Every year I state that by the time this post rolls around next year, I hope to have a fully functional Enby distribution to allow the metrics herein to be more flexible (e.g. not based solely on empirical data, able to handle park effects, etc.) And every year during the year I wind up deciding that writing articles about other topics or trying to finish my professional education or watching some terrible TV show like Haven is a bigger priority than explaining how Enby applies.
Enby is a zero-modified negative binomial model to calculate the probability that a team will score X runs in a game. It is without question my favorite of my own body of sabermetric work and yet for some reason the hardest for me to get motivated to write about. Were the problem that I needed to finish working on the model itself, it would be a huge priority (almost a compulsion) for me. But I did that a long time ago, and now just need to make it presentable. I’d say maybe next year but history suggests I’d be lying to you.
Anyway, there are some elements of Enby in this post, as I’ve written enough about the model to feel comfortable using bits and pieces. But I’d like to overhaul the calculation of gOW% and gDW% that are used at the end based on Enby, and I’m not ready to do that just yet given the deficiency of the material I’ve published on Enby.
Self-indulgence, aggrandizement, and deprecation aside, I need to caveat that this post in no way accounts for park effects. But that won’t come in to play as I first look at team record in blowouts and non-blowouts, with a blowout defined as 5+ runs. Obviously some five run games are not truly blowouts, and some are; one could probably use WPA to make a better definition of blowout based on some sort of average win probability, or the win probability at a given moment or moments in the game. I should also note that Baseball-Reference uses this same definition of blowout. I am not sure when they started publishing it; they may well have pre-dated by usage of five runs as the delineator. However, I did not adopt that as my standard because of Baseball-Reference, I adopted it because it made the most sense to me being unaware of any B-R standard.
73.9% of major league games in 2015 were non-blowouts (of course 26.1% were). The leading records in non-blowouts:
The three NL Central powerhouses top the list, with all playing a lot of non-blowout games as you’ll see in a moment (the Cubs had the second-highest percentage of non-blowouts, the Pirates fourth, and Cardinals seventh) and playing very well in those games. Of the three only Pittsburgh had a better record in blowouts, which is unusual as good teams tend to do better in blowouts:
The Blue Jays were an odd case as well, actually sub-.500 (56-57) in non-blowouts but dominant in them. The only other playoff team to be sub-.500 in either was Texas in blowouts (22-25).
This chart is sorted by the difference between blowout and non-blowout W% and includes the percentage of blowouts for each team:
A more interesting way to consider game-level results is to look at how teams perform when scoring or allowing a given number of runs. For the majors as a whole, here are the counts of games in which teams scored X runs:
The “marg” column shows the marginal W% for each additional run scored. In 2015, the fourth run was both the run with the greatest marginal impact on the chance of winning and the level of scoring for which a team was more likely to win than lose.
I use these figures to calculate a measure I call game Offensive W% (or Defensive W% as the case may be), which was suggested by Bill James in an old Abstract. It is a crude way to use each team’s actual runs per game distribution to estimate what their W% should have been by using the overall empirical W% by runs scored for the majors in the particular season.
The theoretical distribution from Enby discussed earlier would be much preferable to the empirical distribution for this exercise, but I’ve defaulted to the 2015 empirical data. Some of the drawbacks of this approach are:
1. The empirical distribution is subject to sample size fluctuations. In 2015, teams that scored 11 runs won 98.5% of the time while teams that scored 10 runs won 98.0% of the time. Does that mean that scoring 12 runs is preferable to scoring 11 runs? Of course not--it's a quirk in the data. Additionally, the marginal values don’t necessary make sense even when W% increases from one runs scored level to another (In figuring the gEW% family of measures below, I lumped games with 11 and 12 runs scored/allowed into one bucket, which smoothes any illogical jumps in the win function, but leaves the inconsistent marginal values unaddressed and fails to make any differentiation between scoring in that range. The values actually used are displayed in the “use” column, and the “invuse” column is the complements of these figures--i.e. those used to credit wins to the defense. I've used 1.0 for 13+ runs, which is a horrible idea theoretically. In 2015, teams were 81-0 when scoring 13 or more runs).
2. Using the empirical distribution forces one to use integer values for runs scored per game. Obviously the number of runs a team scores in a game is restricted to integer values, but not allowing theoretical fractional runs makes it very difficult to apply any sort of park adjustment to the team frequency of runs scored.
3. Related to #2 (really its root cause, although the park issue is important enough from the standpoint of using the results to evaluate teams that I wanted to single it out), when using the empirical data there is always a tradeoff that must be made between increasing the sample size and losing context. One could use multiple years of data to generate a smoother curve of marginal win probabilities, but in doing so one would lose centering at the season’s actual run scoring rate. On the other hand, one could split the data into AL and NL and more closely match context, but you would lose sample size and introduce more quirks into the data.
I keep promising that I will use Enby to replace the empirical approach, but for now I will use Enby for a couple graphs but nothing more.
First, a comparison of the actual distribution of runs per game in the majors to that predicted by the Enby distribution for the 2015 major league average of 4.250 runs per game (Enby distribution parameters are B = 1.0798, r = 3.966, z = .0619):
Enby didn’t predict enough shutouts or two run games, and too many three run games. There’s also a blip in the empirical data at eight runs scored (5.29% compared to 4.55% predicted by Enby). It doesn’t show up on the chart, but Enby predicted .35% of games with 16+ runs scored; the actual frequency was .31%.
I will not go into the full details of how gOW%, gDW%, and gEW% (which combines both into one measure of team quality) are calculated in this post, but full details were provided here and the paragraph below gives a quick explanation. The “use” column here is the coefficient applied to each game to calculate gOW% while the “invuse” is the coefficient used for gDW%. For comparison, I have looked at OW%, DW%, and EW% (Pythagenpat record) for each team; none of these have been adjusted for park to maintain consistency with the g-family of measures which are not park-adjusted.
A team’s gOW% is the sumproduct of their frequency of scoring x runs, where x runs from 0 to 22, and the empirical W% of teams in 2015 when they scored x runs. For example, Atlanta was shutout 17 times; they would not be expected to win any of those games (nor would they, we can be certain). They scored one run 20 times; an average team would have a .082 W% when scoring one run, so they could have been expected to win 1.64 of the twenty games given average defense. They scored two runs 32 times; an average team would have a .283 W% when scoring two, so they could have been expected to win 9.06 of those games given average defense. Sum up the estimated wins for each value of x and divide by the team’s total number of games and you have gOW%.
