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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don Malcolm: NOLAN RYAN: THE POWER OF THE “POWER PRECIPICE”

They Gave Him a JUGS Gun…and Malcolm knows how to use it.

We struck recently (just a glancing blow, fortunately) by an off-hand remark about Nolan Ryan. The utterer attributed it to Bill James, though we’ve not had time to verify the reference. (No matter: despite what might otherwise seem to be the case, there’s no intent in this essay to “bash” anyone…just making that clear in case someone erstwhile Jack Kruschen-type alerts Rob Neyer to the goings-on here.)

That remark, boiled down to its most prosaic formulation, suggested that when Ryan had his control he was unbeatable, and when he didn’t he wasn’t. Sounds like good advice (but that didn’t stop Linda Ronstadt from loving some sweet-talking heartbreaker in a what seemed like an endless series of lachrymose ballads…) as well as a large dollop of early sabermetric common sense.

There were numbers in the formulation that went something like this: 5+ walks in a game, struggle; 3 or less walks, unbeatable. But as with many of the binary formulations that informed early efforts (and that are still, how shall we say…“psychologically influential” even today) to deconstruct baseball statistics, this one doesn’t really stand up to a full sniff test.

But it does lead us into some interesting areas that aren’t quite as settled as the heterodox orthodoxy would have us believe. (Cue up the music, folks…it’s QMAX time again!)

It turns out that when we break out Ryan’s career starts (all 773 of them, available one by one at Forman et fil), the idea that he was unbeatable when he had better control is roughly three-fourths true.

...It’s amazing to find out that he had 232 starts in which he walked five or more batters; that he had only 27 starts (just 3%) where he didn’t walk anyone. And it’s very interesting to note that his ERA in games where he walked five batters isn’t all that different from his ERA in games where he walked only three.

In fact, it’s downright weird to discover that Ryan’s ERA in games where he walked five or more batters is lower than it is in games where he walks three or four batters.

Repoz Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:57 AM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: March 19, 2013 at 07:01 AM (#4391002)
games or starts? At least part of it is that a larger percentage of his <=3 BB starts were crappy starts where he didn't last 5 innings (and it looked like a lot of really crappy ones) ... although the relief appearances make that a bit hard to say for sure. Anyway, BB/9 would seem the place to start.

In games with a BB rate of 4.5/9 or worse, his median IP was 6.1, with 6 K and 3 runs. In games with a BB rate of 3.6/9 or better, median IP was 7.2 with 8 K and 2 runs. That looks like what we'd expect yes?

(I don't know how to get b-r to sum across these games so the means might look different.)
   2. MikeTorrez Posted: March 19, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4391110)
I originally read this as "The Power of the 'Power Prepuce'."
   3. Esoteric Posted: March 19, 2013 at 10:51 AM (#4391128)
This guy seriously needs to cut back on his use of parenthetical phrases (from one who knows).
   4. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: March 19, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4391148)
Eso, I know I've been misbehaving parenthetically when I find myself embedding a parenthetical expression inside of another one. It's cool for Math, not so cool for Language.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM (#4391253)
games or starts? At least part of it is that a larger percentage of his <=3 BB starts were crappy starts where he didn't last 5 innings (and it looked like a lot of really crappy ones)


Yeah, that was my thought as well. Games where Ryan was left in to allow five walks were also likely to be games where he allowed three hits and pitched a full nine innings.
   6. Moeball Posted: March 19, 2013 at 05:07 PM (#4391755)
Games where Ryan was left in to allow five walks were also likely to be games where he allowed three hits and pitched a full nine innings.




Here's one of my favorites.

   7. GGC Posted: March 21, 2013 at 08:49 PM (#4393937)
QMAX!
   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 21, 2013 at 09:19 PM (#4393949)
I do a lot of parenthetical comments (because I forget to say something (that probably wasn't worth saying in the first place))

-- MWE

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