As previously noted, GoodEnough for Meis the companion series to The Extrapolater’s Smells Like Pujols.
Last Monday, we explained our method for judging pitchers using a modified version of Baseball Prospectus’ “Stuff” formula, which we’re further modifying to compare a pitcher’s overall value to Doc Gooden.
Now, thanks to the glory of Baseball Reference, we’ve acquired a really vastly enormous spreadsheet with the season-by-season statistics for every pitcher since 1871. There’s nearly 40,000 pitchers on here.
Now, because we’re really handy with Excel, we used our modified Stuff formula on the spreadsheet, just to see how productive our formula is. To make it easier, we reduced the results to pitchers who qualified for the ERA title (162+ innings pitched) and we’re only looking at 1969 through 2006 right now.
As expected, our results returned some of the usual suspects near the top of the list: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens. However, we came across some discrepancies that we didn’t care for. Namely, it showed us how deeply our form of Stuff overvalues strikeouts.
To explain: there are very few pitching statistics that benefit from growing. The only such statistics are innings pitched, and strikeouts. (We understand that “wins” and “saves” are statistics that pitchers like to have a lot of, but they speak more to luck than to dominance). Our Stuff basically takes strikeouts and assigns them a really big numerical value, and then subtracts similarly constructed values for walks and runs and hits and home runs. The difference there is then tweaked a little further by innings pitched, and we’re done. The problem is, if a pitcher has a mountain of strikeouts, he can overcome things like walking 98 batters and still produce an outstanding score. If a pitcher, however, hardly gives up any hits or walks or runs, and pitches a bunch of innings, he still can’t score so high as the strikeout king.
In short, we discovered that Greg Maddux’s Stuff is down in David Cone territory, and we cannot abide that Oliver Perez in 2004, good as he was, pitched better than Maddux is 1995. We know that statistics should help us form our opinions, and we shouldn’t modify stats to conform to our opinions, but no one’s paying us to be unbiased, anyway.
So our options were to either find a new stat, or tweak our old one. We tried some of both, and we’ve found a new stat. The new stat is similarly imperfect, but we feel that using it in tandem with Stuff should give us some pretty solid results. So we give you FIP, or Fielder Independent Pitching, a statistic invented by TangoTiger.
After the break, what this means, and a look at what pitchers we’ll be examining.
Now, FIPs uses the same basic statistics as Stuff, but because it doesn’t try to produce a number where higher=better, it manages to better assess how not allowing anyone on base is almost as good as striking everyone out. We’re going to look at the same pitchers from last week, and compare them now with just their Stuff and their FIP (note: if the Stuff scores look different to you, it’s because last week screwed up the formula in Excel. Won’t happen again.). Also shown is Stuff2, which is Stuff modified for Innings Pitched against Doc Gooden.
Player ~ Stuff ~ Stuff2 ~ FIP
MLB 2006 Avg ~ -1 ~ -1 ~ 4.52
MLB Ideal ~ -2 ~ -1 ~ 4.41
Doc Gooden ~ 40 ~ 40 ~ 2.19
Johan Santana ~ 28 ~ 30 ~ 3.14
Josh Towers ~ -26 ~ -7 ~ 6.56
Thursday ~ 16 ~ 3 ~ 4.30
In case it’s not already plainly obvious, high Stuff is good, as is low FIP. In our study, the highest Stuff was 56 by Pedro Martinez in 1999, and the lowest FIP was 1.43, also by Martinez in 1999.
Now, what our contestants will be aiming for are those bold stats: Stuff2. For each of them, the number can go up only as they pitch more and more. Regular Stuff and FIP can match or even exceed Gooden at any point during the season. If Stuff and FIP approximate Gooden’s, then we can assert that a pitcher in question is dominating similarly to Gooden, and the only thing holding him up at any given moment is total innings pitched.
That’s how we’re ranking ’em.
We mentioned that we’d look at a few pitchers in their second seasons, in addition to a big slew of rookies. We’re looking for about 10 sophomore pitchers, and this is our tentative list:
1. Cole Hamels
2. Jonathan Papelbon
3. Joel Zumaya
4. Justin Verlander
5. Matt Cain
6. Scott Olsen
7. Anthony Reyes
8. Adam Wainwright
9. Anibal Sanchez
10. Jered Weaver
Now, we realize that there are merely 3 AL pitchers on this list. We admittedly pay a bit more attention to the NL, and we’re making this list essentially off the tops of our heads. Any and all help would be great–note, we are NOT looking for 2007 rookies. We are looking for 2006 rookies who are likely to have impressive 2007 seasons.