Let’s re-invent the wheel [new pitchers stats!]

I’m not too crazy about the new ways of assessing performance in a game whose very charm is having remained unchanged since the Civil War (ours). Still prefer to watch and read about baseball with a Red Book, not a slide rule, by my side.

But just because I don’t sing the Acronym Hymn doesn’t mean I don’t dig innovative statistics when appropriate. In fact, few people know (Bill Ladson, an old friend who now covers the Washington Nationals for us, is one) that 30 years ago I created what has become known as pitchers’ WHIP.

While covering the California Angels for the long-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, I called it ORA (Opponent Runners Average). Calculated it weekly Majors-wide and listed league leaders in our Sunday papers.

I feel the stat muse tapping me on the shoulder again: Readers have increasingly implored me to stop citing and comparing starting pitchers based on their won-loss records, arguing their irrelevance given the way the modern game is run (pitch counts, bullpen relays, etc.).

I agree. I also think the ERA — a nine-inning index — has become meaningless for starters who rarely go nine [in 2 percent of all games last season] and even more ridiculous for relievers, who might take a month to get there.

So … here is what  I’m going to do in ’14 coverage of the Bucs:

Starters’ “records” will reflect the times they pitch into the seventh inning or don’t get out of the fifth [in-between, there’s your new no-decision]. That’s deserving of a win or a loss; everything else — like run support or whether the bullpen has a bad day — is out of their control. Cited ERAs will simply be based on six innings (for example, allowing 3 earned runs in 6 innings would equate to a standard 4.50 ERA but for us it becomes 3.00).

Relievers will have no ERAs. For a relief pitcher, nothing matters beyond runners who score while he is on the mound, inherited or his own. So relievers will be judged solely on RAVE [runs average; runners scoring divided by runners on base while in the game].

Retracing 2013 for RAVEs is way too time consuming, so I’ll track those going forward.

As for the ’13 Buccos rotation as seen through this new prism [actual W-L in parenthesis):

  • A.J. Burnett 17-5, 2.20 [10-11]
  • Francisco Liriano 12-6, 2.01 [16-8]
  • Charlie Morton 9-6, 2.15 [7-4]
  • Gerrit Cole 8-2, 2.14 [10-7]
  • Jeff Locke 8-10, 2.34 [10-7]
Will this be a better reflection of a starter’s contribution? I believe so. For a random example, the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda had among starters’ lowest support at 3.2 runs per game but his actual 11-13 record translates to our 18-4. Quality still bears out: AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer [21-3) still scores 19-1 with us.
So let’s see how this works out.


I like this idea. Maybe it will bring these rediculous salaries back to reality. No more 10 million for a 8-10 pitcher or an ERA of 4.00.

Tom! Dating yourself with that slide rule reference in the 1st paragraph!!! 🙂
Those “new” ERAs (whadayagona call it? Just ERA? Needs another name.) for the Bucco starters look pretty awesome. Wonder how the compare to their counterparts in the rest of the league.
And congrats on coming up with the WHIP (ORA) before its time! Now if we can just get No. 21 retired MLB-wide and get people to embrace your 21st century stats, we’ll be rollin’.

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