FIRE JOE MORGAN: Phil Rogers Tinkers With Stats; 4 Dead, Logic Wounded


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Friday, November 16, 2007


Phil Rogers Tinkers With Stats; 4 Dead, Logic Wounded

This is going to be annoying to break down. But I can't ignore an article that says that ERA is three times as important as any other stat for a pitcher.

Forget "poor" Josh Beckett. If anyone got overlooked in American League Cy Young voting, it was the Los Angeles Angels' John Lackey, not the Boston Red Sox's Beckett.

Who has been whining about "poor" Josh Beckett? What are those quotes for? I am the biggest Red Sox fan in the world, and I have absolutely no problem with C.C. Sabathia winning the Cy Young award. It was the right choice.

Sabthia: 241 innings with a 1.141 WHIP, a 209/37 K/BB ratio and a 143 ERA+.
Beckett: 200.2 innings with an identical 1.141 WHIP, a 194/40 K/BB ratio, and a 145 ERA+.

An additional 40 innings with the same, excellent WHIP and a better K/BB ratio = better year. That's pretty uncontroversial.


Lackey: 224 innings with a higher 1.210 WHIP, a 179/52 K/BB ratio and a 151 ERA+.

So, better adjusted ERA than Sabathia, but fewer innings, and a significantly worse K/BB ratio (and thus higher WHIP).

This article should now pretty much be over.

Sure, if you factor in the regular season and the postseason, Beckett was the best pitcher in the majors in 2007—a combined 24-7 with a 3.00 earned-run average. It's no accident his team won the World Series.

Again, no argument from me that Beckett should not have won -- nor from any other rational human who understands that post-season stats do not count toward this voting. Sabathia > Beckett in 2007.

But the Cy Young Award, like the other awards the Baseball Writers Association of America hands out, is about getting your team into the playoffs, not carrying them once they're there. They are regular-season awards, and as such, Beckett should not have been better than third in the tight, four-pitcher race involving C.C. Sabathia (the winner by a nose), Fausto Carmona, Lackey and Beckett.

Well, now, hang on there, Sparky.

Carmona: 215 innings, a pretty pedestrian 137/61 K/BB ratio, a 1.209 WHIP (thanks to that crazy sinker thing he throws) and a 151 ERA+.

I'd say that the 60 or so more Ks and fewer walks puts Beckett's year ahead of Carmona's. Carmona's is almost identical to Lackey's, really. In fact, they're all super close. I'm not sure there's a great argument to be made that Lackey or Carmona had a better year than Beckett, except that they did throw more innings...but not many more, and Beckett allowed fewer baserunners per's probably the closest 4-man race in a long time. I'd say C.C. is the clear winner, Beckett is second, and Lackey and Carmona tie for third.

This was a fascinating vote, in large part because only one victory separated the four of them (Beckett had 20, the other three 19).

The victory total is the absolute worst possible way to compare or contrast their levels of success.

I have no problem with Sabathia winning, but Lackey would have gotten my vote if I had been voting. He led the AL with a 3.01 ERA. Carmona was second at 3.06, followed by Sabathia in fifth at 3.21 and Beckett in sixth at 3.27. No stat better tells the story for pitchers than ERA.

No stat better tells the story for pitchers than ERA.


Carmona: 3.06 (73 Earned Runs)
Lackey: 3.01 (75 Earned Runs)
Beckett: 3.27 (73 Earned Runs)
Sabathia: 3.21 (86 Earned Runs)

This is not a story. This is simply a coarse measure of runs scored, which can be affected by relief pitchers. How many of these runs were inherited by relievers who had bad days? How many other runs were saved by relief pitchers who had good games? The story of ERA (not even park adjusted, for goodness sake?) is a fairy tale with a morally ambiguous ending. It's a Golden Book in a dentist's office with 6 pages ripped out by a hyperactive kid. It's a Richard Bachman novel. It's a terrible story.

WHIP, on the other hand, for example, measures an individual pitcher's effectiveness per inning. That's better, for a lot of reasons which should be self-evident.***

For the sake of argument, I put together a simple formula to compare the top four Cy Young vote-getters. It ranks them among each other in victories, losses, ERA, innings and strikeouts. Because I think ERA is the most important, I've given it twice the weight. That formula gives Sabathia a slight edge over Lackey and a significant edge over Beckett and Carmona, who would be tied for third.

I have created a similar formula for judging the viability of the Democratic Presidential candidates. It ranks them among each other in health care plans, economic proposals, interest in aliens, and foreign policy. Because I think interest in aliens is the most important, I have given it twice the weight. That formula gives Dennis Kucinich a slight edge over Clinton, and a significant edge over Edwards and Obama.

If you weighed ERA three times as heavily as the other four stats, you would have a tie between Sabathia and Lackey, with Beckett dropping to a clear fourth.

If you weighed interest in aliens three times as heavily as the other stats, you would have a tie with Kucinich and Alf.

Sabathia's edge over the other guys comes down to leading the league innings and strikeouts.

Innings and strikeouts? What kind of stupid ways are those to measure the effectiveness of a pitcher, whose job is to throw as many innings as possible, and whose best possible outcome in any one at bat is a strikeout? Talk to me when you start weighing Skewed Angle of Cap Brim three times as heavily as strikeouts. Then you get Sabathia in a cake walk. Or Number of Shark Teeth on Necklace 3x as highly as Ks, which gives the award -- for the ninth year in a row -- to Turk Wendell.

That achievement may have contributed to the Indians not going to the World Series, as Sabathia and Carmona clearly wore down during the championship series against Boston.

Sorry -- real quick -- thought we weren't supposed to take anything that happened in the postseason into account, here, birdbrain. Remember when you wrote this -- "the Cy Young Award, like the other awards the Baseball Writers Association of America hands out, is about getting your team into the playoffs, not carrying them once they're there" -- like eleven seconds ago?

Beckett looked the freshest of the Cy Young contenders in October—no wonder; he barely threw 200 innings during the regular season, the lowest total.

Quick recap of the insinuations of the last two sentences: Sabathia threw the most innings in the regular seaosn? He does not deserve the Cy Young Award more than John Lackey, because throwing that many innings led to him being worn down in the post-season. Also, Josh Beckett does not deserve the Cy Young Award because he threw the fewest innings in the regular season, leading him to be fresh in the post-season.

Take that, logic!

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posted by Anonymous  # 12:28 PM
Been reading some discussion that the more SABR you go, the better Carmona looks. In VORP, for instance, it goes:


In SNVA (Support-Neutral Value Added), the ranking is:


And then if you do something crazy like look at SNLVAR (Support-Neutral Lineup-Adjusted Value Added Over Replacement):

Dude. That shit is nerdy. And I love stats.
*** Dave poses an excellent question:

Why mention the influence of relievers on a pitcher's ERA but not the influence of fielders on a pitcher's WHIP?

I'll tell you why, Dave. Because I'm a dummy, that's why.

For what it's worth, if you neutralize each pitcher's defense DIPS-style, you find some interesting shizz, which is this:

Sabathia: 3.09
Beckett: 3.04
Lackey: 3.48
Carmona: 3.92

Here's the link.
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