

Separate from these more sophisticated analyses lies a more fundamental problem: taking away X starts from a single pitcher, without doing so for every pitcher, will overrate the pitcher in question by giving him a benefit the others do not have. If we really want to go down this path of eliminating disastrous starts, we should give every starting pitcher the same benefit.

I looked at all pitchers from 2001 who had at least 100 total innings pitched in games started. I arbitrarily selected the three worst starts as the number we would drop from season totals. Then, I compared the rankings and values from the whole season to the trimmed season to see who was most affected. Pitchers who started for more than one team have their tenure with each team measured separately, and are not combined.

I looked at two measures, one of which was simply Run Average (RA, which is Runs Allowed/Innings Pitched * 9). The other is a simplified version of VORP, or Runs above Replacement Level, which I call Value for this article and define as IP/9* (6.00 - R/IP*9). Note that RA and Value are not park-adjusted for this comparison, nor are we strictly comparing to a measured (or modeled) replacement level, but instead using a 6.00 RA as replacement level. My intent was to identify the pitchers who are helped/hurt the most by excluding three starts, rather than to accurately model the value of the top N-3 starts in a pitcher's season.

Top/Bottom 20 Pitchers by Value Lost by Trimming Three Starts:

Full Season Worst 3 starts removed Difference between Full and Worst 3 removed
NAME TEAM VALUE RA IP Value
Rank
RA
Rank
VALUE RA IP Value
Rank
RA
Rank
IP R RA of
removed
VALUE Season
RA Change
Value
Rank
RA
Rank
Scott Schoeneweis ANA 14.89 5.35 205.3 78 87 36.67 4.32 196 58 81 9.3 28 27.10 -21.78 1.03 20 6
Jimmy Anderson PIT 14.56 5.37 206.3 81 88 36.11 4.35 196.7 61 84 9.6 28 26.25 -21.56 1.02 20 4
Chuck Finley CLE -2.22 6.17 113.7 107 108 18.11 4.51 109.7 102 91 4 23 51.75 -20.33 1.66 5 17
Matt Morris STL 58.22 3.58 216.3 12 14 77.56 2.62 206.3 5 7 10 26 23.40 -19.33 0.96 7 7
Brian Anderson ARI -7.56 6.55 123.7 118 118 11.56 5.06 110.3 111 106 13.4 28 18.81 -19.11 1.49 7 12
Mike Hampton COL -2.67 6.12 203 108 106 16.44 5.23 192.7 104 113 10.3 26 22.72 -19.11 0.89 4 -7
Ryan Rupe TB -4.56 6.29 141.7 112 110 14.33 4.99 128 106 105 13.7 28 18.39 -18.89 1.30 6 5
Jamey Wright MIL 14.78 5.32 194.7 79 86 33.56 4.32 179.3 66 83 15.4 29 16.95 -18.78 1.00 13 3
Bobby J. Jones SD -7.00 6.32 195 117 112 11.67 5.44 187 110 118 8 24 27.00 -18.67 0.88 7 -6
Dave Burba CLE -16.22 7.06 137.7 122 121 2.33 5.84 131 121 121 6.7 23 30.90 -18.56 1.22 1 0
Willis Roberts BAL 3.22 5.72 102.3 100 100 21.22 3.89 90.3 94 56 12 26 19.50 -18.00 1.83 6 44
Kevin Tapani CHC 19.22 4.97 168.3 68 72 36.78 3.91 158.7 57 59 9.6 24 22.50 -17.56 1.06 11 13
Kenny Rogers TEX -7.56 6.56 120.7 118 119 10.00 5.19 111 114 112 9.7 24 22.27 -17.56 1.37 4 7
Ryan Dempster FLA 17.89 5.24 211.3 72 82 35.44 4.42 201.7 64 89 9.6 24 22.50 -17.56 0.82 8 -7
Shawn Chacon COL 10.67 5.40 160 89 90 28.11 4.30 148.7 74 80 11.3 25 19.91 -17.44 1.10 15 10
Steve Trachsel NYM 26.78 4.61 173.7 52 50 44.11 3.57 163.7 41 38 10 24 21.60 -17.33 1.04 11 12
