July 6, 2008

Joba And Off-The-Chart ERA+s

Joba Chamberlain's ERA+ last season was 1192! That's ridiculous!

Are you wondering what the highest season ERA+ is for a pitcher with a minimum number of innings? Me, too. Let's visit our friend, BR.

First, though, an explanation: ERA+ is the ratio of the league's ERA, adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark, to that of the pitcher. 100 is league average. Top-shelf starters will finish their seasons with ERA+s around 140. Random career ERA+s as of right now: Brandon Webb 142, Johan Santana 141, Roy Oswalt 137, Greg Maddux 133, Jake Peavy 121, Barry Zito 117, Josh Beckett 116.

Joba threw 24 innings in 2007 (facing 91 batters), and if we use that as a cut-off, Chamberlain is the clear winner. (Anyone else find the heading of the first column amusing with regard to JtC?).

For pitchers with a full season, Dennis Eckersley's 1990 season is tops (606 ERA+ in 73.1 IP). Jonathan Papelbon's 2006 season (515 ERA+) is 10th-best all-time.

Almost all of the pitchers on the list are relievers, which makes sense, but check out the #2 guy: Buck O'Brien. He posted a 866 ERA+ as a 29-year-old rookie for the 1911 Red Sox. He pitched in six games -- five of them starts. In 47.2 innings, he allowed 30 hits and 21 walks, but had an ERA of only 0.38. How is that possible? Of the nine runs he allowed (a 1.70 RA), only two of them were earned.

Obligatory Pedro Note When Mentioning ERA+: Among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title, Pedro's unprecedented 2000 (291 ERA+ in 217 innings) reigns supreme. Pedro also has the 8th-, 17th-, 25th-, and 30th-best season all-time. Note to media: Sandy Koufax's first appearance on the list is at #50. Stop comparing these two guys. Koufax was amazing, but Pedro was God.

35 comments:

redsock said...

Here are the pitchers with a minimum of 20 innings. Still Joba, but Joel Johnson (1028 ERA+ in 1991) sneaks in to #2.

Minimum of 10 innings? Still Joba!

Jack Marshall said...

Thanks, Allan, for making the Pedro point. Koufax's mystique is going to be hard to beat, pitching in a big park during an era of low scores and averages, but Pedro was clearly better. I keep rooting for him to pick up a no-hitter or four before he packs it in. Doesn't look like it will happen, though.

Speaking of mystique---I can't believe th bullshit over on the Globe sports page this morning, where namby-pamby writers excuse the team's failure to score a single run with the bases loaded and no outs and the Yankees just asking to be terminated---because, you know, Rivera is just so GREAT. Mark this as a time that I'd like to see a little pre-2004 "what the hell's the matter with this team?" bile. Rivera's greatness my ass---this was terrible situational hitting by three flawed batters against a pitcher who obviously was struggling with location and could be had (where's Bill Mueller whne you need him?). And the manager had burned off Casey in a pointless maneuver in the 7th and Moss as a pinch-runner---Christ, use Cash as a pinch-runner and use lefty Moss against Rivera instead of pathetic-from-both-sides Varitek! How hard is that to figure out?
Sure---the 6 one-run losses lately would have probably been 2 to 4 wins with Papi in the line-up, but Francona is a big reason the Sox have a lousy record in close games.

redsock said...

The real culprits:

1. Crisp (what the eff kind of swing was that for strike 3?)

2. Tek (who was up 2-0 against a guy struggling with his control and he's not hitting his IQ and he still hacks away (brains of the team, my ass) (sadly, Cash would have been a better bat (or Tek batting RH)))

3. Lugo (he got robbed on one pitch, though it likely did not make a diff with 2 outs and Mo throwing well at that point).

PRing Moss should not have been a big deal if Coco or Tek hit a fly ball. Not get a hit, just make an out that goes out of the infield.

Jack Marshall said...

I agree with all of that. It was just an awful display of dumb batting. I can't prove it, but my impression is that the Sox have thrown away more winnable games this season than any year since 2003. This one will bother me for a long time.

nixon33 said...

it was pretty pathetic. i found myself, like in all of the rays game, hoping for a wild pitch, or HBP. when you start rooting for shit like that, it can't be good.
i REALLY hope tonight isnt one of those nights where wake gives up 3-4 HRs.
i hate joba. i mean i can't stand the fucking guy.
lets keep a count on how many times joe morgan says ellsworth.

redsock said...

This one will bother me for a long time.

Really?

Pre-2004, I would agree -- and would have banged out a long post of venting -- but I guess I have changed a lot since then.

Losses are no good -- and losses like yesterday are really no good -- but now when the game is over, I put any anger or annoyance behind me almost immediately.