It is thus an estimate of what W% a team with the given team’s empirical distribution of runs scored and a league average defense would have. It is thus analogous to James’ original construct of OW% except looking at the empirical distribution of runs scored rather than the average runs scored per game. (To avoid any confusion, James in 1986 also proposed constructing an OW% in the manner in which I calculate gOW%).
For most teams, gOW% and OW% are very similar. Teams whose gOW% is higher than OW% distributed their runs more efficiently (at least to the extent that the methodology captures reality); the reverse is true for teams with gOW% lower than OW%. The teams that had differences of +/- 2 wins between the two metrics were (all of these are the g-type less the regular estimate):
Positive: TB, SEA, ATL, PHI, CHA, LA, STL
Negative: NYA, TOR, HOU
Teams with differences of +/- 2 wins between gDW% and standard DW%:
Positive: TEX, ATL, BOS, SEA
Negative: PIT, HOU, SF, STL, MIA
Pittsburgh’s defense allowed 3.679 runs per game, which one would expect to result in a .565 W% with average offense. But based on their runs allowed distribution, one would only expect a .540 W% paired with an average offense. That difference of 4.1 wins was the greatest absolute difference on offense and defense for any major league team, so it may be instructive to look at a graph of their runs allowed distribution and what Enby would predict for such a team (B = 1.0163, r = 3.655, z = .0859):
Pittsburgh had many fewer one-run games than one would expect (actual 8.0%, Enby estimate 14.1%), but allowed two to five runs more than would be expected and allowed eight or more runs 8.0% of the time versus an expectation of 9.4%.
Teams with differences of +/- 2 wins between gEW% and standard EW%:
Positive: SEA, ATL, CHA, PHI, OAK, TB, COL
Negative: HOU, TOR, PIT, NYA, WAS, NYN, SF
It’s no surprise that SEA, ATL, and HOU appear prominently as they were the only teams to have both their offense and defense appear on the positive and negative lists in the same direction. Even with bad clustering of both runs scored and runs allowed, Houston was a good team, but their gEW% of .539 tracks their actual W% of .531 better than their EW% of .576. In 2015, the RMSE of gEW% as a predictor of W% was about 4.4 wins, while EW% had a RMSE of 4.7 wins (gEW% usually, but not always over a thirty team sample, performs better as it should given the advantage of knowing the actual distribution of runs scored and allowed, even treating them independently.)
One might think that the blessed Royals, given their well-known ability to hit at the right time and play the game the right way and so many other attributes that make them so very dear to media members everywhere, would have clustered their runs efficiently. Especially their offense. But they really didn’t. KC’s gOW% was .524; their standard OW% was .524. Their run distribution, converted to equivalent wins with an average defense, was pretty much exactly what you would expect for a team that averaged 4.47 R/G. Their defense was slightly less efficient, with a .529 gDW% and .533 standard DW%. Where Kansas City made hay was the difference between their gEW% (and standard EW%) and their actual W%, which would necessarily result from a more efficient pairing of runs scored and runs allowed. It is quite tempting to credit the bullpen for this, as in theory bullpens can be strategically deployed given the game circumstances and thus increase the covariance between runs scored and allowed. But any such deviation for the Royals falls under the standard deviation from Pythagorean expectation and not anything special in the way the offense or defense alone distributed their runs.
Below is a full chart with the various actual and estimated W%s:
Monday, February 01, 2016
Every year I state that by the time this post rolls around next year, I hope to have a fully functional Enby distribution to allow the metrics herein to be more flexible (e.g. not based solely on empirical data, able to handle park effects, etc.) And every year during the year I wind up deciding that writing articles about other topics or trying to finish my professional education or watching some terrible TV show like Haven is a bigger priority than explaining how Enby applies.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
For the last several years I have published a set of team ratings that I call "Crude Team Ratings". The name was chosen to reflect the nature of the ratings--they have a number of limitations, of which I documented several when I introduced the methodology.
I explain how CTR is figured in the linked post, but in short:
1) Start with a win ratio figure for each team. It could be actual win ratio, or an estimated win ratio.
2) Figure the average win ratio of the team’s opponents.
3) Adjust for strength of schedule, resulting in a new set of ratings.
4) Begin the process again. Repeat until the ratings stabilize.
The resulting rating, CTR, is an adjusted win/loss ratio rescaled so that the majors’ arithmetic average is 100. The ratings can be used to directly estimate W% against a given opponent (without home field advantage for either side); a team with a CTR of 120 should win 60% of games against a team with a CTR of 80 (120/(120 + 80)).
First, CTR based on actual wins and losses. In the table, “aW%” is the winning percentage equivalent implied by the CTR and “SOS” is the measure of strength of schedule--the average CTR of a team’s opponents. The rank columns provide each team’s rank in CTR and SOS:
Two things I always like to touch on is the CTR ranking of the playoff teams and differences in schedule strength. This season the playoffs perfectly selected the ten most deserving teams based solely on win-loss record and schedule. This usually does not happen due to strong or weak teams being bunched in particular divisions or the AL/NL disparity (more on why this was less of a factor in 2015 in a moment). However, the playoff structure was far from free of inequity as the top three teams in the majors all hailed from the NL Central, forcing Pittsburgh and Chicago into a one-game wildcard playoff while the weakest playoff team, the Mets, were rewarded with the NL’s #3 seed.
There is a fun bit of symmetry in this year’s strongest and weakest schedule. The strongest schedule belonged to Detroit. As we will see in a moment, the AL Central had a good year and vied with the East to be the best division in the AL. This year’s interleague divisional matchups were East-East, Central-Central, and West-West, so Detroit also had to face the NL Central juggernauts. Their SOS was 110, meaning their average opponent was about the quality of the Mets (CTR of 109).
The weakest schedule was that of the Mets. The interleague matchups with the AL East team didn’t hurt their strength of schedule, it was simply playing in the weakest division of the six that did. The division champion will typically have the weakest schedule in their division because their four divisional opponents by definition have the weakest possible W% that could be constructed from four teams in said division. So the Mets SOS was 90, which means their average opponent was about equivalent to the Tigers (CTR of 90). It also means that the average Tigers opponent would be expected to win 55% of games against the average Mets opponent.
