CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

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

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Under The Knife: About... (09/15)
<< Previous Column
One-Hoppers: The Littl... (09/10)
Next Column >>
One-Hoppers: Three Tru... (09/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Checking the Numbers: ... (09/15)

September 15, 2010

One-Hoppers

Fun with Opponent Quality

by Ben Lindbergh

Player evaluation would be a much easier feat if conditions were held constant. Park adjustments and positional adjustments, among other factors, may be diverting for a select few to derive (seriously, this is the face that Colin Wyers would make if someone took park factors away), but the necessity of implementing them makes baseball analysis a lot more difficult. On the other hand, it also makes baseball analysts a lot more employed, so I’m not complaining. What’s more, even if you never find yourself staggering under the weight of a BP paycheck, you should be grateful for the complications, since idiosyncrasies like these help make baseball a ready source of almost endless discussion. Of course, I suppose that even the deprived people who follow sports restricted to playing surfaces of identical dimensions occasionally come up with something to discuss.

One factor that’s not currently incorporated into our pitcher value statistics is the quality of opposing batters, known colloquially as OPP_QUAL_OPS in our nifty “Pitcher’s Quality of Opponents” Report, in which (as one might imagine) it plays a central role. It’s tempting to act as if each pitcher faces the same caliber of competition, putting his statistics on an equal footing with those of his peers (after accounting for his home park), but the numbers belie the validity of that assumption. Among American League pitchers with a minimum of 100 IP, OPP_QUAL_OPS ranges from .747 to .715 (keep in mind that A.L. batters average .736), a disparity of a magnitude akin to that which separates the offensive contributions of the average A.L. left fielder and center fielder.

Of course, that’s the Junior Circuit’s most extreme example, but it still serves as a reminder of the difference that a pitcher’s luck of the draw can make. Naturally, relievers are subject to even more dramatic fluctuations in opponent strength; I won’t cover relievers at length in this post, but if we lower our cutoff to 40 innings, a greater gulf separates the leaders and trailers, extending from Randy Choate’s .763 to Bobby Jenks’ .700.

Here are the highest OPP_QUAL_OPS figures among A.L. starters with at least 100 innings under their belts this season. N.L. Starters will be presented separately, since the privilege of facing opposing pitchers at the plate means that they have an easier time of it overall (to say nothing of league quality):

Name

IP

OPP_QUAL_OPS

Ryan Rowland-Smith

100.7

.747

Brandon Morrow

146.3

.747

Clay Buchholz

152.7

.746

Jake Westbrook

127.7

.746

Jeremy Guthrie

190.0

.746

Brian Matusz

157.7

.745

Justin Masterson

173.0

.745

Brian Bannister

126.7

.744

Joel Pineiro

131.3

.743

Kyle Davies

161.7

.742

David Price

186.7

.742

 

Any Rays or Red Sox fans sweating the seemingly unsustainable performances of David Price and Clay Buchholz, respectively, might be somewhat heartened to know that their young aces haven’t been feasting on the dregs of the league. Conversely, anyone bummed about Brandon Morrow’s underperformance of his 3.15 SIERA can at least take solace in the fact that his 4.49 ERA was recorded against the toughest competition.

Name

IP

OPP_QUAL_OPS

CC Sabathia

217.0

.715

Colby Lewis

177.0

.717

C.J. Wilson

180.0

.718

Scott Feldman

135.0

.718

Gio Gonzalez

179.7

.719

Justin Verlander

199.3

.720

Gavin Floyd

182.0

.720

Mark Buehrle

187.3

.721

Joe Saunders

120.7

.722

Tommy Hunter

111.0

.723

 

Any Felix Hernandez or Francisco Liriano boosters in search of additional ammunition against CC Sabathia’s Cy Young Award candidacy can fill their chambers from this table; among A.L. starters who’ve seen significant time, Sabathia has faced the weakest opponents. “But Ben,” you might ask (granted, you might not ask, but play along, for my sake), “How is it that CC’s faced the weakest competition? Doesn’t he play in baseball’s toughest division?” Well, yes. The A.L. East has put up a collective .758 OPS, compared to the measly .701 OPS recorded by King Felix’s A.L. West (two Orioles made it into the first table, reminding us how much it must suck to be Baltimore).

