Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason

Written by :
Published on : December 21, 2015

 

With Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings wrapped up and Opening Day just a few months away, there were a lot of big names on the move and still a handful of marquee players available. The hot stove was blazing the past few weeks, setting up for a very interesting 2016 season. Here are my 5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason so far. The 5 teams that I think improved themselves the most from last year.

 

 

#5San Francisco Giants 

The Giants have given Bumgarner a lot of help and he is excited.

 

The San Francisco Giants are looking to get back into the post-season after missing out last year. A very successful team over the past decade, the Giants have won two World Series titles under manager Bruce Bochy and still have a very talented team. Led by ace Madison Bumgarner, they added to their arsenal by adding two solid arms in Jeff Samardzija (5 years, $90 million) and Johnny Cueto (6 years, $130 million).

 

The Giants have the potential to have the most talented rotation in all of baseball and may even be the favorites to win the National League West, if not the pennant as well. Veterans Matt Cain and Jake Peavy round out the rotation, with perennial all-star Buster Posey calling the pitches. The Giants also may be interested in signing left fielder Alex Gordon, which would move the Giants way up this list.

 

 

#4Chicago White Sox

 Robin Ventura should be very pleased with how this off season has gone.

 

The Chicago White Sox haven’t made much noise in the American League Central the past few years as they have entered somewhat of a rebuilding mode. Last year, the Chi Sox got only 13 homers from their 3rd base spot, so they went out and sought better hitting from the infield. In a 3-team deal with the Dodgers and Reds, Chicago gave a few young players to get 3rd baseman Todd Frazier from Cincinnati. Frazier is one of the better power hitters in baseball the past couple years, bringing 30+ home runs annually, and will add some major pop alongside first baseman José Abreu.

 

In a previous deal, the White Sox acquired Brett Laurie from Oakland, who is set to play 2nd base. They are hoping he will reach his full potential and be a guy that can find the seats in a hitter friendly ballpark. Lawrie is a reasonably cheap upgrade and Frazier is an absolute steal right now as he is set to make just $7.5 million, and doesn’t hit free agency until after 2017.

 

 

#3- Arizona Diamondbacks

The Greinke signing has been the biggest splash yet this off season.

 

The Diamondbacks needed to make a big move to try and compete with the likes of the Giants and the Dodgers out west, and what a splash they made. Getting potentially the biggest free agent in all of baseball, starting pitcher, Zack Greinke for 7 years in a monster deal. A signing that came out of left field, nobody saw Greinke heading to the desert. Joining Greinke in Arizona will be another quality arm as the Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from Atlanta for former first round pick Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte.

 

While dealing away two potentially great players, the Diamondbacks get potentially an even better player in Miller. He is a legitimate #2 after posting solid numbers with the Braves last year but was very unlucky with what little run support he received. Also, at just 25 years old, Miller is under team control for another few years.

 

 

#2- Boston Red Sox

 Price and Dombrowski: Reunited in Boston.

 

When Dave Dombrowski joined the front office in Boston, he wasted little time in trying to build another championship roster in Beantown. Headlined by the signing of former Cy Young winner David Price, the Red Sox improved their pitching staff immensely. Coming off one of his best seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million but has an opt out option after 3 years. For Boston, they are back into familiar territory looking to win now and they feel they have the pieces to make it happen.

 

Joining Price on the pitching staff, the Red Sox acquired one of the best closers in baseball from San Diego, Craig Kimbrel. Koji Uehara has been lights out in that role for the Red Sox over the last handful of years but with an injury plagued season a year ago, the Red Sox now boast a nearly unbeatable backend of their bullpen.

 

In a trade with Seattle, the Bo Sox also received reliever Carson Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. Smith is a very reliable bullpen arm who posted a 2.31 ERA in relief with a lot of strikeouts. Elias is more of a backend of the rotation guy who doesn’t have outstanding career numbers. He does have five more years of team control for cheaper than what Wade Miley was earning, and for arguably around the same if not slightly better numbers. Bottom line, with the offense that the Blue Jays has in that division, the Red Sox had to get some pitching to be able to shut them down, and took the ace of Toronto’s staff in the process.

