Ease up there, Hemingway, we're talking about pitchers, and whether we're missing a few from the last couple of decades.
When we see the level of offense go up or down in baseball-and it has been down dramatically this season-we tend to attribute it to everything other than the players themselves. In any given downturn, it's the bats, or the baseballs, or the ballparks, or the drugs that the players are injecting themselves with. Or all of those things. But what if it isn't all about context? What if, when offense is up, it literally does mean that there aren't very many good pitchers?
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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.
One of the glaring weaknesses in the injury analysis game is the lack of data. As the injury database is built and populated, we are left with spotty research and anecdotal knowledge, especially when it comes to the crossroads of sports medicine and pitcher workloads. Adding to the problem is the lack of data for both minor league and college pitching. Since pitching is pitching, opponents of workload limitations often bring this up.
In one of the first systematic studies of early pitching workload, Lee Sinins, creator of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, studied 135 pitchers who threw 175 innings or more before the age of 22.
In one of the first systematic studies of early pitching workload, Lee Sinins, creator of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, studied 135 pitchers who threw 175 innings or more before the age of 22. Age 22 is equivalent to the age-point found in Nate Silver's study on pitcher injury and age--the Injury Nexus--but was selected by Lee prior to the publication of Nate's study. Lee selected the pitchers from The Sporting News 1997 Baseball Register, giving us a distant enough perspective on many of the pitchers and allowing objective analysis on the possible effects of heavy workloads at such a young age. Unfortunately, innings thrown in winter leagues or in spring training could not be counted in this study as the data were not available. Innings were not adjusted for level and the totals are a sum for all levels in a season.
There were a few basic theories being tested in this study. First, the injury nexus would be tested. Despite the strong correlations between age and injury found by Nate Silver, real world numbers should match up closely. Second, while somewhat arbitrary, the 175-inning threshold seems to be a point where fatigue sets in for almost all pitchers. Young pitchers usually have not reached this threshold in their careers and the first test of this level often results in injury, massive failure, or a survivor effect.
Between the persistence of Pete Rose, the ongoing turf war between Tribune Co. and the Wrigleyville neighborhood, and the deteriorating mental health of John Schuerholz, the most oft-reported story of this winter has been the apparent deflation in the market for free agents.
Between the persistence of Pete Rose, the ongoing turf war between Tribune Co. and the Wrigleyville neighborhood, and the deteriorating mental health of John Schuerholz, the most oft-reported story of this winter has been the apparent deflation in the market for free agents. Certainly, there are enough anecdotal examples to make a good case for the sky-is-falling crowd: Jeff Kent was signed rather cheaply, Frank Castillo took a pay cut of almost $4 million just for being his mediocre self, and the abundance of non-tenders suggest that teams expect that they can pay less for comparable talent by turning to the free-agent market than by accepting the terms of an arbitration settlement. Of course, there are counter-examples too; Jim Thome and Tom Glavine were signed to plenty generous contracts, St. Louis paid a premium to retain Woody Williams, and the Cubs seem to have pro-rated Antonio Alfonseca's contract over all 12 of his fingers.
What is in order is a systematic analysis of the free agent class of this winter as well as last, which takes into account not only the contracts the these players were signed to, but also how much value they are likely to provide to their new employers.
We're here to announce the winners of the 8th Annual Internet Baseball Awards. Over 700 knowledgeable cyberspace baseball fans - a new record - participated in this effort to select the baseball players whose 1999 seasons were most deserving of honors.