Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Innings Pitched per Win


In the previous post, I showed that a simple statistic that calculates innings pitched per loss (IP/L) saw the two lowest numbers in baseball history this past season for those pitchers having lost at least 11 games. This is because relievers are increasingly taken out after 1 or 2 outs, while homers are being hit at a record pace, meaning more late lead changes and losses for those relievers. Adam Conley of Miami was the new leader, losing 11 games while pitching just 60.2 innings for an all-time low of 5.52 IP/L, with Raisel Iglesias just behind at 5.58 after taking 12 losses in 67 innings.

So would you expect that innings pitched per win (IP/W) would also see new records set? One key difference here is that a relief pitcher must have been the last one to pitch when his team took a lead that they held to the end of the game in order to get the win (the exception is when the starter is removed with the lead before completing 5 innings, in which case the win goes to the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer's judgment, was the most effective). So there is no strong correlation to the relief pitcher's quality and his win total, while there obviously is more correlation to talent (or lack thereof) and losses.

I checked to see if any relievers had won at least 15 games while starting none. Turns out that there were 13 in history that had done so. The most fortunate of these was Roy Face, who went 18-1 for the Pirates in 1959. He appeared in 57 games, tossing 90.2 innings  for an all-time low IP/W of 5.19. He was obviously the beneficiary of many late comebacks by his Pirates teammates, as his other numbers were not particularly spectacular. During those days, relievers often averaged over 2 IP per appearance, and there were far fewer of them, so you would expect higher win totals.

I put together a table of the lowest number of innings pitched for a reliever with each number of wins between 6 and 18 (below). It is clear that more recent years appear when win totals are fewer. For example, John Gant won 11 this season while pitching just 66.1 innings; last year Corbin Burnes managed 7 victories in just 38 IP. This is to be expected given the trend towards fewer innings. With so many starters getting pulled without even completing the 5 innings needed to secure a win, more relievers are getting awarded easy wins. Over a season, you can expect one or two to get lucky and see their win totals boosted significantly this way. Risley and Brazoban should be off this list in the next few seasons.

W   IP   IP/W Pitcher         Team Year
18  93.1 5.19 Roy Face        PIT  1959
17 150   8.82 John Hiller     DET  1974
16 129   8.06 Ron Perranoski  LAD  1963
15 111.1 7.42 Dale Murray     MTL  1975
14  85.1 6.10 Ron Davis       NYY  1979
13  87.1 6.72 Rich Gossage    NYY  1983
12  68   5.67 Johnny Murphy   NYY  1943
11  66.1 6.03 John Gant       STL  2019
10  57   5.70 Mike Dunn       MIA  2014
 9  52.1 5.81 Bill Risley     SEA  1994
 8  48.1 6.04 Jason Motte     CHC  2015
 7  38   5.43 Corbin Burnes   MIL  2018
 6  32.2 5.44 Yhency Brazoban LAD  2004

So it appears as if IP/W is also seeing new records, at least for lower win totals among relievers. How about starters? I did the same analysis, finding the lowest number of innings pitched for starters (defined as having at least 85% of their games as a starter) for each number of wins between 27 and 12.

W   IP      IP/W Pitcher           Team Year
27  238     8.81 Bob Welch         OAK  1990
26  309.1  11.90 Fred Klobedanz    BSN  1897
25  250.2  10.03 Steve Stone       BAL  1980
24  251    10.46 Justin Verlander  DET  2011
23  213.1   9.28 Pedro Martinez    BOS  1999
22  216.1   9.83 Matt Morris       STL  2001
21  180.2   8.60 Blake Snell       TB   2018
20  188.2   9.43 Jered Weaver      LAA  2012
19  169.3   8.91 Storm Davis       BAL  1989
18  143     7.94 Domingo German    NYY  2019
17  150.1   8.84 Matt Moore        TB   2013
16  154.2   9.67 Ken Hill          MTL  1994
15  147.2   9.84 Stephen Strasburg WAS  2016
14  145.2  10.40 Dallas Keuchel    HOU  2017
13  126     9.69 Mike Clevinger    CLE  2019
12  108.1   9.03 Clay Buchholz     BOS  2013

I chose to start from 27 because that was Bob Welch's incredible total in 1990, when he pitched "only" 238 innings, leading to an IP/W of 8.81, which was historically low. Since then, only two starters have had lower IP/W: Blake Snell last season, and Domingo German, setting an all-time record this season. To be fair, two of German's wins were in relief, but he still would have set the record for 16 wins too. Mike Clevinger also set a record for 13-game winners this season, pitching just 126 innings. I expect Ken Hill of the 1994 World Series Champion Montreal Expos to soon disappear from this list. One who won't disappear is Fred Klobedanz, the 26-game winner who pitched 309.1 innings for the Boston Beaneaters in 1897. We will never see numbers like that again.

I enjoy seeing the wide variety of names on these two lists, but the conclusion to all of this isn't particularly stunning. Pitchers are obviously throwing fewer innings every year, so win and loss totals are down too. But when comparing the two, innings pitched are declining relatively more quickly, leading to lower IP/W and IP/L numbers for lower win totals. This trend will continue as long as managers use that quick hook.

