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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

MLB Graphs: Seaver, Ryan and Palmer

The latest graphic nature from Appelman…

Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer all pitched around the same time with great success and all three have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Yet they had very different pitching styles.  Here’s a quick review based on the Fangraphs graphics (a blogger’s best friend):

First off, take a look at their strikeout rates.  Ryan, of course, was the greatest strikeout pitcher of all time. Seaver was also excellent but Palmer wasn’t even an average strikeout pitcher for most of his career:

Repoz Posted: January 16, 2007 at 12:47 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: January 16, 2007 at 01:25 AM (#2280907)
The greatest strikeout pitcher of all time was Dazzy Vance.
   2. Jack Sommers Posted: January 16, 2007 at 02:07 AM (#2280926)
   3. pounceanalogica Posted: January 16, 2007 at 03:25 AM (#2280959)
ummm, i think it was pretty much his idea actually, thats pretty novel.
   4. PhillyBooster Posted: January 16, 2007 at 03:32 AM (#2280962)
That's it for Palmer? One of the greatest pitchers of all time, and it's because he had a little below average K/rate, a better than average BB/9 and didn't give up a lot of homers? What was the rest? Luck?

Those charts shows why he's as good as a bunch of really good pitchers (say, Orel Hershiser), but doesn't quite explain the Hall of Fame case of a guy with 8 twenty-win seasons in nine years, with 8 Top-Five ERA+ finishes, including in three of the four years that he led the league in Innings Pitched.

I think any serious argument that pitchers don't have a lot of impact on balls in play, or that pitchers don't "bear down" in pressure situations have to go through Jim Palmer.
   5. Cabbage Posted: January 16, 2007 at 03:45 AM (#2280967)
GB/FB (I have no idea if this is correct)? Don't underestimate the importance of not giving up the Tater. I have a pet [read: unsubstantiated by anything other than anecdotal evidence, but I probably just read it somewhere on THT and have forgotten to properly attribute it] theory that pitchers who give up fewer HRs than their counterparts are comparably more succuessfuly in critical situations than their perhiphials suggest. I'll attribute such success to a better understanding of the "art" of pitching, and are more likely to not overpitch and leave one over the middle.

The guys over at the HOM have pointed out a couple of times that Palmer was fortunate enough to play in front of some excellent defenses. That probably has more to do with it than anything else. Of course, credit him for keeping the ball in the park and limiting the free passes, but its gotta be the D.
   6. Dag Nabbit at Posted: January 16, 2007 at 04:25 AM (#2280982)

As you alluded to at the end, Palmer really did "bear down" in pressure situation. Check his career splits stats at retrosheet. Opponents OPS in close/late situation was worse than opponent OPS with runners in scoring position, which was worse than opponent OPS with runners on, which was worse than opponent OPS with none on. Even more remarkably, the same pattern holds true for his K-rate, his HR-rate, and nearly holds true for his walk rate (there's one occasion where it barely falls backwards). Famously, Jim Palmer never allowed a single grandslam in his career.

And yes, he undoubtedly had fantastic defensive support. At one point the Orioles had Brooks Robinson at third, Mark Belanger at short, Bobby Grich at second, and Paul Blair in center. Not too shabby.
   7. PhillyBooster Posted: January 16, 2007 at 09:31 PM (#2281383)
"Fantastic defense" in the case of Palmer is no doubt true, but also over-rated.

Baseball Prospectus credits him with 169 fewer hits than expected based on the assumption that a pitcher has no control over BABIP, and that number is ADJUSTED FOR TEAM. So, in Palmer's best year (1976), he gave up 31 fewer hits than expected, on a team on which Cuellar gave up 13 more hits, and Flanagan and MacGregor were both "worse than expected."

So, defense helped to some degree, but he was 169 hits better even over that. That's either incredible luck or some BABIP control.

Prospectus also computes how many runs he gave up, compared to how many he would be expected to give up based on hits/walks/homers etc. in his components stats.

97 fewer runs, which is a measure of "bearing down" (or, again, incredible luck.)

So, again, defense is one factor, but maybe not the biggest here.
   8. JPWF13 Posted: January 16, 2007 at 09:49 PM (#2281397)
think any serious argument that pitchers don't have a lot of impact on balls in play, or that pitchers don't "bear down" in pressure situations have to go through Jim Palmer.

I may be missing something, but Palmer lead the league in IP 4 times, top 10 in complete games 9 times.

He was (to me) clearly doing what almost all pitchers did before 1920, and less and less over time- he was pacing himself, or coasting if you will. By the 70s most pitchers were going all out all of most of the times and some were going all out all of the time- Palmer didn't. Palmer could "bear down" in pressure situations relative to other situations because he wasn't going all out- many other pitchers physically can't "bear down" in a pressure situation relative to other situations because they are already giving 100%
   9. studes Posted: January 17, 2007 at 10:42 AM (#2281673)
Hey Repoz, thanks for the link, even though you did get the identity of the writer and blog wrong. Man, you must be getting old!
   10. Gaelan Posted: January 17, 2007 at 01:19 PM (#2281679)
Palmer's career BABIP was .255. 4000 innings, 16000 BF, .255. I'd like to hear one of the DIPS supporters explain that.

I don't know how many standard deviations from the mean that is but it's a hell of a lot.

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