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RBOA 2004

Publication Date: September 21, 2004

The Pitchers' Turn

You know, there's a rhythm to this stuff, and it ain't helped by babies and hurricanes. I'm just sayin'.

This week, as I continue my annual series on smarter stats for performance analysis, it's the pitchers' turn. Last time, with the hitters, I was able to describe some new adjustments I can now make to the AOPS in order to take advantage of our knowledge of how competition levels and park factors affect performance. In theory, those same adjustments could be made to the RBOA, my favorite pitching analysis stat, but I'm just not quite to a point where I can make a practical attempt to do so.

The base calculation for RBOA is, for each of a pitcher's starts, to calculate how many runs his opponents would score on average in the number of innings he pitches against them. In theory, you could change the question to be, "How many runs would they score against an average team in this park in this number of innings?" The problems with the first adjustment is this: How do we know how much to adjust for the difference in their schedule and an average schedule in terms of run-scoring? We have some second-hand proof that using SoS as a multiplier works for AOPS, but I've done no such proof for this at the team level, and the issue is further complicated since you wouldn't really want to look at generic SoS but at some sort of measure of average runs allowed by their opponents, which is going to quickly lead to a rabbit hole of computation.

On the park factor side of things, the reasons are purely pragmatic -- with the current data that I have, I don't have a way to match each start to which park it took place in. I'll keep that in mind as I collect next year's stats, and I'll get started on the computations needed to adjust for competition level, but that will be the work of several months of spare time, so this year you get the unadjusted version again. The good news is that the unadjusted version is still an awfully useful metric, and I'll try to do a little hand analysis at the top to see how the proposed changes will affect things.

Enough of That, Get on to the Pitchers

Here are the top 50 in RBOA for the 2004 season:

  1  Jason Windsor            Cal State Fullerton        70.08
  2  Jered Weaver             Long Beach State           66.63
  3  J. P. Howell             Texas                      56.92
  4  Cesar Ramos              Long Beach State           53.43
  5  Jonathan Ellis           The Citadel                53.26
  6  Vern Sterry              North Carolina State       52.61
  7  Greg Bunn                East Carolina              52.36
  8  Ricky Romero             Cal State Fullerton        51.07
  9  Sam LeCure               Texas                      48.94
 10  Wade Townsend            Rice                       46.93
 11  Philip Humber            Rice                       46.13
 12  Wade LeBlanc             Alabama                    45.50
 13  Thomas Diamond           New Orleans                45.23
 14  Stacen Gant              George Mason               43.07
 15  Jeremy Sowers            Vanderbilt                 40.54
 16  Justin Hoyman            Florida                    40.29
 17  Michael Rogers           North Carolina State       40.11
 18  Brett Smith              UC Irvine                  39.94
 19  Joe Koshansky            Virginia                   39.69
 20  Matt Campbell            South Carolina             39.65
 21  Justin Orenduff          Virginia Commonwealth      39.15
 22  Matt Fox                 Central Florida            39.14
 23  Mike Pelfrey             Wichita State              39.03
 24  Garrett Broshuis         Missouri                   38.93
 25  Jason Urquidez           Arizona State              38.79
 26  Cesar Carrillo           Miami, Florida             38.74
 27  Matt Scherer             LeMoyne                    38.45
 28  Zach Kimball             North Carolina-Wilmington  38.42
 29  Ryan Ford                Eastern Michigan           38.24
 30  Andy Sonnanstine         Kent State                 37.99
 31  Ryan Mullins             Vanderbilt                 37.90
 32  Andrew Kown              Georgia Tech               37.34
 33  Ian Kennedy              Southern California        37.07
 34  Mark Holliman            Mississippi                37.03
 35  Casey Janssen            UCLA                       36.23
 36  Kevin Ardoin             Louisiana-Lafayette        36.11
 37  Michael Gardner          Texas-Arlington            34.74
 38  Derek Tharpe             Tennessee                  34.72
 39  Steve Grasley            Creighton                  34.47
 40  John Williams            Middle Tennessee State     33.78
 41  Joe Piekarz              Northern Illinois          33.21
 42  Charley Boyce            Arkansas                   33.17
 43  Andrew Dobies            Virginia                   32.90
 44  Shawn Phillips           Delaware State             32.80
 45  Lance Broadway           Dallas Baptist             32.27
 46  Zach Jackson             Texas A&M                  32.18
 47  Mark Roberts             Oklahoma                   31.97
 48  Tom Robbins              Texas State                31.74
 49  Jermaine Shack           Mississippi Valley State   31.30
 50  Sean Ruthven             Georgia                    31.07

