Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thinking about Livan and Moehler

The Fan has totally bought into sabermetrics and all the new stats that have emerged in the present day game of MLB. Part of it is the fear of being left behind as an old dog that can't learn new tricks. Part of it is the love of statistics even though the math skills got rusty something like thirty years ago. And because of these new statistics and partly because of observation, this writer has spent a lot of time in the FanDome ragging on Livan and Moehler and other pitchers that seem to get cuffed around a lot. But then those pitchers seem to win their share of games. So where is the truth here? What does those vaunted stats say or not say about those pitchers? Let's take a different approach.

What if these pitchers are really good half the time and really bad half the time? That would make their overall stats pretty horrible and thus the ERAs over 5.00 and such. Those end result stats would make most (including this writer) conclude that these pitchers aren't very valuable to their teams. But is that true? If a guy is effective half the time and ineffective half the time, isn't he as valuable as someone who was effective half the time and passable half the time and loses? Both types of pitchers win as often and lose as often, right? So does it matter what happens in the losses? They will still be losses either way.

As the Fan writes this, he wonders if he is making any sense or if the sabermetric guys would crucify the Fan as a heretic. But something must be said for the fact that Livan is now 6-5 and Moehler is 7-5 even though they sport identical ERAs of 4.92. Both are good when they win and bad when they lose.

Want proof? In Livan's six wins, he has an ERA of 1.54. In those games, he has an OPS against of .700. His strikeout to walk ratio is 1.5/1 which is respectable. Those are good numbers! In his losses, his ERA is 9.59 and his OPS against is 1.087. So when he wins, batters against him are like Jeff Francoeur. When he loses, batters against him are Pujols.

Now Brian Moehler. In wins, Moehler has an ERA of 2.54 and an OPS against of .746. Good numbers. In losses, the ERA is 12.76 and the OPS against is 1.209. Ugh. But again, if he is good more times than he is really bad, then isn't that the same as someone who is good the same amount of the time and passable the same amount of time as Moehler is bad?

Most would agree that Andy Pettitte, for example, is a much better pitcher than Moehler and Livan. But let's look at the same win/loss splits. In wins, Pettitte has an ERA of 2.44 and an OPS against of .664. In losses, he has an ERA of 8.20 and and OPS against of .908. Pretty similar, so maybe not a good example. How about John Danks of the White Sox? Danks has a 3.98 ERA. So he's better than Livan or Moehler, right? Danks is 8-6, not much better than Livan or Moehler. Again, he his spectacular in his wins and has an ERA of 7.52 in his losses.

Both Pettitte and Danks have better ERAs and OPS against numbers in their losses than our friends Livan and Moehler. But all four are as effective in their wins. And all four have more wins than losses. So isn't it similar?

There are some other factors. For example, if Livan and Moehler get blown out when they lose, as they often do, then their team's bullpens will take more of a beating then a Pettitte or a Danks who at least hang around long enough in their losses to not overly tax the bullpen. So that's a factor.

But perhaps, when all is said and done, teams like the Astros and the Mets will take the ugly with the good as long as the good happens slightly more often than the ugly. Perhaps they know more than this writer.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Livan used to be known as a "big game pitcher." Maybe that's where his value lies. Except the Mets are pretty much out of it, so I'd say it's time to bring in some younger arms.