Baseball Prospectus Creates Most Advanced Pitching Metric Ever, How Do Cubs Stack Up?
It seems like just last night I was writing about how much I appreciate those brilliant minds that are able to reverse-engineer statistical measurements to more accurately define what we see on the baseball diamond. Well, the good folks at BP are ahead of the curve when it comes to this sort of ingenuity and they’ve done it again with Deserved Run Average (DRA).
Most people are familiar with ERA, the ubiquitous measure of a pitchers earned runs allowed per 9 innings. But that stat gets a little clunky in that it can really factor in situational elements of the game and it’s also lumping defensive capabilities into the mix. Enter FIP and xFIP, which seek to pare a pitcher’s effectiveness down to what he himself can control.
Ah, but people much smarter than me determined that even those advanced measures were not enough. Hence, the development of DRA, which “controls for the context in which each event of a game occurred, thereby allowing a more accurate prediction of pitcher responsibility, particularly in smaller samples.”
Okay, you’ve got my attention. Go on.
DRA goes well beyond strikeouts, walks, hit batsman, and home runs, and considers all available batting events. As such, DRA allows us to declare how many runs a pitcher truly deserved to give up, and to say so with more confidence than ever before.
DRA does a very good job of measuring a pitcher’s actual responsibility for the runs that scored while he was on the mound—certainly better than any metric we are aware of in the public domain. And only DRA gives you the assurance that a pitcher’s performance is actually being considered in the context of the batter, catcher, runners on base, as well as the stadium and stadium environment in which the baseball game occurred.
I like what you’ve done here, BP. If you’d like to really wrap your brain around an explanation of what DRA is and how these geniuses (and I think even Harry Pavlidis helped, probably by keeping the coffee topped off) developed a brand-new metric, click here. Fair warning: it’s neither short or simple.
In case you just want the quick-and-dirty version — and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t? — see below for an abbreviate list of the steps they took.
Step 1a: Cut a hole in a box.
Step 1b: Compile the individual value of all baseball batting events in a season.
Step 2: Adjust each batting event for its context.
Step 3: Account for base-stealing activity.
Step 4: Account for Passed Balls/Wild Pitches.
Step 5: Calculate DRA (Deserved Run Average).
Sounds easy enough, right? Okay, not really. I mean, it sounds cool and all and I appreciate all the work these guys put into it, but I don’t really care how an internal combustion engine actually works, as long as when I push down on the gas pedal my car drives as it’s supposed to. In other words, most of us will only care about this as long as it accurately measures true pitcher performance.
To that end, BP tells us that “DRA is consistently superior to FIP at all sample sizes. By accounting for the context in which the pitcher is throwing, DRA allows us to determine which runs are most fairly blamed on the pitcher. DRA is particularly effective with smaller samples. Even for pitchers with only a few batters faced, DRA is already separating the good pitchers from the bad with superior accuracy.”
And since no explanation of a statistical measurement would be complete without a few requisite caveats, BP has a few of those for us. First, keep it simple; they’ve got leaderboards for this stuff so there’s no need to figure it out on your own. Second, this is a measure of past performance and is not predictive.
Furthermore, DRA is now the foundation for Pitcher Wins Above Replacement (PWARP), which illustrates how many wins a pitcher has been worth in a given season. It’s too early to make much of PWARP figures just yet, but since when has that stopped me?
As far as the Cubs go, Jake Arrieta sits atop the pile with a .58 PWARP (3.22 DRA), good for 24th in the majors. Travis Wood is next on the list and 53rd overall with .43 (3.51 DRA), while Jason Hammel’s .37 (3.79) puts him at 62nd. Kyle Hendricks is 129 in MLB with .15 (4.39). Not bad for your 2-5 guys, really. But what about the ace?
Jon Lester sits a ways down on the list; his -.15 PWARP (5.52 DRA) ranks 416th, just above Al Alburquerque. But remember, these are indicators of past production; history and some more predictive stats tell us Lester is primed to turn things around soon.
And I’d say facing a team like the Brewers is a great way to lower the number of deserved runs being attributed to you.