Archive for the ‘Stat of the Week’ Category

Stat of the Week: Relief Pitcher Leaderboards

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Context is critically important in evaluating relievers. Beyond just the obvious requirement for a reliever to be deployed with a small lead at the end of a game to earn a save, different relievers face all kinds of more subtle differences in the difficulty of their relief appearances in order to earn saves and other good statistics. Pulling from The 2016 Bill James Handbook, here are a few leaderboards that provide a window into some greater context for relievers from 2015 than what saves alone can provide.

Tough Saves Leaders, 2015
Player Tough Saves
Cody Allen 7
Trevor Rosenthal 4
Dellin Betances 3
Zach Britton 3
Glen Perkins 3
Huston Street 3
Jeurys Familia 3
Brad Ziegler 3


Cody Allen finished outside the top 10 of relievers with 34 saves in 2015, but no one came close to his total of seven Tough Saves. A save is considered “tough” if the relief pitcher enters the game with the tying run on base. Many clubs are willing only to bring in their closers at the start of the ninth inning, but the Indians turned to Allen to help them out of many different jams this season, and he delivered.

Relief Opp On-base Plus Slugging Leaders, 2015
Min. 50 IP
Player Opp OPS
Wade Davis .451
Andrew Miller .475
Dellin Betances .510
Kenley Jansen .513
Brad Ziegler .524


While many of the best relievers are consistently used as their teams’ closers, some setup men are also among the best relievers in baseball. Dellin Betances of the Yankees is one such example. Batters had just a .510 opponent on-base plus slugging against him, better than all but two closers. Meanwhile, his teammate Andrew Miller finished second and new Yankee Aroldis Chapman finished eighth.

Reliever Leverage Index Leaders, 2015
Min. 50 IP
Player Leverage Index
Carson Smith 2.12
Huston Street 2.07
Trevor Rosenthal 2.06
Hector Rondon 2.03
Fernando Rodney 2.01

Tough Saves provide a piece of the reality that not all saves are created equal. Another realization of that concept is leverage index, which measures how critical each situation in a game is based on the possible changes in win expectancy. Just because a closer is used at the end of a game does not mean he is used at the most critical point, but because teams tend to rely on closers in close games, the five relievers with the highest average leverage index in 2015 were all closers, at least for part of the season. The leader, Carson Smith, is also the most interesting name for this offseason since he was recently traded to the Red Sox. Similar to the Yankees, the Red Sox appear to have committed a lot of resources to solidifying the back of their bullpen. Everyone is eager to follow the blueprint established by the World Series champion Royals.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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Who Will Be The 2015 Statistical Leaders?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

by John Dewan

In addition to our projected Defensive Runs Saved leaders, which we highlighted in a Stat of the Week a few weeks ago and will be expounded upon in The Fielding Bible—Volume IV to be released on March 1, we provide a spring update to the Bill James Projections each year to account for players who have changed teams and gained or lost apparent playing time as teams have put together their rosters. That update will also be released on March 1, so let’s look at which hitters and pitchers are projected to lead baseball in various categories.

First, here are the projected hitting leaders:

Projected Hitting Stat Leaders, 2015
Stat Player Projected Total
AVG Miguel Cabrera .321
Yasiel Puig .316
Jose Altuve .316
HR Giancarlo Stanton 40
Jose Abreu 38
George Springer 38
RBI Miguel Cabrera 123
Jose Abreu 121
Paul Goldschmidt 115
Runs Mike Trout 131
Mookie Betts 112
Paul Goldschmidt 107

A few of the usual suspects like Miguel Cabrera and Paul Goldschmidt make their way back on to the projected leaderboards, but the 2015 leaders also have some new blood. Jose Abreu was a star in his first season in MLB, smashing 36 home runs and knocking in 107 runners despite a DL stint that held him to 145 games. This year, we like Abreu to exceed those numbers in a full, healthy season.

George Springer hit 20 home runs in his first major league action in 2014 in only 345 plate appearances. We think he’ll come close to doubling his playing time and home run total in 2015. And while Mike Trout has a healthy lead in projected runs scored, we expect Mookie Betts to play well and benefit from hitting atop the powerful Red Sox lineup in route to scoring 112 runs.

Projected Pitching Stat Leaders, 2015
Stat Player Projected Total
Wins Clayton Kershaw 21
Adam Wainwright 17
Felix Hernandez 16
Stephen Strasburg 16
Saves Trevor Rosenthal 49
Craig Kimbrel 47
Fernando Rodney 47
Aroldis Chapman 47
ERA Clayton Kershaw 2.37
Michael Pineda 2.74
Matt Harvey 2.84
K Yu Darvish 248
Clayton Kershaw 245
Stephen Strasburg 237

Clayton Kershaw will lead both leagues in wins and ERA but fall three strikeouts short of the MLB triple crown for pitchers based on our projections. He’s amazing. He’s joined by other elite starters including Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, and Stephen Strasburg at the heads of those lists.

