Following up last week’s article about the Batting Statistics I use to evaluate minor league performances I’ll be writing this week about Pitching Statistics. Just as with batting, it would be ideal to combine seeing a pitcher in person for some live scouting.
Base on Balls or Walks (BB): A useful raw statistic that tallies each time a pitcher surrenders a Base on Balls (BB), also known as a Walk.
- On its own, it’s hard to use this state to qualify a pitcher’s performance. However you cannot determine more useful stats like BB/9, WHIP or K/BB without it.
Walks Per Nine (BB/9): If we take those walks (BB) and divide them by a pitchers typical 9 inning outing (IP/9). You are given a statistic that tells you how often within a game a pitcher is likely to issue a walk to an opposing batter.
- While more useful than the raw stat, this metric is not a great tool on its own. Justin Dunn, when viewed under just the BB/9 stat had a 3.5 for his 2018 season which is a troublingly high statistic. It’s not until you view the stat in context of some other stats that it actually becomes useful.
Earned Run Average (ERA): Take a pitcher’s Earned Runs (ER) and divide it by their Average 9 Innings (IP/9) and you’ll calculate the most used pitching metric in baseball. The ERA was long thought to be the pinnacle of a pitcher’s evaluation. In the modern world of sports we have far more accurate ways of evaluating a pitchers success but ERA remains a vital statistic in most scouting.
- Consider my first favorite players on the Mets, Rick Reed. Reed was a pretty average pitcher whose best seasons, 1997 and 1998 saw him achieve an ERA of 2.89 and 3.48 respectively. He even earned an All Star nod in 1998. Reed was not actually a great pitcher though. He was a capable innings eater who let his team’s defense and his own control keep himself in games.
Ground Out to Air Out Ratio (GO/AO): How often does a pitcher induce a batter to hit the ball on the ground vs. the air. This seems like an odd metric to focus on but it’s generally a good bet the the more often opposing hitters are getting the ball into the air, the more often they are going to score runs.
- It’s not perfect science because all ballparks have different dimensions and a pitcher can succeed while getting batters to hit the ball in the air but it can be useful in determining the type of pitcher you are looking at. Is this a pitcher who tries to keep the ball in play with sinking action or is this a pitcher who tries to power through their opponents with a great fastball. Franklyn Kilome had a 0.82 GO/AO rate for Binghamton but he was also simply pitching to his own strengths.
Hits Allowed (H): Another raw stat that is crucial in determining a pitchers value.
- Just as with walks, this stat doesn’t tell you the whole story on its own.
Hits Allowed per 9 (H/9): Once you know how many Hits (H) a pitcher has allowed and how many Innings (IP) a pitcher has pitched you can find the Hits per 9 (H/9).
- Just as with BB/9 this stat could be used to evaluate a player but isn’t the ideal tool for the job. It does tell you how frequently a pitcher gives up a base via a hit but it is a less effective stat than OBA or WHIP.
Strikeouts (K): A raw stat that keeps track of a pitcher’s strikeouts.
- As raw stats go, this is one of the most useful when it comes to pitcher evaluation but as with most raw stats you need to compare these strikeouts to the innings pitched or walks surrendered.
Strikeouts per 9 (K/9): Taking the number of Strikeouts (K) and dividing them by a typical 9 inning outing actually tells an analyst far more than Hits per 9 (H/9) or Walks per 9 (BB/9). This is because strikeouts are not dependant on any other statistic in the way that Hits and Walks are.
- If I was only allowed two stats for pitcher evaluation, this would be one of the two. Between K/9 and WHIP, the success of most pitchers can be determined. Some people have become less enthusiastic about David Peterson thanks to ho-hum power numbers in 2018. When they are talking about “Power Numbers” they are talking about a pitchers K.9 more often than not. Looking here we see that Peterson only managed a 7.6 K/9 after his promotion to Port St. Lucie. Most “Ace” pitchers will manage a 9.0 K/9 or better through most levels of the minors.
Strikeouts to Walks Ratio (K/BB): A simple and direct ratio between Strikeouts (K) and Walks (BB) is surprisingly useful for player evaluation. More frequently used with high power relievers than starters a pitcher with a high Walks per 9 (BB/9) but a solid Strikeout to Walk Ratio (K/BB) is still likely to be a solid pitcher. It only means that they live dangerously but living on the corners of the strike zone..
- As mentioned above, I use this stat more with relief pitchers than with starters. If you look at Tyler Bashlor, you’ll see a pitcher who managed a healthy 11.3 K/9 in Binghamton but also a less than ideal BB/9 of 4.5 but somehow kept his ERA under 3.00 for a season. The answer here is simple when you compare the strikeouts to the walks. Also worth noting is that Bashlor didn’t give up too many hits as his H/9 was only 5.3 for Binghamton.
Opponents Batting Average (OBA): If Strikeouts per 9 (K/9) is the natural endpoint of the raw Strikeout (K) statistic. The Opponent Batting Average (OBA) is the same for a pitchers Hits Allowed (H) one. Here, you calculate the Batting average of every combined player who faces an individual pitcher. This sounds difficult but is typically a stat that is fairly readily available for analysts to use.
- I like this stat a lot but I don’t use it as much as WHIP, K/9, or ERA. It’s similar to K/BB as a stat to use if a player’s ERA doesn’t seem to match their other peripheral statistics. When you look at Anthony Kay’s K/9 and BB.9 he looks like his 2018 season was better than it was. When you see how many hits he gave up or look at the OBA you start to see the flaws in those numbers more clearly.
Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP): A stat that simply takes a pitchers walks (BB) and their hits allowed (H) and divides that by their innings pitched (IP). It seems so very simple, but it is a pretty advanced tool that might be a better metric of a pitcher’s performance than the vaunted ERA. The reason for this is that a pitchers WHIP is not contingent on a run scoring (and being tallied against them) and tracks a pitcher’s success against opposing batters in general.
- Here’s the not so secret, secret of David Groveman’s pitching analysis. The WHIP is my favorite stat and my go-to in terms of giving a pitcher my seal of approval. If a pitcher has a tremendous K/9, I’ll likely hold off on my praise if their WHIP is North of 1.50 because it likely points to a pitcher letting too many hitters on base. If you go back and look at Thomas Szapucki’s numbers in 2016 you see a pitcher whose WHIP was so low over two levels that he got people most thoroughly excited. Now if he could only stay healthy.