Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | March 27, 2010

Tigers Hitters….Expressed As Pitchers?

Fairly frequently I am influenced by the blogs of others to come up with ideas for my own blog. Usually my ideas come from some tangent on the original blog post, or a discussion that breaks out in the comments section. In the few months that I have been doing this one, there has not been an occasion where the actual main topic of another blog has inspired my own post. Today, for the first time, I’m essentially lifting an idea for my own blog directly from another one, because I think it’s fun and interesting. Although I’ve obviously added a twist to narrow it to my own interests.

I was reading The Hardball Times and Geoff Young — Himself lifting an idea from the 1987 Bill James Baseball Abstract — Had an excellent article about “inverted records”. Essentially the idea behind the inverted record is that you could “convert” a hitter’s batting line into a roughly equivalent pitching line, such that you can express what the pitching line would look like of a pitcher who faced only this batter all year long.

Below I’ll quote from Geoff’s article to show the methodology:

 

On page 186 of The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1987, he introduced something called “Inverted Records,” which attempted to represent a hitter’s output as a pitching line. Why? Well, why not?

James conducted his exercise on the 1986 Cleveland Indians and extended it to include several other prominent players of the day. His method was simple:

Start with a player’s hits, walks, and strikeouts.

For runs, use runs created

For earned runs, multiply runs by .9.

James had a way to calculate wins and losses based on the Pythagorean theorem, but that seemed like too much effort so I didn’t bother. He also included games, complete games, and shutouts based on… something in a black box, I don’t know. I didn’t find those compelling enough to figure out either.

James didn’t explicitly state how to calculate innings, but I’m assuming it’s outs divided by three. That’s what I did, anyway.

Let’s walk through a quick example. We’ll use one of my favorite players,

Adrian Gonzalez

, and translate his 2009 hitting stats into a pitching line.

First we take the necessary inputs:

Outs RC H BB SO

428 124 153 119 109

And turn it into this:

IP H R ER BB SO ERA SO/9

142.2 153 124 112 119 109 7.07 6.88

 

And that is essentially how you do it.

Later in his post, Geoff then went on to take random hitters — Starting with Gonzalez — And compare their “pitching numbers” to the actual lines of real life pitchers in order to find close matches. He found, for example, that Gonzalez’s season in ‘09 almost completely matched Jason Bere’s 1995. Intrigued by this concept, I was motivated to find out exactly what a pitching staff that faced the 2010 Tigers would look like. Or, more accurately, I took the ‘09 numbers of all of the players on the 2010 team and ran them, and then went through the process of finding a pitching season that was a close match to those numbers. I only used pitching seasons from 1985 on, not because of any real specific reason other than I wanted to include names that I was personally familiar with, or increase the odds that I would. I may have been able to get more accurate matches by using the whole of history, but it is a less fun exercise for me to know that a certain Tiger may have hit roughly equally to the way a pitcher on the 1924 St. Louis Browns pitched than it is for me to know that they hit roughly equally to the way that Mike Myers pitched in 1997.

Running the calculations and then sifting through all the seasons was a painstaking (but fun) process, but when it was all over I was able to compile a staff of 15 pitchers that corresponds with 15 players likely to see time in Detroit in 2010. For Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson, who have never played in the Majors, I just used their minor league numbers from last year and came up with an equivalent Major League pitching season — So the accuracy on their matches is suspect. I did my best to find totally equivalent matches, though in some cases there were categories that were far off. I specifically tried to match innings and WHIP at the highest priority, followed by ERA, walk rate, and strikeout rate in order to get the best matches.