It may make for a more boring blog (my Gump stuff in 03 and Tito rants through most of 04 is highly entertaining in retrospect), but all in all, it is quite remarkable. I never would have dreamed that would ever happen.

redsock said...

i hate joba. i mean i can't stand the fucking guy.


Don't look here then! :>)

nixon33 said...

ha!

nixon33 said...

the chance of precip keeps going down for tonight in the bronx. thats good.

Jack Marshall said...

You're a far more placid soul than I, my friend.
Canada has obviously been good for you.

I have to say that the 2004 release has done zero for my acceptance of games like this...perhaps because my Sox-following predates the period when the pennant was even a remote possibility. I still remember and gnash my teeth over a game in 1963 when the Sox were making an unexpected early season run at the Yankees, and lost a winnable game in part due to a ridiculous botche pop-up over the pitching mound. Earl Wilson, Frank Malzone, Ed Bressoud and Dick Stuart all crashed into each other, and the ball dropped for a double as runs scored. Then the team collapsed and sank in the standings.
I don't know if my nightmares over yesterday will last 45 years like that one, but it's a possibility.

L-girl said...

Canada has obviously been good for you.

That's true, but I'd say it's that the Red Sox have been good for him - for all of us.

Jack, two World Series in four years and you still haven't learned how to relax and go with the flow?

Maybe I should give lessons.

L-girl said...

lets keep a count on how many times joe morgan says ellsworth.

And how many times he says Pedroia's name correctly. (Zero?)

redsock said...

Maybe leaving NY helped. I don't think so.

The first time I really felt it was when the Sox were swept out of the 2005 ALDS. I was utterly (and pleasantly) dumbfounded.

(I keep telling myself I am going to write more about this.)

redsock said...

Maybe leaving NY helped. I don't think so.

I went to the second game of the 2005 season at the Toilet. Tek tied the game with a 9th inning dong off Fruitbat, but CI led off the bottom half with a shot of his own off Foulke to win it.

That was not ideal, but I was cool. A couple of MFY fans got on me as I got up to leave, so I opened my jacket to show them the 2004 Champs shirt I was wearing.

I'll never forget how quickly the smiles vanished and the absolute hatred and venom I saw on their faces.

It was great (though a bit scary, actually)!

Jack Marshall said...

My problem is that I was never fixated on winning it all as an ultimate goal. Every game is an ultimate goal for me, I'm afraid. I am less upset when the team loses a World Series to a clearly superior opponant (as in'67, '75 and, yes, '86) if they play with dignity and courage, than when they lose to the Astros and Rays because of flukes, sloppiness and bad managing. Of course, a combo of both (1972, 1977, 1978, 2003) just about kills me. Still. Nothing has changed.

I may take L-Girl up on her offer of lessons...

L-girl said...

I'll never forget how quickly the smiles vanished and the absolute hatred and venom I saw on their faces.

It was great (though a bit scary, actually)!


And people wonder why I didn't come out as a Sox fan until after we left NYC. As heavily ID'd as a Yankees fan as I was...

I don't think leaving NYC has much to do with it. If we were still there, you would just be enjoying more gloating.

redsock said...

My problem is that I was never fixated on winning it all as an ultimate goal.

I don't think any diehard is. If that was our ultimate goal, we would have all packed it in by November 1, 2004.

But I think I speak for most Sox fans when I say it was certainly something I wanted to see at least once in my life.

redsock said...

I don't think leaving NYC has much to do with it. If we were still there, you would just be enjoying more gloating.

Yep. I was dancing a victory jig right up until we drove away at the end of August 2005!!!

One of the greatest blog posts of late 2004 showed us ....

THE POWER OF THE HAT

nixon33 said...

5-2 FKR in the 3rd and still threatening...

redsock said...

goddamn it.

oh, the G91 post is up

Jake of All Trades said...

(Anyone else find the heading of the first column amusing with regard to JtC?)

Took me longer than it should have, but finally got the joke and can't stop giggling...

Minh said...

I'm a Red Sox fan, and Pedro is one of my favorite pitchers. Who can forget his spectacular season in 2000? As you pointed out, his WHIP (0.737) and ERA+ (291) are the best in baseball history for a full-season starting pitcher. He dominated despite playing during baseball's steroid-fueled, offensive explosion.

But are there other statistics besides than ERA+ that are important? Does it also matter how many innings a starting pitcher throws, how durable he is, how long he stays in a game before turning the ball over to the shaky middle-relief?

In 2000, Pedro started 29 games, completing 7. He pitched 217 innings with a 1.74 ERA. In 1966, Koufax started 41 games, completed 27, and pitched a total of 323 innings with a 1.73 ERA.

As Pedro himself has said, "It’s just unbelievable numbers. [27] complete games? Could you imagine that. Whewwww. The most I completed ever was 13 in 1997."

