- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports6 days ago
If there’s one thing I’d like all my readers to do, it’s stop focusing on BABIP. It’s not a very meaningful metric in our game, as I will happily illustrate again by focusing on the much more meaningful isolated slugging allowed (ISO, slugging average minus batting average). In other words, it's not the hit but the hit quality that matters. Think about it: BABIP focuses mostly on singles, the least important hits. Those are the ones that have the highest BABIP variance, meaning that they can be chalked up more to luck than skill. But singles don’t really hurt us (by hurting our pitchers) that badly. The bigger hits do and BABIP doesn’t even factor in homers. The pushback I’ve gotten on this has been fierce since I introduced the idea of using it in 2012 to explain why Johnny Cueto is so good at preventing runs regardless of how his BABIP varied. One of the arguments is that this is some sort of tautology. Yet the preseason focus with Cueto that year was that his BABIP would surely correct so forget that great 2011 ERA. Then it did but his ERA was still great and that’s where I came in. The other argument is from the hard-core stats guys who say that ISO takes so long to normalize and is thus impossible to predict. In other words, it merely describes good pitching but what comes tomorrow for pitchers who haven’t had YEARS to prove that they are great at ISO, who knows. And even if they have proven it, their ISO can still vary widely. I’m not writing a white paper here. Whether ISO correlation meets some quant standard is not important to me. It’s binary: is a pitcher good at it or bad at it? In other words, can we expect him to be above or below average — catch the ISO tailwind with ERA or have to pitch into its headwind? One of the arguments I counter with is that if ISO takes 600 innings to become reliable (or whatever the number is purported to be) than why are relievers predictably good or bad at it every year with only a fraction of those innings? Mariano Rivera’s excellent ISO was bettable, for example. How excellent Rivera’s ISO would be may have varied significantly, but it was never going to be bad. Let’s look at this year’s leaders in ISO allowed before continuing this defense:
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
Let’s kick off our Fantasy Football by the Numbers column by looking at the quarterback position. My working assumption here is that efficiency in generating fantasy points is more projectable than volume. That’s the bonus. So if you have the efficient scorer, he doesn't need a lot of volume. However, if he gets it, look out. Conversely, the inefficient scorers like Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck are very volume reliant, so what if they happen to play this year on better defensive teams? Our stat here of fantasy points per play counts pass attempts, sacks and rushing attempts as plays. And for points it uses standard scoring (point every 20 yards passing, every 10 yards rushing, 4 points per TD pass, 6 points per TD run and minus 2 points for every pick). This is nothing new. The numbers guys are all over this stat. But I have always used yards per pass attempt as a proxy for this scoring efficiency and have found it doesn’t matter even if the quarterback generates a lot of points via his running. YPA is more handy for us as a proxy for efficiency. But to test it, let’s lay that stat over the ranking of the efficient scorers at QB and see if I’m correct that YPA is the key to unlocking efficiency not just with yards but also with all facets of QB scoring, regardless of QB running volume.
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
After tackling wins prior to taking a vacation break last week , let me explain my season-long avoidance of the save category. Here’s the key takaway/complaint: through Sunday, the 59-win Braves have generated 15 more saves than the 67-win A’s. That’s why for all his WHIP and K/9 brilliance, Sean Doolittle owners are feeling a little ripped off. Since it’s human nature to think we can predict anything, we tend to seek in drafts and in in-season trades the closers on the teams that are most successful/likely to continue winning. But clearly win totals don’t correlate that well to save totals. It’s not just the A’s who are laggards. The 47-win Astros have only 18 saves. That’s 12 less than the Diamondbacks, who have won just two more games. I’ve charted up team wins per save. The league average is 1.90. But the range is 1.49 to 2.79.Thu, Aug 214:10 PM PDTAtlanta at CincinnatiPreview Game
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports27 days ago
Wins are fantasy baseball's most frustrating statistic. “Quality starts” is no solution. But finding some other benchmark isn't much better and seems downright arbitrary. Wins defenders argue that the answer is to pick pitchers on good teams and, if you don't, that's your fault. It's a clever rationalization, but the correlation between the quality of the team and the degree to which a pitcher gets screwed out of wins is weak. Also weak is the degree to which we can reasonably assess which teams are going to be good in March. Plus, when your ERA is 4.00 or less, you should win the majority of games given the league average in runs scored. Here are the pitchers with ERAs under 4.00 with at least 10 no-decisions plus losses. Thanks to the Baseball-Reference's indispensable play index for the stats (stats through Monday).