The ERA leaders are particularly interesting. Behind Kershaw, both Michael Pineda and Matt Harvey are coming back from injuries. Pineda was outstanding in 76.1 innings last season, maintaining a 1.89 ERA and a miniscule 0.8 walks per nine innings. He’s been great whenever he’s been healthy in his career, but unfortunately, the healthy stints have been few and far between. Harvey is coming back from Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss all of the 2014 season.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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Are Defensive Runs Saved Predictive?

Thursday, January 1st, 2015


by John Dewan

Defensive analytics have grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade. At Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), we eat, sleep and breathe defense, but there is always more to learn. A recent research project uncovered some remarkable new information.

One of the public perceptions has been that a player needs three full seasons before his defensive metrics provide a true indication of his defensive abilities. That has been my own personal rule of thumb, though I’ve known there is some reliability to sample sizes smaller than three years.

Based on the new research, BIS has found that Defensive Runs Saved based on as small a sample size as 350 innings in the field (about a quarter of the season) produces reliable results. This is a very significant finding.

The research produced another significant finding. Defensive Runs Saved is a better predictor than many other statistical measures in baseball even over limited samples. Most notably, DRS is a better predictor of future performance than batting average and OPS with partial season data.

We’ll have more on this in the upcoming book, The Fielding Bible—Volume IV, but here is a table that summarizes the results. We use the statistic called the correlation coefficient to show how predictive each statistic is—it produces a number between -1 and 1, with numbers near zero meaning no predictability and numbers near -1 and 1 meaning high predictability.

Correlation Coefficients of AVG, OPS, and DRS
Statistic 350 Innings 700 Innings
Batting Average 0.46 0.47
OPS 0.52 0.51
DRS 0.55 0.59


As you can see from the table, DRS is more predictive than batting average and OPS after just 350 innings. The same is true if you increase the samples to 700 innings.

In the study, we ran correlations of three years of defensive data versus the subsequent year’s DRS totals for position players. The first used 350 innings for DRS and 175 at-bats for batting average and OPS—both about one fourth of an MLB season—over both samples. The second used 700 innings and 350 at-bats. The full explanation of the study of the predictive power of Defensive Runs Saved as well as the rest of our latest defensive research can be found in the upcoming Fielding Bible—Volume IV, which will be released in early spring of 2015.

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Mark Buehrle – One of the Most Durable Pitchers of All Time

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Cy Young, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Christy Mathewson. And Mark Buehrle. That’s an amazing list. How does Mark Buerhrle get on that list?

In recent years, baseball has moved more and more toward specialization. In the early 1900s, starters would routinely finish the games they started, often throwing every fourth day. Cy Young, the pitcher perhaps most famous for his rubber arm, topped 40 starts and 400 innings in multiple seasons. Now, the league leader in innings barely eclipses half of that total.

That’s what makes Mark Buehrle such an incredible pitcher. He has two no-hitters to his credit, but he is not known as a dominant pitcher. His 3.81 career ERA is definitely solid, but he has only received Cy Young votes in one of his 15 years in the majors. He just keeps his team in every game he pitches, game after game after game. Buehrle is a throwback to those early days of baseball. He never misses any time, which is why he has started at least 30 games for 14 consecutive seasons.

We know that Buehrle stands out among his contemporaries, but where does he stack up compared to pitchers like Cy Young through the entire history of baseball?

Most Consecutive Seasons with 30+ Starts
Pitcher Streak (Years) Time Frame
Cy Young 19 1891-1909
Warren Spahn 17 1947-1963
Gaylord Perry 15 1966-1980
Christy Mathewson 14 1901-1914
Mark Buehrle 14 2001-2014
Greg Maddux 13 1996-2008
Livan Hernandez 13 1998-2010
Steve Carlton 13 1968-1980
Phil Niekro 13 1968-1980
Tom Seaver 13 1967-1979
Mickey Lolich 13 1964-1976


It’s no surprise to see Young in the top spot with 19 consecutive seasons of 30 or more starts. However, it looks like the expansion era of the 1960s is even more popular than the turn of the previous century. Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, and Mickey Lolich—6 of the 11 starters with at least 13 consecutive 30-start seasons—all touched the 1960s during their streaks. Livan Hernandez and Greg Maddux are the only starters besides Buehrle from the current era who made the list, although Maddux’s teammate Tom Glavine was one of three starters who just missed with 12 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, but for the 1994 work stoppage that limited Maddux and Glavine to 25 starts each, they may well have ended up with incredible streaks of 21 seasons (1988-2008) and 18 seasons (1990-2007), respectively.

Buehrle is already tied for fourth place in MLB history with his 14 consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Buehrle is still just 35 years old and is showing no decline in performance. He has half a decade to go to reach Young, but it’s not inconceivable that he could reach that total, especially since he does not rely on big velocity to be effective. If he does break the record, it will be in 2020 when Buehrle is 41 years old.

