2016 Pitching Numbers From A Different Perspective

During the past off-season, I published a detailed breakdown of the Cardinals 2017 batting play-by-play info, namely Win Probability Added (WPA), separated by batting or defensive position and whatnot. I just completed the pitching side of things. I had done this before for Close’n’Late* situations in years past, but I’ve expanded it this year to include everything.

I use some odd terminology and methodology, so let me explain a few things:

  • WPA is a measure of the impact a specific play has on the outcome of a game. Put simply, a solo homer in a 9-2 ballgame doesn't move the needle much at all, while a 2-out solo homer to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth is huge. I use Fangraphs numbers, pulled from their game logs. The numbers will not match up perfectly with the season totals on Fangraphs as there seems to be a lot of rounding errors. [Fangraphs includes a Shutdown/Meltdown (SD/MD) stat for relievers: +0.060 or better = Shutdown, -0.060 or worse = Meltdown. I have incorporated those rules for starters to make WPA Record, substituting in Wins & Losses.]
  • Outs are outs are outs, as far as pitchers are concerned, but I also break down the numbers by Shortstops, 3-hitters, and whatnot, so I figure Outs as any out created at bat or on the bases, credited to the batter or baserunner noted in the Fangraphs play log. Baserunning outs (of the CS/PO variety, even during K's) count against the runner; being thrown out during a batting play counts against the batter (even if it wasn't the batter thrown out). I'd rather have clearer distinctions between batting & baserunning, but I use the data I have available. Double plays (non-CS) count both outs against the batter.
  • I use the term Reach (Rch) for any time a batter reaches base without a runner called out first. Reaching safely on a double play attempt (one out recorded) is not a Reach; a single to center with a runner at second who then gets thrown out at home still counts as a Reach (and an Out for the batter). Errors, a no-out fielder's choice, K+WP/PB, etc., all count as a Reach. Effective On Base (EOB) is simply Rch / (Rch + Outs). It is like OBP, but it adds in errors & whatnot and basically counts DP's as two PA's. Its pitching equivalent is Reach per Inning Pitched (RIP).
  • Runs are runs, same as always, but I credit all run-scoring plays to the hitter as a Run Driven In (unless the run scores by a WP/PB/SB/etc., then it goes to the runner). This system was originally intended to credit runs against relievers without being worried about Earned Runs or Inherited Runners. Alongside that is Runs On Watch (ROW) which is similar to ERA and is figured as RDI / Outs * 27.
  • See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.
  • There are three leverage states:
    • Start of Game (SG) - first five innings
    • Close'n'Late (CL) - 6th-inning & on, batters either ahead by 1 run, tied, or behind by 1/2/3 runs (or 4 w/two on or 5 w/three on). Basically these are the times with the highest leverage, that might get classified as a save situation for the bullpen.
    • Low Leverage (LL) - 6th-inning & on, outside of CL situations

Overall our pitchers posted a -1.539 WPA, 1.40 RIP, 4.42 ROW. Here are the pitcher summaries (any number with a + or - symbol is for WPA, Sep includes both September & October; for determining best vs-team numbers, the starter had to start two games against the opponent; for relievers, at least 9 outs, the best single game is based on WPA total):

Five Starters:

Carlos Martinez (+2.055 WPA (25th among ML starters), 1.34 RIP, 3.13 ROW):

  • 17-11 WPA record, 17-14 Team record, 16-9 official record
  • None of his eight "bequeathed" runners scored
  • Surrendered just six leads all season and only two after the fifth inning, but was actually poor in CL situations (-.933, 1.81 RIP, 6.62 ROW)
  • 11 starts with no more than one baserunner per inning pitched
  • Bullpen allowed winning run to score in last inning in five of his starts, including three consecutive in June
  • Allowed slightly more baserunners on the road, but was otherwise much better than at home
  • Feasted on the Brewers (+.896, 1.38 RIP, 1.73 ROW), with best start on 9/30 v PIT (+.378, 5 singles & a walk over 7 shutout IP)
  • Alternated low RIP months (1.10 Apr/Jun/Aug) with high ones (1.56 May/Jul/Sep)

Jaime Garcia (-0.934 WPA, 1.49 RIP, 4.35 ROW):

