Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MLB paint by number

Francisco Liriano threw the first no-hitter of the 2011 Major League Baseball season. On the surface, this doesn't seem so bizarre. He has the reputation of being a good pitcher, with good stuff. However, at least this season, he isn't and he doesn't.

Liriano leads the league in walks. His ERA is over 6.5 even after the complete game shutout. And this no-hitter happened to be the first time he has ever completed a game in his career.

But that's baseball for you. Stats and numbers tell only part of the story, oftentimes the wrong part. Here are 20 more stats from the first month (and change) of the 2011 season, divided into what can be believed and what cannot.

Everything listed below is a complete fact. Just remember the popular Mark Twain quote, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."


  • Jose Bautista leads the AL in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has a 30:16 walks to strikeouts ratio and is hitting a home run every nine at-bats.

Let's just say I'm no longer in the camp that thinks last year was a fluke.

  • Jorge Posada has cracked six home runs on the season, out of his 14 total hits.

Posada is no longer the hitter he used to be. The power is real but so is the average for the most part.

  • The San Diego Padres are scoring 3.10 runs per game.

This would mean a quality start from their starter would almost certainly mean they are losing the game. With how bad they were last year WITH Adrian Gonzalez, this is sure to continue.

  • Josh Johnson has allowed only 4.0 hits per nine innings pitched.

This is by far the best ratio in the league for qualified pitchers, and is no fluke since Johnson was the best pitcher in the league a year ago before he got hurt.

  • Dexter Fowler is in the top five in the NL in both walks and strikeouts.

Kids these days...strikeouts are not a top concern of many hitters. The walks mean Fowler is a good batter with a good idea. The Rockies will take the good with the bad.

  • (Speaking of K's) Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn have struck out a combined 81 times, nearly 37% of the Tigers' total strikeouts on the season.

No surprise here nothing to say it won't continue. Neither Jackson or Raburn make any attempt to cut down on their strikeouts.

  • Alex Rodriguez ranks in the top 25 in all of baseball in slugging percentage at .537, yet that is only good enough for fifth on his own team.

Rodriguez is having a very nice season, as are many of this teammates. The Yankees should continue to mash the ball all year long even if the batting averages are low.

  • Chris Young (AZ) has scored 20 runs already even though his OBP is below .265 and he's only stolen one base.

Although the steals are sure to pick up, the believable part is the high runs total with the low on-base. Young will never be a good OBP guy but with his speed and base-running ability, the runs will still be there.

  • On the other hand, Jack Cust ranks in the top five in MLB in walks yet there are 236 players who have scored more runs than he has.

The combination of a terrible batting average and a very slow runner in the middle of a below average lineup means the walks will not translate to tons of runs being scored.

  • Of the top 10 players in baseball in at-bats, seven of them have no more than five combined home runs and steals.

Essentially this means, the players getting the most at-bats have neither power nor speed. Teams are willing to accept this oftentimes if the player can consistently get on base.

Not Believable

I hesitate to label these "unbelievable" because that gives them a positive connotation that they do not deserve.

  • Ian Desmond has the second most steals in the league with only a .279 OBP.

The classic example of something having to give. Desmond very well could continue racking up the steals, but not if his on-base doesn't improve. The steals chances will dry up quickly if he continues at a clip of .279.

  • Brian Roberts has stolen third base this year more than he has stolen second.

Just one of those complete facts that is utterly ridiculous. Of course this won't continue.

  • Juan Pierre has been caught stealing eight times, twice as many as any other ML player.

Although it is quite possible Pierre may lead the league in CS, it will be purely because of the amount of attempts. He is too good a base-runner to continue this horrible percentage.

  • Adam Dunn, who has never had an OPS below .800 any season of his career, currently sits at .582, less than half of Jose Bautista's current OPS.

The injury early in April set Dunn back. He will get his bat back together soon enough.

  • The Minnesota Twins have 935 at-bats as a team and 13 home runs. Alfonso Soriano has hit 11 home runs in 105 at-bats.

The Twins may certainly continue to stink. That is plausible. The part that will not continue is Soriano's year. He is not a 30 home run hitter anymore (let alone 50+) and is sure to slow this pace down.

  • There are four pitchers who have as many wins as they do complete games.

Another oddity along the lines of Brian Roberts' steals numbers. If a pitcher is able to go deep into games, the wins will come, eventually.

  • Prior to Liriano's no-hitter (since he now jumped to number one), none of the top seven pitchers in MLB in walks given up had a losing record.

This is perhaps the most unbelievable stat in baseball right now. Giving up walks almost always translates to losing games. It is the pet peeve of pitching coaches, the ultimate no-no of a young pitcher. Throwing strikes is what separates the Cliff Lees from the A.J. Burnetts.

  • Conversely, there are only five qualified pitchers in baseball with a SO/9 of at least 10. Only two of them have a winning record.

Although there are strikeout pitchers who don't have great winning percentages, in general, striking out over 10 batters every nine innings is a sign of success.

  • Matt Thornton has pitched only 9.1 innings yet already has a -1.3 WAR.

Since WAR is cumulative (the more outings/innings, the greater effect your numbers have), this is nearly impossible. Pitching so few innings and affecting your team this much in a negative way is too hard to keep up. The simple fact is that if he continues to this THIS bad, the White Sox won't let him pitch anymore.

  • The Cleveland Indians, who finished 24 games under .500 last year, have played 28 games so far this season and already have at least a 10 game lead on both the Twins and the White Sox.

That's baseball for you.

(Image courtesy of the Associated Press - Chicago)

1 comment:

  1. Great article Todd I am trying to get better at posting more it's been tough working 10 hours days and then trying to think and proof read and think some more but i do love this article...