However, remember that Sabathia hasn’t had to face the Yankees, and Hernandez hasn’t had to face the Mariners. If we remove those two teams from the equation, the divisions grow much closer: the East and West now come in at .751 and .722, respectively. Of course, that’s not to say that Sabathia hasn’t led a charmed life (for what it’s worth, the Yankees enjoyed an easy interleague schedule this season, which might help explain how Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Javier Vazquez own 3 of the 13 lowest OPP_QUAL_OPS marks).

Switching over to the Senior Circuit:

Name

IP

OPP_QUAL_OPS

Zach Duke

138.3

.733

Ricky Nolasco

157.7

.726

Ian Kennedy

179.0

.726

Ross Ohlendorf

108.3

.726

Dan Haren

141.0

.725

Joe Blanton

154.7

.722

Hisanori Takahashi

113.0

.722

Hiroki Kuroda

176.0

.721

Johan Santana

199.0

.721

Jonathon Niese

161.3

.720

 

Haren’s high OPP_QUAL_OPS doesn’t make his trade look any better from Arizona’s perspective, but perhaps Ian Kennedy’s appearance on this list slightly eases the pain of Max Scherzer’s departure. And now for the N.L. pitchers who’ve had it relatively easy:

Name

IP

OPP_QUAL_OPS

Kris Medlen

107.7

.694

Wade LeBlanc

143

.696

Randy Wolf

186.7

.698

Bronson Arroyo

197.7

.699

Mike Leake

138.3

.699

Ted Lilly

117.0

.699

Dave Bush

158.7

.699

Tim Lincecum

192.3

.700

Aaron Harang

106.7

.701

Mat Latos

166.7

.703

 

Over the samples of performance associated with starting pitchers, disparities in opponent quality generally aren’t significant enough to turn good seasons into bad ones (or vice versa), but they’re worth at least a periodic look. Next time around, I’ll check into which batters have benefited and suffered most and least from the composition of their opposing pitcher pools.   

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

Related Content:  Baseball Ops,  Ops,  OPS+

1 comment has been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Under The Knife: About... (09/15)
<< Previous Column
One-Hoppers: The Littl... (09/10)
Next Column >>
One-Hoppers: Three Tru... (09/17)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Checking the Numbers: ... (09/15)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Week Three
The Call-Up: George Springer
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Wednesday, Apr...
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Every Manager's Face: The Ne...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Cueto in Control
Premium Article What Scouts Are Saying: April 17, 2014
Premium Article Notes from the Field: Carolina League Notes ...

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 15, 2010
Premium Article On the Beat: Ready for a Return
Premium Article Future Shock: Org Watch: Yankees
Premium Article Checking the Numbers: Say Goodbye to the Tri...
Premium Article Kiss'Em Goodbye: Pittsburgh Pirates
Premium Article Under The Knife: About Those Pitch Counts
Campus Notes: Rules Matter

MORE BY BEN LINDBERGH
2010-09-20 - Premium Article Prospectus Perspective: How Important is the...
2010-09-18 - One-Hoppers: Even More Fun with Opponent Qua...
2010-09-16 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Looking for the Iconic Repl...
2010-09-15 - One-Hoppers: Fun with Opponent Quality
2010-09-10 - One-Hoppers: The Little Closer That Could
2010-09-09 - Overthinking It: Friar Men
2010-09-07 - Between The Numbers: Jeter Contract Crowdsou...
More...

MORE ONE-HOPPERS
2010-09-24 - One-Hoppers: Taking Turns
2010-09-18 - One-Hoppers: Even More Fun with Opponent Qua...
2010-09-17 - One-Hoppers: Three True Outcomes Leaders
2010-09-15 - One-Hoppers: Fun with Opponent Quality
2010-09-10 - One-Hoppers: The Little Closer That Could
2010-08-31 - One-Hoppers: The Strongest of the Week
2010-08-23 - One-Hoppers: Welcome Back, Vin
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2010-09-18 - One-Hoppers: Even More Fun with Opponent Qua...