The division and league composite ratings below are calculated as geometric rather than arithmetic averages:
I believe the NL East’s 77 is the lowest rating for a division during the six seasons I’ve published CTR. 2015 was the first time in that span that a NL division was the best in the majors, but the AL’s implied W% versus the NL has stayed strong (for the three years I’ve been using geometric averages it was .521 in 2013, .544 in 2014, and .531 in 2015).
I will next run through the ratings figured with three alternate inputs quickly with little comment. The first is based on game-Expected W%, which you can read about here. It uses each team’s game-by-game distribution of runs scored and allowed, but treats the two as independent:
The next set is based on Expected W%, that is Pythagenpat:
Finally, CTR based on Predicted W% (Pythagenpat using runs created and runs created allowed. Actually Base Runs. Which as we all know makes what follows worthless because this was “The Year That Base Runs Failed”):
I’ve also started including CTR based on actual wins and losses, but including the playoffs. The playoffs provide us with additional information about team quality even though the manner in which they do so is even more unbalanced than the regular season schedule. It is interesting to take a gander at it:
Even with St. Louis falling in four games in the NLDS and the Royals going 11-5 en route to the World Series title, the two Missouri nines finish in a dead heat on top of the ratings. Chicago really didn’t close the gap with the Pirates, their 0-4 NLCS undoing the gains that their 4-1 mark against their NL Central rivals in the opening rounds of the playoffs would have provided.
The teams sorted by difference between playoff CTR (pCTR) and regular season CTR (rsCTR):
The changes in ratings for non-playoff teams are all for AL teams to increase by one point and NL teams to decrease by one point due to changes in schedule strength. A few NL East teams weren’t affected at all, and neither were Texas, Toronto, and New York despite participating in the playoffs.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Of all the annual repeat posts I write, this is the one which most interests me--I have always been fascinated by patterns of offensive production by fielding position, particularly trends over baseball history and cases in which teams have unusual distributions of offense by position. I also contend that offensive positional adjustments, when carefully crafted and appropriately applied, remain a viable and somewhat more objective competitor to the defensive positional adjustments often in use, although this post does not really address those broad philosophical questions.
The first obvious thing to look at is the positional totals for 2015, with the data coming from Baseball-Reference.com. "MLB” is the overall total for MLB, which is not the same as the sum of all the positions here, as pinch-hitters and runners are not included in those. “POS” is the MLB totals minus the pitcher totals, yielding the composite performance by non-pitchers. “PADJ” is the position adjustment, which is the position RG divided by the overall major league average (this is a departure from past posts; I’ll discuss this a little at the end). “LPADJ” is the long-term positional adjustment that I use, based on 2002-2011 data. The rows “79” and “3D” are the combined corner outfield and 1B/DH totals, respectively:
The mid-defensive spectrum positions, third base and center field, both had big years, exceeding the production of left field and coming close to matching combined corner outfield production. It was also a good year for DHs. Pitchers rebounded from their first ever negative RG performance to post a PADJ of 2, better than 2012 or 2014. In 2014 pitchers hit .122/.154/.152, so their .132/.160/.170 performance saw upticks in both BA (+.010) and ISO (+.008).
In examining team performance, let’s start with the least important, the performance of NL pitchers. I need to stress that the runs created method I’m using here does not take into account sacrifices, which usually is not a big deal but can be significant for pitchers. Note that all team figures from this point forward in the post are park-adjusted. The RAA figures for each position are baselined against the overall major league average RG for the position, except for left field and right field which are pooled.
As usual, the spread from best unit to worst is around twenty runs.
I don’t run a full chart of the leading positions since you will very easily be able to go down the list and identify the individual primarily responsible for the team’s performance and you won’t be shocked by any of them, but the teams with the highest RAA at each spot were:
C--OAK, 1B--ARI, 2B--HOU, 3B--TOR, SS--HOU, LF--STL, CF--LAA, RF--WAS, DH--TOR
More interesting are the worst performing positions; the player listed is the one who started the most games at that position for the team:
This list is AL-dominated, with center field the only position where a NL team was last. But the main point of interest here is the futility of the Seattle catchers. They only slightly outperformed San Francisco’s pitchers, and that’s not hyperbole. Giant pitchers hit .169/.189/.294 for 1.39 RG; Mariner catchers hit .165/.214/.269 for 1.44 RG. Mike Zunino was the bright spot, hitting .181/.238/.311 for 2.13 RG in 375 PA as a catcher. The rest of the catchers combined to hit .136/.168/.191 for .24 RG in 197 PA. That RG would have ranked just fifth-best among NL pitching staffs, and was most comparable to the Dodgers (.127/.167/.175 for .20 RG). And every one of them was worse than Zunino (Jesus Sucre 1.02 RG in 133 PA, Welington Castillo -.54 RG in 22, John Hicks -1.08 RG in 31, Steven Baron -2.55 RG in 11).
This chart also makes it apparent why Brett Lawrie was of interest to Chicago, as both of his potential positions were the worst in the majors offensively (I wrote that prior to Todd Frazier also being acquired which means that both gaping holes have been addressed).
I like to attempt to measure each team’s offensive profile by position relative to a typical profile. I’ve found it frustrating as a fan when my team’s offensive production has come disproportionately from “defensive” positions rather than offensive positions (“Why can’t we just find a corner outfielder who can hit?”) The best way I’ve yet been able to come up with to measure this is to look at the correlation between RG at each position and the long-term positional adjustment. A positive correlation indicates a “traditional” distribution of offense by position--more production from the positions on the right side of the defensive spectrum. (To calculate this, I use the long-term positional adjustments that pool 1B/DH as well as LF/RF, and because of the DH I split it out by league):
In a typical seasons there are more teams with negative correlations than this, and Milwaukee’s +.90 r is about as high as you’ll ever see. But that was not a good thing as only their corner outfield spots were above average for their positions. As an Indian fan, it is quite common to see them near the bottom of the list thanks to their now decade-long struggle to put quality bats at the corners (and their success with players such as Grady Sizemore, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, and now Francisco Lindor contributing offensively from up-the-middle positions). As a fan it can be frustrating to see a low correlation team and think that if they could just find decent offense at those spots that the offense would be great, but on the whole it’s a curiosity and of course the team’s composite offensive ability is what matters.