Todd Ritchie PIT 20.22 5.12 207.3 65 80 37.00 4.29 195 56 79 12.3 25 18.29 -16.78 0.83 9 1
Darren Oliver TEX -6.33 6.37 154 115 114 10.33 5.32 137 113 116 17 28 14.82 -16.67 1.05 2 -2
Julian Tavarez CHC 12.67 5.26 154 82 83 29.22 4.22 147.3 73 76 6.7 21 28.21 -16.56 1.04 9 7
Denny Neagle COL 6.78 5.64 170.7 98 98 23.22 4.66 156.3 89 97 14.4 26 16.25 -16.44 0.98 9 1
...
Rick Reed NYM 36.78 3.54 134.7 36 13 45.22 2.70 123.3 39 9 11.4 16 12.63 -8.44 0.84 -3 4
John Burkett ATL 63.22 3.41 219.3 8 11 71.44 2.86 204.7 11 12 14.6 18 11.10 -8.22 0.55 -3 -1
Darryl Kile STL 68.56 3.29 227.3 6 7 76.78 2.70 209.7 6 10 17.6 20 10.23 -8.22 0.58 0 -3
Freddy Garcia SEA 71.11 3.32 238.7 3 8 79.11 2.86 226.7 4 13 12 16 12.00 -8.00 0.46 -1 -5
Jeff Suppan KC 25.56 4.95 218.3 56 69 33.56 4.52 203.3 66 92 15 18 10.80 -8.00 0.43 -10 -23
Randy Johnson ARI 87.78 2.74 242.7 1 2 95.56 2.17 224.3 1 3 18.4 20 9.78 -7.78 0.58 0 -1
Tom Glavine ATL 54.22 3.78 219.3 17 22 61.89 3.29 205.3 19 29 14 17 10.93 -7.67 0.49 -2 -7
Curt Schilling ARI 85.11 3.02 256.7 2 3 92.78 2.52 239.7 2 6 17 19 10.06 -7.67 0.50 0 -3
Josh Towers BAL 18.78 4.72 131.7 70 57 26.22 3.94 114.3 78 61 17.4 19 9.83 -7.44 0.78 -8 -4
Joe Mays MIN 68.78 3.35 233.7 5 10 75.56 2.93 221.3 8 17 12.4 15 10.89 -6.78 0.42 -3 -7
David Wells CHW 12.11 4.92 100.7 84 68 18.56 4.00 83.3 101 66 17.4 18 9.31 -6.44 0.92 -17 2
Adam Eaton SD 16.78 4.70 116.7 73 56 23.22 3.90 99.3 89 58 17.4 18 9.31 -6.44 0.81 -16 -2
Greg Maddux ATL 69.33 3.32 233 4 9 75.56 2.84 215.3 8 11 17.7 18 9.15 -6.22 0.48 -4 -2
Terry Adams LA 24.89 4.36 136.3 58 40 31.00 3.68 120 70 44 16.3 17 9.39 -6.11 0.68 -12 -4
Kevin Brown LA 35.22 3.23 114.3 38 6 41.22 2.27 99.3 46 4 15 16 9.60 -6.00 0.96 -8 2
Dave Williams PIT 19.33 4.33 104 67 39 23.78 3.61 89.7 86 41 14.3 14 8.81 -4.44 0.71 -19 -2
Roger Clemens NYY 52.89 3.84 220.3 18 24 57.00 3.49 204 24 33 16.3 15 8.28 -4.11 0.35 -6 -9
Brian Tollberg SD 20.22 4.45 117.3 65 45 24.00 3.88 102 84 54 15.3 14 8.24 -3.78 0.57 -19 -9
Pedro Martinez BOS 44.78 2.54 116.7 26 1 47.33 1.65 98 36 1 18.7 15 7.22 -2.56 0.89 -10 0
Roy Halladay TOR 33.67 3.06 103 39 4 35.33 2.30 86 65 5 17 13 6.88 -1.67 0.76 -26 -1

Pitchers who completely bombed in three starts are helped most by this method. Scott Schoeneweis got blasted for 28 runs in 9 1/3 innings in his worst three starts, dropping his season's value by almost 22 runs. Overall his rank in value would go from #78 to #58 just by dropping every pitcher's three worst starts. Jimmy Anderson is similarly affected. There are some good pitchers on the list, too. Matt Morris jumps into the top ten if we disregard three starts.

Pitchers who are very consistent are penalized by this method, since their worst starts aren't too far behind their average starts. Roy Halladay's worst three starts were barely below replacement level, and so he gains less than two runs by removing them. His rank in Value drops 26 points as flakier pitchers pass him. Again there's a mix of great pitchers (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux) and mediocre pitchers (David Wells, Jeff Suppan, Dave Williams, Brian Tollberg) in the list. Consistency, by itself, doesn't mean quality--you can be consistently good or consistently bad.

