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Sunday, December 08, 2013

HHS: The Top 50 Pitchers Since 1950

Where the #### (####) is Jack (Jack) Morris?!

Who are the best starting pitchers of the past 60+ years? One way to answer that question is using RE24, the measure of how much a pitcher reduces his opponent’s’ run expectancy with each batter faced.

Starting from each of the 24 base-out states (ranging from nobody on, nobody out to to bases loaded, two out), there is an expected number of runs a team will score in the remainder of that inning, based on average hitters facing average pitchers. With the result of each plate appearance, a pitcher is credited with the resulting change in run expectancy (which can be positive or negative) less any runs allowed.

RE24, then, tells you how many runs a pitcher saved or cost his team relative to the average pitcher in the same base-out situations. Over the course of a career, the batters each pitcher faces will collectively approximate an average batter, allowing some reasonable basis for comparing different pitchers (with the possibly large caveat that RE24 does not adjust for park factors, team defense or other factors).

After the jump, the top 50 since 1950.

I’m using the metric RE24/9 to show the number of runs per 9 innings that a pitcher was better than the average pitcher in the base-out states that the pitcher faced. To qualify, a pitcher must have compiled 2000 IP since 1950. Only seasons since 1950 are counted (the data back to 1950 are mostly complete, with some data back to 1945, and scant data prior to that). Of the 220 qualifying pitchers, these are the top 50 in RE24/9.

Repoz Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:34 AM | 61 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Captain Supporter Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4613437)
I scanned the chart, saw that Kevin Appier ranked higher than Bob Gibson, and Mark Buehrle ranked higher than Juan Marichal, and decided that I did not have to waste any more time with RE24.
   2. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4613443)
I scanned the chart, saw that Kevin Appier ranked higher than Bob Gibson, and Mark Buehrle ranked higher than Juan Marichal, and decided that I did not have to waste any more time with RE24.

Why dismiss it out of hand? Kevin Appier was a hell of a pitcher and maybe he's being grossly underrated. What I think may be affecting the results of this is the Sillyball offense era of the 90's is making the pitchers who were good then look even better. So the question is, were the really good pitchers of the Sillyball era really that good relative to their peers? Is it possible there was just an historical shortage of decent pitchers in the 90's? Despite the steroids and smaller stadiums we still saw many great pitching performances in the era--Maddux, Pedro, Johnson, Schilling, etc--many more than we saw in the much less offense oriented 80's. It's weird.
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:39 AM (#4613445)
I second post 1. What a garbage concept. I know the love people have around here for Pedro, but how can anyone seriously take something that rates Pedro ahead of Clemens or Maddux. Pedro entire case is his peak, and it's not like he blows either of those guys away on peak, then those guys add another 2000 innings of high quality pitching.

Pedro's peak is 199 gs, 213 era+, .940 whip.... Maddux is 191 gs, 195 era+, .959 whip, Clemens doesn't have the consecutive peak to compete with these guys, but still seasons of 226, 222, 211, 194(19gs), 176, 174, 174 169, 165 (all but the 194 led the league) in era+ is pretty competitive non-consecutive peak. I'm not even sure that I could rate Pedro ahead of Randy. (and of course remember that era+ overstates the difference between players, 213 vs 195 isn't that big of a difference)
   4. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:40 AM (#4613446)
I scanned the chart, saw that Kevin Appier ranked higher than Bob Gibson, and Mark Buehrle ranked higher than Juan Marichal, and decided that I did not have to waste any more time with RE24.

Not to mention about a dozen other strange listings too numerous to mention. But I guess it keeps people like this off the streets, so there's that.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:43 AM (#4613448)
Why dismiss it out of hand?


Because it seems to be claiming best pitcher, while resting it's entire case on a rate stat. A straight war listing would have been better than wasting time by listing a rate argument. If you are going to bother doing something like that, you do the actual research and 1. set up a minimum inning pitched. 2. then find either the best stretches of a players career that comes close to equalling the minimum, or even their best years added up to the minimum. Including the players decline and/or developmental years in a pure rate stat is stacking the deck for the short career guys.
   6. Steve N Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:47 AM (#4613451)
Any list that has Robin Roberts at 48 is drivel.
   7. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:47 AM (#4613452)
Why dismiss it out of hand?


