Dave · May 4, 2005 at 9:47 am · Filed Under Mariners 

So, yesterday, I’m having another conversation about the M’s with one of the two scouts I quoted during last week’s post on Miguel Olivo, and he made an interesting assertion. We were talking about the offensive struggles of the M’s, and he noted that seemingly every time he looked at a box score, we were getting shut down by one all-star hurler or the next. Santana, Radke, Harden, Sabathia, Buehrle, etc… He thought that we’d faced better pitchers than the rest of the league, and it was making the M’s offense look worse than it really is.

Thanks to one of the many reports available at Baseball Prospectus, I realized I could actually verify if this was true or not. BP has a batter’s quality of pitcher’s faced report which estimates, well, exactly what it says; the quality of the pitchers the batter has had to face to date.

The American League average is .260/.325/.404, or a .729 OPS. If the M’s really have faced tougher pitching than average, you would expect that to show up team wide. I was expecting to find evidence to refute my friend’s claim. Well, here’s the table:

Ichiro Suzuki	SEA	122	0.237	0.310	0.349	0.659
Adrian Beltre	SEA	114	0.240	0.314	0.352	0.666
Randy Winn	SEA	113	0.234	0.311	0.349	0.660
Bret Boone	SEA	111	0.241	0.318	0.362	0.680
Raul Ibanez	SEA	110	0.238	0.315	0.358	0.673
Jeremy Reed	SEA	103	0.239	0.315	0.352	0.667
Richie Sexson	SEA	102	0.244	0.323	0.361	0.684
Wilson Valdez	SEA	84	0.236	0.313	0.348	0.661
Miguel Olivo	SEA	70	0.238	0.315	0.348	0.663
Dan Wilson	SEA	25	0.255	0.332	0.383	0.715
W. Bloomquist	SEA	21	0.229	0.294	0.345	0.639
Scott Spiezio	SEA	15	0.211	0.281	0.313	0.594
Greg Dobbs	SEA	14	0.200	0.271	0.294	0.565
Shin-Soo Choo	SEA	3	0.185	0.293	0.300	0.593

He’s right. Not one single Mariner hitter has faced pitching that would even be considered “below average” to date. Collectively, the pitchers the M’s have faced have been the equivalent of Roy Oswalt. Or, last year’s Jake Peavy or Curt Schilling. In fact, the M’s have faced the toughest pitching in baseball this year. It’s not even really that close, honestly.

This will almost certainly come closer to regressing to the mean as the year goes on. Teams won’t face equal pitching all year, but the disparity won’t be this large. As the M’s face weaker pitchers, expect the offense to improve, even if the hitters on the M’s roster don’t change one bit.


46 Responses to “Competition”

  1. Dave on May 4th, 2005 10:12 am

    Sorry about the table. I don’t know how to do them correctly.

  2. Troy on May 4th, 2005 10:15 am

    No apologies necessary. This is great stuff – the kind of stuff you don’t get anywhere else. Thank you for posting this. I hope it quiets some of the Chicken Littles out there, although I know that’s unlikely.

  3. Shoeless Jose on May 4th, 2005 10:19 am

    Wow, that’s quite astonishing. Have you looked at the other numbers to verify that “no other team” has faced such quality pitching? Are there team averages available? For example, how much of the Yankees’ problems can be attributed to this? With the possible exception of Moyer, they’re certainly not going to be facing above average pitching when they play the M’s….

  4. PLU Tim on May 4th, 2005 10:29 am

    Dave, I love your optimism. However, a high school pitcher would smoke Beltre, Olivo and Valdez right now. Beltre and Olivo don’t even consider where the ball is before they swing. That’s just bad bad bad.

  5. Tom on May 4th, 2005 10:31 am

    How are these “quality of pitchers faced” numbers calculated? I’m wondering how much of this could be due to the fact that pitchers that get to pitch against the mariners benefit in their stats… Over a full season this probably isn’t much of a factor, but after just 20 or 30 games stuff like this could be noticeable.

  6. Baltimore M's Fan on May 4th, 2005 11:03 am

    Excellent stuff Dave, why do I even bother reading the paper or watching ESPN?

