Getting Dirty with StatsIntro | Batting 1 – Linear Weights | Batting 2 – wOBA and wRC+

Lets continue Getting Dirty With Stats! We’ve already covered an introduction, which is important as I lay out my goals for the series. We’ve also talked about hitters, so now we move on to pitchers.

As with hitters, we’ll start by figuring out what things pitchers are and aren’t responsible for. These include the home park a pitcher plays in, which can vary in size and conditions, as well as his league, which varies in talent level. Both are important variables we accounted for when looking at hitters and we’ll do the same for pitchers.

Another thing we’ll need to think about is the defense behind them. Pitchers spend long periods of time with the same or a similar defense. Since defenses vary in skill levels and shouldn’t affect the way we evaluate pitchers, we’ll need to consider that.

Another key difference between hitters and pitchers is the role of luck on what happens to balls put into play.

Here’s one of the greatest and most controversial discoveries of the recent statistical revolution: pitchers have much less control over balls in play than hitters.

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We all know the ‘WIN’ is an archaic stat.  It is a remainder of a by-gone time, when pitchers finished what they started, and bullpens consisted of 4 guys plus whoever wasn’t starting that day.  In the era of LOOGYs, long men, short men, set-up men, and closers, lots and lots of starters make it through only five or maybe six innings.  The WIN is more of a team effort, not so much the measure of how one man’s prowess created the result.

Still, some wins are more deserving than others.  To prove that point, let’s take a look at Padres starting pitcher victories in 2013, using Bill James’ Game Score.

For the unfamiliar, here’s how you calculate Game Score:

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“Dana, I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, “Where are we going?” And it starts to get better.” – Calvin Traeger, Sports Night

Towards the end of the second and last season of the great, short-lived Aaron Sorkin dramedy Sports Night, fictional sports network CSC is bought out by a holding company named Quo Vadimus, owned by the character quoted above. Quo Vadimus is Latin for “where are we going?”, a question Padres fans should be starting to ask themselves as we wind down the 2013 season and start looking ahead. In a series of posts, I will ask that question and hope to provide some answers. I’ve already discussed the outfield and infield. This installment will focus on who should stay, go, and be added to the Padres starting rotation.

The Current State Of The Padres Rotation

You can’t really talk about the current state of the rotation without first discussing where it was to start the season. Three of the five members of the opening day rotation are gone; Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis to injury and Edinson Volquez to the Dodgers after the Padres designated him for assignment. Only one member of the rotation has stayed in it from beginning to end: the team’s most reliable starter, and at times its stopper, Eric Stults. Read More…

Every team goes through a bad patch. It seems ours goes through more than most.  Not all losing streaks, or periods of mediocre play for that matter, are created equal.  For instance, there can be streaks where the team is losing, but its due to maddening circumstances.  A key error late in the game leads to a loss.  A normally reliable relief pitcher coughs up the lead.  The team gets to extra innings but loses a lot.  Signs that even though they are losing, they are competitive.

Then there are those other games.  You turn it off in the third because it’s already 7-1. Pitchers can’t find the strike zone.  The team is oh-for-72, seemingly, with runners in scoring position.  The team’s chances of overcoming a deficit are the same as finding a $100M lottery ticket in the street.  Fans are resigned to losing once the team falls behind by any amount.

Where does this streak fit?  Let’s take a look at their current 10-game losing streak, rating each game by a highly technical process and assigning grades of ‘never in it‘, ‘fought valiantly but lost‘, or ‘should have won‘.

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“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence;

then success is sure. “

– Mark Twain

As I sit here and write this the Padres are exactly at .500, 3 games back of 1st, and are about to start a 4-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jason Marquis is starting and I’ll likely have to update this opening paragraph to account for whatever it is he does. But more on Marquis and his black magic later. (UPDATE: Jason Marquis threw another solid game tonight helping the Padres beat Los Angeles 6-3. His line: 6IP, 2ER, 1BB, 5SO. So an un-Marquis type performance with a very Marquis-like result. At least Marquis-like as of late.)

The Padres began the season with an Over/Under line of 74.5 wins. Which means that Vegas essentially was saying the Padres were roughly a 73-75 win team (the idea being that Vegas wants equal amount of bets on both sides of that line). Jonah Keri of Grantland.com predicted 72 wins and in his first “The 30” article of the season had the Padres as the 2nd worst team in baseball…behind Miami. 

For awhile, these predictions seemed accurate. The Padres, as has been well documented, got off to a 5-15 start with no sign that they could pull out of that slide.

But then they did and here we are.

Which begs two questions for me? Have (and should) expectations changed for the 2013 Padres? How would we define success for this team as of today? The second question is difficult to answer as many people have many different definitions of “success.” So we’ll deal with that first.

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Jason Marquis pitched the Padres to victory over the Dodgers last night allowing 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. Included in Corey Brock’s write-up of the game, I found this:

“He’s done what we ask of our starting pitchers,” Black said. “He’s hung in there and given us a chance to win. He’s a bulldog.”

A Bulldog? As someone who grew up with Bulldogs, I don’t know about the use of this as an analogy.

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Jason Marquis took the bump on a windy Los Angeles evening and absolutely stuck it to the Dodgers. I make it sound like it happened long ago, in another time, another place, but it was actually last night. Man does it feel weird to type those words.

Jason Marquis was great last night. He struck out 5, gave up 3 hits, and only walked 1 batter while (perhaps most importantly) pitching into the 8th inning. He even retired the order 1-2-3 in the 1st inning which I don’t think had happened yet in 2013.

After making it through two outs in the 8th, Marquis gave way to Andrew Cashner who needed 67 pitches (7 actually) to retire Mark Ellis on a long fly ball to LF. And that’s what this is really about. It’s about Andrew Cashner and his ability to pump fastballs at high speeds. It’s about Andrew Cashner making things exciting, but also interesting (in a bad way). It’s about Andrew Cashner dressing the deer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was drinking last night. So all of this made sense to me in the moment. Today? Eh, I think it still does.

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