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Starting Pitching Valuation (SPv) Leaderboard

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Dylan Cain

Loyal Full Spectrum Baseball readers may remember an article I wrote a while back about an innovative new stat, one I call Starting Pitcher Valuation (SPv).  For a brief introduction to the statistic for those who have not read the article, SPv is a stat that encompasses 1) the number of base runners a starting pitcher has allowed, 2) how many earned runs he’s allowed, 3) how many batters he strikes out as opposed to how few batters he walks 4) and how well he can lead his team to a victory.

I have taken all these stats and “blended” them together, creating a pitching stat that ranks starters (not relievers) on a scale of 100%-0%. This gives analytically-minded  fans like you the chance to see one stat that is “easy-to-digest” as opposed to reading a long line of the 10-15 most commonly used statistics.  I wrote this article in hopes of providing a weekly “leaderboard” of SPv and to also give my opinions and some notes about how they (starting pitchers) have done of late.  Here are your season-to-date SPv leaders (as of  August 12th). Enjoy!

1) Jered Weaver (84.87%)- The Angels’ ace has been dealing this year, even in an offensive powerhouse division like the AL West. He’s only lost one game this year and with the offensive production of the Halo’s lineup, he doesn’t seem to have that much pressure on him.  With guys like Mike Trout (.340 AVG) and Albert Pujols (Did you hear about his 24 homeruns?? Talk about coming back after a slow start…), any pitcher would feel relaxed on the hill.  His fastball isn’t Aroldis Chapman caliber but it’s enough to get the job done.

2) R.A. Dickey (81.19%)- The Tim Wakefield impersonator has looked slightly more human of late, with his ERA going up .74 points since his second consecutive one-hitter.  Remember, he still has the best SPv in the senior circut, meaning he is on track to have the best season a knuckleballer has ever had, statistically. His 15 wins are tied for the most in the the bigs, he still makes batters look silly, and he is still very likely in line to win the NL Cy Young Award.

3) Chris Sale (80.96%)- The lanky southpaw for the Chicago White Sox has given his rotation a big boost, even with his young, inexperienced arm.  He puts on a show with the radar gun and can shutdown powerful lineups.  He does have an advantage of facing some weaker offensive teams in the AL Central, however.  Six of his 13 wins have come against the Royals, Indians and Twins.  He is a great pitcher but needs a little more experience to convinced me. The addition of Jake Peavy helped him greatly and Francisco Liriano will give him more of an advantage.

4) David Price (79.77%)- The three-time All-Star is on pace to get the most wins of his career and as far as the AL Cy Young Award voting is concerned, he is breathing down the neck of Sale and Weaver.  The only thing he actually lacks is a big bat to support him offensively.  Evan Longoria coming back will hopefully help with that problem.  If any pitcher can help Tampa Bay get a playoff spot from the A’s it will be Price.  He WILL have a Cy Young Award on the wall before his career is done.

5) Justin Verlander (78.62%)- Finally on the list, Verlander comes in at fourth place in the junior circuit, quite surprising for the Detroit Tigers ace. In my opinion, he is the most overrated pitcher in baseball.  Sure, he has a blazing fastball. Sure, his ERA is under two and a half.  But, he has been inconsistent at moments and is on pace to have the most losses in his career since 2008.  I will give him credit, however, because he tends to dominate one of my favorite statistics (WHIP).

6) Stephen Strasburg (77.71%)- The Strikeout king is now on the list and he is very deserving.  In seven of his twenty three games this year, he has struck out nine batters or more!  That is 30.4% of the time.  Looking for a whiff?  He’s the guy you have to call.  His innings limit has been in the news lately and I think if the Nationals want to keep winning he must be in the rotation. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out.

7) Matt Cain (76.7%)- “Mr. Perfect”, “Cain-O Insane-O”, “The San Fran Man”…regardless of what you call him, he is still a dominant force on the hill out on the west coast.  His ERA is under 3 for only the second time in his career but he’s currently regarded as the best pitcher in the Giants’ stacked rotation.  This is due mostly to Tim Lincecum‘s recent struggles, and the fact that most of the rotation is considerably “young talent”.  One of his statistics which catches my eye the most is the fact that his walks per 9 is the lowest in his career.

