Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nasty boys - The best relief pitcher stuff of 2013

Last year I had this idea that if you added together the value given the pitches a pitcher throws you could rate the pitchers nearly as accurately as other measurements such as WAR, ERA+ and FIP. The results do not match up perfectly, but they are close in most cases. After all, if you throw consistently nasty stuff over the course of a season, the results you obtain with those pitches will lead to success. I have seen others rate the best fastball, the best splitter, the best curve, etc. But I like to add them all together to come up with a total "stuff" ranking.

Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do. Otherwise, I would not be doing it as I am no genius. All I did was go to's leaderboard and then go to the PitchF/X tab. And then I go to the Pitch Value tab. I prefer to use the PitchF/X calculations instead of Fangraphs' own proprietary pitch valuations as the latter seems (to me) more accurate for the type of pitch thrown. For example, says that Kenley Jansen throws a fastball and that is what they rate. But it is pretty obvious watching him pitch that he throws a cutter, which is what PitchF/X says he throws.

Anyway, once I have the pitch values in front of me, I downloaded the CSV file (Isn't it fabulous these stat sites are so generous with their data?). The CSV opens like a Microsoft Excel file and I can then delete the columns I don't want and do a Sum function to the first pitcher listed on the sum value of all his pitches to come up with a total pitch value. I copy that down for all the pitchers and then do a Sort to be able to see the top and the bottom. I did this for both starters and relievers. In my last post, I gave you my results for the starting pitchers. Today the relievers are rated..

You may wonder why I used the pitch values and not the pitch values per hundred. Unfortunately, the latter does not work for me because the numbers get skewed. For example, a pitcher may have pitched four curves all season. If the four were crappy, then his pitch value per hundred on the curve would be like -25 runs or something. That doesn't work for what I am doing.

Without further ado, I give you the nastiest relief pitchers by pitch value for 2013:
  1. Koji Uehara: 27.7
  2. Kenley Jansen: 21.8
  3. Craig Kimbrel, Joe Nathan: 19.4
  4. Greg Holland: 18.8
  5. Mark Melancon: 18.3
  6. Alex Torres: 18.1
  7. Tyler Clippard: 17.7
  8. Luke Hochevar: 17
  9. Luis Avilan: 16.8
The really interesting part of this list is that each pitcher killed with different pitches. Uehara, the most dominant relief pitcher in baseball in 2013, scored well with his fastball and his split finger was off the charts good. Kenley Jansen killed with his cutter. Kimbrel and Nathan used a combination of the fastball and slider to have great seasons. Nathan had a really great comeback season. Melancon relied on a deadly cutter. Torres and Avilan used a two-seam fastball to great effect.

The list also showed a strong season for Luke Hochevar, a pitcher that never lived up to his starter potential, but found a great home in the eighth inning setting up Holland, who was also terrific.

These guys were nasty good and their combined pitch values really showed how difficult a task batters had facing them.

And, of course, if you see the good, you want to hear about the bad, right? The five relief pitchers with the combined lowest pitch value scores were:
No other qualifying relief pitcher scored below -6, so that gives you an idea of how ineffective these relievers were.

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