Pitching Efficiency, Strikeouts and Dollars. The MadProf and Maddux…

Picking up where we left off last week…This is one of what will be several columns throughout the season looking at pitching efficiency and fantasy.  Fantasy does not respect pitch counts.  It respects Ks, Ws, etc.  But, should we not also recognize (and collect points for) an efficient pitcher the way we reward one who delivers a QS? (Which, I still maintain, is MLB’s equivalent of an award for participation.  6 IP and a 4.50 ERA? #howfreakingmillennial…)

To the point, though, a good, efficient pitcher delivers value to a team because if he collects wins and suppresses runs with fewer pitches, he’s a durable asset.  Thor (and any other fireballer) may get you the Ks.  But, he’s also more likely to land on the DL or head for TJS.  On the other hand, a solid GB pitcher who induces those piddly GBs is an incredible asset who won’t do much for your K count.  But he will help you WHIP and ERA.

I do not confess to having an idea yet for how to measure efficiency for fantasy purposes.  But, to the extent that it does sit at the intersection of fantasy and reality, it’s worth a look.  So, OK.  This column won’t help you pick next week’s SP.  But, I’m hoping it generates discussion (and my own further digging) that may help you all pick up that kid for a dynasty league… (and thanks already to a couple of colleagues for advance feedback on these pieces).  Please send comments.

Since the 1986 season (Maddux’s first), there have been 302 Maddux games thrown by 192 pitchers (Data courtesy of our friends at Baseball-Reference.com).  It will come as no surprise that Maddux threw the most (13).  The 10 pitchers with the most (who happen to be the only ones who have done this four or more times since 1986) are:

Greg Maddux 13
Zane Smith 7
Bob Tewksbury 6
Roy Halladay 5
Tom Glavine 5
James Shields 4
Jamie Moyer 4
Bartolo Colon 4
Chris Bosio 4
Henderson Alvarez 4

With a couple of exceptions, this is hardly a bunch of household names.  The last two were thrown this year by Masahiro Tanaka on 27 April and Ivan Nova on 29 April. Since 2000, the breakdown looks like this for the occurrence of Madduxes per season.

Year # Madduxes
2000 10
2001 10
2002 11
2003 9
2004 7
2005 13
2006 15
2007 7
2008 8
2009 13
2010 5
2011 11
2012 9
2013 14
2014 12
2015 8
2016 4
2017 2

There really is no pattern to the data.  There have been as few as four and as many as fifteen per year (not counting 2017). In historical perspective, Maddux is even more impressive when compared to anyone in Baseball-Reference’s database since 1913.  What is astonishing is just how good modern pitching is.  Forget about all this deadball, higher or lower mound stuff.  Since 1913, 233 pitchers have thrown 366 Madduxes.  That means that 82.5% (302/366) of the Madduxes have been thrown since 1986.  What is equally astonishing is to look at who has and has not thrown them.  Since 1913 only 14 pitchers have thrown four or more (and, per above, ten of those pitchers have done that since 1986).  Who is in the club?  A few more ham and eggers such as Koufax, Newcombe, Drysdale, Rowe…

Player #Maddux Games
Greg Maddux 13
Zane Smith 7
Bob Tewksbury 6
Don Newcombe 6
Sandy Koufax 5
Roy Halladay 5
Tom Glavine 5
Don Drysdale 5
James Shields 4
Preacher Roe 4
Jamie Moyer 4
Bartolo Colon 4
Chris Bosio 4
Henderson Alvarez 4

ZANE SMITH?  #Effingseriously????  Some ham and eggers who DID NOT make this list:

  • Bob Gibson
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Bob Feller
  • Satchell Paige
  • Tom Seaver
  • Carl Hubbell
  • Christy Matthewson
  • Walter Johnson
  • Steve Carlton
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Randy Johnson

Look: Life is not fair. Clay Buchholz has a no-hitter…  Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.

Pitching Efficiency in Contemporary Perspective.

Throwing a Maddux may be as much a matter of choice for some pitchers as it is a matter of skill.  Not everyone can get up and just throw heat.  If you are Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan, who cares about 150 pitches?  Also, if the strike zone really has grown over time (see this great piece by John Roegele at The Hardball Times), then batters need to swing more and pitchers should have an easier time throwing strikes.  So, it makes sense that there would be a disproportionate number of Madduxes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Nonetheless, 99 pitches in 9 IP is 99 pitches in 9 IP.  Not everyone is doing it, so it can’t be that much easier, fat strike zone notwithstanding.  Also, since MLB operates around the mythical 100 pitch count, and in an era where batters don’t mind taking pitches, it’s difficult to get up into Maddux land.

So, let’s think of this a bit differently:  to throw a Maddux, you must average 11 P/IP in a game. Does anyone even come close? The following data are drawn from 2016 for all pitchers with at least 180 IP.  The average PIP is 15.9 (median 15.7), with a standard deviation of 0.75.  Here is a graph of all 46 pitchers who made the cut.