The following charts, broken out by division, display RAA for each position, with teams sorted by the sum of positional RAA. Positions with negative RAA are in red, and positions that are +/-20 RAA are bolded:
Toronto had the AL’s best production from corner infielders and infielders as a unit thanks to Josh Donaldson. The bolding illustrates that it was their big three that made this a special offense. Boston had the AL’s worst corner infielders, but I was initially puzzled by Baltimore’s poor showing at DH and not-great 7 RAA at first base despite the presence of Chris Davis. Davis did his best hitting at first base (965 OPS in 454 PA) and actually had more PA as a right fielder than a DH (122 to 94). The other Oriole first basemen, though, combined to hit just .200/.244/.385 over 217 PA. Note that the Yankees got average production at shortstop after having the worst hitting shortstop(s) in the majors in 2014, some guy whose name I can’t recall.
Minnesota had the AL’s worst outfield production, while Chicago’s infield was the worst in baseball (as noted above their second and third basemen were the worst, the latter just edging out Cleveland). I don’t have the energy to write the obvious about Kansas City’s offense, which was average despite good October fortune. Sometimes baseball is dumb.
Houston had the best middle infield production in MLB. I never would have guessed that Seattle was above-average offensively; park illusions and narratives remain powerful things. Nelson Cruz allowed their outfield to lead the AL in RAA, and yet the three outfielders (+37) did not completely offset the horrid catchers (-41). The only team in the majors other than Los Angeles to have just one above-average position was the White Sox; that it was the second-best position in the majors must make Mike Trout really angry sometimes.
Washington had the majors’ most productive outfield thanks to Bryce Harper’s amazing season. Miami had the worst corner infielders in the NL. Remember that these figures are against the major league average, so the Mets aren’t being compared to a lower baseline than the Royals--their position players were better offensively relative to their positions.
The Cubs and Reds tied for the most productive corner infields in MLB, doing it in opposite ways, Chicago with near perfect balance and Cincinnati with a big season from Joey Votto and solid production from Todd Frazier. But the Reds gave it all back with the majors’ worst outfield, led by their center field disaster which they compounded by leading off their center fielders in 75 games (shortstop 66, left field 12, second base 7, right field 2).
As mentioned above, the Angels were below average at eight of nine spots; uptown the Dodgers were the only team without a below average position. Solidly above average everywhere with only one standout position led to the second highest composite RAA in the majors. Their archrivals were right behind with just two less RAA and one below average position, but three positions were standouts and they led the majors in infield RAA and the NL in middle infield RAA. Arizona had the worst middle infield RAA in the majors.
The full spreadsheet is available here.
Monday, January 04, 2016
I devoted a whole post to leadoff hitters, whether justified or not, so it's only fair to have a post about hitting by batting order position in general. I certainly consider this piece to be more trivia than sabermetrics, since there’s no analytic content.
The data in this post was taken from Baseball-Reference. The figures are park-adjusted. RC is ERP, including SB and CS, as used in my end of season stat posts. The weights used are constant across lineup positions; there was no attempt to apply specific weights to each position, although they are out there and would certainly make this a little bit more interesting:
For the seventh consecutive season, NL #3 hitters are the best position in baseball. It is interesting to note that the NL is superior at the majority of the lineup spots (1, 2, 3, 5, 7), yet the AL holds a slight advantage in RG from spots 1-8 combined (4.49 to 4.45). #2 hitters outperformed #5 hitters in both leagues, although the #5 spots remain home to a higher ISO than #2. Last year AL #6 hitters were quite poor (better than only three other spots); that was just a blip and the AL #6 hitters were easily the best of the eight 6-9 spots in 2015.
Next are the team leaders and trailers in RG at each lineup position. The player listed is the one who appeared in the most games in that spot (which can be misleading, especially for spots low in the batting order where many players cycle through):
The Cubs #8 and #9 spots mess up both the leaders and trailers list for the NL as the former trail thanks to Joe Maddon’s singular devotion to batting the pitcher eighth, which he did for almost every game the Cubs played in a NL park. Last year I noted in this spot that you could see why Seattle wanted Nelson Cruz as they had the AL’s worst cleanup production; Cruz turned that completely around in 2015. As I write this, a Brandon Phillips trade to Washington appears to be in the works and the MLBN commentators are seriously discussing the possibility that Dusty could lead him off. And how sad to see lineup spots led by Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Howard on the trailers list (ok, the first two are sad, the latter is hilarious).
The next list is the ten best positions in terms of runs above average relative to average for their particular league spot (so AL leadoff spots are compared to the AL average leadoff performance, etc.):
And the ten worst:
I’ve run this report since 2009; -53 is surpassed only by last year’s TEX #3 hitters (for the record, they were +6 in 2015). Again, though, this is essentially comparing a full-time pitcher spot in the order to NL #8 hitters, which include only a smattering of pitchers, so it’s a misleading number (except to the extent that Joe Maddon did punt on his #8 lineup spot).
The last set of charts show each team’s RG rank within their league at each lineup spot. The top three are bolded and the bottom three displayed in red to provide quick visual identification of excellent and poor production:
The full spreadsheet is available here.
Monday, December 21, 2015
I will try to make this as clear as possible: the statistics are based on the players that hit in the #1 slot in the batting order, whether they were actually leading off an inning or not. It includes the performance of all players who batted in that spot, including substitutes like pinch-hitters.
Listed in parentheses after a team are all players that started in twenty or more games in the leadoff slot--while you may see a listing like "COL (Blackmon)” this does not mean that the statistic is only based solely on Blackmon's performance; it is the total of all Colorado batters in the #1 spot, of which Blackmon was the only one to start in that spot in twenty or more games. I will list the top and bottom three teams in each category (plus the top/bottom team from each league if they don't make the ML top/bottom three); complete data is available in a spreadsheet linked at the end of the article. There are also no park factors applied anywhere in this article.
That's as clear as I can make it, and I hope it will suffice. I always feel obligated to point out that as a sabermetrician, I think that the importance of the batting order is often overstated, and that the best leadoff hitters would generally be the best cleanup hitters, the best #9 hitters, etc. However, since the leadoff spot gets a lot of attention, and teams pay particular attention to the spot, it is instructive to look at how each team fared there.