Because the only valid analysis is analysis that tells us what we already knew in our hearts, Skippy. Every. Last. Time.
   8. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4613459)
So, it doesn't adjust for park factors, team defense, or "other factors". On top of that, it's a pure rate stat, and he's not accounting for IP at all. It also doesn't adjust for the problem that it's easier to be farther below average in a high offense era than a low offense era, exacerbated by the addition of more and more mediocre middle relief pitchers that are included in those a, which is another reason why all of the pitchers from the '90's and later seem to be overrated and all of the pitchers from the '60s and '70s seem underrated. With work, he might eventually get this somewhere useful, but right now it doesn't pass the smell test.

Is it possible there was just an historical shortage of decent pitchers in the 90's?


Or that there were the same number of decent pitchers, but a whole lot more bad pitchers because of how many more relief pitchers are being used than were 40 years ago.
   9. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:08 AM (#4613466)
It also doesn't adjust for the problem that it's easier to be farther below average in a high offense era than a low offense era, which is another reason why all of the pitchers from the '90's and later seem to be overrated and all of the pitchers from the '60s and '70s seem underrated.
This may be true, and he does say "best" and not "most valuable", but wouldn't a pitcher way better than average in a high offense era be more valuable than an equally good pitcher closer to average in a low offense era?
   10. jdennis Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4613492)
#3, I have Pedro very high, in the top 10 all time along with Randy, but Clemens and Maddux are 3/4.

Your post makes it sound like people have Pedro 2 and Clemens 21 or something. Or that it's a joke to consider them close. I guess I just want to say, I have Randy and Pedro very, very high and above some other people it may be "taboo" to put them above, but they are still not above Clemens/Maddux.

And I agree with the other posts that say you need a scalar like IP to go along with the rate stat.
   11. jdennis Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4613494)
Ok, I looked at TFA. Wow. Maddux the 12th best since 1950. Just wow. And Pedro first by a mile. Okay, now I understand.
   12. Steve Treder Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:45 PM (#4613524)
Why dismiss it out of hand?

I'm reminded of a quote from M*A*S*H ...

Frank Burns: Why do people always take an immediate disliking to me?

Trapper John: It saves time.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:13 PM (#4613597)
#3, I have Pedro very high, in the top 10 all time along with Randy, but Clemens and Maddux are 3/4.


I probably have it similarly. Pedro is a great pitcher and in a cherry picked selected peak, he's probably the best, but overall Maddux and Clemens clearly dwarf him.
   14. DanG Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:26 PM (#4613603)
I went back to 1943 to get Early Wynn on the list. All pitchers reaching these three levels:

