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Deep Thoughts: comparing pitchers

Sep 10, 2013, 10:33 AM EDT

Mystery Man

This is more like something that should appear in And That Happened, but I was just looking at the numbers now, so:

Pitcher A: 2.90 ERA, 195.2 IP, 207K, 41 BB
Pitcher B: 3.01 ERA, 194.1 IP, 215K, 48 BB

Both fantastic. Both aces. One was an 11-12 record, the other is 19-3.

I’m guessing that Max Scherzer will get a ton more Cy Young votes than Chris Sale, though. And when he wins he will certainly be deserving. But the similarity between the two is pretty damn striking.

  1. gosport474 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Pitcher wins – a great statistic. If your name is Mitch or Harold.

  2. El Bravo - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    One of those pitchers just knows how to win (although not recently, as he’s been stuck at 19 for 3-4 starts now).

    • jwbiii - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      Or one plays for a team that scores over 5 runs per game and one plays for a team that scores 3.75.

      • El Bravo - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Well maybe if Sale knew how to win, he’d make his batters hit better on his start days. Why isn’t he rallying his team from the dugout? Where’s the fire? Why isn’t he teaching them how to hit on off days in BP? C’mon Sale, learn the ways of winning!

      • raysfan1 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

        I was about to point out Bravo was kidding, but if you cannot now tell based on his second comment, then you need to go get a computer with a functioning sarcasm font.

        The “knows how to win” thing came from King Felix’ Cy Young season when some pundits (with a straight face, mind you) posited that he should not be the winner as many other pitchers had more wins. It was such an absurd idea that we have been mocking it ever since.

  3. amhendrick - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Sale’s gives up about an extra hit per game and has allowed more home runs. On the other hand, he has a much higher WAR according to baseball reference. I’m not sure why WAR rates him higher than Scherzer.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      They’ve still giving up roughly the same number of runs (71 to 69). BABIP has been a bit more friendly to Scherzer (.260 to .282), sale has a higher K/BB ratio and notably higher ERA+ (150 to 139). All things considered, they’re pretty damn close.

      Not saying one is better than the other, just that won will be perceived in end of the year voting as much better.

    • Detroit Michael - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:26 AM

      Comerica has been playing as a pitchers’ park for the last few years and the Cell is a batters’ park.

    • kruegere - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      fWAR has Scherzer and Felix a win higher.

      I think its because Scherzer’s LOB% is 72% to Sale’s 77%.

      LOB% is generally not considered a skill, so in that regard, Scherzer has been a little less lucky.

      At this point, he deserves the Cy Young, its too close to chalk him winning up to his W-L.

  4. dsmaxsucks - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I don’t even know why they count team wins. Can’t someone come up with a formula to judge which team overall played the better season and crown them the champion. Then we don’t have to worry about extra innings (which are often determined not by who has the better team, but by the random nature of scheduling and who has the best rested BABIP in the bullpen) or time of game (no extra innings means lower average time) or playoffs (which leady to fluky results and barely correlate to which team is better).

    Plus, the idea that a 20-2 victory is just as representative of overal team quality as a 2-1 victory is obviously nonsense. The 20 run team has a larger sample size (more at bats) and usually generally better performance. Now I know that’s controversial, and I emphasize the general aspect of the example (it doesn’t calculate defensive performance or stadium factors, geez what is this 1998?) but I’m sure another formula could be figured out to tell us what we can all kind of see on the field.

    So while everyone is whining about the Cy Young Award, like we do every year, the bigger picture is completely absent. If the White Sox are statistically better than the Tigers under a complicated mathematical formula that no one will ever look up and no kid will ever understand, lets do it.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      I don’t get it? Are you bragging about being a moron?

      You realize ignorance is not a virtue…right?

    • sadtwinsfan - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      sounds good. and then the twins 10 GAME HOME LOSING STREAK won’t matter.

    • raysfan1 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      The point of contention is not team wins, it is pitcher wins. Pitcher wins are not a good stat because they do not reflect pitcher quality–because it is very dependent on what the rest of the team does. The stats for Sale and Scherzer on the season are a good example, as is King Felix’ Cy Young season. However, lets boil it down to just two hypothetical games:

      Game 1: pitcher A gives up 1 unearned run on 2 hits in 9 innings. His team loses 1-0.
      Game 2: pitcher B gives up 2 earned runs on 6 hits scattered over 9 innings with two solo HRs. His team scored 6 runs to win 6-2.

