Friday, December 14, 2012

Which Twins Pitchers "Gave their team a chance to Win" in 1012

One of the cliches that you will hear from the Twins is about wanting starters who will "give their team a chance to win" each time they take the mound.   Obviously the pitcher is only one part of winning and losing.  But I thought it would be interesting to look at last year's starters through the prism of whether the Twins won. Here they are in order of team winning percentage:

Sam Deduno 8-7
Scott Diamond 14-13
Cole De Vries 8-8
PJ Walters 6-6
Nick Blackburn 8-11
Carl Pavano 4-7
Francisco Liriano 6-11
Esmerling Vasquez 2-4
Liam Hendricks 5-11
Jason Marquis 2-5
Brian Duensing 3-8
Anthony Swarzak 0-5

There has been talk of putting either Duensing or Swarzak into the rotation. But, as you can see, the Twins lost a lot of games last year with those two starting. A higher percentage than with any of the other starters. Likewise there are a lot of complaints about Nick Blackburn, but the Twins actually won a higher percentage of games when he was starting than with most of their other starters.

I think what this really shows is that no matter who was on the mound, the Twins weren't winning often enough to be in the pennant race. Terry Ryan has said that while pitching was clearly a big problem, it wasn't the only problem. This may just confirm that. But it clearly means that simply finding five Scott Diamonds isn't going to make them competitive.

Perhaps Vance Worley is better than any of the guys the Twins put out there last year. Its also possible that some of the other players above, including Diamond, will be better next season.

The Twins had a combined record of 25-45 with the pitchers who started the year in the rotation,  Blackburn, Pavano, Liriano, Hendricks and Marquis.  Next year's group can't do much worse.


Anonymous said...

5 Scott Diamonds would get them to a 70-65 record. That is a good start.

Jim H said...

Personally, I think that giving your team a chance to win means more along the lines of per cent of quality starts. Many people don't like quality starts as a stat, but if you give up 3 or fewer runs in 6 or more innings, you are giving your team a chance to win.

Often, winning percentage by a starter doesn't mean that much or even tell you that much about how well he pitched. ERA can be distorted by a few bad starts.

I think that if you can put together a lot of quality starts, even if they aren't dominating starts, you are giving your team a good chance to win. With the reliance on set up men and closers, the goal has to be, keep the game close.

In 2010 Pavano was more valuable than Liriano mostly because he did a better job of giving his team a chance to win. Their overall stats were fairly close, and Liriano was often more dominant, but Pavano stayed in games longer and had fewer poor starts. For me, at least, that is what giving your team a chance to win is about.

TT said...

Anonymous -

If you had 6 Scott Diamonds their record would by 84 and 78. That isn't going to get you a wild card spot.

Jim -

To be clear, the stats above are the Twins record in games those pitchers started. If the Twins won, I think by definition the pitcher gave them a chance to win. Of course, they also gave the Twins a chance and the team still lost. The numbers above don't tell us how many times that happened.

I like the quality start stat, but I don't think it tells the entire story.

Jim H said...

You are right, quality starts don't tell the whole story. I think you need to look at all the stats. For pitching, particularly starters, if you look at ERA, innings pitched, WhIP, games won, you can get a fair idea about how someone pitched.

I don't like a stat like WAR. Trying to combine everything into one number can be very misleading, especially when you don't how they have been combined. FIP is another of the new stats I don't like.

I understand what you were trying to show in your article. You seem to understand what many don't in their attempts to quantify individual stats. It is a team game. ERA is impacted by the defense behind the pitcher. A hitter is going to affected by game situations, if you are always behind in the 3rd inning, like the Twins were last year, a hitter's approach at the plate changes.

It will be interesting what direction Diamond's career takes after his surprising 1st full major league system. I kind of expect that he will settle into a pretty useful starting pitcher. Possibly good enough and consistent enough a "2nd or 3rd" starter.

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