Now, there are a few results here that surprise me. I would have figured Weaver lapped the field back in March, so Windsor passing him surprises me. On the other hand, this is a counting stat, so the extra two weeks of starts may have helped there. Ellis and Sterry finishing so high surprises me, although Sterry had a great summer to back it up. Finally, Townsend, Humber, and Sowers finishing so low is a surprise. Let's look at these one at a time and see what we find.

First of all, Windsor did manage one more start than Weaver, 18 to 17, so their average RBOA per start was almost identical. That's still a surprise, so let's look at their seasons. First off, Windsor:

 RBOA  Opponent

 4.69  Cal Poly
 4.46  Cal State Northridge
-1.33  Fresno State
 0.56  Houston
 5.13  Long Beach State
-1.71  Long Beach State
 5.74  Minnesota
 5.74  Minnesota
 5.24  Oklahoma
 3.08  Pacific
 4.21  Pepperdine
 7.03  South Carolina
-0.43  Texas
 4.27  Texas
 6.32  Tulane
 5.61  UC Irvine
 3.35  UC Riverside
 8.11  UC Santa Barbara

And now Weaver:

 RBOA  Opponent

 5.37  Arizona
 3.88  Arizona
 3.63  Baylor
 4.76  Brigham Young
 0.20  Cal Poly
 4.68  Cal State Fullerton
 6.23  Cal State Fullerton
 2.02  Cal State Northridge
 4.64  California
 3.67  Houston
-0.95  Miami, Florida
 3.76  Southern California
 5.40  Stanford
 5.61  UC Irvine
 5.35  UC Riverside
 2.91  UC Santa Barbara
 5.48  UCLA

There's not a huge difference in level of competition, although Weaver's opponents did average a point or so of ISR higher. The park factor adjustment would favor Windsor -- Fullerton is a moderate hitter's park, while Long Beach is one of the more extreme pitcher's park around. That may in fact be a concern for the Angels, since it could mean that Weaver's overall value is overstated. In short, I don't see any sign that any adjustment would actually make Weaver more valuable than Windsor over the full course of this season.

The last two sets of surprises, though, will need to be taken together to get the full effect, since it turns out that they definitely call for some sort of competition adjustment. For the five pitchers I identified above, here's the average ISR of their opponents:

Ellis      99.4
Sterry    107.6
Townsend  108.1
Humber    105.6
Sowers    112.0

Ellis saved his runs against Western Carolina and Wofford. Sterry appears to have been legitimate, while one of Rice's problems (which they've already solved) may have been the continuing deterioration of the rest of the WAC. Sowers got put through a tougher test, although his numbers are still a bit easier than the two Big West guys at the top of the list.

Sowers' numbers actually show another interesting point:

 RBOA  Opponent

 1.11  Alabama
-1.69  Arkansas
-6.02  Baylor
 4.29  Cincinnati
 1.62  Florida
 6.41  George Mason
 6.33  Georgia
 7.12  Georgia
 4.87  Kentucky
 5.21  Louisiana State
 5.21  Maryland
 3.51  Mississippi State
 1.77  Mississippi
 5.03  South Carolina
 0.19  Southern Illinois
 0.27  Tennessee
-4.68  Texas

He actually lost over 10 points in his two terrible starts against Baylor and Texas. Since you can only lose a game once, those games may be overstated in importance by the RBOA.


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