Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baby Steps with Peripheral Stats

It's too early in the 2011 season to find much meaning in comparing player statistics, especially pitchers, the league leader in Innings Pitched has just 16. Predicting future pitching performance is one of the more challenging tasks for baseball professionals and aficionados.

It can be confusing to truly understand why. The higher likelihood of injuries surely is an issue, but more to the point, the performance of healthy pitchers will vary more from year to year than when compared with batters. During the rigors of a long season, statistically speaking, year-in and year-out ratio statistics do not usually regress toward their career norms as often with pitchers as they do with batters.

Perhaps, the daunting nature of trying to understand everything clouds our minds and blocks our chances at quickly learning something.

First, I noticed that blog favorite, Marc Rzepczynski, has had a particularly effective start to the season in the Blue Jays bullpen.* He's thrown 5.2 innings, facing 18 batters, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 hbp, and aside from 1 wild pitch, that's it. His with is 0.35, fueled by an unsustainable .083 BABIP. I thought it was comical until I saw how many relievers still have .000 BABIPs.

Rzepczynski loves the 'Pen.
*Yes, if you're scoring at home, this is another SP/RP we're enthralled with. Throw him into the mix with David Hernandez, Aaron Crow, Cory Luebke, and Hisanori Takahashi.

Today, let's head over to Fangraphs to look at batted ball data of pitchers with a minimum of 100 Innings Pitched in 2010 and 2011.

Over the past season + '11, here's the leader board for Line Drive percentage allowed:

Tim Hudson 13.4%
Armando Galarraga 13.5%
Fausto Carmona 13.5%
Jeremy Guthrie 14.2%
Jamie Moyer 14.7%

Now, if you just look at this stat, it's pretty surprising, but it doesn't mean much alone.

For example, even before looking at these numbers, I was thinking to myself that I can't believe the Tigers chose Brad Penny over Armando Galarraga. Seeing Galarraga here is encouraging to that idea, but looking at Penny, he had a 17.8% LD% last year, and only an 11.8% mark in this young 2011 season.

Fausto Carmona really had good peripherals, when considering that he also had a MLB top 35 Infield Flyball Percentage of 11.1%.

Granted, this information is not extremely valuable, we're trying to show how easily anyone can take a closer look at a few basic numbers to determine which pitchers are really outstanding, and which ones have been more fortunate by luck. We can really see how a pitcher is performing when evaluating his LD%, IFFB%, GB%, FB%, HR/FB%, K/9, and BB/9. It may sound daunting, but it really isn't.

Over the course of the season, we'll try to spotlight a few guys who may be new to the scene, or performing in a manner that was unexpected, to see what the peripherals say.

For example, let's look at the talented Orioles southpaw, Zach Britton. We mentioned him on Wednesday in our 20 under 20% post, and Buster Olney had this to say about Britton this morning: "Zach Britton has a chance to become what Stephen Strasburg was last year: Must-see TV. He is a very rare lefty with veering 95 mph fastball."

Although he's only pithed 13.2 innings, let's see what some of his key peripherals say:

Zach's enjoying The Show.
LD%: 23.5%
IFFB%: 25%
GB%: 52.9%
FB%: 23.5%
HR/FB: 0%
K/9: 5.27
BB/9: 3.95

13 innings is nothing; we need A LOT more data to make any sort of conclusions from these ratios. His minor league numbers mean something, but we're trying to keep it simple. I'd say that off this initial perspective, I'd need his K/9 to go up and his BB/9 to come down before putting much hope in Britton being a top of the rotation force.

As always, this space is for the readers, feel free to nominate someone for us to illuminate.

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