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Monday, September 13, 2004

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF KELVIM ESCOBAR'S RUN SUPPORT
Kelvim Escobar pitches tonight; as you know, he's had a pretty good year. His 3.97 ERA is the best amongst Angel starters, and his 162 strikeouts ranks fourth in the AL. However, his record is only 9-10.

We all know it's because of lousy run support, but how uncommon is this, for a good pitcher to have a mediocre record? Obviously, it's not that uncommon. Brandon Webb has a 3.64 ERA this year, but is 6-15. Dontrelle Willis is 9-9 with a 3.86 ERA. But these random examples tell us nothing ...

... here's what I did. I took every qualifying pitcher season since 2001, and sorted them by various stats: ERA, K/IP, K/BB, WHIP, and then I determined the winning percentage for each group of ten. Actually, Microsoft Excel did that, I just told it to. Here are the top 10 ERA performances by qualifiers since 2001:

Pitcher           Year   W   L   ERA

P. Martinez, Bos 2003 14 4 2.22
P. Martinez, Bos 2002 20 4 2.26
R. Johnson, Ari 2002 24 5 2.32
J. Schmidt, SF 2003 17 5 2.34
K. Brown, LA 2003 14 9 2.39
M. Prior, ChC 2003 18 6 2.43
R. Johnson, Ari 2001 21 6 2.49
D. Lowe, Bos 2002 21 8 2.58
G. Maddux, Atl 2002 16 6 2.62
T. Hudson, Oak 2003 16 7 2.70
Now, these ten pitchers have an winning percentage .751. Pitchers ranked 2-11, in which you drop Pedro v.2003 and add Randy Johnson v.2004, have a winning percentage of .723. The ERA for the top 10 pitchers is 2.44, and for 2-11 it's 2.49.

There are 344 seasons in this sample, and the correlation between any group of ten's ERAs and WPCT is -.909, which is very strong. What's the point of this? The point is to identify seasons similar to Escobar's in respects other than winning percentage and see how many of them have similar winning percentages.

Kelvim's 2004 ranks 153 in the list of ERA. Putting him fifth in a list:

Pitcher           Year   W    L   ERA   WAG

K. Appier, Ana 2002 14 12 3.92 -1.52
B. Radke, Min 2001 15 11 3.94 -0.52
G. Maddux, Atl 2003 16 11 3.96 -0.12
J. Suppan, StL 2004 15 6 3.97 +2.46
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 3.97 -2.34
W. Williams, StL 2004 10 7 3.98 -0.15
C. Sabathia, Cle 2004 11 9 3.98 -0.94
A. Leiter, NYM 2003 15 9 3.99 +0.67
A. Pettitte, NYY 2001 15 10 3.99 +0.08
H. Ramirez, Atl 2003 12 4 4.00 +2.45
This group has a 3.97 ERA, and a winning percentage of .597. That last column is "Wins Above Group"; this group wins .597 of the time, and Escobar is at .474 in 19 decisions, and he has nine wins where we would expect him to have 11 (11.34, actually). Obviously, this group represents Kelvim pretty well in ERA, and just as obviously, it's his winning percentage dragging down the group.

If you take the group where Kelvim Escobar is the best pitcher, you get 10 pitchers with a 4.00 and a winning percentage of .588.

Looking at his comparables in ERA, Kelvim is easily the unluckiest pitcher in that group, when it comes to getting credit for wins.

Kelvim Escobar has struck out .92 men per inning this year, which ranks 37th amongst all of these seasons.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  K/IP   WAG

R. Wolf, Phi 2001 10 11 0.93 -1.55
C. Park, LA 2001 15 11 0.93 +0.70
J. Bere, ChC 2001 11 11 0.93 -1.10
J. Vazquez, Mon 2001 16 11 0.93 +1.15
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 0.92 -1.45
J. Bonderman,Det2004 9 11 0.91 -2.00
E. Loaiza, CWS 2003 21 9 0.91 +4.50
C. Finley,Cle/SL2002 11 15 0.91 -3.30
M. Mussina, NYY 2003 17 8 0.91 +3.25
B. Colon, Cle 2001 14 12 0.90 -0.30
This group has a winning percentage of .550. Once again, Kelvim is dragging the mean down, but he is not the worst defender. K/IP doesn't correlate as well to winning percentage; the group in which Kelvim is the best has a winning percentage of .570.

Escobar has a K/BB of 2.45, which ranks 124th amongst these seasons.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  K/BB   WAG

J. Burkett, Bos 2002 13 8 2.48 +1.81
M. Redman, Fla 2003 14 9 2.48 +1.74
B. Penny, Fla 2003 14 10 2.46 +1.21
J. Weaver, LA 2004 12 10 2.46 +0.27
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 2.45 -1.13
T. Hudson, Oak 2002 15 9 2.45 +2.21
C. Silva, Min 2004 11 8 2.45 +0.87
R. Helling, Tex 2001 12 11 2.44 -0.26
J. ThomsonNN/Col2002 9 14 2.43 -3.26
B. Sheets, Mil 2002 11 16 2.43 -3.39
This group has a winning percentage of .533, and group with Kelvim at the top has one of .522. Once again, Escobar is bringing the group down, though he is not the worst.

Pitcher         Year     W     L  WHIP   WAG

D. Davis, Mil 2004 11 10 1.314 -0.34
S. Trachsel, NM 2003 16 10 1.314 +1.96
A. Burnett, Fla 2001 11 12 1.315 -1.42
H. Nomo, LA 2002 16 6 1.316 +4.12
K. Escobar, Ana 2004 9 10 1.316 -1.13
A. Eaton, SD 2003 9 12 1.317 -2.34
C. Sabathia, Cle2004 11 9 1.317 +0.20
J. Kennedy, TB 2002 8 11 1.317 -2.26
C. Zambrano, ChC2003 13 11 1.318 +0.04
R. Drese, Tex 2004 12 8 1.318 +1.20
This group has a winning percentage of .540, and the group with Escobar at the top has one of .527. However, it is clear that Escobar is not particulary unique in this group, except for the fact that he is the only "underachiever" to pitch for a good team.

In fact, that last point is true of every list. Escobar's record is by no means historically unusual; what appears odd is that he's put it up while pitching for a good team. The Angel offense should really be ashamed of themselves, actually. Hopefully they can right the ship against Seattle tonight.

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