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Pitching In

I was doing some research on Cards’ pitching over the years for another project I’m working on and thought I’d incorporate some of it into today’s thread. Tony and Dave Duncan arrived in St. Louis in 1996 and the team’s enjoyed a lot of success since they first set foot in the Gateway City. In 13 years, the team has won 6 division titles and won the Wild Card once. The team has been to the NLCS 6 times and the World Series twice, winning the World Championship once.

We’ve been fortunate over these 13 years to have some great hitters – from McGwire to Edmonds, to Pujols and Rolen. Though we haven’t been known for pitching the way we have been for hitting, we’ve had some pretty good pitching over the years and many Cards’ fans hold Dave Duncan in very high esteem.

I got curious about the team’s pitching over the 13 years Duncan’s been here. I was wondering which pitching stat most strongly correlated w/ the team’s success during his tenure. Could we use one stat more than another to predict our pitchers’ success under Dunc’s tutelage? For instance, we know that K rates correlate very strongly w/ pitching success but, though we’ve had some very good pitching over the years, we’ve never been toward the top of the league in strikeouts.

Here are the numbers I found for the last 13 years:

Year ERA FIP HR/9 BB/9 K/9 GB% GB/FB Wins
1997 3.88 3.89 0.77 3.31 6.99 47.1 1.61 73
2002 3.70 4.09 0.88 3.40 6.28 43.6 1.25 97
2005 3.49 4.09 0.95 2.76 6.06 50.7 1.71 100
2004 3.74 4.17 1.05 2.72 6.45 48.2 1.46 105
1998 4.32 4.40 0.92 3.42 5.95 45.5 1.46 83
2008 4.20 4.40 1.01 3.07 5.92 45.3 1.34 86
1996 3.98 4.46 1.07 3.34 6.51 45.4 1.36 88
2001 3.96 4.56 1.23 3.30 6.79 51.3 1.25 93
2007 4.67 4.66 1.05 3.19 5.92 43.5 1.16 78
1999 4.76 4.67 1.00 4.15 6.38 43.0 1.24 75
2003 4.62 4.75 1.29 3.12 5.96 41.1 1.13 85
2000 4.40 4.77 1.23 3.80 6.91 47.5 1.06 95
2006 4.54 4.77 1.21 3.17 6.11 46.3 1.35 83

I’m not that surprised that our good and bad seasons show mixed results from the mound. Some of our good years had relatively poor pitching and some of our bad seasons had pretty good pitching. I am somewhat surprised that our best pitching occurred in the season we lost the MOST games and that our worst pitching occurred in the season we won the World Series and in a season we won 95 games. I guess that speaks to the importance of hitting the baseball and fielding the baseball. And it can’t be ignored that in our best 3 seasons our pitchers had their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best seasons out of 13.

I did expect to see more of a correlation, however, between our GB rates and our best seasons. I (obviously) didn’t regress these numbers but, by eyeballing it, there appears to be some correlation between GB/FB and FIP but not necessarily between GB% and FIP. Figure that one out. There seems to also be surprisingly little correlation between walk rates and K rates and FIP as well. In fact, it appears as though the strongest correlation with our FIP is our pitchers’ home run rate. I’m not at all surprised by this correlation but I am surprised that there seems to be so little correlation w/ the other numbers. I would have expected pretty solid correlations with all of them.

In reviewing all these numbers, it wouldn’t surprise me if the biggest effect that Duncan has on our pitchers has been to reduce (or attempt to reduce) their homer rates. I’d have thought he would have more of an impact on walk rates as well. Maybe that’s true; we’ll just have to wait to find out. For now, though, the biggest key for our pitchers seems to have been the ability to keep the ball in the park. It’s not surprising at all the impact that reduced homer rates have but it is worth noting that HR/9 seems to have been the most predictive stat in determining Cards’ pitching success during Duncan’s reign in St. Louis.

BTW, what the hell’s going on with Trever Miller? The deal that was supposed to have been done a couple days ago still isn’t. I wonder if Bernie didn’t jump the gun a little on this story or is Miller getting cold feet?