8) Felix Hernandez (76.44%)- “King Felix” is one of my favorite pitchers and I feel he is very underrated.  Although he may only have 10 wins, he already has 3 shutouts, leading the league.  He continues to strikeout batters (he is nearing his 1,500th strikeout) and his ERA is staying low.  His division rivals include the Texas Rangers and the LA Angels, two huge offensive teams.  Hernandez continually gets the job done, though.

9) Madison Bumgarner (76.4%)- When looking at the ERA leaders, you could easily think his fellow teammate Ryan Vogelsong has the edge. However, Bumgarner has a higher SPv for a couple of reasons.  One, he strikes out more batters and walks less, as opposed to Vogelsong.  And secondly, Bumgarner has a better WHIP.  Walks plus Hits divided by Innings Pitched is a crucial statistic in the makeup of SPv.  The first round pick in the 2007 draft is off to a good start in his career and he makes a good #2 behind Matt Cain.

10) Kyle Lohse (76.27%)- I was very surprised when I realized Lohse had made the Top 10. When we look at his stats, he has the second most wins on the St. Louis Cardinals staff (12, just behind Lance Lynn‘s 13) against only has 2 losses.  He hasn’t had much popularity since 2008 when he had 15 wins but the baseball community should know that Kyle still has his stuff.  His WHIP and ERA are at career bests and along with Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, they are filling the hole left by the Chris Carpenter injury quite nicely.

11) Johnny Cueto (76.18%)- I can truly say that in my mind, Cueto is the best pitcher in the packed NL Central.  I say this because he doesn’t allow many base runners, keeps batters guessing and even when things do get out of hand, he can still often get the win.  This is because of an offense led by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips.  These athletes, led by Cueto, will help the Reds gain an even larger lead over Andrew McCutchen and the Pittsburgh Pirates as the season winds down.

12) Jordan Zimmermann (76.14%)- I know I say the word underrated too often, but it’s one of the few words that describes Zimmermann accurately.  The reason I feel he hasn’t had instant stardom is due to the fact that, earlier in the year, he lacked run support.  At one point he had a losing record with an ERA under two and a half.  He doesn’t strikeout very many batters but he doesn’t walk many either. This keeps men off the base, keeping his WHIP low.  If anyone on this list will win the NL Cy Young Award in dramatic fashion, it’s Zimmermann.

13) Cole Hamels (75.75%)- This southpaw has been the talk of trade rumors year in and year out, but he remains in Philly, being the only pitcher to have double-digit wins for the Phillies.  He also has the most strikeouts, most innings pitched, leads in ERA+ and the lowest hits per nine innings.  Once the #2 pitcher to Roy Halladay, he is now the ace of the struggling team.  He just signed a huge, $153 million contract, so expect him to stick around for a while.

14) Clayton Kershaw (75.17%)- “The Claw” is the same man as he has been his whole career but isn’t quite as dominant as he was last year.  He is in the very pitching dominant NL, hurting his chances of winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards.  He strikes out a whole batter less per 9 inning than he did last year but he still has a WHIP of 1.027.  He leads the league in shutouts (2), is still the ace for the NL West leading (tied) Los Angeles Dodgers and no longer has to face Melky Cabrera due to a 50 game suspension.

15) CC Sabathia (75.06%)- CC has been on the DL for an extended period of time.  I think the Yankees are in a good enough position to where they can retain first place in the AL East without him.  If you asked me a year earlier, I would’ve told you that New York couldn’t have competed without Mariano Rivera and with Sabathia out, however, that’s exactly what they are doing.  Yankees’ fans just need to hope that C.C. can bounce back from the injuries, and continue on the pace where he left off.

16) A.J. Burnett (74.81%)- I would’ve expected the Pirate’s righty to be higher on this list, with 14 wins and a new beginning in Pittsburgh, however, he is not.  Like many of the pitchers ranked above him, he doesn’t possess a high number of K’s.  Through 21 starts, he already has the most wins in his career since 2008 in Toronto.  Not only does he have a career low WHIP (with 21+ games started), but he has a one-hitter under his belt.