      Pitcher A took a loss on his stats. Pitcher B got a win. Both pitched very well. Which pitched better?

      Team wins, of course, are the ultimate measure of team performance and nobody has ever disputed that. Please realize that is not what is being discussed when pitcher wins and losses are mentioned.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      To state the terribly obvious, the issue is that an individual award is given to a player based upon team performance.

      Pitcher A: 169 innings (5.4 IP per start), 4.36 ERA, 19 HR, 1.506 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
      Pitcher B: 241 innings (7.3 IP per start), 2.73 ERA, 14 HR, 1.116 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9

      Player B pitched FAR more innings, gave up a whopping 1.6 fewer runs, allowed far fewer base runners, gave up far fewer home runs….

      But Player A (Storm Davis) won 19 games and player B (HOFer Bert Blyleven) only won 17. Surely you can’t, with a remotely straight face, say that these two pitchers were similar to talent that year! Blyleven pitched more, gave up fewer runs, hits, homers, walks and still won fewer games. Is this because he didn’t know how to win, or because he didn’t play on a team with Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, near-batting champion Carney Lansford and one of the greatest bullpens ever assembled to preserve his leads?

  5. ryanrockzzz - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Good point shown with this post Hopefully the Cy Young voters won’t simply cast votes based on who has the most wins, although I don’t believe they are worthless- as some of the highly statistical based baseball fans may want to state. There is some merit to winning 19 games.

    • cohnjusack - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      There is some merit to winning 19 games.

      Storm Davis says otherwise…

    • spudchukar - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      What is being ignored isn’t total runs allowed, thus ERA, but how many runs per game. In other words, a comparison between the two pitchers should be examined. I want the pitcher who allows 3 runs every game over the one who gives up 6 in one and then hurls a shutout in the other.

      It isn’t “the knowing how to win” scenario, but a guy who always keeps his team in the game, and therefore is more likely to get a win.

      • cohnjusack - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:39 AM

        Instead of randomly speculating to justify your opinion, one should try looking up to see if it’s true. Like how scientists test their hypothesis, instead of just saying “oh, I think this so it must be true!”

        Games with
        0 Runs:
        Sale: 5
        Scherzer: 3

        1 run
        Sale: 5
        Scherzer: 7

        2 runs
        Sale: 7
        Scherzer: 9

        3 runs
        Sale: 5
        Scherzer: 3

        4 runs or more
        Sale: 5
        Scherzer: 7

      • spudchukar - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        I am beginning to believe that reading comprehension is too challenging for you. No where did I suggest either hurler fit the description. But was merely pointing out the problem with ERA alone.

        Plus the sample size is way too small for general hypothesis.

        The point of the comment was to illustrate the idea, that if two players have similar numbers, a tie-breaking option would be to look and see if one or the other is more a 3 runs per game type or 6 in one and 0 in another, and suggest the award go to the 3 guy, who is giving his team a greater chance to win.

  6. cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Holy crap. I’d have though this was a well beaten dead horse, but I see that there are still people who take the easy way out when it comes to judging a pitcher. Oh well. Its a big world. Room for us all. Those that can ignore the “Pitcher Wins” fallacy and those who revere them can peacefully co-exist, side by side etc. Just a damn pity that some of those “pitcher wins” people are gonna be judging the Cy Young Award. Its like the Flat Earth Society choosing “Navigator of the Year”.

    • raysfan1 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Hey, astrolabes were good enough in 1400, so they are good enough for you!

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        According to my phrenologist I’m not suited for star gazing or any sort of navigation. Apparently the lumps on my head indicate a disposition better suited for yarn organization or wool gathering.

      • historiophiliac - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:12 PM

        Don’t be silly. Very obviously, the heterochromatic wonder is a mutant witch and that is how he wins. You don’t need an astrolabe to know which way the wind blows.

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        Burn the witch!

      • historiophiliac - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        TGTB (too gritty to burn)

    • stex52 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Good plan, Cur. We’ll pretend to get along with them until we are clearly in the majority. Then we’ll take over, charge them with blasphemy/treason, and exile/burn at the stake them. And we can use their “Wins” statistics to start the bonfires.

      I like the way you think! :-)

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:13 PM

        You Texans are violent people. Burn at the stake? Smelly.

        I was thinking more a “Polar Bear Challenge”. No, not the “dip in an icy pool” thing. More a “Running of the Polar Bears” type thing. If you’re faster than the polar bear in the Polar Bear Challenge, you get to keep your poorly reasoned argument. If you’re not, you get turned into polar bear crap.

