Tuesday, July 5, 2011

NL Pitching WAR All Stars

by Mike Z

Similar to position players, WAR still attempts to determine overall value of pitchers. Again, I'm not saying that these are the players that should have been on the team or that the teams should be picked based on WAR. I'm doing this as a different way to evaluate players and to generate some thought and discussion. All stats include up to the end of games July 4th via Fangraphs.

SP 1 - Roy Halladay - 4.7 WAR
SP 2 - Cole Hamels - 3.8 WAR
SP 3 - Clayton Kershaw - 3.6 WAR
SP 4 - Cliff Lee - 3.5 WAR
SP 5 - Daniel Hudson - 3.2 WAR
SP 6 - Tim Lincecum - 3.2 WAR
SP 7 - Jordan Zimmermann - 3.0 WAR
SP 8 - Madison Bumgarner - 2.9 WAR

SP 1 - Roy Halladay - 4.7 WAR
SP 2 - Cole Hamels - 3.8 WAR
SP 3 - Clayton Kershaw - 3.6 WAR
SP 4 - Cliff Lee - 3.2 WAR
SP 5 - Tim Lincecum - 3.2 WAR
SP 6 - Matt Cain - 2.6 WAR
SP 7 - Jair Jurrjens - 2.2 WAR
SP 8 - Ryan Vogelsong - 1.4 WAR

Is it really that surprising that the 3 of the top 4 are Philles, with Halladay just crushing everybody? He's 0.4 WAR ahead of CC for leauge lead, and on pace for the best season, according to WAR, of his career. His strikeout rate is at his highest at 8.65 K/9 and his walk rate is at 1.12 BB/9, which is only 0.04 higher than his career best. His xFIP is essentially identical to his ERA (2.41 v.s 2.44) so his ERA is right in line, and his BABIP is .302 as well, so nothing he's doing can not really be attributed to any "luck". The man isn't human, that's all there is to it.

The last couple on the list is a big reason why I find WAR and other SABR stuff so interesting. After Daniel Hudson went to Arizona after being traded from the White Sox, he was lights out, but his numbers superficially make it look like he's dropped off after his breakout. His ERA this season is an uninspiring 3.75 this year. In his first 4 starts, he gave up 17 runs and walked 12 batters in 4 games. But since then, he's been fantastic, he's had a 2.6 ERA since then. Overall, his xFIP of 3.45 indicates he's pitching better than his numbers indicate. His walk rate has dropped from 2.55 BB/9 last year to 2.03 BB/9 this year. You could make a great case for his inclusion.

Jordan Zimmermann is an interesting case because he's been performing like an ace this year with a 2.62 ERA and with a 76/24 K/BB ratio. However, his xFIP is 3.68, indicating some luck. His BABIP is a low .281 and his HR/FB% is a ridiculously tiny 2.9%. That HR rate just has to jump soon, as league average normalizes around 11% every single year.

Now onto the debacle. Ryan Vogelsong is a cool story, pitching lights out after working his way back from pitching in Japan after being absolutely awful with SF and Pittsburgh before that. That said, he has no reason to be near this team. His BABIP is only .256 so he's due for some regression. With the luck he's getting with a skewed BABIP, high left on base percentage, low HR/FB rate and low ground ball percentage, he's bound to come back to earth. All of that goes into his current xFIP of 3.62, about 1.5 higher than his ERA. Plus, he's had at least 5 fewer starts than any other starter (he doesn't have enough starts yet to qualify for statistics yet). Other pitchers that have a WAR of 1.4: Ryan Dempster, Charlie Morton, Paul Maholm, Chris Narveson. There were plenty of better picks than Bochy taking one of his own.

Relief 1 - Craig Kimbrel - 1.9 WAR
Relief 2 - John Axford - 1.3 WAR
Relief 3 - Jonny Venters - 1.3 WAR
Relief 4 - Sean Marshall - 1.3 WAR
Relief 5 - Joel Hanrahan - 1.2 WAR

Relief 1 - Jonny Venters - 1.3 WAR
Relief 2 - Joel Hanrahan - 1.2 WAR
Relief 3 - Heath Bell - 0.8 WAR
Relief 4 - Tyler Clippard - 0.6 WAR
Relief 5 - Brian Wilson - 0.6 WAR

Because the sample sizes for these guys are so small (52 innings pitched is the high), it's tough to use WAR to compare them. All this really shows is that the save stat is usually overvalued. Craig Kimbrel, Heath Bell and Joel Hanrahan are tied for the league lead with 25 saves, and there's there's a sizable gap between the three. Kimbrel's big lead is driven by his 67 strikeouts, tops for all relievers. There are some guys with some nice seasons like Carlos Marmol or Mike Adams that you could add instead of Clippard or Wilson, but there isn't too much to argue about. It is interesting though that WAR agrees with most analysts that Hanranan and Kimbrel have possibly been the top 2 closers this season.

I'll be out of town for the next few days, so it might be a while, but I'll definitely be back to do WAR for the AL all stars as well. Until then, you can use the time to try and figure out a reason Vogelsong deserves to be on the team. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Bochy explained why Vogelsong is on the team. He is a great story and if he pitched enough innings he would be second in era. Frankly I agree with you, good story but does not belong on the all-star team. I'd like to call Bochy out, but shit like this happens every year with managers looking out for their own. Torre used to be the absolute worst with it when he managed All-Star teams. Its a little surprising Ron Washington isn't getting more grief for taking CJ Wilson over CC Sabathia, although I dont think you could go wrong with either. In Vogelsong's case, there were plenty of better options both as starters and relievers.