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.


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.

What to Read Next