CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Futures Guide 2014 is Now Available in Paperback and Three E-book Formats.

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: BAB... (04/20)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Crooked Numbers: April... (04/21)

April 21, 2005

Prospectus Today

Commanding Performance

by Joe Sheehan

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.

a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

I was noodling around the team stats pages this morning, looking for some of the more interesting team performances so far. As I keep saying, three weeks isn't much to go on, but at the team level you occasionally see some interesting stuff.

For example, the Yankees have the worst Defensive Efficiency Rating in the AL, and have allowed the third-highest total of doubles and triples in the league. Whoever could have seen that coming?

I've picked on the Yankee defense enough, though. Today, I want to pass along one astounding number that I encountered:

Team      K/BB
Twins     6.13
Astros    3.66
Indians   2.63
Phillies  2.61
Padres    2.48
The Minnesota Twins' pitching staff has buried the needle on the foremost indicator of command. Led by Johan Santana (37 strikeouts, two walks) and Brad Radke (15/1), Twins' pitchers have whiffed 98 hitters while walking just 16. Those two aren't the whole story: the other Twin pitchers have compiled a ratio of better than three to one. No Twins pitcher has allowed more than four free passes (Joe Mays is the wild man) and four have yet to walk anyone (Terry Mulholland leads this group with seven innings pitched).

We might have seen this coming. The Twins led the majors in K/BB last year with a 2.63 mark, and were second to the Yankees in 2003. The ridiculous command displayed by Santana and Radke sets the stage, but even problem children like Kyle Lohse (429/220 prior to '05, 10/2 in '05) and J.C. Romero (288/170 before, 7/2 in '05) have come aboard the control train in the early part of this season.

How impressive is this? Well, the Twins have walked as many men in 131 innings as the Pirates' Oliver Perez has in 19. The Giants' Noah Lowry walked five men last night, a total that would lead the Twins' staff. Eight other pitchers walked four. The Blue Jays walked eight Yankees last night, fully half the Twins' season total.

Who are the Twins chasing? Here's the all-time top ten.

                       YEAR     K/BB
Diamondbacks           2002     3.10
Dodgers                1966     3.04
Yankees                2003     2.98
Yankees                2002     2.82
Diamondbacks           2001     2.81
Expos                  1994     2.80
Braves                 1996     2.76
Twins                  1967     2.75
Mets                   1990     2.74
Giants                 1968     2.74
You basically have teams from two distinct eras on this list: one who played in today's high-strikeout environment, and one who played at the tail end of the Second Deadball Era. League strikeout-to-walk ratios are at an all-time high, a reflection of the strikeout's decreased stigma and the prevalence of hitting approaches that emphasize deep counts and big swings. The Rockies were dead last in MLB last season with a 1.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a figure that would have been above average in 1956 and would have led the league in 1951.

What I find amazing is how well this statistic correlates with success. Same chart, but with some additional information:

                       YEAR     K/BB   Record   Outcome
Diamondbacks           2002     3.10    98-64   Won NL West, lost DS
Dodgers                1966     3.04    95-67   Won NL
Yankees                2003     2.98   101-61   Won AL East, lost WS
Yankees                2002     2.82   103-58   Won AL East, lost DS
Diamondbacks           2001     2.81    92-70   Won WS
Expos                  1994     2.80    74-40   Best record at strike
Braves                 1996     2.76    96-66   Won NL East, lost WS
Twins                  1967     2.75    91-71   1 GB in AL
Mets                   1990     2.74    91-71   4 GB in NL East
Giants                 1968     2.74    88-74   8 GB in NL
I don't think any other team leaderboard correlates wth success the way this one does. That bodes well not only for the Twins, but for the Astros, who have opened the season by whiffing 117 and walking just 32. I doubt either team will maintain their torrid pace, but I don't think it's a stretch to the see the Twins as a threat to the '02 Diamondbacks as the greatest command staff in history.

One more list, just to close out the subject: K/BB ratio relative to the league:

                       YEAR     DIFF     TEAM   LEAGUE
Diamondbacks           2002     1.16     3.10     1.94
Yankees                2003     1.05     2.98     1.93
Giants                 1908     0.98     2.28     1.30
Giants                 1911     0.97     2.09     1.12
Mets                   1990     0.95     2.74     1.79
Dodgers                1966     0.93     3.04     2.11
Mets                   1976     0.91     2.45     1.53
Yankees                2002     0.89     2.82     1.92
Expos                  1994     0.84     2.80     1.95
Mets                   1988     0.82     2.72     1.90
(I was able to do this column thanks to Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. You should check it out…well worth the money.)

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

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Lies, Damned Lies: BAB... (04/20)
No Previous Column
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Crooked Numbers: April... (04/21)

Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Wednesday, Jul...
Premium Article Painting the Black: Book Review: The Art of ...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Chris Sale's Revenge
Premium Article Notes from the Field: July 10, 2014
An Agent's Take: How the Unseen Post-Draft P...
Premium Article The Call-Up: Christian Vazquez
Premium Article 2014 Futures Game Preview

Premium Article Transaction Analysis: April 14-19, 2005
Premium Article Under The Knife: Superstars
Premium Article Crooked Numbers: April Fools

2005-05-03 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: My Guys
2005-04-26 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The DiSars Are Back!
2005-04-25 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Buying Low
2005-04-21 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Commanding Performance
2005-04-20 - Prospectus Today: Avoiding the Trap
2005-04-18 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Perspective, Redux
2005-04-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Fenway Frenzy

2005-04-21 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Commanding Performance