      • stex52 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        Works for me, Cur. The only important thing is that we deal roughly with those out-of-touch, W-oriented blasphemers. The rest is just details of what provides us the best entertainment as we enforce the New Orthodoxy.

      • raysfan1 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        If it is just one bear, then it is not necessary to be faster than the bear. One only needs to be faster than the slowest other runner.

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:08 PM

        Of course, survivor bias will come into play in The Running of the Polar Bears. Literally. Dude’s will be ranked according their PBAR and odds assigned. The betting will be furious. We can let Hawk Harrelson call the event (providing he survives his OWN Running of the Polar Bears, of course).

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM

        Did you ever get to Churchill, Manitoba, Rays? There is NEVER one polar bear. If you see only one polar bear, you are DEAD because there are at least six more RIGHT BEHIND you. They don’t typically hunt in packs, but when the food is plentiful, they’ll gather ’round like a hoard of cloned John Kruks at a rib barbecue. And, since it is evident that the Pitcher Wins Believers are plentiful, there will be many Kruks…er…polar bears.

      • raysfan1 - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        Ah, well, multiple bears does add to the complexity, which no doubt dooms all pitcher win advocates. However, should one be a bit more capable of processing multiple variables–and presuming the number of bears is less than the number or runners (polar bears are a threatened species and pitcher win advocates are not), then said multi-task-capable runner still need only ensure each bear gets to feast upon a less capable runner until each is replete. Actually being faster than the bear remains unnecessary.

      • stex52 - Sep 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        A couple of thoughts for Ray and Cur:

        1. My knowledge and experience of bears (admittedly limited to black and grizzly) is that you had better spot that bear a long way away or have a slower companion. Those guys can flat out run like a race horse.

        2. If there is truly a God, then Hawk will be the first to go in the Polar Bear Challenge. In fact, that will go a long way toward defeating the forces of ignorance against which we are arrayed.

      • cur68 - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        Hawk Harrelson be the Darth Vader of Ignorance.

      • Walk - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:16 AM

        No one suspects the inquisition. Pie or cake? If the choice is pitcher win or cake excepting the cake that has cheese then choose death or exile. Ahh exile you say? Very well death by exile.

  7. ltzep75 - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Sale (195.2 innings)

    Era+ 144
    WAR 6.2

    Scherzer (194.1)

    Era+ 146
    WAR 6.0

    Darvish (f186.2)


    Please note the era+ and WAR stats are as of last Wednesday (I had this same discussion with someone in my office)

    • kruegere - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      Y’all gotta stop using rWAR.

      Darvish has an 83% strand rate, 10% higher than Scherzer and he also has a 3 BB/9.

      • paperlions - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        Yeah, rWAR gives the pitcher credit for what happened, which means pitchers get credit (or blame) for having good defenders (or crappy ones).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        Why not use rWAR?

  8. km9000 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Pitcher A: 2.90 ERA, 195.2 IP, 207K, 41 BB, 150 ERA+, 11-12 W-L
    Pitcher B; 3.05 ERA, 192.0 IP, 192K, 51 BB, 141 ERA+, 17-8 W-L

    So A is Chris Sale. B looks a bit worse, right? Too close to call maybe? Oh, but that record. He must’ve been doing something right.

    Well, B is also Chris Sale, 2012 edition. Same guy, same home park. So no nitpicking of someone’s flaws out of bias. Something’s gotten worse since last year, but it’s not Sale.

  9. Jonny 5 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    I have this all figured out. It’s what I like to do. Everyone start calling them game wieners instead of winners and it won’t take more than a couple of seasons before the idiots voting for the Cy Young award start looking at actual stats to make their choices. “A 19 game wiener? We can’t put that in our article, what else do you have?” What is this e.r.a you speak of?”

  10. Bob Loblaw - Sep 10, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    I wish they would just stop looking at Wins for no other reason that all the whiners on this board would stop whining about it. Geeze, if sabremetrics ever actually becomes predominantly used by the BBWAA, as well as most of the announcers and analysts on ESPN, MLB network, FOX, etc, etc in MLB, this site would literally lose half its traffic and three-quarters of its posts.

    BBWAA, as well as most of the announcers and analysts on ESPN, MLB network, FOX, etc, etc look at wins. Looking at wins is stupid. They are wrong. They are dumb. You are smart.

    • km9000 - Sep 10, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Establishment FTW! Literally!

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