RE24 > 150, PitchW > 16, Pitching WAR > 45

Rk             Player PitchW   WAR    RE24     IP From   To   W   L  SV ERA+
1       Roger Clemens  74.27 139.2 771.692 4916.2 1984 2007 354 184   0  143
2         Greg Maddux  57.75 104.8 553.570 5008.1 1986 2008 355 227   0  132
3       Randy Johnson  52.32 104.1 529.888 4135.1 1988 2009 303 166   2  135
4      Pedro Martinez  50.85  85.9 539.886 2827.1 1992 2009 219 100   3  154
5          Tom Seaver  49.27 106.1 513.991 4783.0 1967 1986 311 205   1  127
6        Warren Spahn  39.83  93.4 481.786 5228.0 1946 1965 363 245  29  119
7          Bob Gibson  39.15  81.9 365.213 3884.1 1959 1975 251 174   6  127
8          Jim Palmer  37.74  67.9 426.201 3948.0 1965 1984 268 152   4  125
9      Curt Schilling  36.94  80.7 394.840 3261.0 1988 2007 216 146  22  127
10      Bert Blyleven  35.82  96.4 361.186 4970.0 1970 1992 287 250   0  118
11        Whitey Ford  34.98  53.9 393.031 3170.1 1950 1967 236 106  10  133
12       Mike Mussina  34.75  82.7 412.921 3562.2 1991 2008 270 153   0  123
13        John Smoltz  33.93  66.6 364.896 3473.0 1988 2009 213 155 154  125
14      Gaylord Perry  33.59  93.6 307.785 5350.0 1962 1983 314 265  11  117
15       Roy Halladay  33.23  65.6 339.430 2749.1 1998 2013 203 105   1  131
16     Mariano Rivera  32.49  56.5 355.372 1283.2 1995 2013  82  60 652  205
17        Tom Glavine  32.35  74.0 362.281 4413.1 1987 2008 305 203   0  118
18        Kevin Brown  32.24  68.7 333.334 3256.1 1986 2005 211 144   0  127
19      Steve Carlton  31.09  84.0 275.153 5217.2 1965 1988 329 244   2  115
20       Hoyt Wilhelm  29.47  50.0 262.820 2254.1 1952 1972 143 122 227  147
21        Phil Niekro  29.08  97.3 186.139 5404.0 1964 1987 318 274  29  115
22      Robin Roberts  27.86  83.0 272.130 4688.2 1948 1966 286 245  25  113
23      Johan Santana  27.85  50.6 302.307 2025.2 2000 2012 139  78   1  136
24       Sandy Koufax  27.32  53.2 267.407 2324.1 1955 1966 165  87   9  131
25         Tim Hudson  27.13  55.4 290.209 2813.2 1999 2013 205 111   0  124
26     Fergie Jenkins  27.06  82.7 258.734 4500.2 1965 1983 284 226   7  115
27      Juan Marichal  27.05  61.8 252.571 3507.0 1960 1975 243 142   2  123
28       Billy Pierce  26.53  52.9 304.628 3306.2 1945 1964 211 169  32  119
29    Bret Saberhagen  26.43  59.2 278.072 2562.2 1984 2001 167 117   1  126
30         Dave Stieb  25.27  56.8 253.882 2895.1 1979 1998 176 137   3  122
31       Don Drysdale  24.72  61.3 294.168 3432.0 1956 1969 209 166   6  121
32         Roy Oswalt  24.66  49.9 256.124 2245.1 2001 2013 163 102   0  127
33         David Cone  24.24  61.8 277.742 2898.2 1986 2003 194 126   1  121
34   Dennis Eckersley  23.61  62.4 255.872 3285.2 1975 1998 197 171 390  116
35         Nolan Ryan  23.40  83.7 281.977 5386.0 1966 1993 324 292   3  112
36        CC Sabathia  23.11  54.4 251.408 2775.1 2001 2013 205 115   0  121
37       Kevin Appier  23.04  55.0 253.839 2595.1 1989 2004 169 137   0  121
38          Jimmy Key  22.89  49.4 258.714 2591.2 1984 1998 186 117  10  122
39      Andy Pettitte  22.49  61.0 258.336 3316.0 1995 2013 256 153   0  117
40        Jim Bunning  22.38  60.5 220.218 3760.1 1955 1971 224 184  16  115
41         Luis Tiant  22.27  65.9 218.393 3486.1 1964 1982 229 172  15  114
42         Don Sutton  20.49  68.8 300.415 5282.1 1966 1988 324 256   5  108
43         Ron Guidry  19.88  47.9 238.507 2392.0 1975 1988 170  91   4  119
44       Chuck Finley  19.59  58.4 199.141 3197.1 1986 2002 200 173   0  115
45       Mark Buehrle  19.56  54.4 209.420 2882.2 2000 2013 186 142   0  117
46      Rick Reuschel  19.40  68.2 159.685 3548.1 1972 1991 214 191   5  114
47         Tommy John  18.22  62.2 180.219 4710.1 1963 1989 288 231   4  111
48       Steve Rogers  17.96  45.4 189.927 2837.2 1973 1985 158 152   2  116
49      Jerry Koosman  16.60  57.2 173.155 3839.1 1967 1985 222 209  17  110
50         Early Wynn  16.24  52.0 214.462 4313.2 1943 1963 287 225  15  108 
   15. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4613610)
I probably have it similarly. Pedro is a great pitcher and in a cherry picked selected peak, he's probably the best, but overall Maddux and Clemens clearly dwarf him.


Pedro career 2800 IP, 154 ERA+

Maddux from 1991-2002 2800 IP 164 ERA+. Maddux outside of prime 2200 IP at ~105

Clemens 1986-1998 3000 IP at 155. Clemens outside of prime 1800 IP at ~126

Johnson 1993-2005 2800 IP at 160. Johnson outside of prime 1400 IP at 101
   16. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:18 PM (#4613636)
You guys need to stop trying to ruin how much I love Pedro with your stupid facts and stuff.
   17. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:28 PM (#4613641)
Pedro career 2800 IP, 154 ERA+

