Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 18, 2003
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year A.L. East DIPS Report
Here's the fourth in my series of posts analyzing pitching staffs through Defense Independent Pitching Stats; see here for an explanation and my report on the NL East, here for my report on the NL Central and a few more notes on the method, and here for my report on the N.L. West. In short, DIPS is is intended to tell you how a pitcher would perform if an average number of balls in play against him were turned into outs by his defense; I'm using the rougher formula for quick in-season analysis, and as I've explained before it appears that the formula is more accurate for A.L. pitchers. Today: the A.L. East. All stats through the All-Star Break:
The Hated Yankees
The top guys' DIPS ERAs are pretty much in line with actual ERAs. The rest of the numbers tell us one thing we already knew -- the Yankee defense isn't good -- and one thing that was less obvious, which is that Pettitte and Weaver have taken the brunt of the lumps resulting from this (which is not surprising, since Clemens and Mussina put fewer balls in play and Wells doesn't get many ground balls). In fact, Weaver really hasn't pitched that badly -- 110.2 IP, 9 HR (0.73/9IP), 29 BB (2.36 BB/9IP), 62 K (5.04 K/9IP) -- so much as he's been unlucky. Hammond, who's been touched for 44 hits in 39.1 innings, has pitched better than his ERA.
I had to laugh last night seeing footage of Rivera next to Benitez; Benitez made him look like he was the bat boy or something. Of course, we know who we'd rather face in a tough situation . . .
The Red Sox
* - Combined stats with both teams.
Derek Lowe was good and more than a little lucky last year; this year, he's been both a lot less effective and a good deal less lucky, although what the defense taketh away, the offense giveth back in spades. I can't say DIPS truly exonerates John Burkett; while the method assumes that most pitchers have similar BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over time, I've noted before that Keith Woolner has identified Burkett as having the worst career BABIP of any pitcher with a substantial career over the last two decades, in enough innings to make you think there's something non-random about it.
The presumption, though, is that what DIPS leaves out usually evens out over time, which is particularly good news regarding Casey Fossum's struggles this year and also mitigates Ramiro Mendoza's problems to some extent, while deflating Byun-Hyung Kim a bit.
The Blue Jays
* - Combined stats with both teams.
Another crummy defensive team accross the board (plus Acevedo's had bad defense behind him in both the Bronx and Toronto). You have to figure things get a little better, though, for Escobar (86/38 K/BB ratio and just 7 HR allowed in 87.2 IP) and Lidle (76/33 K/BB with 15 HR allowed in 125.1 IP) the rest of the way. Halladay is yet another of the Robin Roberts family of pitchers (Schilling's at the head of that class) with 19 HR allowed compared to 21 BB (of course, David Wells has walked just 6 guys all year as against 16 HR). It looks like, as in the early 50s (the heyday of Roberts and Don Newcombe), the reaction to a rise in plate patience will be an increasing number of pitchers who throw strikes and don't worry about the longball.
The sharp declines of Omar Daal and Rodrigo Lopez this season are far less dramatic than advertised, when you look at the DIPS numbers; both have fairly decent K/BB numbers, and Daal hasn't been hit too hard by the home run ball. Sidney Ponson's breakout year is for real (just 35 BB and 9 HR in 126 IP); Jason Johnson's isn't. The chances of Pat Hentgen and Rick Helling pitching effectively again? Any way you slice it, slim just left the building. And Travis Driskill has done some nice long relief work this season (check out that 29/6 K/BB ratio in 39.2 IP); the Orioles could do worse than giving Driskill another shot at the rotation in place of one of the guys who have already qualified for their pensions.
The Devil Rays
I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't really figure out which Rays pitchers matter (correct answer: none of them).
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it matters little that Dewon Brazleton isn't quite as bad as he looks. The main lesson here is that the Rays shouldn't give up on Joe Kennedy just yet (although some rumors have them doing just that); on the other hand, while Kennedy has avoided walks and homers, his strikeout rate is so low that you have to think he still isn't 100%. Victor Zambrano and Jeremi Gonzalez, by contrast, have succeeded only by dint of luck so far. The Rays can afford to be patient with Zambrano, who has a good arm, but his present success may leave them less prepared for the inevitable downturn. And I thought Lance Carter was pitching better than this; he isn't doing any one thing badly so much as just doing nothing particularly well.
Steve Parris' line in 43.2 IP: 12 HR, 13 BB, 14 K. Does Parris let the batters call for a high or low pitch? They gotta get their swings in, after all.