It's not exactly business as usual for how we view starting pitchers in fantasy.
The league-wide proliferation of home runs has fueled a rapid increase in run scoring over the past two seasons. After nearly a decade of offensive decline, major-league pitchers were the ones most adversely affected by the recent onslaught of round trippers. A confluence of factors like injuries, the aforementioned offensive uptick, and fewer starters eclipsing the 200-inning plateau have widened the gap between the upper echelon fantasy starters and the remainder of the talent pool. Before we take a deep dive into the fantasy ramifications of these latest developments, within the context of ERA, let’s survey the overall landscape.
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Josh Beckett's alternating good and bad seasons resembles the career of a former major leaguer.
On Tuesday—his 32nd birthday, coincidentally—Josh Beckett fired seven innings of four-hit shutout ball against the Mariners, taking advantage of one of the league's weak-sister offenses to rack up a season-high nine strikeouts. The outing pared Beckett's ERA by exactly a run, from 5.97 to 4.97, and more importantly, it allowed him to put an embarrassing sequence of events in the rear-view mirror. The Red Sox had scratched Beckett from his May 5 start due to a stiff latissimus dorsi muscle; the decision was made three days in advance because the Sox wanted to prevent a minor injury from getting worse. On the day of his next turn, a report surfaced that Beckett had played a round of golf the day after the announcement—hardly beyond the pale for a pitcher between starts, but questionable conduct for a player who was supposed to be recuperating.
Does history offer any reason to believe that Bartolo Colon is the solution to the Yankees' dire fifth-starter straits?
The Yankees’ signing of Bartolo Colon to a minor-league deal in late January was greeted by a chorus of jeers that didn't begin to subside until his successful first outing of the exhibition season. It wasn't that Colon didn’t have a Yankee-caliber pedigree: the Dominican's resume includes two All-Star appearances and three top-ten showings in the Cy Young voting, including a 2005 first-place finish fueled by an AL-leading 21 wins (though that year's award probably should have gone to Johan Santana, who had earned the honors for the first time in 2004 and would return to the winner's circle in 2006). However, while Colon is hardly the first hurler with a history of acehood to be lured to the Bronx, his more recent track record pales in comparison to those of the team’s previous high-profile pitching imports.
By the time Colon was fitted for a supersized set of pinstripes, he’d left his greatest on-field achievements far behind. Since his Cy Young victory, the right-hander has gone 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA in 48 appearances, and his conditioning—the hurler is listed at 5’11”, 265, which might undersell where he'd actually tip the scales—makes him an easy target for the tabloids. Even more damning, Colon sat out the entirety of the 2010 season following a string of injury-plagued campaigns, and he'll turn 38 in May. Considering the question marks associated with the portly pitcher, one can’t blame New York Magazine for crowing, “With Mark Prior and Bartolo Colon on board, Brian Cashman has finally filled out his rotation, provided he can get his hands on that time machine.”
When is a World Series start worth as much as a Hall of Famer's whole career?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Attempting to plot the career path of those who may reach the 300-win plateau.
I’m excited to join Baseball Prospectus. If you’ve read any of my previous work, you may know me as something of a PITCHf/x guy. I’ve been learning about and writing about PITCHf/x since the pitch-tracking system was installed in major-league ballparks in 2007, so that description is apt. My interests extend beyond PITCHf/x to the physics of baseball and the details of the pitcher-hitter confrontation.
Continuing an examination of Cliff Lee's season, here's a closer look at his home run and walk rates.
I've been thinking an awful lot about walks lately—not the kind I try to take each night before bed, but rather the kind that Cliff Lee now avoids with startling regularity. My last two Seidnotes columns focused on his fantastic season in an attempt to deduce whether or not anyone ever matched his potentially historic pace. Additionally, I used his numbers to illustrate the differences between the more common strikeout-to-walk ratio and the strikeout-minus-walk differential. Today, I frame his walk-averse campaign in a slightly different light. Entering his most recent complete-game loss, Lee issued seven walks while surrendering nine home runs.
Yes, the man had walked fewer batters than he had allowed home runs! An out-of-character, two-walk performance on Sunday tied the numbers, but I began to wonder how rare it is for dingers to exceed walks. With that in mind, my goals today are to explore this very phenomenon, and to discuss walks and walk rates on a very basic level, as the numbers are used very frequently, yet leaders in the respective categories are not exactly common knowledge.
A deeper look into Cliff Lee's rate of strikeouts to walks and how it stands against other pitchers at this point of the season.
