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Pitchers Who Need to Say Thanks

Posted by Raphy
One of the most basic criticism of ERA as a tool for measuring pitchers is the way it handles runners left on base when the pitcher leaves the game.  Two pitchers can throw identical games and walk away with extremely disparate statistics because of how their bullpens fared after their departure. It seems unfair to penalize a pitcher for runs allowed that were only partly his fault.

One way of examining this  disparity is by looking at the number of runs given to a pitcher after he has left the game and adjusting it to show how many runs he should have given up. The Baseball-Reference.com Starting Pitching Page has a record for each starter's bequeathed runners as well as how many of those runners scored. Overall in 2011, starters left the game with 3186 runners on base and 1046 of those ended up scoring. In other words, on average, 33% of the runners left on base when a starter left a game ended up scoring.

Taking this data into account, some pitchers clearly need to thank their bullpens for helping them out and allowing only a minimal amount of their runs to score, while other pitchers probably have some less than gracious feelings toward  their relievers.

First, the pitchers who benefited the most from the help of their bullpens.

PitcherTmBQRBQSExpected BQSDifference
Nick BlackburnMIN2427.88-5.88
Ivan NovaNYY2949.52-5.52
Freddy GarciaNYY1504.92-4.92
Alexi OgandoTEX1815.91-4.91
Trevor CahillOAK2959.52-4.52
Brad BergesenBAL1615.25-4.25
Tyler ChatwoodLAA2237.22-4.22
Kyle DrabekTOR1514.92-3.92
Luis PerezTOR1825.91-3.91
R.A. DickeyNYM1103.61-3.61
Justin VerlanderDET1103.61-3.61
(BQR: bequeathed runners; BQS: bequeathed runners who scored; Expected BQS: the number of runners who would of scored at the league rate)

And the pitchers who were hurt the most:

PitcherTmBQRBQSExpected BQSDifference
Jhoulys ChacinCOL15104.925.08
Jason VargasSEA1394.274.73
Jason MarquisTOT17105.584.42
Aneury RodriguezHOU1494.604.40
Michael PinedaSEA1183.614.39
Justin MastersonCLE30149.854.15
Joel PineiroLAA24127.884.12
Ricky NolascoFLA18105.914.09
Doug DavisCHC1283.944.06

Of course there are other factors that need to be considered, as well. Certainly the base positions of the bequeathed runners is a key piece information. If a pitcher leaves runners primarily on third instead of on first, his bullpen will naturally let more runners score.

Nevertheless, it interesting to ponder, particularly given the accolades that the 11th pitcher in the top list has received. Would a jump in ERA from 2.40 to 2.53 mean a lot in how people view Verlander? Probably not. But it is still interesting to think about.

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