17) Ryan Vogelsong (74.64%)- The reason this guy may not quite be a household name is because he hasn’t performed in the past, as he is just showing signs of greatness.  The last season that he had 25 or more starts before San Fransisco, he had an ERA of 6.50 with a 6-13 W-L record. He has redeemed himself, however, in his second stint for the Giants.  His two years back have been astounding, posting 249 strikeouts and a 23-13 record.  He does walk a few too many, but nothing to worry about. Expect him to have more than one all star selection in his career.

18) Scott Diamond (74.35%)- I consider this young man the only “stud” in the Minnesota Twin’s rotation.  He isnt like many of the guys on this list as far as strikeouts are concerned (5.0 strikeouts per 9 innings), but he makes up for it because he doesn’t walk many either (1.3 walks per 9 innings, a league lead).  He’s only pitched 18 games, and I really don’t expect the trend to continue, as he allows almost a home run a game.  That’s low enough to be a quality pitcher, but not to consistently be on this list.

19) Gio Gonzalez (74.15%)- Gio is one of the best parts of the Washington Nationals “Big 3″ (Strasburg and  Zimmerman included).  He has the most wins out of all of them (15, 2 away from a career high), he has the league lead in home runs per 9 innings (0.4), and the league lead in hits per 9 innings (6.9).  His wicked curveball is similar to those of fellow teamate Stephen Strasburg and Barry Zito.  With Strasburg supposedly being out of postseason play, Gio is the man who needs to step up even further, if possible.  This would be by walking less and staying consistent.

20) Ryan Dempster (73.62%)- The Texas new-comer is lucky to even be on this list.  His ERA has gone up 79 points in 4 games, but I think he still has some success in him.  He is aging, however, and is struggling to get wins.  He is a great #3 or #4 in the Rangers rotation, and run support won’t be an issue anymore, as it was with the Cubs.

Think one of your favorite pitchers deserved to be on the list or would you like to just discuss Starting Pitching Valuation, contact me on Twitter @pitchingstats or use the comments section below. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about about this list, how to calculate SPv and/or how to apply its usage to fantasy baseball. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week.

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New Fake Stat: Introduction to SPv

Posted on 25 July 2012 by Dylan Cain

Hello FSBB readers! I’m new writer/author/contributor Dylan Cain and this is my first article for the site. I’m very excited to get started. Baseball is a big part of who I am and I’m glad to share my thoughts and opinions with the baseball world.

I’m an avid creator of fake baseball statistics and I often examine how numbers can teach us things that would be difficult to perceive with just the standards like ERA and W-L record. The stat I am introducing today is called Starting Pitching Valuation (SPv). The inspiration for this stat was Passer Rating in the NFL.  It is a grading scale which judges a quarterback’s performance.  There are downsides to this stat, as the scale of Passer Rating is 0-158.3.  This has always perplexed me.  If I get a test back from English class, I don’t say, “I want a 158.3 on this test!”.  I would obviously like to receive a 100%.  This got my creative, statistical mind going and I feel I successfully created a statistic to give starting pitchers a “quarterbacks score” of  0-100.  I discovered this new statistic would work perfectly for starting pitchers (preferably with multiple games started) in big league baseball .  Here’s an explanation of my statistic, SPv.

Firstly, there are a couple of things you should know before we continue:

1) This stat (at the moment) is not meant for relief pitchers.

2) SPv is actually a combination of three stats.  One is a formula which determines how well a pitcher can get his team the win.  The next stat is a chart which rates the number of batters he strikes out to how few he walks.  The final stat is a chart that compares the amount of base runners he allows to the number of earned runs he allows (the charts I’m talking about are similar to multiplication tables, except they’re using various rates to give the pitchers a score between 0 and 100).

So I will give you an example.  How about Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants?  He has struggled and lost his Cy Young Award winning form (until recently). Let’s compare how he performed in 2009 to how he’s performed in 2012.

“The Freak” had an ERA of 2.48 and a WHIP of 1.047 in 2009.  His score on the “base runners/earned runs” chart is a 76.  This year, so far, he’s had an ERA of 5.72 and a WHIP of 1.487.  That scores only a 42.