  7. MZak on May 4th, 2005 11:07 am

    How is it that Harden is a great pitcher when he shuts down the M’s but looks very average against his next two opponents, Chicago and Texas? Radke? He’s hardly All-Star material this year. Buehrle smoked the M’s and then gave up 3,7 and 4 runs to DET, OAK and KC(!). Enough of the good pitchers who’ve manipulated the M”s and then looked human against pretty much everyone else. Let’s look at Lackey, Rogers and Cliff Lee who have equally dumfounded them. Let’s put away the stats for a moment and review the tape. Beltre looked silly out there with the bases loaded. I was obvious after the 2nd pitch that he hadn’t a clue about what was coming next. You knew he was going to strikeout.

  8. MacMariner on May 4th, 2005 11:09 am

    The question is though, is it poor Mariners hitting that has helped to make these pitchers look good or is it really GREAT pitching.

    We have been facing the Byrd’s, and Lackeys of the world too and making them look like kings.

    Bad hitting=Good pitching.

    Chicken or egg. Just a thought.

  9. Brett Farve on May 4th, 2005 11:13 am

    Wouldn’t you have to eliminate the M’s stats from all of the pitchers’ lines before running the comparison? Ie, how have the pitchers fared against the rest of the league? Great work, though …

  10. Kris Gray on May 4th, 2005 11:14 am

    I can’t really understand the stats from your table either, but I totaly agree with the last few posters. We make other pitchers look great.

  11. Dave on May 4th, 2005 11:25 am

    Sigh. People will believe what they want to believe in the face of any evidence the contrary. I don’t have the energy to try to convince you that the truth is true. If you want to believe that the M’s are making “ordinary” pitchers like Mark Buehrle and Rich Harden look good, that’s your perrogative.

    Have you looked at the other numbers to verify that “no other team” has faced such quality pitching?

    Yep. Initially, I ran an average, than realized that it was slightly off because I didn’t weight the average, so I reran the numbers. The M’s are still #1 in hardest pitchers faced, though it’s not quite the runaway it was earlier. Here’s our division, for those curious:

    M’s: .666
    Angels: .698
    A’s: .705
    Rangers: .718

    The A’s offense has been far worse than the M’s so far this year. Despite that, they’re 13th in toughness of opponents pitchers. The Pirates have the worst offense in baseball, and they have faced the 10th easiest collection of opponents pitching.

    For example, how much of the Yankees’ problems can be attributed to this?

    None. The Yankees have faced the third easiest competition so far. Only Baltimore and Houston have faced collectively worse pitching than the Yanks.

  12. Jeff on May 4th, 2005 11:27 am

    This is great stuff, Dave. Thanks.

  13. Paul Covert on May 4th, 2005 11:27 am

    Clay Davenport’s metrics on the BP Adjusted Standings don’t seem to agree. He shows Seattle with an (AEQR-EQR) of 6, meaning that he estimates that they would have scored an extra six runs with average opposing pitching. This translates to “above average opposing pitching, but not the toughest”; the Reds top out with 17 runs of (AEQR-ERR), followed by the Royals and Phillies at 13.

    I’m not personally committing myself to this view, mind you; Davenport’s metrics aren’t open-source, nor have I had the time to review Dave’s counter-claims in this post. It’s just that my first attempt to verify Dave’s assertion didn’t hold up. It’s an interesting topic, though, and quite possibly worthy of more detailed study if I had the time.

  14. Paul Covert on May 4th, 2005 11:30 am

    Arrgh– and now the BP stats pages go offline, so I can’t look at the Opposing Pitcher report. Will try to get to it later. Sorry.

  15. Dave on May 4th, 2005 11:35 am


    To be honest, I don’t trust Clay’s stuff that much. Especially since AEQR supposedly adjusts for “opponents pitching and defense”, and I’m pretty leary of Clay’s defensive numbers.

    All I did was take the BQPF report, sort by team, and run a weighted average. I wouldn’t necessarily say these are “my numbers”. I initially ran the report thinking I’d have evidence to show Scout X that his feeling about the M’s facing tougher pitching was incorrect. I was pretty surprised to see that the evidence backed up his claim.