Maddux from 1991-2002 2800 IP 164 ERA+. Maddux outside of prime 2200 IP at ~105

Clemens 1986-1998 3000 IP at 155. Clemens outside of prime 1800 IP at ~126

Johnson 1993-2005 2800 IP at 160. Johnson outside of prime 1400 IP at 101

Why compare Pedro's career to other guys' prime? What are Pedro's prime and non-prime numbers? If your point is that Pedro had a shorter career and prime than those other guys, I think we already know that. It's not clear whether you're trying to rebut or prove the quoted passage. Not that it matters, but my Career WAA plus Postseason based system has Clemens, Unit, Maddux, Pedro, Seaver, Gibson, Smoltz, Spahn, Blyleven, Halladay as the Top 10 since 1950.
   18. Baldrick Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:29 PM (#4613642)
Pedro career 2800 IP, 154 ERA+

Maddux from 1991-2002 2800 IP 164 ERA+. Maddux outside of prime 2200 IP at ~105

Clemens 1986-1998 3000 IP at 155. Clemens outside of prime 1800 IP at ~126

Johnson 1993-2005 2800 IP at 160. Johnson outside of prime 1400 IP at 101

Is this meant to be an argument against the claim that Pedro has the better peak if you cherry pick what counts?

Because all it shows is that Pedro's career (which includes his decline) can be matched up with sections of Maddux/Clemens/Johnson's career. Which is not the question. In fact, just a few posts earlier, cardsfanboy provided the data to explain his claim here (Pedro's 197-2003 at 213 ERA+ being better than any comparable period for any of these other guys).

Edit: Coke to Ivan
   19. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:45 PM (#4613655)
I second post 1. What a garbage concept. I know the love people have around here for Pedro, but how can anyone seriously take something that rates Pedro ahead of Clemens or Maddux.

So you don't take EAR+ seriously. Cause Pedro is second all time behind Mariano. And Clemens and Maddux do much worse there (11 and 29).

It's a rate stat. It doesn't tell you everything you need to know. That doesn't make it garbage, or mean that it can't tell you anything.
   20. Sunday silence Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:50 PM (#4613660)
How is it that on this thread it is obvious that pitching more innings is a useful skill yet on the Jack Morris thread most of them cant even agree that being an innings eater is a useful skill. Whether you are dealing with a career decline phase or simply pitching more innings in a season it should still be useful. To me, if a guy pitches 180 innn. at 2.5 ERA and another guy pitches 240 inn at 3.0 there is some sort of adjustment that needs to made there. How much adjustment is the question. One way is to say: "how many scratch runs can a guy surrender in say a 5-0 game, in order to save his bullpen for another day."
   21. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:52 PM (#4613661)
If you want one dude to pitch a game that you have to win or else you go to hell, I pick 1999 Pedro Martinez and you lose.
   22. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:53 PM (#4613663)
being an innings eater is a useful skill


It is, but it's not one that should get you into the Hall of Fame.
   23. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4613666)
Is this meant to be an argument against the claim that Pedro has the better peak if you cherry pick what counts?


No, it was meant to support the second half of CFB's statement, that Maddux and Clemens (and Johnson) dwarf him. It's true no pitcher had a 1400 IP prime as good as Pedro (well, not quite true. Pedro from 1997-2003 had 44.1 WAA. Clemens, in his best 1400 IP seasons had the exact same WAA) But the other three had 1600 IP primes as good, and 1800 IP primes better.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:00 PM (#4613671)
So you don't take EAR+ seriously. Cause Pedro is second all time behind Mariano. And Clemens and Maddux do much worse there (11 and 29).

It's a rate stat. It doesn't tell you everything you need to know. That doesn't make it garbage, or mean that it can't tell you anything.


No, but taking a listing of a rate stat like era+ and using it as the one and only piece of evidence to claim who are the top 50 pitchers, is pretty much garbage.

I don't have a problem with re24. It's using it as the only argument for ranking pitchers that I have a problem with.
   25. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4613678)
How is it that on this thread it is obvious that pitching more innings is a useful skill yet on the Jack Morris thread most of them cant even agree that being an innings eater is a useful skill. Whether you are dealing with a career decline phase or simply pitching more innings in a season it should still be useful. To me, if a guy pitches 180 innn. at 2.5 ERA and another guy pitches 240 inn at 3.0 there is some sort of adjustment that needs to made there. How much adjustment is the question. One way is to say: "how many scratch runs can a guy surrender in say a 5-0 game, in order to save his bullpen for another day."

That's some nifty men of straw you built there. Nobody disagrees with the notion that innings eaters are valuable. He has ~44 WAR, that is better than most. They just think you need to eat more, at a better rate than jack Morris to make the hall.