  • 10-17 WPA record, 14-16 Team record, 10-13 official record
  • Half of his 22 "bequeathed" runners scored
  • If he can get past the fourth, he was pretty much golden (no blown leads, +.851, 1.20 RIP, 1.91 ROW).
  • Sucked with bases empty or 1B-only (-2.191, .340 EOB, 18 solo / (4) 2-run homers), but quite good w/RISP (+1.257, .304 EOB)
  • Did well against the Braves (+.488, 1.00 RIP, 2.57 ROW), but best start on 5/5 v PHI (+.462, 2 singles & ROE over 7 shutout IP)
  • Only month in the (WPA) black was May (+.427)
  • Did not face a single batter past the fifth inning in a tie game

Adam Wainwright (-1.329 WPA, 1.45 RIP, 4.76 ROW):

  • 13-15 WPA record, 22-11(!) Team record, 13-9 official record
  • Only one start less than 5 IP
  • Third inning (+.665, 0.88 RIP, 2.25 ROW) was the only one of the first five that wasn't a train wreck (-1.880, 1.54 RIP, 5.75 ROW otherwise).
  • Much better at home (+.900, 1.35 RIP, 3.38 ROW, 4 HR) than on the road (-2.229, 1.57 RIP, 6.27 ROW, 18 HR)
  • Consistently great against the Brewers (+.899, 1.05 RIP, 0.82 ROW), with his best start on 6/15 v HOU (+.436, 4 singles, 3 walks, trading zeroes for 7 IP)
    • [NOTE: dueling shutouts over seven is more impressive by WPA than pitching a CGSO backed by a 4-run third inning, like Waino had v MIA two starts later.]

Mike Leake (-1.602 WPA, 1.43 RIP, 4.99 ROW):

  • 8-16 WPA record, 13-17 Team record, 9-12 official record
  • Had above average 2nd & 3rd innings, with the rest ranging from bad to worse - 6th inning & later was a 1.82 RIP and a ROW over 6
  • Had significantly fewer baserunners at home (1.31 RIP v 1.53), but because the offense was more listless at Busch (and he gave up runs just as fast), his WPA was quite a bit worse (-1.119 v -.483).
  • Had the most success against the Brewers (+.329, 1.16 RIP, 3.32 ROW), with his best start on 5/21 v ARI (+.372, 4 hits, walk, ROE over 7 shutout IP)
  • The offense scored only 44 runs during Mike's 12 home starts (3-9 Team record)
  • Of the eleven games in which he gave up the tying run (he did it twice on 4/24), he gave up the go-ahead run later in the same appearance 10 times

Michael Wacha (-1.883 WPA (21st worst in MLB), 1.54 RIP, 5.48 ROW):

  • 8-10 WPA record, 14-10 Team record, 7-7 official record
  • Very nearly below average WPA against every player position other than pitcher (+.052 v 3B, -.012 v PH/PR/DH) and every batting order position (+.647 v 9th spot)
  • Despite a Team record of 8-5 in home starts, it doesn't show up in his stats (-1.437, 1.72 RIP, 6.31 ROW)
  • The only team he had multiple starts against and a positive WPA was the Brewers (+.083, 1.30 RIP, 2.55 ROW), with his best start on 6/22 v CHC (+.278, 1 hit / 2 walks over six shutout IP, marred in the 7th by a 2-run HR)
  • Solid June (+.432, 1.14 RIP, 3.62 ROW); of the nine games in he gave up the tying run, he gave up the go-ahead run in the same inning seven times, with one more later in the game
  • Allowed 8 HR in the first five innings (114 IP), 7 HR beyond that point (24 IP)
  • If his record had locked in when he exited the game last year, he would have gone 5-15, including 11 consecutive losses.

Notable Relievers / Swing Starters:

Seung Hwan Oh (+2.561 WPA, team best (>30 IP) 1.02 RIP, 3.28 ROW):

  • 29-12 SD/MD, 50-26 Team record, 6-3 official record, 19/23 Saves, 14 Holds
  • Consistently great in nearly every respect, against every spot in the batting order, in nearly every inning, regardless of the number of runners on base, with the only blemish being a .432 EOB v CF's
  • Killer numbers on the road (+2.448, 0.92 RIP, 1.52 ROW)
  • Best overall numbers (not WPA) against the Giants (+.433, 0.83 RIP, 0.00 ROW), with his best game on 8/10 v CIN (bailed out Jaime w/1st & 3rd, no out in a 3-1 9th inning for the save)

Alex Reyes (+1.680 WPA, 1.22 RIP, team best (>30 IP) 1.37 ROW);