  16. MZak on May 4th, 2005 11:37 am

    Not “ordinary” pitchers by any means. We know they’re very good. We knew that before the season started. They’re just BETTER against the M’s. Every pitcher is better against the M’s. We need a table showing how the other teams fared against these same pitchers. And another one showing how the M’s are unable to put together a string of several hits knowns commonly to others in the sport as a “rally”. We are unable to exploit any teams weakness. And they all have them.

  17. Dave on May 4th, 2005 11:43 am

    We need a table showing how the other teams fared against these same pitchers.

    That’s exactly what this is.

  18. J.R. on May 4th, 2005 11:46 am

    Not “ordinary” pitchers by any means. We know they’re very good. We knew that before the season started.

    Exactly, I wasn’t really all that suprised by the numbers, MOST of the pitchers they have faced are and were very good pitchers.

  19. eponymous coward on May 4th, 2005 11:51 am

    You mean like, say, the Yankees?

    I could live with seeing this offense come alive against them…

  20. Kelly M on May 4th, 2005 12:04 pm

    Really interesting stuff. I need to get a subscription to BP.

    In terms of how things even out, aren’t we going to miss Randy when the Yanks make their West Coast swing? I’ll take a game against Kevin Brown over Randy any day. That said, I do agree with the general sentiment on this blog that some of our guys are swinging the bats so poorly that it hardly seems to matter who they are facing.

    Also, just by observation it seems like the pitching in the AL East is really awful. That would explain a lot about Baltimore, and how statistical oddities like Brian Roberts are likely to occur. (Take decent player enterng the prime of his career, place in a good lineup, mix with bad competition, and stir.)

    Would be interesting to see this table compiled based on last year. I would expect the deviations between a team and the league average to be much smaller than what we are seeing right now.

  21. Sriram on May 4th, 2005 12:19 pm

    Wow – Is this the same Dave who didnt value Harden very much last year, but now calls him an ‘all star’! Interesting 🙂

  22. DMZ on May 4th, 2005 12:23 pm


    What’s going on to make everyone act like a jerk all the time? Is it the team, what?

  23. Paul Covert on May 4th, 2005 12:24 pm

    Okay, I’ve now had time to through the Opposing Pitchers Report. My weighted averages– presumably the same thing you did, Dave?– are (AL only):

    Average Opposing Pitcher
    Team League Avg OBP Slg EstRA DR
    KCA A 0.230 0.301 0.365 3.848 -15
    SEA A 0.238 0.314 0.352 3.868 -14
    CLE A 0.233 0.313 0.364 3.983 -11
    CHA A 0.241 0.310 0.380 4.126 -7
    ANA A 0.249 0.323 0.375 4.244 -4
    MIN A 0.239 0.320 0.380 4.260 -4
    OAK A 0.243 0.322 0.383 4.317 -2
    DET A 0.250 0.327 0.389 4.455 1
    TEX A 0.252 0.327 0.391 4.479 2
    TBA A 0.260 0.335 0.389 4.563 4
    TOR A 0.262 0.343 0.399 4.783 10
    BOS A 0.259 0.337 0.414 4.886 13
    NYA A 0.259 0.341 0.411 4.904 14
    BAL A 0.268 0.340 0.412 4.911 14

    The second column from the right is an adjusted version of Olkin’s formula, 35*OBP*Slg, to estimate runs per game. (Olkin uses 31, but that’s because he’s estimating ERA and not RA.) The right column (DR = Differential Runs) subtracts from the league average and multiplies by 25, approximately how many games most teams have played.

    By these numbers, Seattle’s opposing pitchers have been 14 runs better than average for the season thus far.

    However, I strongly suspect that that overestimates the actual opposing-pitching effect, because so much of the play so far has been intra-divisional. The fact that the last five teams on the list are precisely the five teams from the AL East seems a bit much for a coincidence; they can’t all be facing each other’s weakest pitchers. It seems more likely that the AL East overall has better offense and worse defense than average (check out New York and Boston on the Defensive Efficiency report)– and only when the schedule has gotten mixed around more will we be able to say what the balance between those factors is.

    Park effects may also play into it, although I don’t think the effect will be drastic there.

