Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Do Number 1's face Number 1's?

As one of the biggest moves in the Tigers' 107 year history, the Miguel Cabrera trade has been covered to death by Lee and Bill and everybody else already, but I wanted to tackle one piece of analysis I've heard a few times regarding Dontrelle Willis. There seems to be a sentiment that moving out of the #1 spot in the rotation will help him because he won't be facing the opposing #1 starters. This got me thinking, "Do #1's really face #1's, #2's face #2's, and so on." Such an assertion makes three assumptions:

-The best pitcher is the team's #1, the second best pitcher is the team's #2, etc.
-The pitchers continue to go 1-2-3-4-5 in the rotation and always face the opposing team's pitcher of the same rotation rank.
-This is a bit of stretch, but the other two assumptions only take care of win-loss record. Maybe facing tougher pitching makes a pitcher pitch worse.

In order to take a look at these assumptions, I've utilized Support Neutral Lineup-Adjusted Value Above Replacement Level (It's that simple!). SNLVAR looks at the likelihood of winning a game and the pitchers' contribution to that, adjusts for opponents, and compares to a waiver-wire pitcher.

I've looked at all the Tigers opponents this year to see their opening day rotations and their actual rotations. For the opening day rotations, I've defined a #1 pitcher is defined as the opening day starter, #2 as the next starter. In some cases, because of rain or days off, a team didn't go 1-2-3-4-5, so the first five unique starters are defined in that case. The actual rotation is defined as the top 5 pitchers by SNLVAR on the team.

Opening Day
1. Erik Bedard
2. Daniel Cabrera
3. Jaret Wright
4. Adam Loewen
5. Steve Trachsel

1. Erik Bedard 6
2. Jeremy Guthrie 4.8
3. Daniel Cabrera 3
4. Steve Trachsel 2.9 (combined with Cubs stats)
5. Brian Burres

Wright and Loewen were lost for the year early on. Guthrie came on and performed admirably. What did we learn from the Orioles?

-Injuries happen, and can alter rotations from the get-go.
-Trades also happen. Like in the case of Trachsel, a regular member of the rotation is replaced by somebody from the farm

1. Curt Schilling
2. Josh Beckett
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Tim Wakefield
5. Julian Tavarez

1. Josh Beckett 6.2
2. Daisuke Matsuzaka 5.1
3. Curt Schilling 4.3
4. Tim Wakefield 3.9
5. Julian Tavarez 1.1

Well, I see how they were able to stay successful this year. What did we learn from the Red Sox?

-Sometimes a pitcher other than the opening day starter emerges as the ace.

New York (A)
Opening Day
1. Carl Pavano
2. Andy Pettite
3. Mike Mussina
4. Kei Igawa
5. Darrel Rasner

1. Chien-ming Wang 6
2. Andy Pettite 5.3
3. Mike Mussina 2.6
4. Roger Clemens 2.6
5. Phil Hughes 1.5

When did they sign Clemens? I totally missed that one. I must not have turned on ESPN at any point in June or July. What did we learn from the Yankees?

-Once in a while, a team's best pitcher will start on the DL. This means that he can be placed anywhere into the rotation.
-In addition, rotations are set a couple weeks in advance of the season. When Wang was injured, rather than moving everybody around Torre decided to put Carl Pavano in his place.
-Phil Hughes teaches us something about service time. A player is a free agent after six years of service time, which is counted in days. Service time is taken out of 172 days, while the season is 182 days long. Often a player will be held out for those 11 days to buy an extra year of time before free agency. This can also apply to whether or not the best five pitchers are in the rotation.
-Failed experiments like Kei Igawa can throw a rotation into flux.

Tampa Bay
Opening Day
1. Scott Kazmir
2. Jae Seo
3. James Shields
4. Casey Fossum
5. Edwin Jackson

1. James Shields 5.8
2. Scott Kazmir 5.5
3. Edwin Jackson 1.5
4. Andrew Sonnanstine 1.2
5. Jason Hammel 0.9

Shields, Kazmir, Sonnanstine, Price, and Garza will be a good rotation by the end of 2008. This team is going places. It's really too bad the Rays aren't in the NL Central. What did we learn from Tampa Bay?

-We have another young pitcher emerging from the #3 spot.
-Jae Seo and Casey Fossum were terrible, again throwing the rotation into flux.

Opening Day
1. Roy Hallday
2. AJ Burnett
3. Gustavo Chacin
4. Tomo Okha
5. Josh Towers

1. Roy Halladay 6.7
2. Dustin McGowan 4.3
3. AJ Burnett 4.3
4. Shaun Marcum 4.3
5. Jesse Litsch 3

Did the Rios for Lincecum rumors confuse anybody else? If Bristol, CT, was closer to Toronto, the Worldwide Leader would be telling us how great this rotation was last year. What did we learn from the Jays?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace. I have a hunch we'll see Roy Halladay as a supporting case for rotation slot mattering when I look at Bonderman's opponents.
-Again veteran garbage blocks better pitchers early in the season.

