For those following along, I dedicated last week to Braves SP Javier Vazquez. I first stated my belief that he’ll be a top five fantasy pitcher for the rest of 2009 and then briefly explored the claim that he bunches his hits and walks together. I found little evidence to suggest he did, but there were some things I didn’t get a chance to look at. Today, I’d like to go a couple steps further and look at some of these things.
First, while I found that Vazquez was merely league average-ish at bunching hits and walks, I didn’t check how similarly-skilled pitchers performed. I also didn’t check the quality of the hits, treating every hit and walk equally. Unfortunately, I ran out of time today and didn’t get to look at a few other things I would have liked to, so I’m sure you’ll all be happy to hear that there should be yet another follow-up in the coming days.
Also, please note that, because we’re digging into somewhat complicated matters, this may get a little technical for some readers’ likings, and the charts certainly aren’t as straight-forward as many of you would like. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. I’ll do my best to summarize, in simple terms, what’s going on at the end of each section.
Note: All data presented in this article was arrived at using the stupendous Retrosheet for the years 2004 to 2008.
Comparison to his peers
As I noted in my previous article (and as a few commenters also made note of), it would be best to compare Vazquez not only to league average, but also to similar skilled pitchers (henceforth known as ‘peers’).
To define “peers,” I selected all starting pitchers who were within 0.25 LIPS ERA points (to assure that they were exhibiting similar skills to Vazquez and not getting lucky) and within 0.05 WHIP points (to assure that there weren’t differences in the overall number of hits and walks allowed that would skew the study) for each year. Arbitrary, yes, but that’s kind of the nature of the beast. This gives us a sample of nearly 11,000 inning appearances from 2004-2008. The results are shown below:
The format of this chart is a little different than last time. Each column shows the percentage of time that this exact number of hits and walks were allowed in an inning (as opposed to the percentage of time that at least this many hits and walks were allowed, as was displayed last time. This was done to make for easier comparisons to the next couple charts).
The important thing to take away from this is that Vazquez’s peers don’t perform much differently than league average and that Vazquez doesn’t perform much differently than them. In fact, we see almost the same exact net result: the bunching of 1.6 fewer hits and walks than his peers per 216 inning appearances (his average number pitched since 2004). If we remove the innings with two hits and walks, it drops to the same 5.4 deficit we saw last time as well.
Let’s dig a little deeper…
Damage done by hits and walks
In my first study, I didn’t include the actual damage done by the hits and walks, but simply looked at the raw totals. It was suggested that perhaps Vazquez’s problem isn’t how many hits and walks he bunches together, but the types of hits (i.e maybe more doubles and homers than singles and walks). Using Linear Weights, we can check this pretty easily.
If you’re the kind of person who’s interested in the specifics, you can click here to see the average damage done per single inning of a particular type. Here, it appears that more damage is done to Vazquez than both league average and his peers in innings with two, three, or four hits and walks, but he has been able to make up for it a bit by bettering (or tying) both the league and his peers in innings with 5 through 11 hits and walks.
After finding this, I combined the frequency with which Vazquez allows each type of inning with the cumulative damage done by the walks and hits in that type of inning (scaled to 216 inning appearances). You can see the breakdown by inning type here. Vazquez seems to take the biggest (relative) beating in innings with four hits and walks, and these innings happen frequently enough to wreak a little havoc.
For those who would rather not be bored with the specifics (the majority of you, I’m wagering), below is a chart with (hopefully) an easily understandable version of the final effects. This takes into account both the frequency with which Vazquez allows each type of inning and the cumulative damage done by the walks and hits. It has been scaled to show the net linear weighted effect per 216 inning appearances (Vazquez’s average since 2004). I’ve also broken these effects up by types of innings: those with at least 2 hits and walks, 3 hits and walks, and 4 hits and walks.
To put it into simple terms, what we’re seeing is that Vazquez’s peers are a bit better than league average, but Vazquez himself is a bit worse than both. At best, he’s about 2.2 runs worse if we only focus on 2+ H/BB innings (about 0.08 points of ERA). At worst, he’s about 4.2 runs worse if we only focus on 3+ H/BB innings (about 0.17 points of ERA). While some of this may be noise, it still looks like it might be justifiable to dock Vazquez’s value a little bit… just don’t go crazy. I still believe that an ERA below 3.30 is a very real possibility for Javy.
As always, comments are welcome. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll probably be doing one final follow-up in the coming days.