    So whether Davenport’s estimate of six runs is reasonable, I still can’t verify; but neither can I deny the possibility. In any case, I think the number of runs lost by Seattle due to opposing pitching likely to be more than zero, and quite possibly more than six, but probably less than fourteen.

  24. Dave on May 4th, 2005 12:24 pm

    The guy has a 1.82 ERA and is averaging 7 innings per start. His ratios across the board are outstanding. I still don’t think he can keep up the freakish home run rate (just 1 allowed in 5 starts despite being neutral in gb/fb rates), but he’s obviously pitching well. He’s proving me very wrong. I have no problem admitting that.

  25. Brett Farve on May 4th, 2005 12:31 pm

    Harden is the man right now. Too bad the M’s didn’t sign him when they had the chance.

  26. Brian Rust on May 4th, 2005 12:35 pm

    Thanks for posting these numbers Dave. However, I think we should be careful about drawing hard-and-fast conclusions. The numbers say Baltimore and NYY have faced the “worst” pitching? Maybe so, but maybe it just looks that way because the AL East has the best hitters (at least right now). If the M’s still lead the league in BQPF after May’s run through the east, I will truly be worried. And not about the quality of pitching, either.

  27. urchman on May 4th, 2005 12:50 pm

    Yeah, this is interesting stuff. Maybe the M’s offense isn’t quite as bad as it looks, they’re just facing much better than average pitchers. But that said, I’m leary of small sample sizes, or perhaps more accurately, skewed samples. As others have said, once the divisions have played each other more often, meaning the M’s have played the AL East, we’ll see if this holds up. Still, an interesting point, and it’s stuff like this that brings me back to this blog. 🙂

  28. Dave on May 4th, 2005 12:55 pm

    My point was that this won’t hold up. I was simply pointing out that when we look at the M’s offensive numbers right now, then look at Baltimore’s, we can’t just say “see, the O’s have much better hitters”. As the season goes on, we’ll get to start facing easier pitchers, and they’ll face tougher ones, and things will begin to even out.

    That’s the whole point of this. I was simply showing that the M’s hitters have faced abnormally tough competition to this point, and that when evaluating the offense so far, we should include the opponent’s pitchers in the equation.

  29. Zzyzx on May 4th, 2005 1:00 pm

    Dave – when pitchers have only pitched 4 or 5 games though, one or two games against a weak hitting team could skew that. The point is that – in theory – the pitchers we’re facing could look like they’re better because we’ve hit so poorly.

  30. Brett Farve on May 4th, 2005 1:10 pm

    Certainly in the limit as Ngames goes to one, the analysis goes to hell in a hurry. As Ngames goes to 162, things will “even out.”

  31. Chris Begley on May 4th, 2005 1:24 pm

    To add to DMZ’s point there, this is thebasic problem with discourse today. I mean Dave didn’t like Harden last year and he stated why. This year, he has said, okay I was wrong. Mea culpa. And then somebody attacks him. If we are not willing to allow someone to change their opinion inthe face of evidence, then there is really no point in any form of dialogue is there.

    FWIW (and to get back on topic) I do think we have been facing pretty good pitching. Just wait until we get the DRays. And I recall whne Jon Garland was pitching so well against us, the board (myself included) was complaining about this “scrub” dominating the M’s

  32. msb on May 4th, 2005 1:42 pm

    Brett Farve said–“Harden is the man right now. Too bad the M’s didn’t sign him when they had the chance.”

    Harden was drafted by the Ms out of high school — Harden thinks they didn’t sign him then as he was a converted outfielder and a very unpolished pitcher; an article at the time says the M’s scout was the one who recommended he go to JuCo. A Stark piece on Harden in 2003 said: “The Mariners drafted him in the 38th round of the 1999 draft, but he didn’t sign because even he thought he wasn’t ready yet to pitch in professional baseball. So he headed for Central Arizona Junior College, was picked by the A’s in the 17th round as a draft-and-follow pick, then signed the next spring.”

    for entertainment, here’s a list of players the A’s took ahead of him:

  33. SteveV on May 4th, 2005 1:46 pm

    Well, I don’t know much about the mathematics, guys. But if there’s any truth in that table I’d say the other teams are using their “average” pitchers to take care of Dan Wilson, then bringing in the heavy-weights for poor Greg Dobbs. Heh.

