Monday, December 31, 2007

Game Score +

This is Part 2 of my post in trying to come up with a better way to show a pitcher's effort using Bill James' Game Score as a basis to a new improved system which I will term GS+. You can review my starting premise here. The long and short of my research was to determine how Aaron Cook's 74 pitch masterpiece stood up against other pitching performances during the 2007 season and against other great pitching starts. The anemic 67 game score seems to me not a good way to show the importance of this start.

In trying to come up with a modified Game Score I came with three game pitching indicators which I felt was missing from the Game Score scoring system.

1) Innings pitched. With Game Score you do score additional points as you go past the 4th inning but a complete 9 inning game should mean the most to any pitching performance. Therefore there should be something penalizing not going the full 9.

2) Pitch Count. The second indicator I looked at is how close was the pitcher to the magical "81" pitches. If you recall a perfect game score is 114 points which is 27 strikeouts in a complete, perfect game. To do this a pitcher would have to throw 81 pitches. So for Cook's 74 pitch game performance, he was actually more economical and to me and that should be a factor in his performance and Game Score.
3) Pitch Normalization. My final indicator is a a way to normalize pitching performances. As mentioned earlier I think going 9 should mean more and yet with Game Score you do find high strikeout pitchers getting high game scores of 70s when only pitching 6 or 7 innings. Normalization was basically done to determine the amount of pitches from 81 in 9 innings. For instance, if a pitcher goes 7 innings and has 76 pitches we would normalize this to 9 innings and 98 pitches.

With these indicators as goals, I began trying to come up with values that would keep Game Score relatively intact but give a little extra for an economical type starting pitchers. Data sets that I used was ESPN's 2002 - 2007 best pitching performance page, 2007 Rockies game score data from baseball reference, and finally 1997 - 2001 STATs Inc Baseball Scoreboard. (Which by the way was one of the best year end reviews of baseball using stats ever!). This spread of data (about 330 pitching performances) is by no means complete and for further validation would probably require to look at all MLB pitching data over a period of time (ha, more work for me and probably some database experience!).

From my indicators, I developed two adjustment factors which I felt described what I needed and made them usable in numbers format. The first is pitches per out. This takes a starter's pitch count and divides it by the number of outs. I then take 3 which is a minimum number of pitches for an out in the "81" perfect game scenario and divide it by the above value. So in the perfect scenario a perfect game score pitched game would give a pitcher a ratio of 1.0. Graphing Game Score versus the ratio (pitches divided by outs) you get data tightly grouped with no real correlation between pitch count and Game Score.

Now if you take the Game Score and use the adjustment factor (Game Score multiplied by 3 divided by pitch count divided by outs) you get the following:

From this point the graph shows a better relationship to pitch count and Game Score. Throughout this study I used two landmark games to serve as a guide of whether this GS+ made sense. The two games were Red Bartlett's 58 pitch game (lowest for a 9 inning game which had a Game Score of 83) and Kerry Wood's highest 9 inning Game Score (105 with a pitch count of 122). The graph above currently shows just well pitched games not a team's yearly pitching performance. I will get into this analysis later but for any system it would have to make the games that Red Bartlett pitched (58 pitch complete game versus Kerry Wood's 105 all time best pitched game) look somewhat comparable. With the adjustment factor above Bartlett's game score becomes 116 and Wood's game becomes 70. Therefore although the method looks promising it adjusts the Game Score a bit too far out of whack to make it a logical extension of the Game Score framework.

The second adjustment factor that match the indicators I set out was something I called "Extra Outs" which basically takes the pitch count (normalizing it to 9 innings) and then dividing it by 3 (min for a strikeout...give pitcher's some credit for the pitches they aren't really throwing!). In this instance I graphed normalized pitch count versus Game Score to check the reality of this method. For Game Score you get the following:
If you look add the first adjustment factor and add it to the graph you get this:

Again you see a nice linear relationship between Game Score and pitches thrown. The outliers include Bartlett's 58 pitch game with a Game Score of 116 (on the low end) and Randy Johnson's 160 pitch 8 inning lost at Texas when he had 18 strikeouts and a 76 game score (top end of graph). Now adding in the second adjustment factor ("Extra Outs") you obtained the following:

The orange dots is the "Extra Outs" adjustment factor. The important factor in this adjustment factor is that Bartlett's new Game Score (GS+) is 91 and Wood's new GS+ is 91. What a coincidence! The key to this adjustment factor is that it awards pitchers who go 9 (no normalization required) and for those pitchers who do go 9 and have a pitch count lower then "81" and they get a so called "negative outs" and thus their Game Score is adjusted higher. So from 2002 - 2007 the best games were:

And the new GS+ top 10 ranks them this way:

Three of the original top 10 still make it. Problem with most high strikeout pitchers is that they throw a lot of pitches. So with the best pitched games the GS+ seems to be a good fit for pitching but going back to my original question how would Aaron Cook's 74 pitch complete game stack up (and how would one team's adjusted Game Scores look)? Also remember we gave each pitcher a break when normalizing their pitched games by using three pitches, what about normalizing to what their actual pitches per out? Stay tuned as Part 3 will look into this...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Rox Talk

Since it is the offseason I have revisited some earlier research that I looked in particularly Game Score...see my post dated 7/30/2007. My previous research documented Aaron Cook's masterful 74 pitch complete game victory (Game 101). His game score was a measly 67 basically because he is not a power strike out pitcher which Bill James' Game Score is more tailored to. In an effort to "level" the playing field for "finesse" pitchers, I tried to come up with what I call Game Score +. My effort is described below:

Bill James devised the Game Score metric to determine the dominance of a pitcher in a game. This score is derived by:

1. Start with 50 points;
2. Add 1 point for each out recorded;
3. Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th;
4. Add 1 point for each strikeout;
5. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed;
6. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed;
7. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed; and
8. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

The highest Game Score for a 9 inning game (105) was recorded by Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998 when he struck out 20! In some circles this metric is also known as the "Ryan" since Nolan Ryan has had 31 starts with a game score equal or greater than a 90. In fact if you look at the top Game Score pitchers most of them are strikeout kings (with the likes of Ryan, Johnson, Koufax, Seaver, Gibson, and Clemens at the top). Based on the scoring above it is obvious that a high strikeout game will lead to the highest possible score for a 9 inning game. The maximum score possible is 114 points for a 27 strikeout perfect game. Meanwhile a perfect game of 27 groundball or flyout outs is only worth 87 points. These two extremes pretty much define "Power" (or dominance) and "Finesse" (or economy). James' method rewards the strikeout which like the Home Run is a bellwether of a pitcher and memorable games surrounding pitcher's typically is the 19 to 20 game strikeout performances.

My study turns to those unsung pitcher's who breezed through games, hardly breaking a sweat. When history looks back at the 90s it will probably be remembered by two (and baseball's last) 300 game winners (well besides Glavine). These two are at the polar opposites of the pitching spectrum. Clemens was obviously a power, dominant, strike out king while Maddux was the crafty, scholarly, economical pitcher.

Clemens 1984 - 2007
354 184 709 4916.7 4185 1885 1707 363 1580 4672 3.12 1.173

Maddux 1986 - 2007
347 214 711 4814.3 4522 1876 1665 332 969 3273 3.11 1.141

Gee talking about some similarities! About the only difference is that Maddux has about 600 less walks and of course about 1,400 less strikeouts. When Game Scores are considered Clemens had 13 starts with scores greater than 90 (high of 99) while Maddux had 4 starts greater than 90 (high of 96). Would like to try to find average game score of their 700 starts but that is beyond the stats I could find. My guess is that Clemens has a higher career game score average due to his greater amount of strikeouts. Great for Clemens and other strikeout pitchers but what about Maddux (based on career stats they basically look the same). Is there a way to equalize pitcher's who win games with outs and economy of pitches thrown? Is not Red Barrett's 58 pitch performance in August 1944 (Game Score of 84) not equal to Wood's performance (which by the way required 122 pitches!).

