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Stathead team now has two-fifths of a rotation

Aug 7, 2009, 1:42 PM EST

Royals right-hander Brian Bannister has always been very open about how statistical analysis has helped him post a 4.51 ERA in 85 career starts despite relatively underwhelming raw stuff, saying recently that “if Bill James had a 90-mph fastball he’d be me.”
Bannister now has some company in the official stathead rotation, as Diamondbacks right-hander Max Scherzer revealed earlier this week that he also applies sabermetrics to his pitching. Here are some details on Scherzer from Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:
He values the pitching statistics that take fielding out of the equation and recently has become particularly interested in a stat called tERA, which assigns values to every batted ball based on trajectory, velocity and location. He also has taken time to examine his Pitch-f/x data, the information drawn from cameras that trace every pitch thrown in every big-league game. …
For his first full season in the majors, Scherzer has set the goal of being at least a four-win pitcher. As in, four Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), a stat that tries to express the difference between a player and an average fill-in type, such as a readily available Triple-A call-up. … As if he needs a reminder, Scherzer’s brother will sometimes needle him. “He sends me text messages all the time saying, ‘Why can’t you be a four-win pitcher?'” Scherzer said, laughing. Maybe he will be. He was at 2.5 wins entering Thursday.

I’m amused that the actual players are seemingly more open to sabermetrics than most of the media members covering them.
Bannister has turned himself into a solid big-league starter when he might otherwise be a long reliever or Triple-A veteran, but in Scherzer’s case he already had the overpowering mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider to be an ace. It’ll be interesting to see if embracing the ever-increasing amount of data and information available to smart, open-minded baseball fans can help turn him into an elite, Cy Young-caliber pitcher.
So far this season Bannister has a 3.59 ERA and 79/39 K/BB ratio in 123 innings to bounce back from an ugly 2008, while Scherzer has a 4.01 ERA and 120/40 K/BB ratio in 116.2 innings as a 24-year-old in his first full season. Oh, and their xFIPs are 4.35 and 3.96, respectively.

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