Analytics: The Basic Pitching Stats

General Baseball

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In my previous post on analytics, I talked about the basic hitting stats. This time, I’m going to discuss the basic pitching stats. These stats are mentioned a lot, but are they really valuable for determining how good a pitcher is? I’m going to talk about questions like these in this post.

Win/Loss Record (W/L)

These are some of the oldest and most common pitching stats. While these stats were valued a lot in past years, people have stopped paying so much attention to these stats. The reason: Jacob deGrom. He won the Cy Young Award this year with a 10-9 record. Why? Because these stats reflect a team a lot more than a pitcher.

The win stat has a few conditions that make it difficult for a pitcher to receive it. For a starting pitcher to receive a win, he must pitch a minimum of five innings, leave the game with the lead, and his team must maintain the lead for the rest of the game. If the starting pitcher does not qualify for the win, a relief pitcher will receive the win. For a reliever to receive the win, he must enter the game without a lead (unless he relieves the starting pitcher before the sixth inning), he must exit with the lead, and his team must maintain the lead for the rest of the game.

In opposition to the win stat, it is very easy for a pitcher to receive a loss. There is no minimum amount of innings a pitcher must pitch in order to be credited with a loss. Instead, he must simply enter the game with the lead or a tie, exit the game trailing, and his team must trail the rest of the game.

As you can see, the Win/Loss stat reflects more on the team than the pitcher. For example, a pitcher could give up four runs, but none of them earned, and still get the loss. Also, a pitcher like Jacob deGrom could allow just one run but get no support, therefore taking a loss. Because of this, experts and fans have stopped paying attention to the Win/Loss stat.

Save (SV)

A save is yet another basic stat to measure a pitcher. This one applies mainly to closers. A pitcher has the opportunity to record a save when he enters a game with a three-run or less lead. He must then record the final out of the game to receive the save. If a pitcher enters the game with the lead, then blows it, he is credited with a blown save.

Earned Run (ER)

An earned run is a run scored against a pitcher without the benefit of an error or a passed ball. Basically, when a team scores without help from the defense, they’ve earned a run. Why does this matter? It matters because it isn’t fair to judge a pitcher based on the defense behind him. For example, if a pitcher allows 30 runs, but only 5 of them were earned, this shows that his teammates were responsible for the runs, not him.

Earned Run Average (ERA)

Earned Run Average is a good way to determine how good a pitcher is. Unlike the Win/Loss stat, a pitcher’s ERA relies upon him, not his defense. The whole point of an ERA is to determine how many runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings. The formula is 9 x ER / innings pitched.

Walks and Hits Per Innings Pitched (WHIP)

Just like ERA, WHIP is another good way to measure a pitcher. Instead of measuring how many runs a pitcher allows, this one allows how many baserunners a pitcher is responsible for per inning. Once again, errors and dropped third strikes are not taken into consideration. The formula for WHIP is BB + H / innings pitched.

Quality Start (QS)

I don’t really understand why anyone cares about quality start anymore. Anyways, for a pitcher to record a quality start, he must pitch at least 6 innings and allow no more than three earned runs. The problem here: three earned runs over six innings isn’t that good. If a pitcher allows three earned runs over six innings, his ERA is 4.5. In the words of Charlie Steiner, “that’s not a quality ERA.” Basically, pitchers must be better than this to be considered quality pitchers.

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