The conventional wisdom is that the primary job of the leadoff hitter is to get on base, and most simply, score runs. It should go without saying on this blog that runs scored are heavily dependent on the performance of one’s teammates, but when writing on the internet it’s usually best to assume nothing. So let's start by looking at runs scored per 25.5 outs (AB - H + CS):
1. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), 5.7
2. CHN (Fowler), 5.6
3. STL (Carpenter/Wong), 5.5
Leadoff average, 4.9
28. TB (Guyer/Kiermeier/Jaso), 4.4
ML average, 4.2
29. ATL (Peterson/Markakis), 4.0
30. SEA (Marte/Jackson/Morrison), 3.8
The Rays are the team that stands out here, below average despite a healthy .339 OBA. Otherwise the leaders were above average in OBA and the trailers below average, although they weren’t extreme:
1. CLE (Kipnis), .368
2. HOU (Altuve/Springer), .367
3. CHA (Eaton), .356
4. SF (Aoki/Pagan/Blanco), .353
Leadoff average, .329
ML average, .319
28. KC (Escobar), .297
29. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), .291
30. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), .282
I did include HB in OBA this year, so it is (H + W + HB)/(AB + W + HB).
I recently heard some on MLB Network saying that a key for the White Sox would be Adam Eaton getting back to form. But the Eaton-led Chicago leadoff men were quite solid. They even posted a .138 ISO which was one point better than the average for leadoff hitters, so I’m not sure where the notion that Eaton was the problem with the Chicago offense came from.
Escy-magic alright. But if it magically works for a handful of playoff games, by all means, let’s start a trend towards hacking low OBA leadoff hitters. Maybe the Angels will be the first takers and leadoff Andrelton Simmons--he couldn’t do much worse than their 2015 output.
The next statistic is what I call Runners On Base Average. The genesis for ROBA is the A factor of Base Runs. It measures the number of times a batter reaches base per PA--excluding homers, since a batter that hits a home run never actually runs the bases. It also subtracts caught stealing here because the BsR version I often use does as well, but BsR versions based on initial baserunners rather than final baserunners do not. Here ROBA = (H + W + HB - HR - CS)/(AB + W + HB).
My 2009 leadoff post was linked to a Cardinals message board, and this metric was the cause of a lot of confusion (this was mostly because the poster in question was thick-headed as could be, but it's still worth addressing). ROBA, like several other methods that follow, is not really a quality metric, it is a descriptive metric. A high ROBA is a good thing, but it's not necessarily better than a slightly lower ROBA plus a higher home run rate (which would produce a higher OBA and more runs). Listing ROBA is not in any way, shape or form a statement that hitting home runs is bad for a leadoff hitter. It is simply a recognition of the fact that a batter that hits a home run is not a baserunner. Base Runs is an excellent model of offense and ROBA is one of its components, and thus it holds some interest in describing how a team scored its runs, rather than how many it scored:
1. CLE (Kipnis), .337
2. SF (Aoki/Pagan/Blanco), .326
3. HOU (Altuve/Springer), .324
Leadoff average, .296
ML average, .286
28. SD (Myers/Solarte/Venable), .267
29. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), .263
30. MIN (Dozier/Hicks), .257
I will also include what I've called Literal OBA here--this is just ROBA with HR subtracted from the denominator so that a homer does not lower LOBA, it simply has no effect. It “literally” (not really, thanks to errors, out stretching, caught stealing after subsequent plate appearances, etc.) is the proportion of plate appearances in which the batter becomes a baserunner able to be advanced by his teammates. You don't really need ROBA and LOBA (or either, for that matter), but this might save some poor message board out there twenty posts, by not implying that I think home runs are bad, so here goes. LOBA = (H + W + HB - HR - CS)/(AB + W + HB - HR):
1. CLE (Kipnis), .343
2. HOU (Altuve/Springer), .332
3. SF (Aoki/Pagan/Blanco), .331
Leadoff average, .303
ML average, .294
28. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), .273
29. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), .267
30. MIN (Dozier/Hicks), .267
Usually the various OBA lists are pretty stable, and that was the case in 2015 as the Indians, Astros, and Giants leadoff hitters were the best at getting on base regardless of any slight differences in one’s definition of “getting on base” in this context.
The next two categories are most definitely categories of shape, not value. The first is the ratio of runs scored to RBI. Leadoff hitters as a group score many more runs than they drive in, partly due to their skills and partly due to lineup dynamics. Those with low ratios don’t fit the traditional leadoff profile as closely as those with high ratios (at least in the way their seasons played out):
1. CHN (Folwer), 2.3
2. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), 2.2
3. MIA (Gordon), 2.0
4. TEX (DeShields/Choo/Martin), 1.9
Leadoff average, 1.6
28. ATL (Peterson/Markakis), 1.3
29. SEA (Marte/Jackson/Morrison), 1.3
30. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), 1.2
ML average, 1.1
You may recall that the Red Sox leadoff hitters led the majors in runs scored per out, so seeing them with the lowest R/RBI ratio suggests they drove in a whole bunch of runs. Their 95 RBI easily led the majors (St. Louis was next with 82). Meanwhile, the Braves and Mariners had the lowest runs scored per out, so they got here more conventionally.
A similar gauge, but one that doesn't rely on the teammate-dependent R and RBI totals, is Bill James' Run Element Ratio. RER was described by James as the ratio between those things that were especially helpful at the beginning of an inning (walks and stolen bases) to those that were especially helpful at the end of an inning (extra bases). It is a ratio of "setup" events to "cleanup" events. Singles aren't included because they often function in both roles.