Remember Bob Gibson's 1968 season. He started 34 games and completed 28. He hurled 13 shutouts -- a record for the live-ball era. He held batters to an incredible 1.12 ERA, another live-ball record, over 304 innings. He was never once "knocked out of the box," or removed during the middle of an inning.

Yes, ERA+ matters, because it compares a pitcher to the context of his time. But Leo Mazzone wrote, in Tales from the Mound, that the statistic he considers most important is innings pitched. Mazzone was the pitching coach for Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz when they were reeling off Cy Youngs for the Braves. He knows he's talking about.

While Pedro pitched in a tougher time, with a higher ERA+ in 2000, Koufax threw 106 more innings and started 12 more games in 1966. Gibson in 1968 had almost as many complete games (28) as Pedro had starts (29).

Would Pedro have kept such a low ERA in 2000 if he had pitched as much as Koufax or Gibson, over 300 innings? Given that Pedro has never pitched more than 241 innings in a season, it's unlikely.

Curt Schilling told an interviewer: "You cannot understand [Gibson's] year unless you know what it means to be dominating. We are talking about over 300 innings. That's a little over a run a game."

Did Pedro have a phenomonally dominant season with mind-blowing stats in 2000? Yes. Was it the unqualified best season for a starting pitcher in baseball history? Pedro is up there, but it's fair to mention Gibson and Koufax.

redsock said...

Thanks for the comment. (You should turn on your profile. It's polite!)

To Mazzone: Who cares about IP when the pitcher is giving up a ton of R? Allowing fewer runs in key, not pitching more innings. Quality innings are important, but then you're getting back to runs allowed.

The Koufax stuff that burns me up is when media compare straight ERA, when the two eras (!) could not have been more different. We have no idea what Gibson would have done in the steroid era -- all we can do (with ERA+) is compare how they dominated their own time.

Pedro pitched in the 5-man rotation era. He should not be penalized for it.

P.S. Can you imagine what Pedro in his prime could have done with a 1968 strike zone??!?!? You could have counted his season walks on one hand!

And as far as the 300 IP guys, I'll be there were plenty of oldtimes who scoffed at them because back in the Deadball Era, pitchers threw close to 400 innings. Ed Walsh led the NL with 464 innings in 1908.

Koufax and Gibson were great pitchers, but Pedro was better.

Was it the unqualified best season for a starting pitcher in baseball history?

In my opinion, yes.

Jack Marshall said...

Good rebuttal, RS.

As for comparing pitchers---the discussion yesterday about Mike Mussina made me affirmatively ill. I don't know whether Curt Schilling belongs in the Hall of not, but he sure as hell is twice the HOF-er Mussina is---a career-long under-achiever who should have won 20 games about 5 times with the offenses he had to work with, and never did. The thought of Mussina being in the Hall of Fame while infinitely gutsier, big-game- make-your-teams-better-than-they-are
pitchers with character and flair like Luis Tiant and Schilling are kept out makes me nauseus. Pettite is a much better Hall candidate than Mussina. Hell, in a big game, I'd rather have Wells.

redsock said...

career-long under-achiever who should have won 20 games about 5 times with the offenses he had to work with, and never did

Wins? Come on, Jack, you know better than this. ... He won 19 twice and 18 three times. Give him a thimble full of luck and he's a three-time 20-game winner. And probably everyone says he's a shoo-in.

big-game- make-your-teams-better-than-they-are pitchers with character

Aren't you usually against this kind of media cliche? The "Hall of Character"?

Mussina has a career ERA+ of 122, good post-season stats (3.42 ERA in 140 innings) and he's borderline or over on Black/Gray Ink. Finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young 6 times. His closest comps are Juan Marichal and Schilling.

It would not be a travesty if he got voted in.

Fun Note: He balked in the 10th game of his career back in 1991. No balks since then!

redsock said...

Speaking of the importance of wins, Tim Wakefield has pitched at least 7 innings in each of his last seven starts (dating back to May 28).

He has allowed a grand total of 11 runs (1.98 ERA).

His record? 2-3.

Minh said...

"Who cares about IP when the pitcher is giving up a ton of R? Allowing fewer runs in key, not pitching more innings."

The best pitchers combine both many innings pitched, and a low ERA. That's what makes Koufax and Gibson so formidable. Koufax had a 1.73 ERA over 323 innings, and Gibson a 1.12 ERA over 304 innings. They allowed fewer runs AND pitched more innings. It's the combination that's most impressive.

It's much harder to maintain a low ERA the deeper you go in a game. Imaging throwing over a hundred pitches in the upper 90s. The heat and humidity of the summer are brutal. The pitcher tires. It's harder to throw as fast or as accurately when you're exhausted.