Top/Bottom 20 Pitchers by RA Decline by Trimming Three Starts

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Keith's other articles. You can contact Keith by clicking here

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Full Season Worst 3 starts removed Difference between Full and Worst 3 removed
NAME TEAM VALUE RA IP Value
Rank
RA
Rank
VALUE RA IP Value
Rank
RA
Rank
IP R RA of
removed
VALUE Season
RA Change
Value
Rank
RA
Rank
Willis Roberts BAL 3.22 5.72 102.3 100 100 21.22 3.89 90.3 94 56 12 26 19.50 -18.00 1.83 6 44
Chuck Finley CLE -2.22 6.17 113.7 107 108 18.11 4.51 109.7 102 91 4 23 51.75 -20.33 1.66 5 17
Brian Anderson ARI -7.56 6.55 123.7 118 118 11.56 5.06 110.3 111 106 13.4 28 18.81 -19.11 1.49 7 12
Rob Bell TEX -16.78 7.44 105.3 123 123 -0.44 6.05 89.3 122 122 16 27 15.19 -16.33 1.39 1 1
Dan Reichert KC -1.89 6.15 109.7 106 107 13.67 4.77 100 108 101 9.7 22 20.41 -15.56 1.38 -2 6
Kenny Rogers TEX -7.56 6.56 120.7 118 119 10.00 5.19 111 114 112 9.7 24 22.27 -17.56 1.37 4 7
Ted Lilly NYY -4.67 6.40 104 113 115 9.89 5.09 97.3 115 108 6.7 19 25.52 -14.56 1.32 -2 7
Ryan Rupe TB -4.56 6.29 141.7 112 110 14.33 4.99 128 106 105 13.7 28 18.39 -18.89 1.30 6 5
Lance Davis CIN 10.89 5.08 106.3 87 78 24.00 3.82 99 84 50 7.3 18 22.19 -13.11 1.26 3 28
Kip Wells CHW -0.22 6.02 104.7 104 104 13.00 4.78 96 109 102 8.7 19 19.66 -13.22 1.24 -5 2
Albie Lopez TB -3.89 6.28 124.7 109 109 11.56 5.06 110.3 111 106 14.4 25 15.63 -15.44 1.22 -2 3
Dave Burba CLE -16.22 7.06 137.7 122 121 2.33 5.84 131 121 121 6.7 23 30.90 -18.56 1.22 1 0
Rocky Biddle CHW -4.22 6.33 113.7 110 113 9.89 5.14 103.3 115 111 10.4 21 18.17 -14.11 1.19 -5 2
Paul Wilson TB 1.78 5.88 131.7 102 102 17.78 4.69 122.7 103 99 9 22 22.00 -16.00 1.18 -1 3
Steve Parris TOR 10.44 5.11 105.7 90 79 21.44 3.94 93.7 92 62 12 19 14.25 -11.00 1.17 -2 17
Allen Levrault MIL -5.44 6.47 104.3 114 116 7.22 5.31 93.3 118 115 11 20 16.36 -12.67 1.17 -4 1
Jose Lima DET 9.11 5.27 112.7 94 84 21.67 4.11 103 91 72 9.7 19 17.63 -12.56 1.16 3 12
Pedro Astacio COL 3.00 5.81 141 101 101 19.44 4.65 129.7 100 96 11.3 24 19.12 -16.44 1.16 1 5
Shawn Chacon COL 10.67 5.40 160 89 90 28.11 4.30 148.7 74 80 11.3 25 19.91 -17.44 1.10 15 10
Joe Kennedy TB 15.44 4.82 117.7 76 61 26.33 3.72 104 77 46 13.7 20 13.14 -10.89 1.10 -1 15
...
Eric Milton MIN 39.33 4.38 218 34 41 50.78 3.79 206.7 31 49 11.3 19 15.13 -11.44 0.59 3 -8
Darryl Kile STL 68.56 3.29 227.3 6 7 76.78 2.70 209.7 6 10 17.6 20 10.23 -8.22 0.58 0 -3
Livan Hernandez SF 8.11 5.68 226.7 96 99 21.44 5.10 213.7 92 110 13 22 15.23 -13.33 0.58 4 -11
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