And innings are accounted for in WAR. If you assume a replacement level ERA of 5.00 (using that primarily for ease of math), the 180 2.50 guy is at about 5 WAR. The 240 3.00 guy is at 5.33.
   26. Baldrick Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:10 PM (#4613679)
How is it that on this thread it is obvious that pitching more innings is a useful skill yet on the Jack Morris thread most of them cant even agree that being an innings eater is a useful skill. Whether you are dealing with a career decline phase or simply pitching more innings in a season it should still be useful. To me, if a guy pitches 180 innn. at 2.5 ERA and another guy pitches 240 inn at 3.0 there is some sort of adjustment that needs to made there. How much adjustment is the question. One way is to say: "how many scratch runs can a guy surrender in say a 5-0 game, in order to save his bullpen for another day."

The difference between those two guys is 60 innings at a 4.50 ERA. So which one was 'better' depends on a number of questions. What is the run environment? If it's 2000 and they're pitching in Coors, then the 240 inning guy is CLEARLY better. You also then need to figure out how much you care about WAA vs. WAR. In most cases, a 4.50 ERA is going to be below average but above replacement. So you would probably rather have the 240 inning guy. But if you're trying to figure out which is more impressive for a HOF case, extra below-average performance might not excite you very much.

All things considered, I'm guessing that most folks here would rather have the 240 inning guy. Because average innings are hard to come by.

The thing is: the 240/3.00 guy is a much better pitcher than Jack (The Jack) Morris ever was. You could prorate 1981 out to a full season and you might get close to those numbers. Or you could adjust the run environment in 1987. But the typical Morris season was nowhere close to your hypothetical. And if you're asking whether I'd rather have the 180/2.50 guy or a 240/3.60 guy (Morris, 1984)...well, I'll take pitcher A every time.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:12 PM (#4613683)
If you want one dude to pitch a game that you have to win or else you go to hell, I pick 1999 Pedro Martinez and you lose.


I don't know, since we are going one season type of guys, peak Gooden or even 1985 John Tudor might be a good bet, and I'm not really sure one season peak Pedro is better than one season peak Maddux or Clemens to be honest. Getting away from era+ since era- is a little bit better and you have 1994 Maddux with a 37 era- and 2000 Pedro with a 35...that is within the margin of error I would think.

   28. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:39 PM (#4613726)
Clemens, in his best 1400 IP seasons had the exact same WAA)

But even that is cherry picking because Clemens' best 1400 IP aren't consecutive.

If I had to win one game, I'd take peak Pedro. But that's arguable with Maddux/Clemens/Unit, and those guys have as many great seasons as Pedro and many more good seasons.
   29. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:12 PM (#4613741)
If you want one dude to pitch a game that you have to win or else you go to hell, I pick 1999 Pedro Martinez and you lose.


I don't know, since we are going one season type of guys, peak Gooden or even 1985 John Tudor might be a good bet,

Yeah, never mind that in the one game that year where Tudor really did "have to win or go to hell", he didn't make it out of the third inning. You live by your definition and you die by your definition.

   30. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:23 PM (#4613749)
Yeah, never mind that in the one game that year where Tudor really did "have to win or go to hell", he didn't make it out of the third inning. You live by your definition and you die by your definition.


And Francona gets blamed for Pedro's inability to get past the 7th inning.
   31. Gonfalon B. Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4613757)
If I have to win one game, I take Kerry Wood. We're talking extreeeme peak, right?
   32. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:46 PM (#4613759)
And Francona gets blamed for Pedro's inability to get past the 7th inning.

Francona didn't manage Pedro during his peak.
   33. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:46 PM (#4613760)
Or Jack Morris

edit: Reply to 31, not 32, though 32 is true as well.
   34. Steve Treder Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4613761)
If I have to win one game, I take Kerry Wood. We're talking extreeeme peak, right?

1954 Karl Spooner. Duh.
   35. Captain Supporter Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4613762)
If you had to win one game or else go to hell, and you took Pedro, you better have Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. Because Pedro ain't going nine.

I'll take Koufax.
   36. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:53 PM (#4613766)
If you had to win one game or else go to hell, and you took Pedro, you better have Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. Because Pedro ain't going nine.

Pedro, at his best, averaged as many innings per start as anyone. Don't confuse post-peak Pedro with peak Pedro. In 2000, he averaged 7.5 IP/S. In 1997, it was 7.8.
   37. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:54 PM (#4613767)
Pedro threw plenty of complete games.

And he was much better than Doc Gooden.
   38. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 08, 2013 at 07:21 PM (#4613783)
1954 Karl Spooner. Duh.

"We shudda had Spoonah soonah!"

