Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Here's Jered Weaver and he's 15-1. His ERA is 2.13. He's got to be way out in front in the AL Cy Young race, n'est-ce pas?

To his credit, our semi-occasional whipping boy (and let's face it, who isn't in that category--at least according to some who are actually in that category...) EPSN's David Schoenfield has seen through that gaudy won-loss record and suggests that last year's CYA-MVP winner Justin Verlander is just about as worthy of consideration despite a 12-7 record.

Dave is using WAR, of course, to come to that conclusion. Around here, we retain some semblance of pride of invention in the Quality Matrix (QMAX), the great "probabilistic schmeer" method for determining starting pitcher performance. Each start is ranked in a 7 x 7 performance grid and the data tells us a bunch of things that no other method is capable of doing. It's part of that "value/shape" debate that separates the increasingly virulent strains of post-meta-neo "baseball boskage" (a phrase not invented by either Eric Walker or Walt Davis!).

So now we have a bunch of QMAX matrix boxes--seven in all, which show the distribution of starts for some of the current AL leaders in adjusted ERA (ERA+).

These are interesting to look at simply for the differing patterns they embody, but they don't get to the bottom line as fast as some of you out there tend to expect.

Those seven pitchers are: Weaver, Verlander, David Price, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez (damn, still wish that King Felix had gone 12-13 in '10 just so we could have found out if the BBWAA would give a CYA to a pitcher with more losses than wins...), Scott Diamond (who?), and Matt Harrison.

(At the end of the year we'll post a more exhaustive look at AL starting pitchers when it comes time to weigh in on the actual, final CYA.)

What these charts show us--without needing to go to the "bottom line"--is the difference in dominance level that Weaver and Verlander have compared to the rest of these guys. These two are getting in the "1S" range more than anyone. That fact will be duly reflected in the QMAX range data and in the system's summary stat, the QMAX Winning Percentage (QWP).

The boxes (and the summary data) make it pretty clear that Chris Sale is currently staying within shouting distance of Weaver and Verlander. And David Price is having his best season yet.

Not so for the other guys, though. Felix has had a lot more "hit hard" games than usual this year, though he's been on a tear of late. Diamond is an extreme finesse pitcher, the new king of the "Tommy John" region of this chart (nearly half of his starts are in that box at the lower left, where high hits/low walks reside, allowing for odds-defying success).

Harrison is a little less constrained by the lack of stuff that defines Diamond; he can actually live in the region of the QMAX "S" range (3-4-5) where he can be successful. But guys like this don't usually do this for a dozen or so years--they tend to hit a bump in the road.

At this moment in time, Weaver is a bit ahead of Verlander according to QMAX. Justin is a bit off his 2011 pace (he wound up with a .735 QWP last year en route to his double win), but the "raw" QMAX data has him slightly ahead.

If we were going to be a betting man (and that's one of the reasons why we've never returned to Vegas after our long internment there...), we'd figure that Justin will wind up with the best numbers at season's end. Best, that is, except for the won-loss record. Even in our so-called "new era" for CYA voting, he's going to need to close things out with a string of wins, and he's gonna need Jered to start losing a few. (And maybe more than a few, in fact.) As we often like to say at this time...