  • [as starter] 3-0 WPA record, 3-2 Team record, 2-0 official record; [as reliever] 4-0 SD/MD, 4-3 Team record, 2-1 official record, 1/1 Saves, 1 Hold
  • Average with the bases empty (-.043, .350 EOB, 0.42 ROW), but brilliant w/RISP (+1.723, 0.223 EOB, 2.22 ROW)
  • Had one negative WPA appearance out of 12 (9/7 v PIT, -.020, allowed go-ahead/GW solo HR to Kang in his fourth inning of relief)
  • Best WPA numbers against the Cubs (+.477, 1.46 RIP, 2.19 ROW), with his best appearance on 9/18 v SFG (+.410, 4 singles/2 walks over 7 shutout IP)

Tyler Lyons (+1.218 WPA, 1.02 RIP, 3.75 ROW):

  • 7-2 SD/MD, 14-16 Team record, 2-0 official record, 4 Holds
  • Equally effective bases empty (+.599, .260 EOB) & w/runners on (+.619, .243 EOB)
  • Allowed 9 HR, but it only cost the team -.539 WPA (compared to Siegrist's 10 HR & -2.726 WPA)
  • Didn't really get a chance to pitch high-leverage innings (outside of bailing out starters before the 6th in tight games) until late June, and no close leads until nearly Independence Day.
  • Best numbers against the Dodgers (+.594, 0.45 RIP, 1.35 ROW), with his best appearance on 7/22 v LAD (+.617, five innings of 2-hit ball in extras)

Kevin Siegrist (+1.123 WPA, 1.12 RIP, 3.79 ROW):

  • 30-11 SD/MD, 41-26 Team record, 6-3 official record, 3/8 Saves, 17 Holds
  • Held down the 8th inning very well (+2.001, 1.04 RIP, 1.93 ROW), everything else not so much (-.878, 1.23 RIP, 6.66 ROW)
  • Did not work in extra innings
  • Blew six leads (one of his own) and allowed nine go-ahead runs, most on the team for both
  • Led the team with 45 outs recorded in a tie game, 6th inning & later
  • Nearly twice as good at home (+.802, 2.59 ROW v +.321, 5.04 ROW)
  • Best WPA numbers against the Cubs (+.503, 0.72 RIP, 1.08 ROW), with his best appearance on 5/12 v LAA (+.316, got final two outs with bases loaded in 12-10 should-not-have-been eventful 9th inning)

Zach Duke (+.492 WPA, 1.41 RIP, 1.93 ROW):

  • 6-3 SD/MD, 13-15 Team record, 0-1 official record, 1/1 Saves, 6 Holds
  • 3/4/6-hitters = 18 outs / 17 Rch (.486 EOB), the rest = 52 outs / 16 Rch (.235 EOB)
  • The two teams that saw him the most (CHC/CIN) combined for -.442 WPA & 2.17 RIP, with the rest going +.934 WPA & 0.88 RIP

Miguel Socolovich (+.286 WPA, 0.56 RIP, 2.00 ROW):

  • 1-0 SD/MD, 5-10 Team Record, 1-0 official record
  • By far the best RIP on the team if you drop the minimum to 18 IP
  • Allowed only two walks / no hits with runners on, only runs scored off him were two solo shots, a sac fly, and an RBI groundout (only inherited runner of 11 to score)
  • Recorded final 26 outs with only two walks
  • Because he was used almost exclusively in low leverage situations, his only worthwhile appearance was on 8/29 v MIL (+.177, entered 7th with bases loaded, one out, down two runs, stayed on for 8th after offense tied score, got "W" when hitters continued rally).

Dean Kiekhefer (-.098 WPA, 1.50 RIP, 9.00 ROW):

  • 2-2 SD/MD, 9-17 Team record, 0-0 official record, 2 Holds
  • 10/16 inherited runners scored (BRef says 11/16, but the last one was a batter he faced who reached on a force play)
  • Absolutely torched w/RISP (14 outs / 21 Rch = .600 EOB)
  • Best numbers against the Rockies (+.083, 1.36 RIP, 4.91 ROW), with his best appearance on 6/8 v CIN (+.089, perfect 6th with a 1-run lead)

Luke Weaver (-.393 WPA, 1.68 RIP, 7.18 ROW):