 

 

#1- Chicago Cubs

 The Cubs signed Heyward to overcome his former team, the Cardinals.

 

My winner thus far in the MLB offseason has to be the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has done a remarkable job since joining the Cubbies front office. After making it to the NLCS last year, it’s looking like World Series or bust for the Cubs this year. The two biggest acquisitions the Cubs made may be more about who they stole them from and not as much about who the players are. Constantly looking up in the standings to the St Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Cubs plucked two very talented players from St Louis to hopefully shake the standings up a bit this year.

 

The biggest splash was with the Cubs agreeing to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward for 8 years and $184 million. A pretty large contract possibly considered a bargain considering Heyward is rumored to have turned down some $200+ million offers to sign with Chicago. The other former Cardinal to join the Cubs is veteran starter John Lackey. At 37 years old, Lackey signs a 2-year, $32 million deal with the hopes of building on his already sound postseason numbers. Coming off a year in which he finished the regular season with a 2.77 ERA, Lackey appears to have plenty left in the tank.

 

A familiar face for manager Joe Maddon also joins the Cubs as former Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist signed a  4-year $56 million deal. While this deal may prove to be a little steep for a utility guy at age 34, Zobrist isn’t your average utility man. He can play just about anywhere in the outfield and infield, and he was a key piece in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run last year, as he started most of their games after being acquired at the trade deadline. He’ll see a lot time in the starting lineup again this year and may even see some time in the middle infield helping to take over for Starlin Castro, who was traded to the Yankees in exchange for a talented young pitcher Adam Warren. The Cubs are set up nicely with a lot of young talent to contend for many years to come.

 

 

 


Champ and Chump of the Weekend

Written by :
Published on : September 16, 2015

 

Fans rejoiced this past weekend as the NFL kicked off its 2015 season. Add in a couple big college football tilts and the U.S. Open in New York, and it made for one jam packed weekend in sports. Week 1 in the NFL had some great story lines and some memorable moments. With that in mind, here’s my Champ and Chump of the weekend.

 

Champ: Marcus Mariota

13-16, 209 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 turnovers. 95.7 QBR, 158.3 Passer Rating in a 42-14 victory over Tampa Bay

All he does is win.

 

In a much anticipated match up featuring the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2015 NFL draft, and the last two Heisman trophy winners, Marcus Mariota looked a lot more NFL ready than Jameis Winston, who threw a pick-six with his first throw. Many doubted Mariota coming into this season, fearing his style wouldn’t translate to the NFL, a trend that has been true with former Oregon quarterbacks in the past. Through one week, Mariota has silenced his critics for now, and the Jameis supporters have to hope that Winston’s career takes off much like the career of a former legend who also started his NFL career with a pick-six—Brett Favre.

 

Honorable Mention:

Michigan State football- Huge win over #7 Oregon avenging last year’s loss in Eugene

Novak Djokovic- Defeated Roger Federer for the US Open Championship, his 10th career major win

Zack Greinke- Pitched 8 scoreless innings vs Arizona to improve to 17-3 on the season, 1.61 ERA, 0.85 WHIP…truly remarkable season, could go down as one of the best seasons ever.

 

 

Chump: New York Giants

Rashad Jennings summing up how the Giants ended the game.

 

On a play that may be scrutinized as much as the Seattle Seahawks bonehead decision to throw the ball at the 1-yard line in last year’s Super Bowl, Eli Manning left many fans scratching their heads yesterday. The New York Giants were just about to shock the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys Sunday night when Eli Manning and company did the seemingly unthinkable. Up 23-20, the Giants had a 3rd and goal at the Cowboy’s 1-yard line with just over 90 seconds left. Out of timeouts, Dallas had no way of stopping the clock. The Giants had them on their heels, all they had to do was punch it in. Hell, they had two chances if they wanted.  Worst case scenario, they come up short on 3rd down and kick the field goal to go up 6 and leave Dallas with under a minute and no timeouts to drive for a touchdown. Another scenario, on a potential fourth down, if the Giants came up short, Dallas would have to go some 99 yards without any timeouts for a touchdown, or some 60 yards for a field goal try with like 45 seconds left. Instead, on 3rd and 1, Eli dropped back to throw, and threw the ball away avoiding the pressure, but ultimately also avoiding the 40 second runoff that may have helped win New York the game. To make matters worse, it has been reported Eli told running back Rashad Jennings to intentionally not score with the hopes of draining the clock. Well, the G-Men may not have won the game but they did win the award for chump of the week.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Adam “Pac Man” Jones- Flagged and fined for slamming Oakland Raider Amari Cooper’s head into his helmet

