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Pitching by the Numbers: All the small things

We talk about big things all the time here in Pitching by the Numbers and are eager to dive into 2012 numbers at the earliest reasonable opportunity. But that time has not yet arrived.

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Kyle Lohse has done a good job of not beating himself.

But to paraphrase Dave Edmunds by way of Bruce Springsteen, "(From Small Things) Big Things One Day Come." By that I mean things about pitchers that often escape our attention because they are not directly counted in our fantasy game. I'm talking mostly hit batters, wild pitches and especially stolen bases allowed (that's mostly a pitcher stat, not a catcher stat). The pitchers who pile these things up have a harder time preventing runs and, thus, wining games. Doing them well, I believe, allows pitchers to overachieve. We're also throwing in balks, too. Errors are another factor that could be considered but I'm not comfortable with equating them with relative fielding strength so I've ignored it here.

Let's start with the guys who do the small things the best, meaning they have the lowest number of wild pitches, hit batters, balks plus steals per nine innings:

Player Team IP ERA WP HB BK SB Small Things ST/9IP
Kyle Lohse StL 188.1 3.39 1 3 0 1 5 0.24
Mark Buehrle CWS 205.1 3.59 1 2 0 3 6 0.26
Josh Tomlin Cle 165.1 4.25 3 3 0 0 6 0.33
Bartolo Colon NYY 164.1 4.00 0 3 0 5 8 0.44
Jeremy Guthrie Bal 208 4.33 0 9 0 3 12 0.52
Matt Harrison Tex 185.2 3.39 6 1 1 3 11 0.53
James Shields TB 249.1 2.82 4 5 0 6 15 0.54
Chris Carpenter StL 237.1 3.45 3 6 1 5 15 0.57
Shaun Marcum Mil 200.2 3.54 6 0 0 8 14 0.63
Joe Saunders Ari 212 3.69 3 3 0 9 15 0.64
Cliff Lee Phi 232.2 2.40 0 6 0 11 17 0.66
Bronson Arroyo Cin 199 5.07 0 6 0 9 15 0.68
Jhoulys Chacin Col 194 3.62 7 4 0 4 15 0.70
Javier Vazquez Fla 192.2 3.69 5 2 0 8 15 0.70
Derek Holland Tex 198 3.95 2 6 1 7 16 0.73
Brandon McCarthy Oak 170.2 3.32 3 0 0 11 14 0.74
Alexi Ogando Tex 169 3.51 5 7 0 2 14 0.75
Chris Volstad Fla 165.2 4.89 2 1 1 10 14 0.76
Wade Davis TB 184 4.45 6 8 0 2 16 0.78
Justin Verlander Det 251 2.40 7 3 2 10 22 0.79

Of the pitchers above, 14 of the 20 had better actual ERAs than their expected ones. The exceptions – Tomlin, Colon, Carpenter, Holland, McCarthy and Volstad. Most of the others were dramatically better than expected in preventing runs. It makes perfect sense that limiting self-inflicted wounds would be a big factor here, but it's possible that it's just a proxy for other things. Either way, though, they are worth charting.

Now on to the guys who shoot themselves in the foot the most times per nine innings.

Player Team IP ERA WP HB BK SB Small Things ST/9IP
James McDonald Pit 171 4.21 5 7 1 17 30 1.58
Aaron Harang SD 170.2 3.64 3 3 0 24 30 1.58
Philip Humber CWS 163 3.75 9 6 1 13 29 1.60
C.J. Wilson Tex 223.1 2.94 6 10 0 24 40 1.61
Luke Hochevar KC 198 4.68 7 7 2 20 36 1.64
Jason Hammel Col 170.1 4.76 8 6 1 16 31 1.64
Ricky Romero Tor 225 2.92 9 14 1 18 42 1.68
Tim Hudson Atl 215 3.22 10 15 0 16 41 1.72
Rick Porcello Det 182 4.75 12 8 0 16 36 1.78
Ervin Santana LAA 228.2 3.38 10 8 1 28 47 1.85
Mike Pelfrey NYM 193.2 4.74 2 7 2 29 40 1.86
Ubaldo Jimenez Col-Cle 188.1 4.68 8 9 0 24 41 1.96
Felix Hernandez Sea 233.2 3.47 12 7 1 31 51 1.96
Charlie Morton Pit 171.2 3.83 9 13 1 16 39 2.04
Brandon Morrow Tor 179.1 4.72 12 12 1 17 42 2.11
Josh Beckett Bos 193 2.89 6 9 0 31 46 2.15
Gavin Floyd CWS 193.2 4.37 12 11 1 23 47 2.18
Trevor Cahill Oak 207.2 4.16 15 8 0 28 51 2.21
Ted Lilly LAD 192.2 3.97 2 9 2 35 48 2.24
A.J. Burnett NYY 190.1 5.15 25 9 0 24 58 2.74

When looking at expected ERA for the pitchers above, we have more of a mixed bag. Of the 20, just 11 had higher ERAs than we would have expected. Note, though, that seven of the bottom 10 had actual ERAs worse than expected and most of those were much worse.

My feeling with pitchers is that there are comparable players when we draft or bid or trade for them. So why take the guy who is hurting himself most frequently? I'm not saying that the bottom 20 here are dogs. Of course, you want to own Felix Hernandez in a vacuum. But I'd take Cliff Lee instead at the same price or relative draft position because Lee is much more likely to beat his expected ERA for these reasons that fantasy owners don't bother tracking.
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