  • 2-3 WPA record, 3-6 Team record (one in relief), 1-4 official record
  • Obviously hit a wall, with his first six starts (+.285, 1.23 RIP, 3.48 ROW) WAY better than his final three appearances (-.678, 4.31 RIP (5.1 IP, 23 baserunners), 28.69 ROW)
  • Overall numbers show .299 EOB with no one on, .438 EOB with baserunners (.262/.340 before meltdown)
  • Best vs-team & single-game performance on 8/26 v OAK (+.268, 4 hits / 2 walks over 6 IP, got 1st ML win)

Seth Maness (-.700 WPA, 1.42 RIP, 5.12 ROW):

  • 2-4 SD/MD, 12-17 Team record, 2-2 official record, 1 Hold
  • Appears to have lost the clutch magic from 2015 (CL-situations: 2016's -.403, 1.62 RIP, 6.23 ROW vs 2015's team-best +4.036, team-best 1.01 RIP, 2.72 ROW)
  • Seemed to right the ship after returning from DL (-.095, 0.95 RIP, 2.37 ROW) only to end his season in mid-August
  • His only real success came against the Dodgers (+.160, 0.64 RIP, 0.00 ROW), with his most notable (non-WPA) appearance on 7/24 v LAD (+.025 WPA, kept the team afloat for 3.2 IP after Mayers shit the bed)

Jonathan Broxton (-.869 WPA, 1.34 RIP, 4.60 ROW):

  • 7-11 SD/MD, 31-35 Team record, 4-2 official record, 0/3 Saves, 11 Holds
  • Better than average numbers as long as he avoided 1B-only (-1.031, .421 EOB)
  • Pants on fire at home (-1.085, 1.59 RIP, 7.14 ROW)
  • Only one SD appearance after 7/22
  • Best non-WPA numbers against the Brewers (+.222, 7 IP, one walk), with his best appearance on 6/10 v PIT (+.260, scoreless 10th & 11th)

Matt Bowman (-.891 WPA, 1.29 RIP, 4.26 ROW):

  • 13-11 SD/MD, 33-26 Team record, 2-5 official record, 0/1 Saves, 13 Holds
  • Puts up roughly similar numbers to Broxton, but (rightfully) gets a pass because he's a Rule 5
  • Much worse with runners on (-1.461 WPA) than with base empty (+.570 WPA)
  • Pressure might have gotten to him (LL-situations: 1.10 RIP, 3.31 ROW; SG/CL-situations: 1.50 RIP, 5.29 ROW)
  • Take out August (-.701, 1.89 RIP) and his stats are pretty solid
  • His best numbers are against the Cubs (+.427, 0.43 RIP, 0.00 ROW), with his best appearance on 9/2 v CIN (+.236, emerged unscathed from one out, bases loaded, tie game in the 7th)

Trevor Rosenthal (-1.507 WPA, 2.03 RIP, 3.79 ROW):

  • 11-10 SD/MD, 27-18 Team record, 2-4 official record, 14/18 Saves
  • Regardless of fielding position or spot in the order (or SSS weirdness), could not keep anyone off base
  • Hardest out was the first (-1.506, 2.69 RIP)
  • To twist the French expression, "Apres Avril, le deluge" (+.223, 1.25 RIP before, -1.825, 2.49 RIP May-Jul)
  • Best numbers against the Cubs (+.644, 1.33 RIP, 0.00 ROW), with his best appearance on 6/9 v CIN (+.205, preserved a 1-run win with perfect 9th)
  • Worst STL performance of 2016 - 6/24 v SEA (-.916, 2-run lead in 9th, 2B, BB, walk-off HR)

Other Pitchers

Jerome Williams (-.024 WPA, 1.85 RIP, 8.31 ROW):

  • Despite horrid numbers, managed scoreless appearances in 5 of 6 final outings
  • All four HR allowed in one game
  • Appeared in only one win

Sam Tuivailala (-.079 WPA, 2.33 RIP, 3.00 ROW):

  • You can blame a lot on a .375 BABIP, but 9 of his 21 baserunners (in 9 IP) were not hits
  • The two times he appeared in wins, he loaded the bases with no outs and immediately left the game.

