August 13, 2010
BASEBALL: High Quality Starts, Part II
Following up on my earlier post on High Quality Starts, here's the rest of the post: a look at HQS as a percentage of starts, as well as a percentage of wins (unsurprisingly, for good pitchers these constitute an outsize component of wins).
Now, read this chart with caution. First of all, guys who spent a lot of years in relief will have relief wins - Kenny Rogers is last on the list with HQS representing just 37.9% of his wins, and while that accurately reflects that Rogers generally needed help to win, it's a little exaggerated by his time as a reliever. Then again, Sandy Koufax tops the list with 73.3% of his wins being HQS, despite having worked heavily in relief for much of the late 1950s.
Second, here is where you really see the differences in era - Koufax and Rogers are pretty much at the far poles here, but there's a very large difference between the Sixties and the 00s, between Dodger Stadium and Arlington.
Third, bear in mind that some guys here - e.g., Pete Alexander - pitched parts of their careers before 1920 (1920 was the last year of Alexander's prime).
That said, I tip my hat to the guy who topped even Koufax for percentage of his starts that were HQS: Jim Palmer, who came the closest to notching a HQS in half his career starts. And the guy who was the first real surprise among the immortals atop the list, Mel Stottlemyre. Maddux rated lower than I'd expected, but he did start a huge number of games, many of them late in his career after he'd stopped really being Greg Maddux.
Note the list of 200-game winners who turned in a High Quality Start in less than a third of their career starts: Jamie Moyer, Jesse Haines, David Wells, Herb Pennock (not counting the 61 starts Pennock made before 1920), Bobo Newsom, Andy Pettitte, Red Ruffing, Mel Harder, Burleigh Grimes, Ted Lyons, Waite Hoyt, Charlie Hough, Charlie Root, Jim Kaat, Chuck Finley, Joe Niekro and Jerry Reuss. Mostly this is a list of bad Hall of Famers, but other than Kaat (who has no business in a Hall discussion despite a high career win total), Niekro and Reuss, they're also all from high-scoring eras. I'll have to revisit later the question of Pettitte as a deserving Hall of Famer.
(Tommy John and Bert Blyleven both come in the 36% area).
Chart below the fold.
|Sad Sam Jones||126||103||425||197||29.6%||52.3%|
Perfect! Just what I was looking for.
So Jim Palmer has the highest % of HQS per starts in Major League Baseball history? Almost 50% of his starts were HQS! A full 10% more than famous pitchers like Nolan Ryan (37.8)%
Bob Veale (one of my favorite Pirates) is 9th! WOW!
And of the present day pitchers, Johann Santana clocks in at 11th on the list!
I like this metric as a mean to identify the truly standout SPs.
It's especially impressive to see how high Spahn, Clemens and particularly Seaver rank on this list given that they each started over 600 games (700 in Clemens' case). Sutton drops down a bit but is still doing quite well for a guy who is third on the all time starts list.
Had Mel Stottlemyre played in amost any other era (free agency or when the Yankees were good) instead of the mid-to-late 60s, he'd be a HOFer. With Mantle fading quickly after '64, he was arguably the best player on those teams.
Very interesting list. I agree that Mel Stottlemyre's playing career is under-valued.
OK. I'll bite. What's your beef with Kaat? I remember seeing him pitch in the mid-60's and thinking he was one of the better pitchers in the AL. Also, excpet for that stretch, the teams for which he played were not exceptional.
The AL had few outstanding starters in the mid-60s, so for the decade, yeah, he's in there with McDowell.
First, Kaat was never especially dominant in his prime, nor was he unusually consistent or durable to balance that. Aside from 1972, when he missed half the season, his best ERA+ was 131 in 1966. Yes, he would have won the Cy that year if they'd given one for the AL, but I'm pretty sure there are no pitchers in the Hall who were never 40% better than the league in their best season.
Second, and relatedly, he had a lot of his best years in very pitcher-friendly environs, especially eras when starting pitchers threw a ton of innings. His career #s are not comparable to John, let alone Blyleven, when you adjust for context - John was a 20-game winner and workhorse in the late 70s AL, Blyleven racked up a lot of his wins and innings in the AL in the 80s. A 3.45 career ERA for a guy who threw the bulk of his career in the 60s and early 70s is not impressive.
And his career win total is padded by a bunch of mediocre years - from age 37-44 he was 48-50 with a 4.08 ERA and 2 saves (ERA+ 92), mostly as a spot starter/middle reliever.
I hear you with respect to the longevity-producing-inflated-stats" issue.
Granted that it is only one year, but Kaat was pretty dominant in 1966. He led the league in wins, innings pitched, starts, complete games, strikeouts to walks ratio, and won the 5th of 16 consecutive gold gloves. I looked at the career stats comparison at baseball reference between Kaat and John and they are almost identical.
Jim Kaat is, at best, a borderline Hall of Famer, but he merits a discussion.
I was eating at a hotel restaurant in St. Louis during Frank Robinson's first year as manager of the Nationals (terrific job, by the way) and he was at an adjacent table. His dinner companion asked the waiter if he knew who Frank was. When the waiter said he didn't, the companion introduced him. The waiter mis-heard because he kept callinghim "Mr. Frankie." It was both funny because of the looks Robinson gave him and sad that such a great player and man wasn't recognized.