-------------------------------------------

If you had to win one game or else go to hell, and you took Pedro, you better have Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. Because Pedro ain't going nine.


Pedro, at his best, averaged as many innings per start as anyone. Don't confuse post-peak Pedro with peak Pedro. In 2000, he averaged 7.5 IP/S. In 1997, it was 7.8.

Unless my math is off, that still leaves the ninth for Mariano.

And of course Koufax threw 54 complete games in his last two years alone, which is 8 more than Pedro had in his entire career. If you want one pitcher for one game without any need for relief, you can't beat Koufax.
   39. Mark Armour Posted: December 08, 2013 at 07:26 PM (#4613784)
Pedro, who I rooted for and loved, would not be my answer unless you skew the question to deliberately make him the answer. "If you had one game to win" -- you better make sure Pedro is available, since at his peak he missed five starts a year. If he was at his peak, and happened to not be on the DL, and was working on sufficient rest, then there was no one better ever.

Otherwise, I (a Red Sox fan for 45 years) would prefer Maddux or Seaver or Randy Johnson to Pedro.

   40. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: December 08, 2013 at 07:35 PM (#4613790)
Unless my math is off, that still leaves the ninth for Mariano.

Do your math, and there's not that much difference in innings per start during Pedro's peak and Koufax's peak.

Koufax's peak lasted 5 seasons and he made fewer than 30 starts in 2 of those seasons. He made 40+ starts in the others though. He wasn't Maddux/Unit/Clemens durable.
   41. Gonfalon B. Posted: December 08, 2013 at 08:36 PM (#4613830)
Mid-1960s Sandy racked up more complete starts than late-1990s Pedro through sheer willpower and nothing else. When you think durability, you think Koufax.
   42. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 08, 2013 at 08:59 PM (#4613850)
Do your math, and there's not that much difference in innings per start during Pedro's peak and Koufax's peak.

Koufax's peak lasted 5 seasons and he made fewer than 30 starts in 2 of those seasons. He made 40+ starts in the others though. He wasn't Maddux/Unit/Clemens durable.


Obviously these are two different discussions, career durable vs game durable. Maddux/Unit/Clemens trounce Koufax in the first category, and get trounced by him in return in the second. And in "Who would you want in a sudden death game?" it's not even close. Koufax consistently dominated in his postseason games, while Maddux/Unit/Clemens all blew hot and cold in theirs.
   43. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:03 PM (#4613854)
Pedro, who I rooted for and loved, would not be my answer unless you skew the question to deliberately make him the answer. "If you had one game to win" -- you better make sure Pedro is available, since at his peak he missed five starts a year


So, if you mean that you do the exact opposite of what you propose, Pedro looks worse?
   44. tfbg9 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:21 PM (#4613860)
Didn't Maddux get a lot of help from his defense in his peak years? And he wasn't a big swing and miss guy. If my immortal soul is on the line, I want a clutch swing and miss guy. Like Koufax, or Pedro, or Randy or Schill.
   45. Baldrick Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:29 PM (#4613865)
Unless my math is off, that still leaves the ninth for Mariano.

During the period when Koufax was Koufax, he averaged 7.82 IP/start.

So unless my math is off, that still leaves the ninth for Mariano.
   46. Gonfalon B. Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4613880)
Unless my math is off, Mariano has to come in with two outs in the 8th, and 1.463 strikes on the hitter.
   47. tfbg9 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:57 PM (#4613881)
Isn't there research that suggests that much of the innings difference between 60-70's starters and 00-10's starters because it takes so many pitches per batter these days? IIRC, the average number of pitches per start is kinda similar? I'd guess there's a certain number of outlier starts, where guys were left in for 150+ pitches in the old days,
but I think I saw something about this, where some guy developed a pitch count estimator for the oldtimers.
   48. Baldrick Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:04 PM (#4613885)
During his peak, Johnson averaged 7.35 IP/start. Pedro averaged 7.08 innings per start from 97-03 and 7.42 from 1997-2000. Maddux from 92-98 averaged 7.41. Clemens from 86-92 averaged 7.59 IP/start.

Again, Koufax in his five years of brilliance averaged 7.82.

There is no denying that Koufax was incredibly impressive, particularly in 65-66 when he was throwing 40 games a year and completing well over half of them. That's nuts. But it just goes to show how durable the modern guys actually were that they could hang reasonably close in a much tougher environment.