Of course, there are RBI walks and doubles are a great way to start an inning, but RER classifies events based on when they have the highest relative value, at least from a simple analysis:
1. MIA (Gordon), 1.7
2. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), 1.3
3. SF (Aoki/Pagan/Blanco), 1.2
Leadoff average, .8
ML average, .7
28. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), .5
29. MIN (Dozier/Hicks), .5
30. STL (Carpenter/Wong), .5
Since stealing bases is part of the traditional skill set for a leadoff hitter, I've included the ranking for what some analysts call net steals, SB - 2*CS. I'm not going to worry about the precise breakeven rate, which is probably closer to 75% than 67%, but is also variable based on situation. The ML and leadoff averages in this case are per team lineup slot:
1. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), 28
2. MIA (Gordon), 21
3. COL (Blackmon), 17
4. TOR (Reyes/Revere/Tulowitzki/Travis), 14
Leadoff average, 4
ML average, 1
28. STL (Carpenter/Wong), -8
29. ATL (Peterson/Markakis), -10
30. CLE (Kipnis), -10
Shifting back to quality measures, beginning with one that David Smyth proposed when I first wrote this annual leadoff review. Since the optimal weight for OBA in a x*OBA + SLG metric is generally something like 1.7, David suggested figuring 2*OBA + SLG for leadoff hitters, as a way to give a little extra boost to OBA while not distorting things too much, or even suffering an accuracy decline from standard OPS. Since this is a unitless measure anyway, I multiply it by .7 to approximate the standard OPS scale and call it 2OPS:
1. HOU (Altuve/Springer), 833
2. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), 823
3. CLE (Kipnis), 823
4. BAL (Machado), 815
5. STL (Carpenter/Wong), 812
Leadoff average, 745
ML average, 730
28. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), 641
29. KC (Escobar), 640
30. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), 639
Along the same lines, one can also evaluate leadoff hitters in the same way I'd go about evaluating any hitter, and just use Runs Created per Game with standard weights (this will include SB and CS, which are ignored by 2OPS):
1. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), 5.6
2. HOU (Altuve/Springer), 5.6
3. COL (Blackmon), 5.4
Leadoff average, 4.4
ML average, 4.2
28. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), 3.4
29. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), 3.2
30. KC (Escobar), 3.1
This is as good of a time as any to note that no park adjustments are applied anywhere in this post, which explains the presence of Colorado (St. Louis was the next highest-ranked NL team with 5.3).
Allow me to close with a crude theoretical measure of linear weights supposing that the player always led off an inning (that is, batted in the bases empty, no outs state). There are weights out there (see The Book) for the leadoff slot in its average situation, but this variation is much easier to calculate (although also based on a silly and impossible premise).
The weights I used were based on the 2010 run expectancy table from Baseball Prospectus. Ideally I would have used multiple seasons but this is a seat-of-the-pants metric. The 2010 post goes into the detail of how this measure is figured; this year, I’ll just tell you that the out coefficient was -.217, the CS coefficient was -.584, and for other details refer you to that post. I then restate it per the number of PA for an average leadoff spot (742 in 2014):
1. HOU (Altuve/Springer), 19
2. COL (Blackmon), 19
3. BOS (Betts/Pedroia), 19
Leadoff average, 3
ML average, 0
28. CIN (Phillips/Hamilton/Bourgeois), -14
29. LAA (Aybar/Calhoun/Giavotella), -19
30. KC (Escobar), -20
The Mets (Granderson) were the top non-Coors NL team at 16. Just to think that a few years ago Billy Hamilton was being hyped as a potential leadoff dynamo, the Angels had Mike Trout doing leadoff duties, and Alcides Escobar…well, I’m pretty sure everyone thought he would be a terrible leadoff hitter.
The spreadsheet with full data is available here.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
This is an annual, largely analysis-free look at some things that I found interesting when compiling my end of season statistical reports. My whole series of annual posts will be a little late and a little brief thanks to some computer issues that prevented me from working on them for a few weeks. They might be the better for it:
* Minnesota was 46-35 at home and 37-44 on the road, close to an inverse record. Nothing noteworthy about that. More amusing is that they almost had an inverse R-RA, scoring 373 and allowing 323 at home while scoring 323 and allowing 377 on the road.
* Every year I run a chart showing runs above average (based on park adjusted runs per game) for each playoff team’s offense and defense. Usually I do this and get to slyly point out that the average playoff team was stronger offensively, but that is not the case this year, and it would be bad form not to show it even when there are no guffaws to be had:
Although it is interesting narrative-wise that the Mets’ offense wound up being twenty runs better than their defense.
* There were nine teams whose starters had a lower eRA than their relievers, led by the Dodgers (3.67/4.36) and also including the A’s, Red Sox, Mariners, Cubs, Rays, Braves, Cardinals, and Mets. One might note that four of the five NL playoff teams are represented; only the Pirates had a lower bullpen eRA (4.09/3.50).
In 2014 there were eight teams with a lower starter eRA and two made the playoffs; in 2013 seven with two playoff participants; in 2012 five with just one playoff club; and in 2011 eight and two.
I certainly would not claim that this little piece of trivia demonstrates any larger truth about the importance of starters and relievers, but it certainly is the kind of factoid that could be used in the style of a Verducci to do so. Of course, the blessed Royals completely break the narrative as the team with the biggest difference in favor of their relievers (4.74/3.34; that 1.39 run gap was much higher than the next closest team, the Brewers (4.92/3.88)).
It is also interesting to see the Rays on the list given the attention they got for aggressively pulling starters on the basis of times through the order. Tampa was 23rd in the majors in innings/start, but second to last in the AL (TB starters worked 5.65 innings per game, KC 5.63).
* Speaking of things you’re probably not supposed to say about the Royals, they were an excellent fielding team with a .690 DER, fourth in the majors. But the two teams they best in the AL playoffs each had a better DER (TOR .696, HOU also .690; San Francisco led the NL at .694).
* Minnesota starters had a 4.68 eRA, above the AL average of 4.47 and in the bottom third of the circuit. But this was a big improvement from their deplorable pitching of the last three seasons. That leaves Philadelphia as the team that can make everyone else feel good about their rotations. Phillie starters had a 5.59 eRA, much worse than their closest competition, Colorado at 5.08 (these figures are all park-adjusted). Rockie starters were last in IP/S (5.29, .2 innings fewer than PHI and ARI) and QS% (33%, MIL at 39% and PHI at 41%).
* If you’d have given me ten guesses, I’m not sure I would have come up with San Francisco leading the majors in park adjusted OBA (.342). In my defense it was a BA-driven performance as their .278 BA was nine points better than Detroit and their walk & hit batter per at bat ratio was .097, just three points above the NL average.
* Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were 1-2 among AL relievers in strikeout rate. Granted he and Miller wouldn't have both been in the same bullpen, but David Robertson was third.
* Evan Scribner had one of the craziest lines you will ever see. He struck out 64 and walked 4 in 60 innings, but he yielded 14 homers, so he was sub-replacement level (I have him at -4 RAR, which is based on runs allowed adjusted for inherited and bequeathed runners). Scribner had the best K/W ratio among relievers; the next best was Kenley Jansen at 80/8.
If you rank AL relievers by the difference between strikeout and walk rate ((K-W)/PA), a better metric, Scribner ranks eighth. The seven relievers ahead of him were all at least 15 RAR except David Robertson (6). The next sub-replacement level relievers on the list are Aaron Loup (17th) and Mike Morin (19th), but both of them were hit-unlucky (.352 and .353 BABIP respectively) and comfortably above average in dRA. To find the next sub-replacement level performance you have to go all the way down to 46th and Danny Farquhar.