Chicago (A)
1. Jose Contreras
2. Jon Garland
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Javier Vasquez
5. John Danks

1. Mark Buehrle 5.6
2. Javier Vasquez 5.2
3. Jon Garland 4.3
4. Jose Contreras 1.0
5. Gavin Floyd 0.9

With a rotation like that, it's no wonder the Tigers went out and got Miguel Cabrera to keep up. What did we learn from Ozzie's smart-ballers?

-The top 4 pitchers were essentially regarded as equal before the season. Sometimes there isn't a discernible difference between the pitchers in the rotation, so you really aren't at an advantage facing the #4 starter over the #1.

Opening Day
1. CC Sabathia
2. Jake Westbrook
3. Jeremy Sowers
4. Paul Byrd
5. Fausto Carmona

1. Fausto Carmona 6.8
2. CC Sabathia 6.5
3. Jake Westbrook 3.3
4. Paul Byrd 2.5
5. Aaron Laffey 0.8

I really really really wish Fausto Carmona had stayed in Buffalo all year. What did we learn from the Indians?

-The best pitcher on the staff may not even be in the rotation from the get-go because of options and lack of trust in young pitchers.
-I'll get into the rain/snow outs in the next segments, but it's needless to say that rotations get thrown out of order early on.
-The Tigers may have won the division if Lee and Sowers had been serviceable and healthy.

Opening Day
1. Jeremy Bonderman
2. Nate Robertson
3. Justin Verlander
4. Mike Maroth
5. Chad Durbin

1. Justin Verlander 5.6
2. Nate Robertson 2.8
3. Jeremy Bonderman 2.4
4. Chad Durbin 1.7
5. Andrew Miller 0.8

I'll do the Tigers too. You could make a case the rotation was an opponent this year. What did we learn from the Tigers?

-Jim Leyland likes to order his rotation in such a way to keep hard and soft-tossers alternated. This means the ace goes in the #3 hole between the soft-tossing lefties. Again, the pitchers aren't always placed in the rotation in order by their ability.

Kansas City
Opening Day
1. Gil Meche
2. Odalis Perez
3. Zach Greinke
4. Jorge de la Rosa
5. Brandon Duckworth

1. Gil Meche 5.3
2. Brian Bannister 4.6
3. Zach Greinke 2.2
4. Jorge de la Rosa 1.6
5. Odalis Perez 1.1

What did we learn from the Royals?

-Teams fall in love with spring training performance. Bannister was left off the opening day roster because of a bad spring, but emerged as the second-best starter. Spring training performance can skew an opening day rotation.

Opening Day
1. Johan Santana
2. Boof Bonser
3. Ramon Ortiz
4. Carlos Silva
5. Sidney Ponson

1. Johan Santana 6.3
2. Carlos Silva 5
3. Scott Baker 3.1
4. Boof Bonser 2.4
5. Matt Garza 2

And you thought you could go five seconds without seeing Johan Santana's name. Shame on you! What did we learn from Terry Ryan's fetish for wash ups?

-Veteran floatsum continues to clog rotations.
-The ace is sometimes an ace.
-Johan Santana might be traded to the Red Sox, no maybe the Yankees, no maybe the Red Sox, no maybe the Yankees. Oh wait, who are the Twins?

Los Angeles (A)
Opening Day
1. John Lackey
2. Kelvim Escobar
3. Ervin Santana
4. Joe Saunders
5. Dustin Moseley

1. John Lackey 6.9
2. Kelvim Escobar 6.3
3. Jered Weaver 4.1
4. Joe Saunders 1.7
5. Ervin Santana 1.3

Does anybody else remember when Ervin Santana was named Johan before age-gate? What did we learn from the American League West's powerhouse?

-The ace is sometimes the ace.
-A rotation can have two ace caliber pitchers.
-Again, one of the team's better pitchers started on the disabled list, meaning you don't really know which rotation spot they will go into.

Opening Day
1. Dan Haren
2. Joe Blanton
3. Rich Harden
4. Chad Gaudin
5. Joe Kennedy

1. Dan Haren 6.3
2. Joe Blanton 5.9
3. Chad Gaudin 3.8
4. Joe Kennedy 2.3
5. Lenny DiNardo 1.5

What did we learn from Oakland?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace.
-This stuff really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. Some people just die to young.

Opening Day
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Jarrod Washburn
3. Miguel Batista
4. Horacio Ramirez
5. Jeff Weaver

1. Felix Hernandez 4.3
2. Miguel Batista 4.2
3. Jarrod Washburn 3.5
4. Jeff Weaver 1.3
5. Cha Seung Baek 0.8

It's really good to know Billy Bavasi got fair value for Rafael Soriano? Aside from knowing to pay attention to Horacio Ramirez's peripheral statistics, what did we learn from the Mariners?

-Sometimes the ace is the ace.