Well, last week was rather eventful, wasn’t it? I woke up to the tune of approximately 14 text messages from friends and family asking for my opinion of a supposed Cliff Lee-to-the-Yankees deal, only to find out after responding that no such deal had been consummated. Then, as I drove home from work, regularly scheduled Philly sports talk radio programming interrupted its continuous “If Lee was on the Phils" drivel to inform the listening audience that the lefty du jour had been traded to the Texas Rangers by the Seattle Mariners. It was a foregone conclusion that Lee would be traded around this time, and his very impressive numbers to date only increased the desire for his services from a bevy of potential suitors. This marks the fourth team Lee has pitched for since last summer—I suppose that’s what happens when a not-great pitcher signs a team-friendly deal and then becomes awesome—and while he doesn’t make the Rangers favorites to vie for the American League championship by any stretch, he brings a unique command of the strike zone that certainly aids their chances of playing deep into October.
Lee’s debut for the Rangers drew mixed reviews. On one hand, he pitched a complete game and continued to show the type of stuff that made his roster presence so important in the first place. On the other hand, he allowed six runs to the lowly Orioles. In the end, he didn’t walk a batter and struck out two, increasing his seasonal totals to 91 strikeouts and 6 walks, a rather preposterous 15.17 K/BB ratio. I say preposterous because that mark resembles one we might see after a week or two of the season, when small samples drastically skew rate statistics. Seeing as it is the middle of July, even though Lee missed the first month of the season with a abdominal strain, he has pitched 112 2/3 innings, hardly a sample small enough to deem his ratio faux-worthy.
Cliff Lee's number of strikeouts opposed to walks is at record-setting proportions this season.
Most of the time when I begin writing or researching an article, the spark comes from seeing something noteworthy on MLB Tonight or in the box scores while checking to see how my fantasy team is performing. At the beginning of the week, Jered Weaver’s strikeout rate piqued my interest, which led to a rather long-winded but informative article on the reason for his vast spike in the rate as well as whether or not it held precedent. Today, the story is a bit different, but along similar lines, as after watching the last couple of innings of Cliff Lee’s most recent start—one in which he issued a walk and whiffed 11 hitters—I could not help but think about his extremely impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio. The guy has walked just six batters in 103 2/3, innings, while striking out 89, leading to a K/BB ratio of 14.83 that, yes, leads the entire sport.
It wasn’t exactly Lee’s ratio that got the motors in my mind churning, however, but rather the actual rate itself. I mean, the rate is used so frequently these days and has essentially been imprinted—no, not imprinted like in the Twilight movies… wait, did I just implicitly reveal I’ve seen all three?—into our statistical vernacular, but can anybody tell me who is credited as its inventor or when its rise to prominence began? I rummaged through my library, re-read most of Alan Schwarz’ The Numbers Game, and even Googled like a madman and still turned up nothing discussing the origin of the rate. It is a perfect example of a number that makes so much sense to use for several different purposes, yet whose origin has somehow managed to elude us. That isn’t to say that knowing the creator or how it was derived is important, but as an analyst it is always interested to learn where stats come from.
The Game One showdown between star southpaws, and tonight's matchup features a recently phoaled Phillie.
In yesterday's chat, Bronx Banter's Alex Belth asked me, "Is there any particular pitching matchup that you are looking forward to in the series?" I responded that the matchup I was most looking forward to was between CC Sabathia and Ryan Howard, particularly given the prospect of the big man pitching three times for the Yankees in a seven-game series, and the slugger's less-than-sterling reputation against southpaws. "I think that matchup will tell us something about what's going to happen over the next four to seven games," I wrote.
With the Hall of Fame announcement coming later today, Jay concludes JAWS' take on who should make it in by sizing up the pitchers.
We'll dispense with the introductory formalities (you can read last year's pieces here and here) and cut to the chase. As with the hitters, we'll consider career WARP and peak WARP--the adjusted for all time flavor, WARP3--with the latter defined as a pitcher's best seven years. Just as we eliminated the worst elected Hall of Famer at each position in determining the JAWS standards, we'll exclude a similar percentage of pitchers--four out of the 60, in this case. In examining these pitchers, we'll also use Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) because it forms a reasonable secondary measure for "peak" in conjunction with PRAR's "career" proxy. A pitcher with many PRAA but fewer PRAR likely had a high peak and a short career, while one with the same number of PRAA but more PRAR likely had a longer career. Although durability should not be confused with excellence, league average has value, as anybody who's ever suffered through a fifth starter's pummeling knows.
This year's pitching segment has one more wrinkle. On the advice of WARP creator Clay Davenport, the pitching portion of this year's edition of JAWS includes a downward adjustment for pitchers in the AL after 1973 to counteract the negative hitting contributions of their non-DH brethren. This prevents the system from overly favoring recent AL pitchers, but the consequence is that the career and peak JAWS scores won't match what you can pull from the DT pages on our site. I'd prefer the transparency, but in terms of evaluating the cases on the current ballot, the need for this "tax" wins out.