The next part of the stat required to solve is the “results-based” portion. There’s a specific formula for this one.

[(Wins (100)) + (No Decisions (50))] / GS

Using this formula, we can determine that Lincecum scored a 62.5 in 2009 but has scored just a 35 this year.  This year’s score is nowhere near “Freakish”.

One more stat left to calculate before we can examine how much Lincecum has changed since his award winning days.

In this portion, we examine how many batters a pitcher strikes out to how many batters he walks.  We know Timmy is a king when it comes to strikeouts, so this should be the section of SPv where he dominates.  In 2009, Lincecum struck out 10.4 batters per 9 (innings pitched) and walked only 2.7 batters per 9.  This performance gave him a score of 90.833.  This season, he’s obviously done worse in both of these categories, compiling a score of 83.35. Now that we have crunched all the numbers necessary, let’s put them all together and see what SPv tells us.

In order to take all of these little stats and put them together, I’ve created a “mixture” of sorts.  This is all based on what I believe is most important for a pitcher to possess.  The blend goes as follows:

45% – “Number of base runners/number of earned runs” chart score

33.33%- “Batters struck out/batters walked” chart score

21.67%- “W-L-ND” formula

All of these portions are out of 100%, so when we calculate SPv using weighted percentages we can learn things about a starting pitcher. We can learn if a pitcher is overrated because of his win total or we can learn what is hurting a pitcher.  For example, if a pitcher has a problem with allowing base runners, it will show in the “base runners/earned run” portion of SPv.

Now back to our example. Tim Lincecum’s SPv has declined dramatically compared to his 2009 season. Here are the results (drum roll please):

  • Perfect Pitcher’s SPv (100%)
  • Tim Lincecum in 2009 (78.02%)
  • Tim Lincecum in 2012 (54.26%)

Still not convinced Lincecum is struggling?  The numbers don’t lie.

So there you have it! That’s your introduction to SPv and I hope you all enjoyed it.  Check back  soon because I ‘ll be posting a weekly leaderboard.  This will definitely come in handy for Fantasy Baseball folks,  as you can easily see whose “stock” is on the rise or decline compared to prior seasons.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this new, sabermetricly-inspired statistic. Feel free to use the comments section below and follow me on Twitter at @pitchingstats to continue the conversation about the usefulness of SPv, Starting Pitching Valuation.

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Enough About WAR. Let’s Get RAW!

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Enough About WAR. Let’s Get RAW!

Posted on 14 February 2012 by Daniel Aubain

Let’s be honest. Most of us baseball fans have learned more about WAR over the last two years of baseball’s Hall of Fame voting than we ever did in years of taking American History classes from middle school through college. Okay, okay. Different kinds of war. I get it. One is a heated battle between those who feel they are right and will go to any lengths to prove it while fighting to the death against those who disagree and the other is a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state.

Alright, enough with making the yuck yuck. I consider myself an avid learner and as a life-long fan of baseball on the field and someone who is well into his second decade of playing fantasy baseball, gaining a basic understanding of the more popular sabermetric statistics and concepts seems like the logical progression of my obsession. And no topic is more hotly discussed and debated than the idea of WAR (Wins Above Replacement). So debated that there are actually two versions of WAR: FanGraphs‘ fWAR and Baseball-Reference‘s rWAR.

Now, I’m not here to share my elementary understanding of all that goes into calculating WAR or the pros and cons of using it to compare which player is more valuable to a team than another or who is more Hall of Fame-worthy. I’m here to mix up the letters of WAR and present to you my version of a fake sabermetric statistic know as RAW. And what would RAW be without two version of itself: dRAW and RAWs. Nothing helps a fake statistic catch on more than the ease of saying it as a real world word. WHIP isn’t just a cream to fantasy baseball fans.

There are only two pieces of data you need to know in order to calculate dRAW and RAWs: Runs and Walks. Catchy fake statistics should also be easy to calculate if you want people to remember them and think they possibly could become real ones with just a little bit more effort put in by the creator.