Best,

Sean

Monday, October 7, 2019

A New Baseball Stat Leads to a New Baseball Record


If you've watched baseball for more than a decade, you are aware that the game has changed, and not for the better. Games take longer, there are more pitching changes, fewer complete games, plenty of home runs and strikeouts, and not nearly as many balls in play. In fact, 2018 saw more foul balls than balls in play. Great if you are a kid, but not very interesting if you like to see a bit of action on the field.

Another way to tell that the game has changed is from the statistics. As a simple example, homers have increased, hitting a ridiculous 6,676 this year, up 62% from 4,186 in 2014 (that was the lowest total since 1995, before steroids). Hits, however, were up a mere 1% in that time. The difference is that singles are down 8.7% and triples down 7.5%. I like to see rallies rather than a bunch of solo shots, but I understand that most fans prefer home runs. Still, devaluing them by changing the composition of the baseball is not the way to go, despite journalistic shills like this. Note that there is no mention of the juiced baseball that led to all these homers. When Justin Verlander had the temerity to mention the changes to the baseball, he was reprimanded by Joe Torre and others. The lack of integrity in the game is appalling.

Anyway, these are the obvious ways to figure out that the game has changed, but there are other stats that take a bit of digging, but reveal just as much. When I was in Pittsburgh last week, I saw Cincinnati reliever Raisel Iglesias give up a walk-off homer to Pittsburgh's Kevin Newman. It was the 12th loss of the season for Iglesias, which in itself is nothing unusual. But then I checked his stats, and he had only pitched 66 innings. So he lost a game for every 5.5 innings he pitched. That seemed like a very low number (the Reds lost 87 games with 1,438 IP, or 1 loss every 16.5 IP). Of course, relievers will have a lower number, since they pitch fewer innings, often in close games. Still, 5.5?

I decided to do a bit of investigation on the stat Innings Pitched per Loss (IP/L). Using Python, I grabbed all pitching data from 2000-2019, limiting the result set to those pitchers who had lost 11 or more games. I wanted to see if any other pitchers came close to Iglesias (who threw one more inning on Saturday to finish with a 5.58 IP/L). The lowest number before this year was in 2010, when none other than Charlie Morton, then with Pittsburgh, went 2-12 while pitching 79.2 innings (6.64 IP/L). But Morton started all 17 games in which he appeared; he just sucked that year. There are many starters who had terrible seasons with a lot of losses, but they usually averaged at least 5 innings per game, so their IP/L should be at least 7 when you include no-decisions. An example of this is Homer Bailey in 2018 - he started 20 games, went 1-14 with 106.1 IP for an IP/L of 7.6.

To make the comparison meaningful, I had to focus on relievers. In 2004, Luis Ayala of the Expos appeared in relief 81 times, pitching 90.1 innings and finishing with a 6-12 record. That gave him an IP/L of 7.53, the lowest for a reliever in the 2000s (again, with a minimum of 11 losses). I then used Baseball Reference's play index to get a quick idea of what had happened before and found that Gene Garber went 6-16 in 1979 while pitching just 106 innings in relief, for an IP/L of 6.63. That seemed to be the lowest I could find. So it looked like Iglesias would be setting a record. But then I noticed that another pitcher had done even worse this year. Adam Conley of Miami lost 11 games while pitching only 60.2 innings, for an IP/L of 5.52. Take a bow Adam, you are in the MLB record books!

Now, I chose 11 losses arbitrarily, because Iglesias lost 12 and I wanted to see if anyone had lost that many while pitching so few innings. But by looking at hurlers with 10 or fewer losses, you do find even lower IP/L results. In 2017, Sam Dyson lost 10 games between Texas and San Francisco, tossing just 54.2 IP for an IP/L of 5.42. Look at 9 losses and you have Edwin Gonzalez in 2004, who started 10 games and pitched just 46.1 innings for an IP/L of 5.15. As you reduce the number of losses, you get crazier stats, such as Montreal's Woodie Fryman in 1983, who pitched just 3 innings, losing 3 games before retiring at age 43.

So let's use the 11 loss minimum to keep this stat meaningful. Which means the 2019 season saw the lowest two IP/L numbers in baseball history. What does that mean? Not much. Teams change pitchers more often than they used to, so naturally relievers will see fewer innings thrown. And with the ball leaping out of the ballpark, more late inning lead changes are happening, especially to crap pitchers. Combine those two factors and you have Conley and Iglesias setting ignominious records that were completely ignored by everyone else.

You are probably wondering if the sister statistic IP/W is affected. I'll look at that in the next post.

Best,

Sean

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Indy Eleven 0 at Pittsburgh Riverhounds 3 (USL) - September 28, 2019


As I left PPG Paints Arena to head across the Monogahela to Highmark Stadium, I noticed dark clouds coming over downtown. Lacking an umbrella, I scurried across the Smithfield Bridge and past Station Square, arriving at the stadium just a few minutes before kickoff, excited for my third game of the day. Highmark is home to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL Championship, the second tier in American soccer. It opened in 2013 with a capacity of 3,500, which increased to 5,000 in 2018. The stadium is expandable to 18,500 should the Riverhounds ever join MLS.



