Last year I had this idea that if you added together the value given the pitches a pitcher throws you could rate the pitchers nearly as accurately as other measurements such as WAR, ERA+ and FIP. The results do not match up perfectly, but they are close in most cases. After all, if you throw consistently nasty stuff over the course of a season, the results you obtain with those pitches will lead to success. I have seen others rate the best fastball, the best splitter, the best curve, etc. But I like to add them all together to come up with a total “stuff” ranking.
Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do. Otherwise, I would not be doing it as I am no genius. All I did was go to Fangraphs.com’s leaderboard and then go to the PitchF/X tab. And then I go to the Pitch Value tab. I prefer to use the PitchF/X calculations instead of Fangraphs’ own proprietary pitch valuations as the latter seems (to me) more accurate for the type of pitch thrown. For example, Fangraphs.com says that Kenley Jansen throws a fastball and that is what they rate. But it is pretty obvious watching him pitch that he throws a cutter, which is what PitchF/X says he throws.
Anyway, once I have the pitch values in front of me, I downloaded the CSV file (Isn’t it fabulous these stat sites are so generous with their data?). The CSV opens like a Microsoft Excel file and I can then delete the columns I don’t want and do a Sum function to the first pitcher listed on the sum value of all his pitches to come up with a total pitch value. I copy that down for all the pitchers and then do a Sort to be able to see the top and the bottom. I did this for both starters and relievers. Today I’ll focus on the starters and tomorrow the relievers.
You may wonder why I used the pitch values and not the pitch values per hundred. Unfortunately, the latter does not work for me because the numbers get skewed. For example, a starter may have pitched four curves all season. If the four were crappy, then his pitch value per hundred on the curve would be like -25 runs or something. That doesn’t work for what I am doing.
The problem there is that the amount of pitches and innings thrown do not match for each pitcher. Clayton Kershaw threw like 230 innings or something like that while Matt Harvey threw considerably less. So take that into account. I could have divided the total by innings pitched or pitches thrown, but in the end, I did not. My feeling was that Kershaw maintained his stuff despite the greater innings thrown and thus still deserved any total value he might have been given because of the extra innings.
I know, it is flawed, but then again, I never claimed to be a paid analyst either. I’m just a writer finding things interesting as I go.
Without further meanderings, here are the top ten nasty boy starters with their total pitch value and their fWAR rank in parenthesis:
- Clayton Kershaw: 56.1 (1)
- Matt Harvey: 44 (5)
- Jose Fernandez: 40.9 (19)
- Max Scherzer: 38.8 (2)
- Adam Wainwright: 38.1 (4)
- Madison Bumgarner: 37.4 (26)
- Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish: 30.5 (35, 10)
- Cliff Lee: 30.1 (8)
- Hisashi Iwakuma: 27.8 (18)
- Chris Sale: 24.9 (9)
Some notes from the list: Kershaw had the most valuable fastball, a great score on his curve and a very good score on his slider. He had a negative value on his change-up. Harvey was one of the few pitchers that had positive marks on every pitch type he threw. I was mildly surprised by Bumgarner and Iwakuma.
Naturally, you are going to want to know the bottom five:
- Joe Saunders: -36.3 Ugh
- Edinson Volquez: -25.2
- Edwin Jackson: -19.2
- Jeremy Guthrie: -17
- Ian Kennedy: -15.9
No real surprises there.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the relief pitcher version.