Florida football coach Jim McElwain- Childish tirade on the sidelines while berating a player

Detroit Lions/Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi- After leading 21-3 at San Diego, the Lions

gave up 30 unanswered points and lost 33-28. Calvin Johnson targeted just 4 times (2 catches)

 


Zack Greinke, Sabermetrics and the Greatest Season of the Past 25 Years

Written by :
Published on : August 17, 2015

 

From June 18th of this year to July 26, Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched 45 2/3 innings without giving up a run. It was good enough for the 4th-longest scoreless innings streak in Major League history. In that period, he struck out 43 batters and only walked 4. Opposing hitters only reached third base twice. It was insanity. That’s around the time I got an email from my friend Rob. The subject was ‘Greinke’ and the body of the email just said, “On pace for best season in the last 25 years?”

 

The short answer was “No.” The dick answer was, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” But the honest answer is, I’m not even really 100% sure how to evaluate that question. So I started to ask around. I have plenty of friends who profess to be sabermetric nerds and I said, “If you had a vote for the Cy Young Award, what criteria or statistics would you use to make your choice?” The answers I got were all over the place. So I finally did something I’d been putting off for years. I went down the advanced stat rabbit hole, using places like FanGraphs as my Rosetta Stone. So when analysts argue things like Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young (as they did last year), the stats won’t look like total gibberish. This is what I found…

 

Felix Hernandez

 

Most of you probably already know that wins and losses are not a good judge of a pitcher’s worth. Wins just tell us how many games your team scored more runs than the other team. But what I didn’t know was that ERA (Earned Run Average) and WHIP (Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched) are probably out too. The main thing most of the stat geeks are trying to get across is that once a ball is hit, pitchers have no control over whether it lands in someone’s glove or not. That’s the defense. So not only can a pitcher win games with an amazing offense, they can also look like studs because of amazing defense. Last season, Jordan Zimmermann completed his no-hitter because of a circus catch by Steven Souza. In 1990, Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees and still lost the game 4-0 because of fielding errors.

 

One stat for that brand of luck is called BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and hitters actually have more control over it than the pitchers and fielders. Voros McCracken best explained this stat by saying that in any given Home Run Derby, you’ll see guys hit balls that would clearly be outs in a real game. And those pitchers are TRYING to give up home runs.

 

The league average for BABIP is always .300. So you can actually look at a player’s career BABIP (Greinke’s is .301) to see if their current numbers (Greinke’s is .236, which is the lowest in the Majors) are sustainable. In this case, Greinke looks like he’s been pretty lucky this season, but I still want to evaluate players based on what they’ve actually done.

 

Zack Greinke

 

The best way to really evaluate a pitcher is to focus on things they CAN control. That means walks, strikeouts, home runs and HBP (Hit by Pitch). There are a few ways to do it, but I prefer FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) as a starting point. FIP shows what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they had a league average BABIP. So it takes the role of defense and luck out the equation. It tells you how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how the fielders fielded. Where ERA tells you what actually happened, FIP tells you what should have happened. It’s not perfect, as it doesn’t take into account HR/FB (Home Run to Fly Ball rate) or how good the pitcher is at stranding runners. But almost everyone agrees it’s better than ERA at summing up a player’s overall contribution to run prevention. Just for fun, here are the top 10 FIPs of the past 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martienz 1.39
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81
2013. Matt Harvey 2.00
1995 Randy Johnson 2.08
2001 Randy Johnson 2.13
2000 Pedro Martinez 2.17
1990 Roger Clemens 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21
1998 Kevin Brown 2.23

 

Greinke’s FIP is currently at 2.63. Kershaw would just miss the list at 2.24. What’s interesting is that Harvey, Halladay and Brown didn’t win the ERA titles in those years. And only half of the list won the Cy Young in those years. Because we’ve all been living a lie.