 

The top pitchers in terms of efficiency were:

Name Team WAR P/IP Dollars
Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 4.6 14.7 $36.90
Corey Kluber Indians 5.1 14.8 $40.50
Bartolo Colon Mets 2.9 14.9 $23.20
Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners 2.4 15.0 $19.30
Johnny Cueto Giants 5.5 15.1 $43.80
John Lackey Cubs 3.1 15.2 $24.50
Chris Sale White Sox 5.2 15.2 $41.50
Kyle Hendricks Cubs 4.5 15.2 $35.70
Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays 3.9 15.2 $30.90
Marcus Stroman Blue Jays 3.6 15.2 $29.00
Kendall Graveman Athletics 1.6 15.2 $13.10

 

Hah.  Once again I owe Tanaka an apology.  Only three pitchers averaged fewer than 15 P/IP.  The question is: does this translate into value for fantasy?  Amazingly, the relationship is not clear.  What follows is a correlation matrix for several key fantasy variables and P/IP.  In each “cell”, the top number is the correlation coefficient.  The bottom is the statistical significance.  In a statistically significant relationship, the top number should have an absolute value as close to 1 as possible.  Similarly, we’d want the lower number to be as close to zero as possible.  (Anything bigger than 0.05 is not statistically significant.

So, in the table, we see a very strong negative correlation between P/IP and dollar value.  Essentially, -0.527 means that for every one standard deviation increase in P/IP, there is a 0.527 (essentially, half) a standard deviation decrease in dollar value.  The relationship is slightly stronger between PIP and WAR.  This comes as no surprise.  If you are throwing more pitches, you figure you are probably tossing more BB, etc

 

PIP Dollars K/9 GB% TBF
Dollars -0.527
0.000
K/9 0.044 0.684
0.774 0.000
GB% -0.303 0.078 -0.278
0.041 0.608 0.061
TBF -0.130 0.235 0.139 -0.040
0.390 0.116 0.358 0.792
ERA 0.520 -0.776 -0.535 0.017 0.072
0.000 0.000 0.000 0.913 0.634

 

Interestingly, there is not a statistically significant relationship between PIP and TBF (batters faced).  But, there is a strong relationship between PIP and GB%.  This figures:  the higher your GB%, the lower the number of pitches you tend to throw. K and GB% are closely related:  as your K rate goes up, your GB% drops.  But, the relationship is borderline significant.

These numbers are only for 2016. We’d need to run a bigger survey (something to do in my spare time) to get a better picture.  But, what can we glean from this?  Are more efficient pitchers a better value?  According to the correlation coefficient, the answer is “yes” in terms of dollars.  But, what’s interesting is that strikeout pitchers have an even stronger relationship to dollar values.  As K/9 goes up one standard deviation, dollar value goes up 0.684.  This is a stronger, positive relationship—and it figures.

Point is that strikeouts and PIP efficiency have very strong relationships to dollar values. But they have virtually no relationship to each other: correlation coefficient of 0.044.  This is not a stats lesson.

PIP and K/9 have an almost identical (but opposite direction) impact on ERA.  Interestingly, GB% had virtually no impact on ERA. This is all the basics of the sort of heady analysis you’d find in publications by folks such as Shandler, James, etc.  I’m not pretending to come close to what they do in this short piece.

For now, though, let me leave you all with some conclusions that are, admittedly, tentative.  I had expected to see that efficiency (in terms of PIP) might somehow be overlooked in fantasy baseball because efficient pitchers would probably throw fewer Ks in favor of inducing hitters to hit GB and lazy FB.  But, both correlate strongly with dollar values while having no relationship to each other.

One wonders though:  Would stud pitchers who throw a lot of Ks not run out of gas because they are throwing more pitches?  The following graph shows the relationship between dollar values and pitches thrown.  Essentially, there is no relationship.  Noah Syndergaard and Jose Fernandez were just as valuable throwing 2,900 pitches as Scherzer was throwing 3,500.

 

Name Team WAR PIP Dollars Pitches IP K/9
Noah Syndergaard NYM 6.5 16.0 $51.70 2935 183.2 10.68
Jose Fernandez FLA 6.1 16.1 $49.20 2940 182.1 12.49
Max Scherzer WSH 5.6 15.6 $44.90 3563 228.1 11.19
Johnny Cueto SFO 5.5 15.1 $43.80 3299 219.2 8.11
Rick Porcello BOS 5.2 15.3 $41.70 3410 223 7.63

These guys are (were) in the primes of their careers.  How would they look after 10 years?

More to come.

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 7th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #86 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Bryan Luhrs. Bryan is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday May 14th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #87 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Calvin Martin, Jr.. Calvin is a veteran owner in MLFB leagues, a commissioner, and a frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”



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