As Tom Seaver said in the Art of Pitching, the third time through a batting order is much more difficult than the first. The batters adapt the more they see a pitcher. They recognize his release, pick-up his strategy, and follow the movement of his pitches. The pitcher loses the element of surprise.

So when I see that Koufax completed 27 games and Gibson 28, and still had a lower ERA than Pedro, I have to inscribe all three names in the pitching Pantheon. It takes so much stamina and skill to last that long into so many games while holding the offense to so few runs.

But why is it desirable to pitch more innings, if it's so hard? It's because, when the starter leaves in the 6th or 7th inning, even though he has a sparkling ERA, the middle relief comes in. The weakest pitchers on any staff are always the middle relievers. They can lose the game, especially if the better relievers are not available, after pitching the previous night.

Of course, if the choice is between a good but tired starter and an average and fresh reliever, it's usually better to put in the reliever. Think of Pedro in game 7of the 2003 ALCS.

But the best of all worlds is to have an outstanding starter who can finish the game and suffocate the opposing offense. Think of Gibson who, despite breaking his leg in the summer, pitched a shutout and a 1 run complete game in the 1967 World Series.

Minh
minhly101@gmail.com

L-girl said...

it's usually better to put in the reliever. Think of Pedro in game 7of the 2003 ALCS.

In that case, it's just better to kill the manager.

L-girl said...

So when I see that Koufax completed 27 games and Gibson 28, and still had a lower ERA than Pedro, I have to inscribe all three names in the pitching Pantheon.

I think the post makes it clear that the writer believes all three belong in the pitching pantheon. Three greats, and one of those is best.

redsock said...

I am aware that not allopwing runs and pitching mor einnin gs are connected.

Koufax had a 1.73 ERA over 323 innings, and Gibson a 1.12 ERA over 304 innings. They allowed fewer runs AND pitched more innings. It's the combination that's most impressive.

It is very impressive, but relative to their league and its conditions (parks, strike zone, bats/balls, 'roids), they are far, far behind what Pedro did in 2000.

So when I see that Koufax completed 27 games and Gibson 28, and still had a lower ERA than Pedro

Pitching in 1968 and pitching in 2000 are two completely different things. The mound was higher and the strike zone was much bigger.

Gibson and Koufax would have been great in an era, but if they had to deal with a zone the size of a saltine, they would have been less effective.

redsock said...

Pedro put up a 1.74 ERA in 2000 when the AL ERA was 5.07

Koufax put up a 1.73 ERA in 1966 when the NL ERA was 3.28

...

When Gibson had his 1.12 ERA in 1968, the NL ERA was 2.98 (!)

...

In talking about these 3 years, Koufax doesn really rate at all.

ERA+
Pedro - 2000 - 291
Gibson - 1968 - 258
Koufax - 1966 - 190

redsock said...

And in 1999, Pedro's ERA+ was 243

(2.07 ERA with an AL ERA of 5.02)

Jack Marshall said...

Mussina in the Hall wouldn't be a travesty. But the only thing great about him or memorable about him is his lifetime W-L record. He's never come close to a Cy Young, never led the league in ERA or stikeouts. He's a good, solid pitcher, an ace on a so-so team, a #2 on a really good team. He's blah. I don't think the Hall is for blah.

Soxlosophy said...

Mussina's 6 best full seasons for ERA+ are 163 (in the strike year of '94), 157, 145, 142, 137, and 134 (and no more above 130.) But he's also had 6 seasons at 109 or lower, including 3 out of the last 4 under 100 (not including this current bounce-back year.)

Juan Marichal's 5 best seasons of ERA+ were 169, 168, 167, 144, and 132, (and no more over 130), and had only 4 seasons of lower than 113 (not counting his last two seasons, which totalled 60 innings), though 3 were under 100 (98, 97. 95)

As a starter, Curt Schilling has 4 seasons in the 150's, 2 in the 140's, and 3 more in the 130's. In seasons with at least 90 IP, he's had just 1 season under 100- 99 in '93- and just one other under 120.

It looks to me that Marichal's peak was better than Mussina's in the same amout of time, and Schilling has been better over a longer period of time than Mussina.

A quick glance at Blyleven's ERA+ numbers show him to be the better comparison to Mussina- 6 seasons over 130 (158, 151, 144, 142, 140, 134), but 7 under 110.

I don't know where exactly the cut off is, but it might be around Blylevan and Mussina. And Blylevan had 1000 more K's than Mussina.

Soxlosophy said...

I hope this isn't a breach of blog etiquette (and if so I apologize) but I posted an expanded version of my previous comment on my own blog:

http://soxlosophy.blogspot.com/2008/07/two-caveats-before-we-begin.html

thanks,
Jonah