Whenever this writer ventures into talking about numbers, there is a huge potential for problems. After all, compared to the Dave Camerons of the world, this Fan isn't exactly a heavyweight when it comes to figuring out how statistics work. But something in baseball-reference.com struck a nerve this morning. The little story on B-R's front page mentioned that Mark Buehrle became only the second pitcher since 1954 to induce six double plays in a game. In fact the entire front page was full of DP stories including how often Ivan Rodriguez has hit into more double plays than he has had walks in a season. Cool stuff. But the little nugget about Buehrle caught this Fan's fancy.
And important statistic for pitchers is WHIP. It's not the be all and end all statistic, but it's important. Base runners mean runs, so preventing them is important. Perhaps it is as important as K/9 and K/BB. But what about double plays? To be sure the two outs get added into the innings pitched statistic. But double plays erase one of the base runners that got on via a walk or a hit (or an error which we'll have to talk about). So shouldn't the pitcher get some credit for erasing some of those base runners he put on?
Let's take Buehrle for example. The guy has a no-hitter to his credit, which is doubly ironic considering he has led the league in hits allowed at least four times in his career. In 2010, Buehrle (whose name is really a pain in the neck to type) induced 19 double plays. His WHIP for the season was 1.43. If you subtract his double plays induced (19) from his walks plus hits, his "Adjusted WHIP" goes down to 1.31.
For another example, the Fan tried to think of a "sinkerball" pitcher. For some reason Cien-Ming Wang came to mind (wonder if he'll ever pitcher again?). He too gave up a lot of hits in his career. In 2007, for example, he had a WHIP of 1.294. But he induced 32 double plays. If you take 32 off of his walk plus hit total, his "Adjusted WHIP" goes all the way down to 1.114. That looks a lot tidier, does it not?
Take an inning by inning look at it. Say a pitcher allows two base runners in an inning. If he closes out the inning without allowing either to score, he's still going to have an ugly WHIP for that inning of 2.0. If he got out of the inning with a double play, then his "Adjusted WHIP" goes down to 1.0, a lot prettier.
The Fan thinks about this because pitchers that pitch to contact don't get a lot of love in this new age of baseball analysis. Those that strikeout a lot of batters and have a positive K/BB ratios get the most love, especially if their WHIPs are in good shape. But if we adjusted a "sinkerball" pitcher's WHIP to take double plays into account, maybe they would get more love.
Let's take one more example to see if we can prove a point. Let's look at Derek Lowe versus Tommy Hanson on the Braves. Hanson finished the season with a 2.5 WAR while Lowe finished with a 1.7. This is despite the fact that Lowe won 16 games and Hanson only 10. But that's because Hanson has a much better K/BB ratio and a better WHIP. In double plays, Lowe induced 22 compared to Hanson's 12. Hanson still has the better stats, but if Lowe's WHIP of 1.368 is translated to an "Adjusted WHIP" then it comes down to 1.258 and thus closer to Hanson than before. Hanson still comes out on top, but not by nearly as much.
It's something to think about at least.