Scribner's 2.2 HR/G (games based on 37 PA rather than 9 IP) rate was the highest among major league relievers. The top three AL relievers in HR rate were all A's: Fernando Abad (2.0) and Edward Mujica (1.9), but OAK's HR park factor of 93 is tied for lowest in the AL.
* My stat reports set a minimum of 40 relief appearances to be included as a reliever, but sometimes I cheat and let in players I’m interested in. One case this year was Jeff Manship. Manship pitched 39 1/3 innings over 32 games. But if you include him, he:
1. Led in RRA (.67 to Wade Davis’ ridiculous .75 over 67 1/3 innings)
2. Led in eRA (1.51 to Davis’ 1.79)
3. was 13th in dRA (2.92, teammate Cody Allen led the way at 2.24)
4. And as you probably surmised by now, led the AL in lowest BABIP (.194, Will Harris was next at .201. Manship’s teammate Allen of the league-leading dRA gave up a .348, eleventh worse of the 95 AL relievers)
Terry Francona frequently used Allen in the eighth inning. Allen’s .37 IR/G was fifth among AL relievers with double digit saves, and Roberto Osuna was the only one of those five with twenty or more saves (twenty on the nose and .49 IR/G). Allen allowed only 4/26 inherited runners to score, lowering his 3.38 RA to a 2.86 RRA
* Does Jerry DiPoto know that Joaquin Benoit had a .190 BABIP? (That's not intended as shot at Jerry DiPoto, Benoit was in the news so it stood out.)
* Ground zero for DIPS intrigue was Toronto. Toronto led the majors with a .696 DER, and their starting pitchers with 15 starts were:
1. Marco Estrada, who had the highest ratio of dRA/eRA (basically, my DIPS run average to a component run average, both based on the same Base Runs formula but the latter considering actual singles, doubles, and triples allowed) of any AL starter (4.73/3.40) thanks to a .223 BABIP
2. RA Dickey, who ranked eighth with 4.72/4.00 and as a knuckleballer falls in one of the first categories of pitchers Voros McCracken carved out of DIPS theory
3. Mark Buehrle, whose dRA/eRA ratio in his final (?) season was an unremarkable 4.52/4.41 but who over the course of his career was an occasional DIPS lightning rod
4. Poor Drew Hutchison, who had the third lowest ratio at 4.46/5.50 and was pounded for a .344 BABIP. On the other hand, he had a 13-5 record despite his BABIP-fueled -6 RAR (second worst in the league, ahead of only...)
* One of the more amusing bits of media silliness during 2015 was Bill Madden's fixation on Shane Greene, which included a caption on an article that asked if Shane Greene was Brian Cashman's biggest mistake, and Madden pondering whether the Yankees would still rather have Nathan Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius than Greene and Martin Prado.
Greene was the worst starting pitcher in the AL with -13 RAR.
I like that as a punchline, but the alternate punchline is that while Prado hit fine (20 RAR) for Miami, Gregorius hit enough (only -3 RAA versus an average shortstop) and gave New York their first good fielding shortstop in goodness knows how long, while Eovaldi chipped in 22 RAR. 36 RAR to 7 RAR, I think Cashman is pretty happy with his choices.
* I will point out that my RAR formula includes no leverage adjustment (which I defend), but then leave this without further comment because you can get chastised for talking about this:
Jake Odorizzi +36
Wade Davis +30
James Shields +26
Wil Myers +14
* Would you concur that it’s plausible that all five of these seasons could have been produced by the same pitcher?
These are by no means the five most similar in value seasons you could pull out of this year’s pitching lines, but they are broadly similar, no? The reason I like this group so much is that the pitchers are John Lackey, Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha. Not only did St. Louis use five clones as their rotation, they traded a sixth away.
* Ichiro was last in the NL in RAR as a 42 year old corner outfielder. His batting average--Ichiro's batting average--was .229. It is almost inconceivable that he will get another job and that my Twitter feed will react with anything but scorn. But sometimes the inconceivable is reality.
* Speaking of Marlins with terrible secondary averages, Dee Gordon posted a .128, same as Suzuki. The only NL hitters with 250 PA and SECs lower than .128 were Milwaukee's sometimes double play combination of Jean Segura (.110) and Hernan Perez (.101). Ben Revere posted a .128 as well, and both Revere and Gordon were above average offensively, but the next lowest SEC by an above-average NL hitter was .151 (Brandon Phillips). I remain skeptical about Gordon's long-term outlook; it is exceedingly rare for a player to be able to remain an offensive contributor with so little to offer other than singles.
Nonetheless, for 2015, Gordon was a defensible choice for the Silver Slugger, as only Joe Panik had a higher RG and he compiled 220 fewer PA. Still not a good look for NL second basemen.
* The Speed Score trajectories of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have been something I’ve been watching as much has been made of Trout reconstituting his offensive game as more of a power hitter and less of a baserunning threat. But as of last year his Speed Score was still quite high, albeit lower than when he broke in. With a fourth season under his belt, Trout’s Speed Score sequence is 8.7, 7.0, 7.2, 4.9. So 2015 did mark a significant downturn in terms of Trout’s speed manifesting itself through the official statistics (or at least stolen base percentage, stolen base attempt frequency, triples/BIP, and runs scored per time on base).
Meanwhile, Harper’s sequence is 7.5, 4.9, 2.7, 3.0. If that keeps up Dusty Baker will accuse him of clogging the bases.
* The best season you probably weren’t aware of (which is really to say the best season I wasn’t aware of): Logan Forsythe hit .287/.370/.454 over 609 PA, good for 39 RAR. It was basically the same season as Jason Kipnis had trading some BA for SEC.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Some time in early September, the media decided that Josh Donaldson was the AL MVP. I don't purposefully seek out media on the awards, but I've not heard any mainstream support for a non-Donaldson (read: Mike Trout) candidate since that point. Obviously Donaldson has the playoffs and the RBI, but for my money this is not a particularly close race.
Even if you take away park adjustments, which favor Trout to the tune of 7%, I estimate Trout created 124 runs and Donaldson 123. But Trout did that whilst making 26 fewer outs. Third base and center field are essentially a wash when it comes to position adjustments, and the most favorable comparison in the big three fielding metrics for Donaldson is his 11 DRS to Trout's 0 UZR. Bringing park factors back in, I have Trout with 79 RAR and Donaldson 64, leaving Trout ahead even with the most lopsided fielding comparison feasible.
