Thursday, January 19, 2012

Player A v. Player B


ERA
G
GS
CG
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
BF
ERA+
WHIP
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
SO/9
SO/BB
3.31
530
530
47
3503.2
3352
1288
267
1185
2158
14691
128
1.295
8.6
0.7
3.0
5.5
1.82
Average
33
33
3
219
210
80
17
74
135
918
Per 162 games
34
34
4
225
215
83
18
76
139
941
Player A
ERA
G
GS
CG
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
BF
ERA+
WHIP
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
SO/9
SO/
BB
3.43
469
431
83
3116.0
2849
1186
339
640
3003
12643
130
1.120
8.2
1.0
1.8
8.7
4.69
Average
29
27
5
195
178
74
21
40
188
790
Per 162
games
36
33
7
237
217
91
26
49
229
961
Player B
Who is better? Or to be more precise, who is more valuable to his team? In classic Rob Neyer fashion, I’ve pulled out statistics from two future Hall of Famers for their sixteen seasons between ages 25 and 40. ERA and ERA+ are a wash, Player B has a huge edge in K’s and BB’s, but Player A makes up for this by pitching 24 innings more per season and giving up 8 less HR’s per 162 games. With just these numbers, I’d give a slight edge to Player B, whose peripheral stats are certainly impressive, while still noting that Player A’s success in the face of weak peripherals for sixteen seasons is certainly more than just luck.
Now what if Player A adds these stats, from the very beginning and very end of his career.
ERA
G
GS
CG
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
BF
ERA+
WHIP
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
SO/9
SO/BB
4.29
105
105
8
646.0
660
308
55
214
323
2777
89
1.353
9.2
0.8
3.0
4.5
1.51
26
26
2
162
165
77
14
54
81
694
35
35
3
210
214
100
18
70
105
900
ERA
G
GS
CG
IP
H
ER
HR
BB
SO
BF
ERA+
WHIP
H/9
HR/9
BB/9
SO/9
SO/BB
4.71
47
47
1
263.2
286
138
34
101
126
1136
91
1.468
9.8
1.2
3.4
4.3
1.25
24
24
0
132
143
69
17
50
63
568
34
34
1
191
207
100
25
74
92
822
Obviously Player A wasn’t in his peak, but there is value in throwing 150 slightly below average innings per season for six years. Just ask Randy Wolf. Player A's WAR of 5.2 over these six seasons suggests a lack of value. However, it is important to remember that WAR is calculated with FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), a formula that uses peripheral stats. Player A's sixteen years of success despite poor peripherals suggest that WAR is a poor indicator of his ability.
So we return to the original question framed slightly differently. If you were a GM picking in the draft and using the powers of Kazaam (wrong sport I know, maybe an Angels in the Outfield?) you could, knowing the outcomes, choose Player A or Player B for his entire career, who would you chose? I would pick A, the player good enough to fill the back end of a rotation at age 21 and last until 42. While Player B’s peak was slightly better, the value added in pitching more innings, and subsequently ensuring that middle relievers, the worst pitchers in the game, have fewer outs to make, outweighs that advantage. It is cherry picking the stats to say Player B is better simply because he had a slightly higher peak, while ignoring the fact that Player B wasn’t good enough to add value to a Major League team until age 25.
Player A is Tom Glavine and Player B is Curt Schilling. In a minor point, this should reveal how wins can be misleading. Glavine had 90 more than Schilling, ensuring his status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer whereas Schilling will probably have to wait a few years. However, in my opinion, WAR and sabremetricians generally underrate the importance of health and longevity, two factors that aren’t included in Glavine’s WAR. I’ll leave the floor to my esteemed colleagues.

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