I had my idea for this topic because of a fascinating article Bill James recently wrote on Rotation Emperors, which you can read with a subscription to Bill James Online. Rather than look at pitchers on the season-level, Bill looks at consecutive-start streaks. On that list, Buehrle became the current Rotation Emperor when Justin Verlander missed a start in late August of this season. Buehrle currently has 228 consecutive starts, which dates back to September of 2007.

What’s interesting is that Buehrle did not miss a start then because of an injury. Instead, manager Ozzie Guillen skipped Buehrle to allow rookie John Danks to get a start off the DL; the White Sox were well out of the race, so he was simply looking at his young pitcher to help plan for the 2008 season. That snapped a 224-game streak Buehrle had entering that rotation turn, which dated back to his sophomore season in 2001, his first season as a full-time starter. Had Buehrle’s streak not been snapped in 2007, his active streak would be 452 consecutive games. That would have been the longest streak, by far, of any pitcher Bill studied, going back to 1955 where Bill started his list! The player with the longest streak Bill studied was Jim Bunning, who had a streak of 337 consecutive starts end in 1968. That’s almost 50 years ago.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,

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Pitchers with the Best and Worst Run Support

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Thankfully, the baseball community has moved beyond judging pitchers solely by their won-lost record. Last season, Clayton Kershaw took home the NL Cy Young despite having three fewer wins than Adam Wainwright. More famously, Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young in 2010 with just a 13-12 record. However, those were extreme cases where pitchers had major advantages in other measures of pitching performance, notably ERA. Since Hernandez’s Cy Young, the AL wins leader has won the Cy Young three consecutive seasons. Wins clearly remain a factor in many people’s evaluations.

Of course, pitchers who perform well tend to earn more wins than those who do not, but there are still inputs to those wins that are out of the pitchers’ control. The primary factor is run support, which Baseball Info Solutions calculates as the number of runs an offense scores while a pitcher is in the game prorated over nine innings. In 2010, the Mariners scored just 3.10 runs per nine in Hernandez’s starts, which was the second lowest total among qualified starters. That’s 3.03 runs fewer than the Yankees scored for C.C. Sabathia (a 21-game winner) per nine that season!

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pitchers in 2014 who have seen the best and worst run support. First, here are the starters with the best run support this season:

Best Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
C.J. Wilson, Angels 6.55
Jorge de la Rosa, Rockies 6.31
Colby Lewis, Rangers 5.97
Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles 5.96
Madison Bumgarner, Giants 5.87

C.J. Wilson leads the way with an average of 6.55 runs of support per start. The Angels actually lead baseball with 744 runs this season, so they were the best bet to have a pitcher at the top of the list. Teammate Jered Weaver just missed the top five with 5.80 runs of support per nine.

Like Wilson, Jorge de la Rosa benefits from an offense that scores a lot of runs. In his case, it’s the Rockies, who have the third most runs in baseball with 700. In contrast, Colby Lewis is a surprise. The Rangers are 20th in runs scored, so Lewis actually received much more run support than the average Rangers’ starter. But Lewis has been unable to take advantage of his good fortune. With a 5.12 ERA, which is not far below his 5.97 runs of support per nine, Lewis has compiled a 10-13 record.

Wei-Yin Chen and Madison Bumgarner don’t often need their exceptional run support. Chen has the 10th lowest walk rate among qualified starters this season (1.66 walks per nine), and Bumgarner has the 12th highest strikeout rate (9.17 strikeouts per nine). That has led them to a 3.58 and 2.91 ERA, respectively. Unsurprisingly, they are tied for sixth and tied for third in baseball in wins.

Here are the starters with the worst run support:

Worst Run Support, 2014
Player Average Run Support
Nathan Eovaldi, Marlins 2.89
Eric Stults, Padres 3.04
Francisco Liriano, Pirates 3.09
Alex Wood, Braves 3.16
Yovani Gallardo, Brewers 3.29

Nathan Eovaldi of the Marlins sets the low bar with 2.89 runs of support per nine. That seems to be a bit of an outlier since the Marlins are middle of the pack with 613 runs scored. They do not hold a candle to the Padres in that respect, however. The Padres have scored just 489 runs this season. That is 255 runs fewer than the league-leading Angels and 61 runs fewer than the Braves, who are second to last. With such an anemic offense, Padres’ starters are prominent at or near the bottom of the list. Eric Stults has had the second lowest run support, and Ian Kennedy just missed the list with 3.36 runs per nine.

The Braves may be substantially better on offense than the Padres, but Alex Wood and Julio Teheran have not benefited from that. Wood has the fourth lowest run support with 3.16 runs per start, and Teheran is in the bottom 12, as well.

Francisco Liriano and Yovani Gallardo are the opposite of Colby Lewis. The Pirates have the 8th most runs and the Brewers have the 13th most runs in baseball this season, but both pitchers are in the bottom five in run support per nine. Charlie Morton (3.72 run support per nine) of the Pirates is the only other qualified Pirates or Brewers starter with less than 4.00 runs per nine of support.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®,”

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