 

Roy Halladay

 

Now, there’s also xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) that takes BABIP and HR/FB into the equation. It does even more to remove the randomness from a pitcher’s performance. But I feel like if you gave up the home runs you gave up, they should count against you no matter what. xFIP and a few other stats are better predictors of future performances than they are assessing a pitcher’s current value.

 

There are still people who think batted balls can tell us SOMETHING about a pitcher’s actual skill level. Ground balls and fly balls produce outs at the highest rates (74.8% and 77.7%, respectively). While line drives have the best chances of becoming hits (and 73.6% of them will). SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) tries to account for some of the complexity of balls in play, and it ends up being a more accurate ERA estimator than xFIP. Plus, it adjusts for differences in park sizes. Both xFIP and SIERA started getting data in 2002, so let’s look at the best FIP, xFIP and SIERA since then:

 

                FIP                 xFIP                 SIERA
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.08 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.09
2013 Matt Harvey 2.00 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.08* 2002 Curt Schilling 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20 2002 Curt Schilling 2.21 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.21*
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21 2002 Randy Johnson 2.44 2002 Randy Johnson 2.38
2002 Pedro Martinez 2.24 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.51 2002 Pedro Martinez 2.42
2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.24* 2011 Zack Greinke 2.56 2015 Chris Sale 2.46*
2004 Randy Johnson 2.30 2014 Stephen Strasburg 2.56 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.50
2009 Zack Greinke 2.33 2015 Chris Sale 2.56* 2014 Chris Sale 2.56
2009 Tim LIncecum 2.34 2014 Corey Kluber 2.57 2015 Max Scherzer 2.57*
2014 Corey Kluber 2.35 2015 Chris Archer 2.57* 2004 Randy Johnson 2.60

 

 

Clayton Kershaw

 

All three stats agree Kershaw’s 2014 season was the best since 2002, and this year, it’s unanimous that Kershaw is the best and Chris Sale is #2. All that being said, xFIP and SIERA are only ERA estimators. They give hypothetical home run and BABIP rates while FIP uses players’ actual home run rate in its math. I don’t want to predict the future as much as I want to show past value.

 

FanGraphs’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) tells us how many more wins a player would have given his team over a replacement. It’s their total contribution. They use FIP in its calculation, rather than one of the estimators, and also adjusts for park size and how many innings the pitcher throws (something everyone I talked to finds highly important). The problem with WAR is that it’s not precise, since they haven’t figured out how to put SIERA’s balls in play math into the equation. There’s also RA9-WAR, which uses actual runs allowed instead of FIP. It’s just a matter of how much you want to account for defense and luck. Is it better to be lucky or good? I’d say it’s better to be good. So I’ll go with WAR. Here are the top 10 WARs for pitchers in the last 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martinez 11.6
1997 Roger Clemens 10.7
2001 Randy Johnson 10.4
1998 Kevin Brown 9.6
2000 Randy Johnson 9.6
2004 Randy Johnson 9.6
1995 Randy Johnson 9.5
1999 Randy Johnson 9.5
2000 Pedro Martinez 9.4
2002 Curt Schilling 9.3

 

Pedro Martinez

 

Okay. So we have FIP and WAR as pretty good tools in evaluating what a pitcher has done, without luck and fielding involved. Last year’s King Felix vs. Kluber argument could have been summed up by saying Felix had a 2.51 FIP and a 6.0 WAR. Kluber had a 2.35 FIP and a 7.3 WAR. Case closed. The right guy won. So back to the email I got from my friend Rob. Is Zack Greinke on pace for the greatest season of the past 25 years?

 

The short answer is still “No.” The dick answer is still, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” And the correct answer is, “Good luck beating Pedro in ’99.”

 

 


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