  34. Kelly Gaffney on May 4th, 2005 2:17 pm

    Aren’t Clay Davenport’s numbers an expected level of scoring given the offensive components that lead to scoring, not the actual scoring. Since early in the year the Mariner’s were scoring more than expected do to excellent clutch hitting, could this account for the differences in the Dave’s and Clay’s numbers?

  35. Jon on May 4th, 2005 2:18 pm

    As Chuck Knox used to say, “It’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.” I agree that it is too early to say that the O’s are a truly superior hitting team to the M’s. Had their schedules been reversed, it seems likely the M’s offensive production would look better and the O’s would suffer. Over the course of the season it should even out–or maybe not. Maybe by the time the M’s play the weaker pitching teams, their opponents’ pitching will have significantly improved (due to all sorts of factors). And vice-versa for the O’s. The only thing I know is the M’s do not impress me (or anyone else I would guess) with their hitting. Among other things, the M’s (and this is in the American League!) give away their last TWO at-bats in the batting order and they have NO ONE to pinch hit for those slots either. No team can get away with that, least of all a team that, 1-7, has dead spots already. As for Beltre, I am neither defensive about him nor saying I told you so. All I know is he doesn’t look good. Of late, he has failed in too many opportunities to win games. He can’t be perfect, of course, but it would help if looked better doing it (or not doing it).

  36. Brian Rust on May 4th, 2005 2:27 pm

    I thought it was Yogi Berra who said “Good hitting will overcome good pitching, and vice versa” but I didn’t find it attributed to him in a quick search. Whoever said it, it looks like “sabermetrics” occasionally tells us the same thing.

  37. Cliff on May 4th, 2005 2:30 pm

    “If we are not willing to allow someone to change their opinion inthe face of evidence, then there is really no point in any form of dialogue is there.” John Maynard Keynes would be proud of you, although the correct line is: “When the facts change, I change my mind – what do you do, sir?”
    I am heartened by these statistics, only KC stands out as a team that we have played that is truly awful in all phases of the game, but the “myth” I would like to see proven one way or the other, especially in light of Beltre,is: Is there always a lag for a player going from the NL to the Al in terms of hitting?

  38. Brett Farve on May 4th, 2005 2:42 pm

    “Is there always a lag for a player going from the NL to the Al in terms of hitting?”

    Ask Willie McGee…

  39. The Ancient Mariner on May 4th, 2005 2:48 pm

    Re #36: I believe the exact quote is “Good pitching will always stop good hitting, and vice versa,” and I think it was Casey Stengel.

  40. Brian Rust on May 4th, 2005 2:48 pm

    According to, it was Casey Stengel who said “Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa.”

  41. The Ancient Mariner on May 4th, 2005 2:49 pm

    In stereo, no less . . . 🙂

  42. RLaw on May 4th, 2005 3:08 pm

    Good study Dave. I’ve been telling my brother that my gut impression was just this. That the M’s had faced a disproportionate number of top-of-the-rotation starters this year, including some that a lot don’t automatic think of that way (Cliff Lee, for example).

    Anyhow, kudos for putting evidence to my hunch….


  43. Scraps on May 4th, 2005 3:18 pm

    I’ve seen Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics questioned a couple times, and I’m curious what’s wrong with his methodology, if it can be summarized without Dave (or someone) having to spend more time explaining than it’s worth.

    This is a sincere question, by the way, and not an attempt to “gotcha” anyone. Lately it seems like there’s more interest here in motive-bashing and nyaah-nyaahing than in reasoned disagreement.

  44. Shoeless Jose on May 4th, 2005 5:32 pm

    Harden is the man right now. Too bad the M’s didn’t sign him when they had the chance.
    If they had, he’d be on the DL right now, for at least the second time, and Price would be complaining that he just needed to buck up and pitch through the pain.

  45. Ralph Malph on May 5th, 2005 9:34 am

    But at least they would honor his injury.

  46. Brian Rust on May 5th, 2005 11:26 am

    “There’s got to be a time where we quit giving credit to the opposing pitcher and start getting it done as a team offensively,” Boone said. — Seattle Times, 5/5/05.