Bill James' Game Score is an esoteric stat that very few find all that intriguing. Its basis is another way to define a quality start. My premise is that for defining a pitcher's start it is a good tool and a good place to start (can it be tweaked meaningfully?). As mentioned above the highest possible Game Score for a 9 inning game is 114 which relates to a 27 strikeout performance. In a perfect perfect game this would equate to 81 pitches. Therefore to start any sort of equalization the Game Score + system relates to this magical 81. Next post I will get into the numbers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rox Talk

Lots of Hot Stove fodder last week. First off the much anticipated Mitchell Report was released last Thursday. At this point, I think it is a bit anticlimactic. Although now we have a yin to Bond's Yang which would be Clemens. Although public opinion will always be against Bonds more so then Clemens, I think it will give an out to Baseball Writer's when it comes to Hall of Fame election time. Basically they will probably leave Bonds and Clemens off at the same time and then no one will think it is racially related. Of course we could always take Bob Feller's suggestion of having a Hall for those who deserve it and then a cheater's Hall for those who took performance enhancing substance. Okay so that is a bit strong but in a 100 years we will simply look back and the late 80s, through the 90s, and early 00s will simply be known as the Steroid Era much like we have the Deadball Era. All stats will be qualified and the big numbers will simply be adjusted away.

The Denver Post had an article on baseball salaries, competitive balance between leagues, and why the AL is so much better than the NL. Anyway they had a graphic showing the salaries of the starting All-Star players for each league. The graphic basically showed the AL starting line up to be worth $115.16 million and the NL line up worth $52 million. Anyway I don't think that is a good representative sample because the All-Star line up is not always a good example of the overall worth. So I went and found the highest paid player for each position and results are:

Well if you include the exorbitant Yankee salaries for Giambi, A-Rod, and Jeter then the AL blows out the NL but if you take these 3 players out and fill in with the next highest player than basically the salaries are awash. Basically this says that both the NL and AL are equal opportunity money wasters...just look at some of those names...yikes! If you look at total payouts for each league than the AL spent $1,306,601,780 or about $93 million a team while the NL spent $1,184,961,212 or about $74 million. The AL does have another position to pay out paying about $7-8 million for a designated hitter and of course there are 16 NL teams and 14 AL teams. Obviously life at the top is better in the AL with 7 out of the 10 highest paying teams being from the AL. Interesting debate, I do think lineups from top to bottom in the AL are better and there seems to be a bit more talent but I don't think salaries are the ultimate reason for making the AL better.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rox Talk

More Hot Stove News (or in the Roxs case, more like Simmer News)

1) Big deserving contract for Aaron Cook. 4 year deal at $34.5 or thereabouts. Although he is only 1 game over .500 for his career, he has demonstrated that with his sinker and groundball outs that he can succeed at really any ballpark. Note that over that stretch he went through a life threatening blood clot. He came back and pitched a pretty good Game 4 of the Series. I don't think he has the stuff to go up against Number 1 starters week in and week out but he does provide innings and keeps the Roxs in play.
2) LaTroy Hawkins leaves for 500,000 to go play in New York...good riddance...everyone will remember his lights out pitching late in the season but really his other 140 games was a mixed bag. He gave up alot of leads and had one of the perennial worst WPA for any relievers. I am not sad to see him go...he can have fun in the circus...and getting to see the Sox for 20+ games...have fun with that!
3) Well Iguchi signed with San much for people wanting to come to Colorado...which I think is just a trendy thing to say to try to get more money from someone else. With Carroll being traded away to the Indians it leaves a gaping hole in the right side of the infield. Perhaps Nix is closer than we thought? Trial by fire...see if he catches lightning like Tulo? We shall see...
4) I was un-informed with Lopez. He had elbow surgery and won't be able to pitch until August 2008 so as a possible arm in the starting rotation it would only be for a late season run.

Finally an update to my pitching stuff from last week. Claiming that the Roxs won the most games under Francis was a true statement but an unfair comparison due to his 34 starts (obviously more opportunities allow for the possibility of more wins). In an effort to correct for this I basically derived a team win per start which reveals that Morales was the hot hand:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rox Talk

Leading off with some personnel issues. Matsui did sign with the Astros for a 3 year deal worth $16.5 million. The Roxs offered a two year deal and stated that they were concern with his lower back and that is why they did not throw a 3rd year in. I respect that from the front office especially with Jayson Nix probably ready in 2 years anyway. Guess you can't begrudge players if the money and years are there, but from a fans perspective I think sometimes maybe a player should give some consideration to the a team that gave him another chance. Two years ago Matsui was washed up, on the scrap heap, and dumped by the Mets. Oh well that's life in the bigs. Possible second basemen of interest out there is still with Loretta, Iguchi, and one interesting one is Uggla from Marlins. Second piece of good news is that Herges did sign with the Roxs so that is good. No big news from Nashville but we shall see...Dealing Dan seems to have backed off on his earlier quick draws.
Research for the week is an additional look see at the Roxs starting pitching.

