Here are a few assorted thoughts about 2002's pitching performances, based in large part on the BP pitching reports: the Support-Neutral W/L Report for starters and the Reliever Evaluation Report for relievers.
I heard one of the Baseball Tonight guys this weekend argue that Curt Schilling is just as dominating this year as the last serious starting pitcher MVP candidate, Pedro Martinez in 2000. Uh, no. Schilling this year has allowed runs at a (park-adjusted) rate about 57% of his league. That's been bettered 71 times in major league history. Martinez in 2000 allowed runs at a rate about 33% of his league. That's been bettered zero (0) times in major league history.
The Support-Neutral numbers tell basically the same story. Schilling has a Support Neutral Record of 17-7 right now, for an SN Winning Percentage of .714. That would represent the 28th best SNPct of the past thirty years (all the years for which I have numbers), not counting the guys with better ratings this season. Martinez's Support-Neutral record in 2000 was 20-3 with an SNPct of .867, by far the best of the past thirty years. Schilling is much more of a workhorse, but even giving him plenty of credit for those extra innings, there's no way he will approach Martinez's 2000 performance.
Schilling's having an outstanding season, and he's a perfectly fine candidate for the Cy Young Award right now. But his 22-5 W/L record represents a fair amount of luck to go with his good pitching. He's not the MVP, and he wouldn't be even if Barry Bonds were merely human.
While the NL Rookie of the Year debate will involve more than just pitchers–outfielders Austin Kearns and Brad Wilkerson in particular will get some consideration–the field of rookie pitcher candidates getting attention right now has effectively been narrowed to two: Jason Jennings and Damian Moss. (Apologies to Josh Fogg and Jason Simontacchi.)
There are reasonable points in Jennings's favor. Jennings is a terrific hitter while Moss is a bad one. And Moss probably has better fielders at his disposal than Jennings.
But the SNWL Report highlights a couple of points for Moss. First, there's the bullpen support the two have received. Moss has received some of the worst reliever support in the majors so far this year, surprisingly so given the outstanding Atlanta bullpen. Brave relievers have allowed 6 of 10 runners inherited from Moss to score, 3 more than you'd expect from average relief work. Jennings, on the other hand, has received excellent help from his relievers, knocking between two and three runs off his runs allowed total.
Second, Jennings's celebrated 16-7 W/L record is largely the result of luck. (Jennings's great run support is partly due to his own hitting, but only partly.) His Support-Neutral record is 10-9 (.514), while Moss's is quite a bit better at 11-7 (.628). And those numbers do account for Jennings's Coors Field disadvantage. Even after factoring in Jennings's strong points, Moss has the clear edge.
2002 may go down as the Year of the Sidearmer. Three of the top ten relievers in preventing runs–Byung Hyun Kim, Mike Koplove, and Steve Reed–throw from the side. A true submariner, Chad Bradford, is among the top 20. Jeff Nelson has put up his usual good numbers in an injury-abbreviated season. Damaso Marte, who may or may not technically count as a sidearmer, has been one of the White Sox' best performers out of the bullpen. Mike Myers, Kelly Wunsch, and Brandon Puffer have each put up solid, if unspectacular, run prevention numbers.
One of the few bucking this trend is the erstwhile King of the Sidearmers, Scott Sullivan. He's having an off year, although not nearly as off as his ERA would have you believe. Also, Mike Venafro has proved that not everything Billy Beane touches turns to gold.
- Keith Foulke is back. Despite entering 2002 as arguably the best reliever in the game, Foulke got off to a slow start this year, slow enough to lose his closer position. But true to Joe Sheehan's analysis, Foulke has been on a tear since the All-Star break, and he's crept back into the top 30 relievers in run prevention. If the White Sox follow through with their plans to move him back into the starting rotation, he could be one of the most valuable players in the league next season.
Michael Wolverton is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.