So now that we have the data we need, Runs and Walks, what are the formulas used to calculate the values of these new, fake statistics? Simple. Firstly, dRAW is calculated by dividing a player’s Runs by Walks. Or, to be more accurate to its name, divide Runs Above Walks. Secondly, RAWs is calculated by adding a player’s Runs and Walks. Or, to be more accurate to its name, Runs And Walks sum.

So let’s review some of the points up until now that could make a fake statistic go mainstream. The name of the statistic(s) should be easy to say. CHECK! It should be easy to calculate. Easy division and easy addition. CHECK! And I guess the data should be readily available. CHECK! “That’s gold, Jerry. Gold!”

Wait a second. I’ve got all the makings of a great, new, fake statistic but what about the data? What results do the formulas produce and what hypothesis can we draw these numbers? Well, I guess I should give you access to the file with the data (OpenOffice spreadsheet; PDF) I used for dRAW and RAWs. This list includes all players with a RAWs total (Runs plus Walks) equal to or greater than 100. Ninety-seven players made the cut; from a high of 237 for Jose Bautista to a low of 100 for Eric Hosmer.

Standard 5×5 scoring leagues (BA/R/HR/RBI/SB) don’t use walks in any of their scoring calculations but the idea of a high RAWs score seems to relate to a valuable fantasy baseball asset. Only six players topped a RAWs score of over 200 in 2011 and all six players were ranked within the top 16 of ESPN’s Player Rater (batters only).

Player Team Pos R BB dRAW RAWs ESPN Player Rater (Batter Ranking)
Bautista, J TOR RF 105 132 0.795 237 7
Granderson, C NYY CF 136 85 1.600 221 4
Cabrera, M DET 1B 111 108 1.028 219 5
Votto, J CIN 1B 101 110 0.918 211 14
Kinsler, I TEX 2B 121 89 1.360 210 16
Fielder, P MIL 1B 95 107 0.888 202 15

Not a bad group of fantasy baseball studs. So I guess the first conclusion I can make from this data is that a 200+ RAWs is made up of elite fantasy baseball players dominated by first basemen. NOTE: Bautista lead the majors in Walks and Curtis Granderson lead the majors in Runs, so it only seems logical they’d be at the top of the RAWs leaderboard.

The next group of players are those with a RAWs of 199 down to 170 and includes the two best fantasy baseball players in 2011.

Player Team Pos R BB dRAW RAWs ESPN Player Rater (Batter Ranking)
Kemp, M LAD CF 115 74 1.554 189 1
Pedroia, D BOS 2B 102 86 1.186 188 8
Gonzalez, A BOS 1B 108 74 1.459 182 6
Berkman, L STL RF 90 92 0.978 182 25
Santana, C CLE C 84 97 0.866 181 89
Zobrist, B TB RF 99 77 1.286 176 33
McCutchen, A PIT CF 87 89 0.978 176 37
Swisher, N NYY RF 81 95 0.853 176 83
Pena, C CHC 1B 72 101 0.713 173 118
Ellsbury, J BOS CF 119 52 2.288 171 2

Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury bookend this group of very valuable fantasy baseball assets. I was surprised to see some low-ranking players in this group because I’ve been attempting to tie RAWs to “value”. So I decided to find the average batter ranking of the 16 players in the 170+ RAWs group and came up with a 28.9 rating. So depending on your definition of “elite”, this group is holding its own so far. Be sure to take a look at the entire group of 100+ RAWs players here (OpenOffice spreadsheetPDF) and tell me what patterns you’re able to find to help validate RAWs as a useful, but very fake statistic.

Now that we’ve taken care of the easy addition, it’s time to head on over to the easy division. Calculating dRAW requires us to simply divide Runs Above Walks. We’ll be using the same criteria of needing a RAWs of 100 or greater so I wouldn’t have had to create multiple worksheets. But before looking at what this data means, I think we need to find a baseline norm because we are dealing with fractions and decimal points.

One of the most common synonyms for a Walk in baseball is a “free pass”. So looking at the Walk as a gift, shouldn’t a team be doing everything in its power to get that runner across the plate for a Run? Following that logic, I think the baseline (no pun intended) norm for this fake statistic should yield a 1.0. In an ideal world, every Walk received should equal one Run.