The rest of my AL ballot is pretty straightforward based on the RAR list, with the exceptions of Manny Machado and Lorenzo Cain, who jump up a few spots on the basis of strong showing in fielding (Machado averaged +14 runs in the big three metrics, Cain +17) and baserunning (+3 and +4 after removing steals respectively, per Baseball Prospectus). I regress fielding just enough to let Nelson Cruz hang on to what started as a 15 run RAR lead over Machado, sprinkle in the top four pitchers, and wind up with this ballot:
1. CF Mike Trout, LAA
2. 3B Josh Donaldson, TOR
3. SP Dallas Keuchel, HOU
4. SP David Price, DET/TOR
5. RF Nelson Cruz, SEA
6. 3B Manny Machado, BAL
7. SP Sonny Gray, OAK
8. CF Lorenzo Cain, KC
9. SP Corey Kluber, CLE
10. RF Jose Bautista, TOR
In the National League, there's absolutely no question for me: Bryce Harper had an epic season with 96 RAR, and that's before adding his positive baserunning and fielding contributions. For the first time in his full-time career, Mike Trout would not be my choice for overall MLB MVP.
Behind him, five candidates have seperation for the next five spots on the ballots--the top first basemen Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, and the top three starting pitchers (Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw). Looking solely at offense, Votto and Goldschmidt are basically even; while Votto's fielding is seen as above average, Goldschmidt is strong across the board (+13 FRAA, +5 UZR, and +18 DRS) and BP's baserunning metric has him as a positive (+2) while Votto is a big negative (-6).
Without Goldschmidt's strong ancillary contributions, I would drop him behind two or maybe even three of the pitchers, but I think he's got just enough value to stay ahead of them as is (and yes, I did consider that both Greinke with 5 runs created and Arrieta with 2 added value that wasn't considered in the Cy Young post. Greinke's offensive edge made me tempted to flip him and Arrieta on the MVP ballot, but it would have been to generate a curiosity rather than borne of strong conviction).
Two things worth discussing on the rest of the ballot: AJ Pollock would be here with 57 RAR regardless, but his defense and baserunning graded out well (-3 FRAA, +7 UZR, +14 DRS, +5 BP baserunning) while Andrew McCutchen's did not (-16, -5, -8, -2), enough to jump Pollock ahead of McCutchen who led him with 65 RAR.
1. RF Bryce Harper, WAS
2. 1B Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
3. SP Jake Arrieta, CHN
4. SP Zack Greinke, LA
5. 1B Joey Votto, CIN
6. SP Clayton Kershaw, LA
7. C Buster Posey, SF
8. CF AJ Pollock, ARI
9. SP Max Scherzer, WAS
10. CF Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Thursday, November 12, 2015
I think that the Cy Young is the most interesting award to write about from a sabermetric perspective. The MVP debate can be fierce, but it often gets bogged down in semantic arguments about "what is value?" rather than substantive arguments about the candidates' resumes. It seems as if consensus about who is the "best player" is readily found in many years, and then people attempt to construct a narrative by which they can justify ignoring it.
On the other hand, the Cy Young debate is blissfully free from the semantic debate about what the award should represent, and instead discussion can be focused on how one determines the best pitcher. In the nascent days of sabermetrics, this could take the form of a classic ERA v. wins debate. Today, it often is sabermetricians and pseudo-sabermetricians duking it out over which type of performance metric should be used.
The NL race has that potential, while the AL race seems much more straightforward. Dallas Keuchel topped David Price by 12 RAR based on actual runs allowed adjusted for bullpen support. He topped Sonny Gray by 13 RAR and Price by 14 if you look at component statistics (including actual hits allowed). Using a DIPS-like approach, Keuchel was three RAR behind David Price and Corey Kluber. I give the most weight to the first, but unless you go full DIPS, Keuchel pretty clearly offers the best blend. Since Gray only had 35 RAR by DIPS, Price is a clear #2.
The last two spots on my ballot go to Kluber and Chris Archer, edging ahead of Jose Quintana and besting his teammate Chris Sale. Quintana had a slight edge in RAR over Kluber and Archer, but his 4.17 eRA was the worst of any contender and is enough for me to put Kluber and Archer, whose peripherals were stronger than their actual runs allowed, ahead. Sale led the league in dRA at 2.98 thanks to allowing a .331 average on balls in play (his teammate Quintana fared little better at .329), but Kluber and Archer's edge in the non-DIPS metrics is enough to get my vote:
1. Dallas Keuchel, HOU
2. David Price, DET/TOR
3. Sonny Gray, OAK
4. Corey Kluber, CLE
5. Chris Archer, TB
The NL race is a three-way battle between Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Jake Arrieta. Greinke has a slight lead in RAR with 88 to Arrieta's 86 and Kershaw's 79. In RAR based on eRA, the two Dodgers are tied with 79 while Arrieta had 85. In dRA (DIPS)-based RAR, Kershaw leads with 72, while Arrieta had 65 and Greinke 48.
In comparing teammates, it becomes more difficult to accept at face value the DIPS position. They pitched in the same park, with the same teammates behind them. That in no way means that the defensive support they received had to have been of equal quality, or that Greinke couldn't have benefitted from random variation on balls in play (this formulation works better than Kershaw being lucky giving that Greinke's BABIP was .235 and Kershaw's .286). The gap in dRA is large, but not large enough for me to wipe out a nine run difference in RAR.
But while Greinke grades out as the Dodger Cy Young, I don't consider his two run lead in RAR over Arrieta significant enough given the latter's edge in the peripherals. While I think Kershaw is the best NL pitcher from a true talent perspective by a significant margin, I think Arrieta is most worthy of the Cy Young.
Max Scherzer is an easy choice for the #4 spot and would probably be in a virtual tie for second with his short-time teammate Price on my AL ballot. The last spot goes to Gerrit Cole over Jacob deGrom and John Lackey; the former was consistently valued by each of the three approaches (51 RAR based on actual runs allowed, 52 based on peripherals and DIPS):
1. Jake Arrieta, CHN
2. Zack Greinke, LA
3. Clayton Kershaw, LA
4. Max Scherzer, WAS
5. Gerrit Cole, PIT