In the past few days, reader Bill Ferguson and I have been discussing the finer aspects of APBA’s methods of grading pitchers via email. It’s been very interesting and we thought we would share some snippets of our conversation to open it up to the larger community since I know there are others who share similar feelings when it comes to pitchers’ grades.
Bill initially wrote me:
I think [APBA] has done a poor job of pitcher ratings relative to the batter cards. You’re basically, giving one rating to the pitchers based upon ERA whereas it should be based upon hits/ip.
ERA is a product of fielding ability of the players behind the pitcher – double play frequency, arms in the outfield, etc, the frequency of walks, the likelihood that a reliever will close down the offense stranding runners left on base by the pitcher or letting them score.
So what I do is assign a pitcher a rating that is purely a reflection of his hits/ip and that rating is used whenever starts and inning until he gives up a hit, a walk or an hit batter. Then he uses his APBA rating. So I get a mixture which should reflect the best of both worlds. For this purpose I assume an average pitcher will get an 8 rating.
I don’t necessarily disagree with you and I know a few people who feel strongly that APBA should base grades on the pitchers’ actual performance such as hits and walks given up and not on stats which are the possible result of his performance (like ERA) or stats that are dependent on external factors (like wins).
That said, ERA is simple and easy for everyone to understand. Not every baseball fan wants to bother with h/ip. I know it sounds simple but quite honestly, if you poll your casual baseball fan, most probably won’t know what is a good WHIP and was isn’t.
Again, I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m just looking at it from APBA’s point of view.
But that is the beauty of APBA. If we don’t like a system, we can modify it. What is the system you use? How do you rate the pitchers?
I understand (and somewhat agree) with your point about simplicity. However, for someone to play the master game of APBA, he’d have to be more of a student of the game. He’d have to be a detailed person. It’s that point of view that I base my idea. Put in the simplest of terms, Boggs of StL has a 17 rating. Motte has a 14 rating. If you look at their relative hits/ip you’ll see Motte is significantly better than Boggs. This is just one example. I could name several (if not hundreds) of examples. The only reason Boggs has a higher rating is ERA. Motte’s ERA was so great because he had a tendency to give up the home run ball. That justifies is L rating. But the L rating itself and the fact that Motte had nobody to clean up after him caused his ERA to be higher than Boggs. Was Boggs that much a better pitcher? I doubt. If (and when) Boggs got into trouble he more or less got bailed out by Freeman or Rzepcysnski.
You might say why all the fuss? It’s just a game. Well, here’s the fuss. Do you then use Boggs rather than Motte to be the closer? Is Wainwright truly just a low C grade pitcher whereas Lynn is a solid B? Lynn’s hits/ip were 8.6; Wainwright 8.9. This hardly justifies the difference in rating from 6 to 11. That’s a little more than 30 points in batting average.
The real reason for my concern is there is just a sense of despair when one team has nothing but D rated starters (for the most part) and plethora of B or A rated relievers. If the relievers were all that good they’d be making more money and learning to start rather than relieve. The problem is many of the starters have their ERAs inflated because a reliever didn’t shut down the offense when the starter left men on base.
Bottom line is this. Variety. Batters are rated for walks, Ks, homers, doubles, singles, DPs, etc etc. Pitchers have two really useful rating – the basic grade and the Z rating. X,Y,Ks are now become valuable to eliminate sacrifice flies but, even still, that only 3 ratings. My second grade for all pitchers adds some variety and closes the gap between the undergraded pitchers and the overgraded pitchers, which is a lot closer (except for Verlander and people like that) to real life.
Here is the chart Bill uses:
Bill’s notes on his chart:
The reason for the "drop" between 11-13 and 6-10 is the fact that on Bases Empty on the APBA board there’s a 60 point drop in batting average as we exclude #9 from being a hit. Each batter has two 9s so that about 60 points on the BA using about 30 to 31 ABs.
As I noted above, I do sympathize with Bill and know he’s not the only APBA fan who feels that pitchers’ grades should not be based on ERA or wins. We’ve broached this topic before, I believe. The ERA statistic while useful, is not truly reflective of a pitcher’s effectiveness but rather one of the symptoms of his performance. Unfortunately, other factors play into it as well like Bill says. Wins, are even more dependent on other factors.
Like I told Bill, I can’t fault APBA for using ERA as the grading method. Like it or not, it’s the standard MLB and the sports media uses to judge the pitchers (though they are catching up in recent years). If APBA wants to appeal to a wide audience (i.e. the casual fan or the young fans), they must use the current standards in place.
This may not be the place to bring this up but APBA’s method of assigning control letters (Zs, Ws and ZZs) by using walks per batters faced instead of per 9 innings pitched seems quite advanced compared to the grading system… sometimes to my frustration :)
And again, this is one the most appreciable aspects of the game of APBA. It is very customizable and open to modifications. Don’t think that fact is beyond CEO John Herson. In fact, he probably counts on it. Not only does he appreciate the innovation within the APBA community, my guess it that it helps him in future development of the game.
Thanks to Bill for spurring this discussion and sharing his chart. I’d like to hear from others who either agree or think that the grading system is fine the way it is. Me? I don’t really think it’s ‘broken’ but but am always looking for ways to improve it.