Mike Mayers (-.624 WPA, 3.75 RIP, 21.94 ROW):

  • The proverbial goat-on-a-chain - 16 Outs, 16 Runs

Ruben Tejada (-.001 WPA, 2.00 RIP, 18.00 ROW):

  • It's quite sad that he had better rate stats than Mayers

VS Playing Position:

  • First Basemen were the obvious toughest out (+3.959, .360 EOB, 6.03 ROW, 89 Runs), Catchers were the easiest (-.783, .312 EOB, 4.75 ROW, 58 Runs)
  • That, of course, doesn't include Pitchers (-4.619, .144 EOB, 1.64 ROW, 16 Runs) - if you combine the WPA's for opposing Pitchers, Pinch-Hitters, Pinch-Runners, and Designated Hitters (-5.767), and compare that against how our equivalent hitters did (+1.609), that's nearly 7.5 games in the standings

VS Batting Order:

  • Leadoff spot was the most effective (+3.063, .354 EOB, 113 Runs, 29 SB, all tops), scoring more often than Carpenter & the rest in our #1 group
  • Weirdly enough the second spot was the worst 1 thru 8 (-.653, .313 EOB, 4.59 ROW)
  • The entire opposing lineup against was not as long as ours (Runs from 6/7/8/9 spots: 72/63/58/51 against, 82/92/85/61 for)
  • Much the same as with the positions, the biggest difference in terms of WPA between the two sets was the 9th spot - opposing 9-hitters posted WPA of -5.566, compared to -1.828 for us, or 3.75 games in the standings.

By Inning:

  • First inning was the big bugaboo (-1.831, 1.64 RIP, 5.56 ROW), with the best results in the 8th (+2.312, 1.19 RIP, 2.72 ROW)
  • We were actually worse than our opponents through five innings (-1.959, 1.43 RIP, 4.64 ROW against, +1.246, 1.41 RIP, 4.53 ROW for us), but much better from the 6th inning on (+.440, 1.38 RIP, 4.15 ROW against, +5.259, 1.49 RIP, 5.27 ROW for us).

By Baserunner Situation:

  • Our pitchers really saved their bacon by pitching well w/RISP (+1.780, 1.50 RIP, 12.96 ROW - that's pretty normal), especially compared to our batters (+3.964 (a difference of 5.75 games in the standings), 1.62 RIP, 14.70 ROW).

By Outs:

  • Our hurlers had trouble getting the first out (-2.710, 1.51 RIP), but better after that (+.274, 1.33 RIP w/1 out, +.917, 1.38 RIP w/2 out), which was the exact opposite of our hitters

By Home/Away:

  • There was little difference in RIP & ROW between the two (1.37 RIP, 4.38 ROW vs 1.44 RIP, 4.47 ROW), but because our offense had real issues at home, WPA tells a different story (-1.917 vs +.398).

VS Team:

  • Given the vs-division-foe numbers below, what team matches each number set? (answers: MIL, CHC, PIT, CIN)
    • best +2.549, 1.20 RIP, 2.92 ROW
    • +.852, 1.50 RIP, 4.83 ROW
    • -1.167, 1.38 RIP, 4.23 ROW
    • worst -1.409, 1.65 RIP, 5.44 ROW
  • special consideration for SEA (-1.126 over three games: a 3-run walk-off HR, an early bludgeoning, and an offensive blowout where we still managed to piss away a 5-run rally)

By Month:

  • Comparing pitching numbers from June (-.431, 1.30 RIP, 3.82 ROW) and Sep/Oct (+.276, 1.56 RIP, 4.84 ROW), it's interesting to note that the WPA for June is significantly worse, despite nearly identical batting numbers and the best RIP & ROW (Sep/Oct had the worst for both). This is because a sizable portion of Sep/Oct's runs allowed came with the team either up by 4+ runs or down by 2+ runs, meaning each score had less of an impact than if they had been within the two parameters (June: 96 runs, 23 outside, 73 inside / Sep/Oct: 141 runs, 73 outside, 68 inside).

By Rotation v Bullpen:

  • Obviously comparing the 2016 relief corps to 2015's squad (+1.990 v +8.790) puts last year's team at a severe disadvantage in terms of optics. They also did poorly against the rest of the majors in 2016 if we focus on their ranking in WPA (20th), despite better than average FIP & xFIP (their "Clutch", basically the difference between their WPA and their Leverage-independent WPA, was one of the worst). But comparing them against the rotation (+1.990 v -3.509) shows that they were not really the problem that we made them out to be. (Weirdly enough, the starters also ranked as 20th in the majors in WPA, with Top 10 rankings in FIP & x FIP. Huh, maybe it was the defense or that starting pitching sucks on average around the league.)
  • The rotation had one good month by WPA (June, +1.017), one middling one (July, +.011), and four stinkers ("highlighted" by April's -2.320). The bullpen was basically the opposite, with five months of +.400 or better (topped by July's +.962) and the shit show in June (-1.448).