Now it is time to dig deeper into whether or not this line of logic actually makes sense. Once a runner reaches base via a Walk, he has little to no control over whether or not he will cross home plate before the inning is over. And does this logic penalize the player who walks fewer times than others or vice versa? Flawed logic. Gaff! Rather than give up at this point, let’s take a look at some of the data.

Of the 97 players with a RAWs of 100+, exactly one had the same number of Runs and Walks during the 2011 season. Kevin Youkilis had 68 Runs and 68 Walks for the only “perfect score” of 1.0 in the group. Twelve players in this group had more Walks than Runs, which takes their dRAW into the negative (less than 1.0). Here’s a look at that group:

Player Team Pos R BB dRAW RAWs ESPN Player Rater (Batter Ranking)
Pena, C CHC 1B 72 101 0.713 173 118
Bautista, J TOR RF 105 132 0.795 237 7
Swisher, N NYY RF 81 95 0.853 176 83
Santana, C CLE C 84 97 0.866 181 89
Fielder, P MIL 1B 95 107 0.888 202 15
Konerko, P CWS 1B 69 77 0.896 146 30
Votto, J CIN 1B 101 110 0.918 211 14
Werth, J WSH RF 69 74 0.932 143 105
Sanchez, G FLA 1B 72 74 0.973 146 91
Longoria, E TB 3B 78 80 0.975 158 70
McCutchen, A PIT CF 87 89 0.978 176 37
Berkman, L STL RF 90 92 0.978 182 25

It’s no surprise to see Carlos Pena lead this list on the negative side of the equation. He had a high Walk total and a relatively lower Run total. Same goes for Bautista. He lead the league in Walks, had the highest RAWs score but generated a low dRAW due to the the significant difference between his lower Runs and higher Walks.

Looking at the average batter ranking of these 12 players is 57.0 with an average RAWs of 177.6. Not bad at all for a group of players considered on the negative side of a baseball statistic.

So if we looked the the negative side of this statistic, what does the positive side (highest amount above 1.0) of this statistic look like? Let’s take a look at the top-10 dRAW players:

Player Team Pos R BB dRAW RAWs ESPN Player Rater (Batter Ranking)
Bourjos, P LAA CF 72 32 2.250 104 84
Ellsbury, J BOS CF 119 52 2.288 171 2
Aybar, E LAA SS 71 31 2.290 102 53
Reyes, J NYM SS 101 43 2.349 144 11
Hardy, J BAL SS 76 31 2.452 107 69
Castro, S CHC SS 91 35 2.600 126 23
Kendrick, H LAA 2B 86 33 2.606 119 55
Cano, R NYY 2B 104 38 2.737 142 13
Cabrera, M KC CF 102 35 2.914 137 17
Beltre, A TEX 3B 82 25 3.280 107 28

Adrian Beltre tops the list of dRAW rankings, scoring Runs at a rate of over three times the frequency of taking a Walk. This group of players seems to be filled with quite a bit of base stealers and a few free swingers. An interesting mix, for sure. But does it mean anything? Can dRAW help you pinpoint true fantasy value? The average batter ranking for these 10 players is 35.5. Hmmm, there’s value there for sure but is it predictable? Would you be drafting Aybar and Hardy in the same class as Reyes? Definitely not. Be sure to look at and play around with the entire dRAW ranks here (OpenOffice spreadsheetPDF) and let me know if you’re seeing trends or value in this new, fake statistics that I may have overlooked.

So where do we go from here? I think there is some fantasy baseball value to recognizing a players RAWs score and probably much more if your league uses on-base percentage in place of batting average (a common practice these days). I’m not sold much can be learned from a player’s dRAW value since the player has no control over the rate in which they score runs once they reach base yet have a lot of control over the frequency in which they Walk.

Have a comment or question to add to this topic? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on RAWs and dRAW. Is there a way to improve these statistics to give them true fantasy baseball value?

Have an idea for a fake statistic you’d like me to investigate in a future post? Leave a comment here or reach out to me on Twitter @DJAubain. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed messing around with the topic of Fake Statistics.

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