I got my copy (okay, copies, since I’m a geek who plans on giving out a couple to friends…) of the Hardball Times 2006 Annual today. I’ve mentioned before that I have an article in the book, so there’s little objectivity involved when I tell you to buy one. Actually, buy more than one. Buy as many as you’d like.
But, don’t worry, this isn’t just a plug, though it obviously is that too. I’ve only had a chance to read a couple of the articles so far, and because I’m fascinated by the batted ball data that they provide, I jumped right into one of the articles by Dave Studenmund called “What’s a Batted Ball Worth?” Since they purchase exclusive batted ball type data from Baseball Info Solutions, they have some really interesting numbers that you can’t get anywhere else. And this article is full of those types of numbers.
There’s one table in particular that jumped out at me, and I think it illustrates pretty well why we believe some of the things that we do and are often questioned about. Below are the average run values for each type of possible outcome.
Line Drive: .356
Hit By Pitch: .342
Non-Intentional Walk: .315
Intentional Walk: .176
Outfield Fly: .035
Infield Fly: -.243
This is particularly of interest as it relates to pitchers. Strikeouts are clearly the best outcome they can hope for in an average at-bat, though obviously, there are circumstances where a ground ball (which could lead to a double play) would be more beneficial. Walks are abysmal for pitchers. Inducing a groundball is better than giving up a flyball, even though the flyball has more chancees of being caught.
So, looking at the run value chart, the ideal pitcher would be a extreme groundballer who also strikes out a lot of batters and gives up almost no line drives while limiting his walks. Like, say, King Felix.
Just for fun, I took the percentage outcomes for these four outcomes and created a quick and dirty formula to create one “effective percentage”. (GB%+K%)-(LD%+BB%). Basically, how many more groundballs and strikeouts do they get on a per-batter ratio then they give up in walks and line drives. Here’s the list of the top 40, using a minimum of 300 batters faced, and I’ve highlited some of the names of interest to M’s fans:
Hernandez F. 52% Halladay R. 47% Rivera M. 47% Lowe D. 46% Webb B. 45% Westbrook J. 42% Williams T. 42% Wang C. 42% Carpenter C. 41% Gordon T. 41% Shields S. 39% Burnett A. 39% Cook A. 38% Loe K. 38% Santana J. 37% Johnson R. 36% Duchscherer 36% Qualls C. 36% Mulder M. 36% Reitsma C. 35% Peavy J. 35% Clemens R. 35% Pettitte A. 35% Silva C. 34% Hudson T. 33% Maddux G. 33% Oswalt R. 33% Street H. 33% Rincon J. 33% Martinez P. 33% Dempster R. 32% Sabathia C. 32% Johnson J. 32% Colon B. 32% Haren D. 32% Pavano C. 32% Frasor J. 32% Mussina M. 32% Wells D. 31%
By evaluating batted ball type rather than outcome, we’re evaluating more what the pitcher could control and less what is influenced by his fielders. I’m not offering this as anything other than a fun toy, but I do think the list is interesting, if nothing else.