At the unofficial and annoyingly untrue “halfway mark” of the season (we’re not even close, fellas), let’s look at the top-rated fantasy dollar values of pitchers in 12-team, mixed leagues with $260 budgets. Thanks to LetsPlay2 for the calculations.
But before we list them, I note that I, of course, strive to project post-all-star break value with the help of the best tool in our stat toolbox: (K-BB)/IP. We’re interested in seeing which elite performers (the 37 pitchers who have thus far earned $11 or more) do not have foundational strikeout and walk dominance in line with their dollar values. But, of course, many surprising performers are structurally sound and therefore good bets to continue performing well.
Let me also note my general annoyance with analysis that says that a pitcher is a fluke just because he was projected to perform much worse. I need a reason why. “Fluke” can’t be the end of the sentence. And we know that most elite performers are going to regress whether we expected them to be good or not. So this is really non-analysis.
Generating swings and misses is a very important skill for pitchers, but clearly not the only important part of pitching. Some finesse guys consistently get away with having deficit when it comes to “stuff” and some dominators like Francisco Liriano struggle even when, like this year, they are actually the most unhittable pitcher in the majors by this measure.
When you combine raw stuff with elite control, you are Clayton Kershaw or Felix Hernandez or Masahiro Tanaka — one of the game’s true aces.
What we’re trying to do here is identify upside, meaning finding the pitchers who have dominating stuff — arguably the most important attribute. The ones who are generating empty swings without a commensurate ERA or WHIP are the pitchers who are capable of making sudden dramatic surges in value when they even temporarily (like Liriano in 2013) fix their other flaws (e.g., control).
We think of the all-star game separating the first and second half of the season but that line was basically drawn this past Sunday. So what better time to look at full calendar year stats to see which players have been consistent, one way or another, but just not over a time frame we typically measure.
Here are the June 29, 2013 to June 29, 2014 leaders in (K-BB)/IP with the ERA noted, too:
Here is the entire chart.
This is out of 87 pitchers who threw at least 162 innings in the period. All of these pitchers should, by their performance in strikeouts and walks, sport winning ERAs. But you can see the wide variance that seems to have no rhyme or reason.
We talk a lot about hits and luck generally, but not enough about hit sequencing.
Let's assume that the best barometer of a pitcher's ERA is his overall batting average allowed (the larger sample) and not the relatively meager sample of the batting average allowed by a pitcher when there are runners in scoring position. Yet the smaller sample in this case is likely going to have a greater influence on ERA. Is this bad luck? Is it bad "clutch" pitching (assuming such a thing even exists)? Or is it the lack of a skill (pitching out of the stretch vs. out of the windup)? I'll investigate these questions in a bit, but first let's note the pitchers who are way better with runners in scoring position than overall and those who are way worse (through Sunday).
Here are the positive outliers, meaning way tougher/luckier/more clutch with runners in scoring position than they are overall:
- Michael Salfino at Yahoo Sports2 mths ago
Let’s isolate performance in the last month in the statistic that best predicts ERA and WHIP — (strikeouts minus walks)/innings pitched.
We’re looking for reasons to believe in pitchers who are performing well in the averages, i.e., they are also performing well in the statistic. But we’re especially looking for pitchers who are doing well in the statistic while having an inflated ERA because these ERAs can make them cheap or even free (because they've been cut).
I’d never isolate a month of performance with a hitter. And I hate chopping up samples, period. But pitchers can undergo significant changes in season due to fatigue/injury, the elimination of a nagging injury, a mechanical change, an adjustment in pitch usage or even in the development of a pitch. The possibilities are many, if not quite endless. And you know a stat is working when the reaction to most of the high achievers is, “Well, duh, we know those guys are great.” Again, we’re looking for outliers. Here’s the top 25 in the stat from May 16 through June 16: