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View Full Version : How sabermetrics saved Brandon McCarthy's career


SephClone89
02-29-2012, 04:22 PM
http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7602264/oakland-brandon-mccarthy-writing-moneyball-next-chapter-reinventing-analytics-espn-magazine

Pretty damn cool. [/propellerhead]

WhiteSox5187
02-29-2012, 04:45 PM
Certainly an interesting article but honestly you don't need sabermetrics to know that if you can't throw hard you're likely to have more success inducing ground balls by keeping the ball low rather than trying to strike guys out.

DonnieDarko
02-29-2012, 04:54 PM
Heh. I never knew that McCarthy had such a personality. I like.

Too bad he couldn't do what he did last year here, but I understand why the Sox gave up on him. And hey, we got Danks in the deal, so it's not all bad.

SephClone89
02-29-2012, 04:58 PM
Heh. I never knew that McCarthy had such a personality. I like.


Exactly. Baseball could use more kinda nerds/pseudo-intellectuals.

DSpivack
02-29-2012, 04:59 PM
Heh. I never knew that McCarthy had such a personality. I like.

Too bad he couldn't do what he did last year here, but I understand why the Sox gave up on him. And hey, we got Danks in the deal, so it's not all bad.

And Nick Masset, who has turned into a pretty good reliever, although with Cincinatti.

TDog
02-29-2012, 05:36 PM
Matters stated as facts in this article are actually sort of humorous. That is, I laughed at the idea that Brandon McCarthy is one of the game's best pitchers and the implied idea that Warren Spahn was just lucky.

The fact that the A's are paying Mr. McCarthy more than $4 million this season means that I expect him to either be traded and/or develop arm trouble.

SI1020
02-29-2012, 05:41 PM
Certainly an interesting article but honestly you don't need sabermetrics to know that if you can't throw hard you're likely to have more success inducing ground balls by keeping the ball low rather than trying to strike guys out. I agree. Tommy John looked like he couldn't throw hard enough to break an egg but what a career he had.

SI1020
02-29-2012, 05:44 PM
Matters stated as facts in this article are actually sort of humorous. That is, I laughed at the idea that Brandon McCarthy is one of the game's best pitchers and the implied idea that Warren Spahn was just lucky.

The fact that the A's are paying Mr. McCarthy more than $4 million this season means that I expect him to either be traded and/or develop arm trouble. Warren Spahn was a master pitcher in every sense of the word.

SephClone89
02-29-2012, 05:53 PM
Matters stated as facts in this article are actually sort of humorous. That is, I laughed at the idea that Brandon McCarthy is one of the game's best pitchers...



:facepalm:

While "one of the game's best pitchers" may be a slight exaggeration, he was very very good last year.

DSpivack
02-29-2012, 06:01 PM
:facepalm:

While "one of the game's best pitchers" may be a slight exaggeration, he was very very good last year.

Well, that's what the article said. He's not.

SephClone89
02-29-2012, 06:13 PM
Well, that's what the article said. He's not.

Highest FIP in the AL, best K/BB ratio in As history. Pretty impressive. You could make the argument that he was "among" the AL's best pitchers last year. 5 complete games, second only to Shields. Some of the best BB/9, K/BB, and HR/9 ratios in the game. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but according to some numbers that have become pretty important in the analysis of pitching performance he was among the game's best in 2011.

DSpivack
02-29-2012, 06:19 PM
Highest FIP in the AL, best K/BB ratio in As history. Pretty impressive. You could make the argument that he was "among" the AL's best pitchers last year. 5 complete games, second only to Shields. Some of the best BB/9, K/BB, and HR/9 ratios in the game. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but according to some numbers that have become pretty important in the analysis of pitching performance he was among the game's best in 2011.

I didn't realize Shields had 11 CGs last season. Wow.

WhiteSox5187
02-29-2012, 06:44 PM
:facepalm:

While "one of the game's best pitchers" may be a slight exaggeration, he was very very good last year.

Well, that's what the article said. He's not.

Yea, the article said that last year McCarthy developed into one of the "best pitchers in the game," he certainly had a very good year and while I am not trying to take anything away from him it is worth considering that McCarthy pitches in a VERY pitcher friendly park and his ERA was 1.34 runs higher on the road.

PalehosePlanet
02-29-2012, 06:47 PM
Damn, so keeping the ball down and throwing strikes is a Jamesian, sabermetric concept? Sounds like a simple 150 year old pitching philosophy to me -- and I'm not anti-sabermetrics at all.

Also, pitching in the best pitchers park in the AL after pitching in the worst pitchers park in the AL (Texas) will drastically improve numbers.

WLL1855
02-29-2012, 11:26 PM
.... best K/BB ratio in As history.

Hi.

WhiteSox5187
02-29-2012, 11:38 PM
Damn, so keeping the ball down and throwing strikes is a Jamesian, sabermetric concept? Sounds like a simple 150 year old pitching philosophy to me -- and I'm not anti-sabermetrics at all.

Also, pitching in the best pitchers park in the AL after pitching in the worst pitchers park in the AL (Texas) will drastically improve numbers.

I am not a big Sabermetric guy but I am not anti-Sabermetrics either but a LOT of the stuff espoused by Sabermetricians is common baseball knowledge with a different name. The whole "runs saved" thing? That was just called good defense. And guys like Paul Richards were talking about stuff like OBP years before Bill James came about.

DSpivack
02-29-2012, 11:40 PM
Hi.

9 seasons in Oakland. 637 innings pitched in 525 games. Only 92 walks compared to 658 strikeouts. :o:

Daver
02-29-2012, 11:42 PM
I am not a big Sabermetric guy but I am not anti-Sabermetrics either but a LOT of the stuff espoused by Sabermetricians is common baseball knowledge with a different name. The whole "runs saved" thing? That was just called good defense. And guys like Paul Richards were talking about stuff like OBP years before Bill James came about.

The problem most have with it is trying to quantify something that can't be tracked with numbers, at that point it becomes meaningless. Range factor is a truly meaningless stat, because no two players will approach a play exactly alike, defense just can't be quantified, and yet no sabermetrician will admit to that.

doublem23
02-29-2012, 11:43 PM
Also, pitching in the best pitchers park in the AL after pitching in the worst pitchers park in the AL (Texas) will drastically improve numbers.

Yeah you really have to weigh the ballpark issue when you talk about pitchers in Oakland, there really is no comparably pro-pitcher park in the league. It's ridiculous. Very interested to see how Gio does in his new environment, although Nats Park is pretty favorable to pitchers, too, right? But his home/road splits since he's established himself in Oakland have been pretty alarming.

SephClone89
03-01-2012, 06:24 AM
Certainly an interesting article but honestly you don't need sabermetrics to know that if you can't throw hard you're likely to have more success inducing ground balls by keeping the ball low rather than trying to strike guys out.

Damn, so keeping the ball down and throwing strikes is a Jamesian, sabermetric concept? Sounds like a simple 150 year old pitching philosophy to me -- and I'm not anti-sabermetrics at all.


I am not a big Sabermetric guy but I am not anti-Sabermetrics either but a LOT of the stuff espoused by Sabermetricians is common baseball knowledge with a different name. The whole "runs saved" thing? That was just called good defense. And guys like Paul Richards were talking about stuff like OBP years before Bill James came about.

Here's the thing: just as often as sabermetrics subverts traditional baseball thinking, it confirms traditional baseball thinking. This is a good example of why. Taking common pieces of baseball wisdom and seeing if they hold up statistically, and if they're quantifiable. In the case of pitching, we've found that a lot of those numbers do confirm traditional approaches.

Of course "runs saved" is about "good defense." It's just saying, maybe sometimes we can't trust our eyes and need a more reliable and accurate statistic for it than fielding percentage/errors.

Also, pitching in the best pitchers park in the AL after pitching in the worst pitchers park in the AL (Texas) will drastically improve numbers.

You're right, of course. FIP, which was used in this article, doesn't take that into account. I believe xFIP does a bit, but I'm not sure. xFIP adjusts your home run to fly ball ratio to league average. So it doesn't totally neutralize park factor, but it makes a bit of a difference.

doublem23
03-01-2012, 08:29 AM
Range factor is a truly meaningless stat, because no two players will approach a play exactly alike, defense just can't be quantified, and yet no sabermetrician will admit to that.

Yeah but who cares how two different players approach a play? The only thing that matters is result. Range factor is still in its infancy, but it is likely going to be the only defensive metric of any value one day.

SephClone89
03-01-2012, 08:40 AM
The problem most have with it is trying to quantify something that can't be tracked with numbers, at that point it becomes meaningless. Range factor is a truly meaningless stat, because no two players will approach a play exactly alike, defense just can't be quantified, and yet no sabermetrician will admit to that.

Defense can absolutely be quantified, but a sabermetrician will be the first guy to tell you that it's very difficult to quantify.

Doesn't mean we/they shouldn't try.

asindc
03-01-2012, 09:23 AM
I am not a big Sabermetric guy but I am not anti-Sabermetrics either but a LOT of the stuff espoused by Sabermetricians is common baseball knowledge with a different name. The whole "runs saved" thing? That was just called good defense. And guys like Paul Richards were talking about stuff like OBP years before Bill James came about.

So was Branch Rickey.

asindc
03-01-2012, 09:27 AM
Yeah you really have to weigh the ballpark issue when you talk about pitchers in Oakland, there really is no comparably pro-pitcher park in the league. It's ridiculous. Very interested to see how Gio does in his new environment, although Nats Park is pretty favorable to pitchers, too, right? But his home/road splits since he's established himself in Oakland have been pretty alarming.

Nats Park is probably the most neutral park in the majors. I honestly don't see where either hitters or pitchers have room to complain about it. It will be interesting to see what Gio does there this year.

McCarthy is a good pitcher, but to state that he is among the best is an exaggeration.

SephClone89
03-01-2012, 09:55 AM
So was Branch Rickey.

Correct. (http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/btf/pages/essays/rickey/goodby_to_old_idea.htm)

It's pretty incredible how prescient this piece is. A lot of it sounds like it could have been written yesterday.

SI1020
03-01-2012, 10:17 AM
No one has a problem with this little bit of alchemy?

http://www.ehow.com/how_2288361_calculate-fip-statistic.html

Lip Man 1
03-01-2012, 11:29 AM
Brandon made a solid contribution in 2005 and I wish him well. If he has a good first half maybe he can get traded for a couple of players to be named later /draft picks. LOL.

Seriously maybe he can go to a team and get a shot for the postseason because it's not going to happen in Oakland for a long time.

Lip

voodoochile
03-01-2012, 11:39 AM
Check out his home away splits. You want a stat that tells a story, there it is. His away stats aren't bad, but certainly not ace material. He's had hot runs before, most notably after Nolan talked to him about using his legs more when he pitched for Texas before getting injured again for the umpteenth time. I wish him success, but he needs to do it for more than one season and do it both at home and on the road before he gets elevated to league elite.

TDog
03-01-2012, 12:01 PM
Correct. (http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/btf/pages/essays/rickey/goodby_to_old_idea.htm)

It's pretty incredible how prescient this piece is. A lot of it sounds like it could have been written yesterday.

At the same time, Branch Rickey was an excellent scout of baseball talent, and major league standards were different when he was alive.

If you are only going to judge hitters by their statistics, on-base percentage in isolation can be as deceptive as batting average in isolation. Rickey is coming from the perspective of a strong on-base percentage having a strong batting average at its base. You didn't have hitters with .200ish batting averages walking 100 times.

Ted Williams was proud of his walks, but in his Science of Hitting, he points out that hitting is about hitting pitches you can hit best, and walking is not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. The more he walked, the higher his batting average would be because he was limiting at bats where he had a lower percentage of hitting the ball well. On the cover of The Science of Hitting, Williams had the strike zone broken down into baseball-sized zones reflecting what his batting average would be for different locations. There were seasons where his on-base percentage was over .500, but his on-base percentage was more of a means to better hitting rather than his goal.

Today, everyone (most everyone, most notably Nick Swisher and Nick Swisher's father) regard 2008 as Nick Swisher's worst season and 2010 as his best. Yet, although recording almost 50 more plate appearances in 2010, he walked nearly 30 more times with the White Sox in 2008. His on-base percentage was almost 30 points higher in 2010 because his batting average was almost 60 points higher. And notably, although 2010 is regarded as the best offensive season of his career, is doesn't come close to ranking among his best seasons for on-base percentage.

In the end, hitting is about hitting and players, particularly slugging hitters as opposed to singles hitters, who walk a lot should have higher batting averages if they take more walks. Frank Thomas had a higher batting average because he walked as much as his did. But different players bring different attributes to the plate. If you're Joey Cora, who hit 30 career home runs, a walk is certainly as good as a hit, especially considering that he played most of his career hitting ahead of Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. at the top of their games. The fact that he walked more than 60 times in 1993 when he typically hit second ahead of the league's MVP is most impressive. But judging any player solely on his on-base percentage is faulty analysis.

Billy Beane make comments that indicated at the time he let Carlos Gonzalez go that, while not valuing speed, he didn't believe Gonzalez showed he would ever walk enough.

SI1020
03-01-2012, 01:46 PM
Hudson, Zito an Mulder didn't count. Are they even in the movie? OBP and the legendary Scott Hatteberg trumps all. A slow ponderous catcher/first baseman who is poor defensively? OBP baby. How dare anyone question the genius that is Billy Beane. Forget about that the A's dumped him after the 05 season and he was picked up by the Reds at about 1/3 the salary the genius was paying him and then old Scott proceeded to have a higher OBP in 06 and 07 than he ever did with the A's. Now Brandon McCarthy is more proof of sabr wisdom. He just had a good but not great year on the mound. His best ever. He added an effective pitch to his repertoire. I'll bet that helped a little.

SephClone89
03-01-2012, 02:26 PM
Hudson, Zito an Mulder didn't count. Are they even in the movie? OBP and the legendary Scott Hatteberg trumps all. A slow ponderous catcher/first baseman who is poor defensively? OBP baby. How dare anyone question the genius that is Billy Beane. Forget about that the A's dumped him after the 05 season and he was picked up by the Reds at about 1/3 the salary the genius was paying him and then old Scott proceeded to have a higher OBP in 06 and 07 than he ever did with the A's. Now Brandon McCarthy is more proof of sabr wisdom. He just had a good but not great year on the mound. His best ever. He added an effective pitch to his repertoire. I'll bet that helped a little.

What are you even talking about besides a general anti-Beane rant? Aside from the intro, Beane is hardly mentioned in the article.

MisterB
03-01-2012, 02:31 PM
To put it in medical terms: statistical analysis can produce a list of symptoms, but it doesn't give you a diagnosis and certainly doesn't give you a treatment.

doublem23
03-01-2012, 02:33 PM
What are you even talking about besides a general anti-Beane rant? Aside from the intro, Beane is hardly mentioned in the article.

Well, it is true that Billy Beane is probably one of the 3-4 worst GM's in baseball

voodoochile
03-01-2012, 02:46 PM
What are you even talking about besides a general anti-Beane rant? Aside from the intro, Beane is hardly mentioned in the article.

It's implied. Anytime you talk about Oakland and sabremetrics it's about Beane and his methods. I admit I didn't read the article, but mentioning Beane hardly at all is not the same as not at all.

SephClone89
03-01-2012, 02:51 PM
Well, it is true that Billy Beane is probably one of the 3-4 worst GM's in baseball

pWdd6_ZxX8c

It's implied. Anytime you talk about Oakland and sabremetrics it's about Beane and his methods. I admit I didn't read the article, but mentioning Beane hardly at all is not the same as not at all.

Okay, but the McCarthy narrative in this story has nothing to do with Beane. He finds saber stuff on his own, not from Billy Beane. It isn't at all implied that Beane had a hand in turning McCarthy's career around.

doublem23
03-01-2012, 03:14 PM
pWdd6_ZxX8c


You're right, how silly of me, I am discriminating against fans who prefer their team not strive to win anything ever

Bobby Thigpen
03-02-2012, 07:23 PM
You're right, how silly of me, I am discriminating against fans who prefer their team not strive to win anything ever
Beane has set himself up in a no lose situation in Oakland. Any success they may ever have, or be perceived to have is because of his revolutionary thinking. Any failures they have, it's because they're too small market and his hands are tied too much. It's really perfect if you're as much about improving your name and "theories" as you are about winning games.

Why do you think he hasn't moved on when bigger jobs have been available?

DSpivack
03-02-2012, 08:15 PM
Beane has set himself up in a no lose situation in Oakland. Any success they may ever have, or be perceived to have is because of his revolutionary thinking. Any failures they have, it's because they're too small market and his hands are tied too much. It's really perfect if you're as much about improving your name and "theories" as you are about winning games.

Why do you think he hasn't moved on when bigger jobs have been available?

The movie made that point clear with his flirting with and rejection of the Red Sox offer.

Irishsox1
03-05-2012, 10:14 AM
9 wins and 9 losses, 6-3 in Oakland and 3-6 on the road and 69 more innings than he's ever done before, he's a year removed from missing an entire season and ESPN labels him "One of the game's best pitchers". Huh?

He'll be lucky to win 12 games and stay off the DL.

SI1020
03-05-2012, 10:27 AM
9 wins and 9 losses, 6-3 in Oakland and 3-6 on the road and 69 more innings than he's ever done before, he's a year removed from missing an entire season and ESPN labels him "One of the game's best pitchers". Huh?

He'll be lucky to win 12 games and stay off the DL. It's the Brave New World of baseball. OBP yesterday, FIP today and who knows what tomorrow.

Oblong
03-05-2012, 11:49 AM
You know it's a really good baseball MB when you get the "old stats vs new stats" argument to pop up every few months.

Like Clemenza said, "it's alright... you gotta have one every once in while helps get rid of the bad blood.... "

SephClone89
03-05-2012, 12:23 PM
9 wins and 9 losses, 6-3 in Oakland and 3-6 on the road and 69 more innings than he's ever done before, he's a year removed from missing an entire season and ESPN labels him "One of the game's best pitchers". Huh?

He'll be lucky to win 12 games and stay off the DL.

Wins!

mzh
03-05-2012, 12:35 PM
Wins!
Fine, put it this way: His BABIP was 10 points lower at home, his FIP was almost 20 points lower at home, and his HR/FB rate was 20 points lower at home.

What do these stats show? Perhaps that he pitched in a ridiculously pitcher friendly park? The stats reveal all!

CPditka
03-05-2012, 01:31 PM
Saw the magazine this weekend at a friends house. Neat story, especially about he approached Bill James. But calling BMac one the games best pitchers is quite a stretch. That said, Im guessing the sold a few extra copies putting his wife on the cover with him.

TDog
03-05-2012, 01:51 PM
9 wins and 9 losses, 6-3 in Oakland and 3-6 on the road and 69 more innings than he's ever done before, he's a year removed from missing an entire season and ESPN labels him "One of the game's best pitchers". Huh?

He'll be lucky to win 12 games and stay off the DL.

McCarthy had the same win-loss record as Phil Humber, whose WHIP was only slightly higher. Humber's stats weren't quite as good, but Humber made as big a turnaround in his career without crediting sabermetrics. And oddly enough, Humber beat McCarthy in his start in Oakland, at a time when the White Sox weren't hitting a lick. McCarthy would have had a quality start, though, but for that four-run inning.

If you don't win games, your FIP is irrelevant. McCarthy wasn't a "tough luck" pitcher. He had some strong games. He pitched a shutout. He put up some good numbers, but he failed to go nine innings in any of his other complete games because they were road losses. The stats will increase his trade value. He could go to another team, but he won't help them win as many games as his FIP might lead some to believe.

SephClone89
03-05-2012, 02:26 PM
Fine, put it this way: His BABIP was 10 points lower at home, his FIP was almost 20 points lower at home, and his HR/FB rate was 20 points lower at home.

What do these stats show? Perhaps that he pitched in a ridiculously pitcher friendly park? The stats reveal all!

Yeah, the home/road splits have already been discussed in this thread.

Bobby Thigpen
03-05-2012, 05:01 PM
The movie made that point clear with his flirting with and rejection of the Red Sox offer.
Sorry. Haven't watched it and don't plan to.