There are two main entrances at Highmark, one on the east side (above), and the other on the west (below). Both have ticket windows next to them. Lines were slightly smaller on the east side (above), but either way you will have to wait as there are no metal detectors, just security officers wanding everybody. Tickets start at $17 for the supporters section known as the Steel Army, but I would advise spending the extra $5 to get an edge seat in the main stand, if you want to sit that is. If you wish to splurge, you can get in the club or sit right next to the pitch in the Riverside seats for $44.



I was again to do a review for Stadium Journey, so I had to pick up a credential, which took me around to the west side, where I was handed a VIP badge. This turned out to be a blessing.



I then walked back to the east side and went through security, entering the stadium at 7:00. As is the case in the U.S., soccer games don't start on the hour, so I didn't have to rush, stopping to snap a picture of the Fort Pitt Bridge to the west.



I even had time to do a quick tour and noticed these intriguing beer wagons. I'm not sure if they are in use, but there is a $1 beer special up until game time that I just missed and it is possible that these wagons were the source of the special.



I took a seat in the main stand, which provides views of downtown. You can see the ominous clouds coming our way, as well as the Steel Army section behind the goal.



The players were finishing up their handshakes as I sat down, and I quite enjoyed the bee-like uniforms of the Riverhounds, which were adopted in 2014 to align themselves, at least colour-wise, with the other Pittsburgh sports teams.



Just as the match kicked off, a few drops of rain fell, and by the time the first minute was finished, it had started to pour. I left my seat and made my way to the west side of the stadium, where the Hounds Pub is located.



This is a bar that is usually empty during the action, but had filled up as patrons rushed to avoid the sudden downpour. There is a window that faces the field, and many were watching as the action continued despite the deluge.



I did notice a few pennants and trophies but closer inspection revealed these to be for other clubs like Manchester United. The Riverhounds have won one division championship in their 20 years, though that could change this season.



Eventually, lightning reached the area and the game was delayed with just 8:54 having been played and no goals scored. The players returned to the locker room, while fans were asked to leave the seating area. As I had a VIP pass, I was able to enter the club, which is above the west end of the stadium. There is a terrace here, and when the rain had stopped, I stepped outside and took a picture of the empty stand with Hounds in blue (above). I also like how the netting is in black and gold, something I have not seen elsewhere.



Once the storm had passed, the players returned to the pitch to warm up. I moved down to the standing area behind the west goal, which comes with a few seats and a drink rail, and stayed there for the rest of the first half. At halftime, I went into Hounds Pub to see what was available and was shocked to find quality IPAs for just $6. Obviously a bit more than the $1 special at the start of the game but still a great deal for a stadium. With beer in hand, I stayed behind the goal for the second half and enjoyed what was a great game for the home team.



I believe Pittsburgh has the best collection of sports venues and Highmark Stadium is certainly a part of that. It really is a fantastic place to watch a game, with the views, the pub, and the atmosphere providing a unique experience for any sports traveler.

The Game

The Indy Eleven were in town to take on the Riverhounds in a battle of top teams as Indy were second in the Eastern Conference with 56 points while Pittsburgh was just a point behind. After the delay, the Riverhounds opened the scoring in the 15th minute, when Nico Brett just lasered a free kick from 30 yards out that left Evan Newton (in orange below) with no chance. In the 40th minute, Kenardo Forbes was given plenty of space and sent a rocket to the top left corner from about the same spot. Two incredible goals that need to be seen to be believed.



Indy did threaten a couple of times, but keeper Kyle Morton was equal to the task, stopping an in-close header midway through the half. In the second, Pittsburgh continued to pressure, and were rewarded when Forbes beat a defender with a slick move down low and drove the ball past Newton and off the post. The goal celebration was directly in front of me, which was quite cool.



That was it for the scoring as Pittsburgh moved top of the table with the 3-0 win. Make sure to hang around after the game to watch David Hasselhoff's "Hooked on a Feeling", which is played on the scoreboard after every home victory.



Of the four games I saw on the trip, this was the most enjoyable. People say soccer is boring, and it can be at times, but this match was anything but. Even with the hour delay, it still was quicker than the baseball and the football game.

Notes

There are 36 teams in the USL Championship alone, making it ideal for a long road trip. I'd even be able to visit Ottawa, whose Fury are the only Canadian club in the circuit.

There was a Pirates game still going on in the 7th inning when I left the stadium (it had been delayed too), but I didn't think I would be able to get in at that time, so I didn't head over. Turns out it went 12 innings, so I could have had a quadrupleheader if I had been able to find a way inside. In the end, my true tripleheader did not transpire thanks to the long football game and overtime in hockey, but it was still a lot of fun. I look forward to the next opportunity to try it somewhere.

Next Up

I'll be visiting Washington for the Expos playoffs and doing a couple of local NCAA football games in October. November will see me in Atlantic Canada for three QMJHL games, and December will be to Dallas for a weekend with the Stars, Mavericks, Cowboys, and TCU hoops. As always, check back for updates!

Best,

Sean