Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Schilling Doesn't Suck (but he is fat)
It is a little difficult to say that after his Opening Day performance but it really wasn’t as bad as it looked. I would never say that I truly understand most of what the sabrmetric geeks say even though I’ve been accused of being one. But there is one thing that they believe that makes a lot of sense to me. When evaluating a pitcher ignore ERA and wins and loses and focus more on strike out to walk ratio, BABIP (batting average on balls in play), home runs per 9 innings and to a lesser extend ground ball to fly ball ratio. The most important thing to look at is BABIP. Master this stat and it will change how you look at pitching forever. Essentially the argument is that the only consistent way for a pitcher to succeed is to strike batters out. Once a batter has hit the ball, it is simply a function of chance and how good your team defense is if the batter will be out. When looking at a pitcher’s stats it is essential, especially early in the season, to look at his BABIP because he could be either the beneficiary of good luck or a goat of bad luck. Sometimes the ball is hit to fielders and sometimes it is not. On average a little under 30% of balls hit into play go for hits. So your average pitchers BABIP is going to be around .300. If you see a pitcher with a BABIP much higher or lower than .300, there will likely be a correction (I’ll talk about regression to the mean later). So what happened yesterday with Curt Schilling? He faced 22 batters, striking out 5 and walking 2 which is a respectable but not great 2.5/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Although there were quite a few well hit balls he gave up no homers. But they key stat to understanding the final score was that of the 15 balls that were put in play, 8 went for hits giving Schilling a horrible but unlucky .533 BABIP. And what about Schilling’s opponent Gil Meche? He faced 27 batters, striking out 6 and walking 1 (6/1 k/bb ratio). 20 balls were put in play and the Sox had 6 hits. What was Meche’s BABIP? Exactly .300. So the bottom line is that Meche did indeed outpitch Schilling but the bad luck shown in the poor BABIP had a lot to do with the final score.