So would you look to see the staff that would face the 2010 Tigers, at least if their numbers were to remain the same from 2009 to 2010? Try taking a stab at which pitcher represents which hitter (I’ll reveal the answers in a blog post sometime in the next two or three days):

 

 
GP

 

W

 

L

 

ERA

 

IP

 

WHIP

 

K/9

 

BB/9

 

Mark Prior

 

27

 

11

 

7

 

3.67

 

166.2

 

1.21

 

10.2

 

3.2

 

Jeff Fassero

 

37

 

5

 

14

 

7.20

 

156.1

 

1.86

 

6.6

 

4.8

 

Juan Guzman

 

24

 

4

 

14

 

6.32

 

135.1

 

1.66

 

6.3

 

4.9

 

Tom Bolton

 

25

 

8

 

9

 

5.24

 

110

 

1.70

 

5.2

 

4.2

 

Rick Aguilera

 

65

 

4

 

3

 

3.11

 

72.1

 

1.02

 

7.3

 

1.7

 

Rusty Meachem

 

64

 

10

 

4

 

2.74

 

101.2

 

1.07

 

5.7

 

1.9

 

Rich DeLucia

 

61

 

2

 

6

 

4.27

 

71.2

 

1.42

 

9.2

 

5.8

 

Scott Williamson

 

66

 

5

 

4

 

4.16

 

62.2

 

1.40

 

10.6

 

4.9

 

Dustin Nippert

 

20

 

3

 

5

 

6.40

 

71.2

 

1.80

 

6.9

 

4.6

 

Greg Aquino

 

42

 

2

 

0

 

4.47

 

48.1

 

1.61

 

9.5

 

4.5

 

Bob Patterson

 

54

 

4

 

3

 

4.11

 

65.2

 

1.25

 

7.8

 

2.1

 

Mike Myers

 

88

 

0

 

4

 

5.70

 

53.2

 

1.55

 

8.4

 

4.2

 

Francisco Oliveras

 

16

 

0

 

3

 

3.63

 

44.2

 

1.14

 

3.4

 

2.0

 

Jae Kuk Ryu

 

10

 

0

 

1

 

8.40

 

15

 

1.93

 

10.2

 

3.6

 

Scott Feldman

 

36

 

0

 

2

 

3.92

 

41.1

 

1.26

 

6.5

 

2.2

 

 

The seasons for each of these pitchers are as follows:

Mark Prior, 2005

Jeff Fassero, 1999

Juan Guzman, 1995

Tom Bolton, 1991

Rick Aguilera, 1993

Rusty Meachem, 1992

Rich DeLucia, 1998

Scott Williamson, 2003

Dustin Nippert, 2008

Greg Aquino, 2006

Bob Patterson, 1991

Mike Myers, 1997

Francisco Oliveras, 1992

Jae Kuk Ryu, 2006

Scott Feldman, 2006

 

Try it for your favorite hitters. It’s a fun little exercise!

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Responses

  1. Well, I think Magglio will have a slightly better year than he did last year, and I think Miguel Cabrera is the most likely A.L. player to win a Triple Crown some day. And Johhny Damon will be beneficial to have in the lead-off spot. So I think there is some potential there. The real story will come down to the pitching staff, though. Your welcome! Bill

  2. I’m saving my “big” Tigers post/analysis until right on the eve of the season, but I will say that doing this exercise certainly made the offense look better than I personally give it credit for as of this date. Granted, two of the above pitchers are for players who have yet to take a MLB at-bat, and if either of them struggle or outright fail then they would be replaced by better pitchers.

    Having said that, that pitching staff that I posted doesn’t look threatening to me. If I were told that the 2010 Tigers would have to face that staff every day for 162 games, I’d be okay with that. Part of it is that it excludes pitchers who have thrown a ton of innings — Most MLB hitters don’t make more than approximately 450 outs per year, which equates to 150 innings — But if there were pitchers with big innings totals that had more matching results I’d have used them.

    This didn’t sway my opinion entirely — That the offense has good potential but is generally below-average — But it did make me say “Maybe its not all THAT bad”.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. So, in the final analysis, were you impressed with what the Tigers have to offer their fans in 2010, or were you horrified? I like the basic concept, and I think I’ll give it a try. Interesting post, Bill


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