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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The R.A. Dickey Effect - 2013 Edition

It is widely talked about by announcers and baseball fans alike, that knuckleball pitchers can throw hitters off their game and leave them in funks for days… I decided to analyze to determine if there really is an effect and what its value is…

Most people that try to analyze this [R.A.] Dickey effect tend to group all the pitchers that follow in to one grouping with one ERA and compare to the total ERA of the bullpen or rotation. This is a simplistic and non-descriptive way of analyzing the effect and does not look at the how often the pitchers are pitching not after Dickey…

I summed the stats for following Dickey and weighted each pitcher based on the batters he faced over the total batters faced after Dickey. I then calculated the rate stats from the total. This weight was then applied to the not after Dickey stats. So for example if [Casey] Janssen faced 19.11% of batters after Dickey, it was adjusted so that he also faced 19.11% of the batters not after Dickey…

Starters see an approximate 18.9% decrease in their FIP when they follow Dickey over the past 4 years. So assuming 130 IP are pitched after Dickey by a league average set of pitchers (~4.00 FIP), this would decrease their FIP to around 3.25. 130 IP was selected assuming ⅔ of starter innings (200) against the same team. Over 130 IP this would be a 10.8 run difference or around 1.1 WAR! This is amazingly significant and appears to be coming mainly from a reduction in HR%. If we regress the HR% down to -10% (seems more than fair), this would reduce the FIP reduction down to around 7%. A 7% reduction would reduce a 4.00 FIP down to 3.72, and save 4.0 runs or 0.4 WAR…

Relievers[’]... FIP was reduced 10.3%. Assuming 65 IP (in between 2012 and 2013) innings after Dickey of an average bullpen (or slightly above average, since Dickey will likely have setup men and closers after him) with a 3.75 FIP, FIP would get reduced to 3.36 and save 3 runs or 0.3 WAR.

Combining the un-regressed results, by having pitchers pitch after him, Dickey would contribute around 1.4 WAR over a full season. If you assume the effect is just 10% reduction in FIP for both groups, this number comes down to around 0.9 WAR, which is not crazy to think at all based off the results. I can say with great confidence, that if Dickey pitches over 200 innings again next year, he will contribute above 1.0 WAR just from baffling hitters for the next guys.

And The Dickey Effect Part II—Wakefield:

Similar to Dickey, pitchers saw a positive effect almost across the board. The main difference with [Tim] Wakefield is that walks also went up, but not by much. A career 8% reduction in FIP is significant, and with the sample size, probably fairly accurate.

h/t Roberto

The District Attorney Posted: November 26, 2013 at 10:00 PM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, knuckleballers, r.a. dickey, sabermetrics, tim wakefield

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   1. John Northey Posted: November 27, 2013 at 07:56 AM (#4606588)
For more on his effect with individual starters last year go to "Pinch Hit: The Knuckleball Boost" at Batter's Box.

Big finding, two guys had 4+ starts after Dickey vs same team and 4+ starts without a Dickey effect. Morrow and Happ. Results?
Morrow: 2.73 ERA (Dickey), 8.36 ERA (no Dickey) with 4 & 6 starts
Happ: 3.55 ERA (Dickey), 5.79 ERA (no Dickey) with 9 starts each

The rest of the Jay pitchers had one side or the other with 2 or fewer starts so I wouldn't put much weight on any individual results there but 6 of 7 saw a reduction in ERA post-Dickey of 0.34 or more (exception being Chad Jenkins who had the exact same ERA in both cases but had just 3 starts total).
   2. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4606640)
If real, it behooves the Jays to minimize the number of times Dickey pitches the final game of a series.
   3. catomi01 Posted: November 27, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4606814)
If real, it behooves the Jays to minimize the number of times Dickey pitches the final game of a series.


Non-standard series lengths would screw it up, but how feasible would it be to try to start him every 1st game of a series - 162/3=54 games, with an aim of 3-4 innings a start for somewhere around 180-190 innings pitched. Would screw up the rest of the rotation and you would need at least one strong long reliever, but if the effect is as pronounced as this study suggests, it seems worthwhile to get him into as many series as possible.
   4. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: November 27, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4606824)
Non-standard series lengths would screw it up, but how feasible would it be to try to start him every 1st game of a series - 162/3=54 games, with an aim of 3-4 innings a start for somewhere around 180-190 innings pitched. Would screw up the rest of the rotation and you would need at least one strong long reliever, but if the effect is as pronounced as this study suggests, it seems worthwhile to get him into as many series as possible.


If anyone can do it, it's the knuckleballer. But the effect on the rest of the staff might make it unworkable.

I'm thinking more along the lines of skipping starts in off-days, or tossing in an extra day of rest at other times, to minimize how frequently Dickey is closing out a series. If there's a true penalty for following a knuckleballer, you want your team to benefit, rather than the team that faces Dickey's opponent next.

   5. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: November 27, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4606911)
One more reason the Astros' 1980 rotation was so fearsome in the first half: flamethrower JR Richard, knuckleballer Joe Niekro... and then, Nolan Ryan.
In the Astrodome, yet? Fuggedaboutit.
   6. Willie Mayspedester Posted: November 27, 2013 at 04:46 PM (#4606938)
I'd think trying to get him to pitch the first inning as many times as possible would work better.

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