Postgame Spread
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nerd Alert    

Stathead babble commencing, be warned...

I just came across this interesting article in the New York Times (linked to from a decent primer on the state of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics, or DIPS from Baseball Prospectus). Basically, it confirms what we all already knew, that Voros McCracken's famous declaration (that pitchers have no impact on what happens to the balls in play that they allow), isn't quite accurate. It's been pretty well accepted by stathead-types for a while now that knuckleballers are a special case, that truly awful pitchers are a special case, that Jamie Moyer was once a special case (though I don't know if he still is), and especially that the difference between groundballers and flyballers is crucial.

But Mitchell Lichtman's Pitcher Zone Rating (the subject of the NY Times piece) seems particularly interesting to me. The stat isn't publicly available yet, but I think the level of detail about where balls are actually hit could be a goldmine of sorts. The conclusions thus far, though still apparently sketchy, make a lot of sense:

"A few patterns have emerged from the P.Z.R. data. Besides the occasional knuckleballer, the pitchers who dominate the leader board tend to be either extreme ground-ball pitchers, who do not give up extra-base hits (like Lowe), elite junkballers like Jamie Moyer, or simply great pitchers with moving fastballs, including Martínez, Johan Santana and Roger Clemens.

Those who give up more hard-hit balls than average either compensate with terrific strikeout and walk rates (like Ben Sheets), pitch in front of outstanding defenses (like Randy Wolf) or drop out of baseball (ahem, Rusch)."

I for one am excited to see where this leads. Jeff has pointed out a number of times that the lack of sufficient information about the details of batted balls all-but-dooms current defensive metrics, and I'm maybe three-quarters in agreement with him. The same could be said about DIPS-related efforts, it would seem to me. And now it looks like maybe we're going to start getting that level of detail. I'm glad I don't have to to deal with any of those numbers myself (because I certainly don't have the calling to), but I'm also glad there's an army of trained-statistician-baseball-nerds running around out there figuring all this stuff out.

Now, if only they would develop some brilliant new insight indicating that the Mariners were headed in the right direction as an organization...


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