One of the differences, of course, is that Koufax routinely went 9, while a lot of the modern guys routinely went 7 or 8 and only sometimes finished the game. Most of what drags him down is some VERY short outings. In '66 for example, he had games of 1.1, 2, 3, and 4.1 innings. That's four games below five innings. Compare that to Pedro in 2000, who had one 4 inning start the whole season, and only four starts below 7 innings. But he went exactly 7 innings TEN times (compared to Koufax's three times).

But clearly Pedro COULD go all nine if needed. It's just that modern usage patterns didn't require him to do so regularly, so he didn't. In a bunch of those games, they were up enough that the bullpen wasn't going to blow it - or were losing because the offense couldn't score. It was only after 2000 that he became more of a true '7 inning pitcher.'
   49. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:55 PM (#4613912)
There is no denying that Koufax was incredibly impressive, particularly in 65-66 when he was throwing 40 games a year and completing well over half of them.

66%, to be exact. 27 out of 41 games in each of his last two years.

That's nuts. But it just goes to show how durable the modern guys actually were that they could hang reasonably close in a much tougher environment.

That's true, and I want to make the distinction clear between value and inherent ability. The fact that Koufax's phenomenal percentage of complete games** provided value above and beyond any of the bullpen-dependent modern pitchers doesn't mean that he was inherently more durable than they are, since modern conditions are such that Koufax couldn't possibly duplicate his innings numbers today, let alone his consistently sub-2.00 ERA. What you can say as a general rule is that in Koufax's day the overall value of a pitching staff was more weighted on its starters than it is today, and less dependent on having a deep and talented bullpen stocked with multiple 90+ MPH flamethrowers.

**And also Koufax's greater a number of games overall, and greater number of innings
   50. AROM Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:04 PM (#4613917)
For comparison purposes, you can go to the bullpen. But it's Mitch Williams warming up, so you better take a pitcher who can last.
   51. Select Storage Device Posted: December 09, 2013 at 12:51 AM (#4613943)
This list is fun because it makes my brain tickle. The plight of Whitey Ford's table progression is interesting: 5,16,11. Also Wilhelm's min/maxing on the "leveraged innings."

I read the metric explanation and still don't get why it is so context heavy on offense, but I can appreciate a Pedro Love Machine because I genuinely think we saw something special.
   52. tshipman Posted: December 09, 2013 at 01:14 AM (#4613947)
I read the metric explanation and still don't get why it is so context heavy on offense, but I can appreciate a Pedro Love Machine because I genuinely think we saw something special.


It's one thing to appreciate Pedro. It's another thing to say that Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Roy Oswalt were all better pitchers than Greg Maddux.

If you find your stat saying that, you should realize there's an issue.
   53. Baldrick Posted: December 09, 2013 at 01:34 AM (#4613953)
It's one thing to appreciate Pedro. It's another thing to say that Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Roy Oswalt were all better pitchers than Greg Maddux.

Those four pitchers all have better RA+s than Maddux. They all have better SO/BB ratios and all have a better wwwWL% (winning percentage of an otherwise average team in the games in which they play). Two of them have better WHIPs. Three have better winning percentages.

The stat may or may not be terrible. I don't really know. But all that this means is that it's a rate stat. Maddux loses out to those guys in LOTS of rate stats because he pitched like 4000 more innings than they did.
   54. Rob_Wood Posted: December 09, 2013 at 01:36 AM (#4613955)
Um, does anyone really believe that RE24 is an appropriate way to evaluate starting pitchers?

Since starting pitchers begin every inning they pitch, looking at how they do "intra-inning" makes little sense to me.
   55. bobm Posted: December 09, 2013 at 02:22 AM (#4613966)
[47] Isn't there research that suggests that much of the innings difference between 60-70's starters and 00-10's starters because it takes so many pitches per batter these days? IIRC, the average number of pitches per start is kinda similar? I'd guess there's a certain number of outlier starts, where guys were left in for 150+ pitches in the old days,
but I think I saw something about this, where some guy developed a pitch count estimator for the oldtimers.


Player  Years GSwPC IP/GSwPC P/GSwPC P/BF
 Pedro  97-00   118      7.3     113 3.91
Koufax 63-65*    69      7.8     112 3.68


Source: BB-REF
GSwPC = "games started with pitch count data"

*1963 through August 16, 1964 plus September 9, 1965
   56. bobm Posted: December 09, 2013 at 02:42 AM (#4613977)
Too late to edit [55], but it's worth noting that the standard deviation in Koufax's pitch counts is about twice that of Pedro's. Koufax had more extremely high and low pitch counts.
   57. Blackadder Posted: December 09, 2013 at 02:54 AM (#4613981)
Um, does anyone really believe that RE24 is an appropriate way to evaluate starting pitchers?