Opening Day
1. Kevin Milwood
2. Vicente Padilla
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Robinson Tejeda
5. Jamie Wright

1. Brandon McCarthy 1.9
2. Kevin Milwood 1.6
3. Kameron Loe 0.9
4. Vicente Padilla 0.6
5. Jamie Wright 0.6

What did we learn from the Rangers?

-Autopilot could have cracked the Rangers rotation.
-Sometimes ace is a relative term. Even if you have to face the opposing team's best, you can get the occasional break.

Opening Day
1. John Smoltz
2. Tim Hudson
3. Chuck James
4. Mark Redman
5. Kyle Davies

1. Tim Hudson 7.9
2. John Smoltz 7.0
3. Chuck James 4.3
4. Buddy Carlyle 1.1
5. Kyle Davies 1.0

Mark Redman is really the John Larroquette of baseball. Yeah, he had some success a while ago. You thought you had seen the last of him before you suddenly see him in a rotation somewhere with a bit of hype. Before you check back, the sitcom was a failure and was cancelled. What did we learn from the Braves?

-Even when the rotation is about right, the top two may be out of order.

On another note, the fact that Hudson and Smoltz both would have led the American league is interesting. There was a lot of offensive talent in the NL East last year. Since SNLVAR is adjusted by opposing talent, I wonder if that inflated the numbers. On top of that, I have to wonder if it's the NL East's pitching being bad or the hitting being good that is causing this. This may have an effect on the numbers we should expect from Cabrera and Renteria this year. I'll check in on that before the season.

New York Mets
Opening Day
1. Tom Glavine
2. Orlando Hernandez
3. John Maine
4. Oliver Perez
5. Mike Pelfrey

1. Tom Glavine 5.6
2. John Maine 5.4
3. Orlando Hernandez 4.6
4. Oliver Perez 4.0
5. Jorge Sosa 1.9

What did we learn from the Mets?

-The starting third baseman can be blamed for the pitching woes in the MVP voting.
-There is virtually no difference between the 1-4 starters, suggesting again that it may not make a difference if you face the #1 or #4 starter on a regular basis.

Opening Day
1. Brett Myers
2. Cole Hamels
3. Adam Eaton
4. Jamie Moyer
5. Zach Segovia

1. Cole Hamels 5.2
2. Jamie Moyer 3.2
3. Kyle Kendrick 3.2
4. Kyle Lohse 1.3
5. Jon Lieber 1.2

Brett Myers was moved to the closer role early on. Segovia was the #5 starter the first week, and was never saw the big leagues again.

-Injuries can decimate a rotation.
-A young ace may not get the chance to be the #1 starter.

I'm going to skip Washington, as I've already used my bad pitching jokes on Texas.

Opening Day
1. Ben Sheets
2. Chris Capuano
3. Jeff Suppan
4. Dave Bush
5. Claudio Vargas

1. Ben Sheets 4.1
2. Yovani Gallardo 3.6
3. Jeff Suppan 3
4. Dave Bush 2.2
5. Chris Capuano 2

What did we learn from Milwaukee?
-Bad defense can hurt a solid rotation. They need Brandon Inge more than they care to admit.
-Service time jumbling can lead to a rookie ace joining the team mid-season.

St. Louis
Opening Day
1. Chris Carpenter
2. Kip Wells
3. Braden Looper
4. Adam Wainright
5. Anthony Reyes

1. Adam Wainright 5.9
2. Braden Looper 3.8
3. Brad Thompson 1.9
4. Joel Pineiro 1.7
5. Todd Wellemeyer 0.4

What did we learn from the Cardinals?

-Bitterness takes more than 14 months to cure.
-An undisputed ace hurting his elbow can kill a rotation.
-So can Kip Wells.
-Don't drink and drive.
-Wearing glasses can fool the MSM into thinking you are a genius.

The overall totals
#1 starters started the season as:

#1 starters: 9
#2 starters: 3
#3 starters: 4
#4 starters: 1
#5 starters: 1
Out of the rotation: 1

To summarize what we learned from all of the teams,

-Managers have their best pitcher pitch on the correct day to start the season more than any other rotation rank.
-Pitchers aren't always placed in the rotation based on their ranking within the rotation, but instead for other strategic mixing and matching.
-Getting an extra year of control of a player can keep a young ace out of the rotation early on.
-Young pictures are underrated by managers coming out of spring training, while the flop of veteran floatsum can send a rotation into flux.
-Regular pitchers like Jered Weaver and Chien-ming Wang can start the season out of the rotation on the disabled list, out of their natural spot in the rotation.
-Injuries (Carpenter) can kill a rotation.
-So can Kip Wells.
-Phil Mickelson should have tried out for the Rangers instead.

Overall, I will conclude that the #1 pitcher is the correct pitcher more often than other times, but pitchers are not usually ranked in order of their actual effectiveness. Next, I will check to see if #1's actually face #1's.

1 comment:

Lee Panas said...

Eddie, good job with this so far. The #1 versus #1 thing is one of my least favorite cliches. I'm looking forward to seeing part 2 of the analysis.