So the basic stats (plus game score which you read about here):

Basically Francis was the work horse for the team. Fogg was the surprise and savior. The first five pitchers accounted for 75% of the starts and overall the starting pitching accounted for 64.1% of the innings pitched for the entire team. When Lopez pitched, he won (unfortunately he really never was a reliable starter and got shut down early due to injuries). If a quality start is defined as a game score of 50 then only Francis and Jimenez averaged a quality start during the season. Francis, Cook, and Jimenez all had a 77 game score which led the team. Fogg had the distinction of having the lowest game score of 4! Based on the team's success this has to be the best pitching squad put out by the Roxs in their team history.

In addition to the the above stats, I also looked at some other wacky stuff. One question I have always had was what would be a starter's record if he won (or loss) those games because of relievers (or was bailed out by the offensive or relievers and got the no decision)? Also which pitcher actually pitches with the lead?

First Part:

First off a starting pitcher must pitch 5 innings to get a win. Hence Bautista above who only pitched two innings and left with a no decision did actually get a win in my book because he started and he left the mound leading. Hirsh had alot of starts like this as well, leaving before the 5th but leaving with the lead. To me a Starter is the workhorse, there are some middle relievers who get a lot of innings, even some to rival a starter, but to me it is the starter who is asked to go out and give innings. Even through all the changes in pitching, every team looks for 5 guys who can go out and throw at least 6 innings every 5 days. Good pitching still seems to conquer good hitting and most teams need reliable starters to make it deep into the playoffs (see Yankees 2006 and 2007!). Therefore my look above is to give Starters a bit more credit for what they do. In essence I am basically removing the relievers from the equation and innings pitch requirement and simply determining if the starter left with a win, loss, or tie.

So in normal speak the Roxs starters were 55 - 47 (.539 Winning Percentage) with 61 no decisions. In my revised look the starters were 84 - 60 (.583) with 19 ties. Did Francis win 20 games? Well according to my look he would have finished 19 - 13 - 2 (meaning the relief corps blew 2 games in which he left with the lead and the offensive bailed him out 4 times after leaving a game with a loss). When looked at this way only Francis and Lopez actually had a worst winning percentage when these extra W/L are added. The unluckiest? Among the Top 5 inning getters it was Fogg or Jimenez as Fogg had 5 extra wins and Jimenez 4. Cook had the best winning percentage upgrade going 8 - 7 to 11 - 6. Does this revisionist look at pitching stats mean anything? Probably not...over a pitcher's career my guess all the blown saves or offensive help probably average out (although I would like to look at all the MLB starters...). To me the bottom line is what does the team do when a certain Starter is on the mound. Bottom line of the graph below is that when Francis is on the mound the Roxs won 22 times (out of 34 starts). Even Hirsh who really had an up and down season had the team win 10 times when he started (out of 19 starts). To me it means that 2008 does have some upside when it comes to pitching. With Francis, Cook, Hirsh, Jimenez, and Morales, we have some depth.

Second Part:

If the above study looked at the underbelly of starting pitching (who has luck, no luck, or just happens to pitch that day the offensive was asleep) this next look is what does the Starter do for themselves (i.e. keeps the team in the game by keeping the lead or keeping the game tied).

Of the Big 5, Cook pitched with the lead or tied 70% of the time. Overall during the season the Starters for the entire season pitched with the lead 67% which seems high to me but the inning eaters were all around 66% with only Hirsh be subpar at around 52%. Obviously some more seasoning is required for him but from above even by pitching from behind the Roxs still mentioned to win. Which kind of makes all this study of pitching somewhat irrelevant. I need to research some past seasons to see if any of these trends actually hold up over seasons or if there is just randomness from season to season.