Since starting pitchers begin every inning they pitch, looking at how they do "intra-inning" makes little sense to me.


Well, it is somewhat appropriate, but only because it provides no additional information: RE24/9 is basically just lgRA - RA.

Assume a pitcher throws a complete inning. At the start of the inning, the RE was simply the number of runs a league average pitcher/defense would allow in an inning, while at the end of the inning the RE is 0. If you think about it for a minute, all the intra-inning increases and decreases in RE have to add up to this difference, minus the number of the runs the pitcher allowed. In other words:

RE24 for a complete inning = #runs an average pitcher would allow - #runs pitcher allowed

Now assume for simplicity that a pitcher only throws complete innings. From the above equation,

RE24/9 = #runs an average pitcher would allow/9 - #runs pitcher allowed

Or

RE24/9 = lgRA - RA

So the only difference between RE24/9 and lgRA-RA is how runs are attributed after a pitcher leaves the game, which is an effect, but almost certainly a small one. Any "oddities" in an RE24/9 rankings should also appear in a comparison of RA to lgRA.

Consider, for example, Gibson vs Appier. Appier has a career RA of 4.05, Gibson 3.29. I don't know what lgRA's are for their careers, but BBREF thinks that an average starting pitcher in Appier's context would have had an RA of 5.04 (unlike RE24 this is adjusted for park, defense, and starting penalties), while for Gibson the number is 4.24. 5.04-4.05=.99, while 4.24-3.29=.95, so we see the same ever so slight lead for Appier as in TFA's list. Similarly, Oswalt is 4.78-3.60 = 1.18, while Maddux is 4.62-3.56 = 1.06.

It should go without saying, of course, that this isn't a particularly great way to rank pitchers. Setting aside the problems with rating pitchers based solely on career rate stats, taking the difference is going to bias your list in favor of pitchers from higher run scoring environments, as a number of people have noted. It is much better to take the ratio as in RA+ or RA-, since that is precisely the number that appears in any Pythagorean-style formula.
   58. Select Storage Device Posted: December 09, 2013 at 02:57 AM (#4613982)
It's one thing to appreciate Pedro. It's another thing to say that Johan Santana, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina and Roy Oswalt were all better pitchers than Greg Maddux.


Oh it's a bizarre thing. It's already been pointed out how much credit is given to "modern" pitchers. I think the non-modern guys on the list are a curiosity, and it went in the other kinda obvious direction (and still fun) -- peak between Pedro and Koufax.

Check out the love for Andy Messersmith, who outranked Tom Glavine, Bert Blyleven, Juan Marichal, and Warren Spahn in something called RE24boLI/9. Andy Messersmith! It's made more interesting because Messersmith truly was a really great pitcher for a bit. It's just another good reason to open bb-ref.



   59. Select Storage Device Posted: December 09, 2013 at 03:00 AM (#4613983)
#57 -- Made that much easier to understand. Thanks.
   60. Bug Selig Posted: December 09, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4614293)
Maddux from 1991-2002 2800 IP 164 ERA+. Maddux outside of prime 2200 IP at ~105


Don't let this get out, or Murray Chass will vote for "Maddux outside of prime" for the HOF.
   61. Sunday silence Posted: December 09, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4614415)

That's some nifty men of straw you built there. Nobody disagrees with the notion that innings eaters are valuable.


Bullsh!t. If you go back to the thread I am talking about, it's about a week old, there are at least 9 comments there that seem to suggest they give no credit to pitching a lot of innings in a season. One guy, Fred, I think said pitching to the eight inning means nothing it's just a function of your manager leaving you in there.

OK? So my pt. is that we often discuss stuff on this site as if everyone is in lockstep about statistics in baseball and how they work, but when you really look at it we contradict ourselves at every turn. One thread we are discussing how important defense is and another thread we talk about all time greats and it's routine mention of Ty CObb no mention of Tris Speaker. Or we talk about high leverage situations, everyone seems to agree, then we routinely assign a SB a linear weight of 0.2...

It not about Jack MOrris. I am not arguing for Jack Morris. I am not saying how important eating innings is. It has to have some importance no doubt. It's about our collective short term memory.

I also didnt realize WAR accounts for inn eating, so that I didnt know and you make a good pt there.

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