Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Before we embroil everyone in charts and numbers, let's ask one question that doesn't seem to have been asked anywhere in the light of the R.A. Dickey trade:

Here's the proper order of finish for the NL Cy Young according to QMAX...
--Has any other Cy Young winner been traded over the off-season of the year in which he won the award??

We'll let you think about that as we run through the final Quality Matrix (QMAX) data for top vote-getters in the 2012 NL Cy Young Award voting.

We don't recall hearing a lot of noise in the little world of baseball numberologists about the CYA matchup between Dickey and Clayton Kershaw: a couple of years back, it was terribly important that King Felix win the AL Cy--apparently it represented some kind of epistemological breakthrough or something.

...Or something. Kershaw, who won the CYA in 2011, wound up with better numbers than Dickey in every statistical location except two--wins and winning percentage. (It should be noted that one of our long-time faves, Gio Gonzalez, wound up with the most wins, with 21).

But he finished second in the voting, and somehow the world didn't spin off its axis. Well, hell, it's time for us to emulate our "betters" and get uptight, whiny, and intransigent--if only as an hommage to those who apparently shot their wad back in 2010 (or did they just get too caught up in Trout v. Cabrera to "get it up for love"?).

QMAX charts and summary data for the top five finishers are festooned here in the usual places. If you are congenitally forgetful of QMAX (as is pretty much the case for those in the post-DIPS diaspora of highly complex oversimplification...), here's a quick reminder of what this is all about. Hit and walk prevention are placed on a two-dimensional grid; every game gets a grade ("S," for "stuff," measures the hit prevention component; "C," for "command," measures the walk prevention component... "S" has for the past decade added the impact of extra-base hits, the original sore point against the method.) These are added up, averaged, and each game has a probabilistic winning percentage assigned to it based on the actual results over a running five-year period.

The best games (the 1,1 slot on the chart at top left)--produce team wins just under 85% of the time, while the worst games (the 7,7 slot at the bottom right)--produce team wins in just over 12% of the time. When all the math is done, we have the "QMAX Winning Percentage" or QWP, which in our opinion remains the best, most reliable measure of starting pitcher quality out there today.

There are "regions" on the chart (you'll see six) which measure various "shape" and "value" components of performance. QMAX is one of the very few stat measures that manages to measure both. The "success square" is in green (yes, we know it's not a square...); the numbers for it include the interior yellow square (yes, we know that it is a square!) where the very best games are found (we call it the "elite square"). The orange region displays games where the pitcher is "hit hard"--the average number of these games has dropped in the past couple of years, from a high of 36% in 2000 to just over 28% last year.

Oh, yes: like ERA, the "raw" QMAX numbers (the S, C, T data) are better when they're lower.

When we look at the QMAX range data in the above chart (the nine stats at the left...) we see that Kershaw is the leader in the three most important QMAX range stats--success square, elite square, and games in the top hit prevention region (S12). He's also close to the lead in avoiding "hit hard" games (15%, only a bit behind Gonzalez).

When QMAX adds it all up, it's clear that Kershaw was the best starting pitcher in the NL during 2012. Sure, he was better in 2011, when he won the Cy, but we're not in "what have you done for me lately" territory here. Dickey had a fine year and was a great story with his new, hard-edged, "Mount Kilimanjaro" knuckler, but QMAX sez he was #2.

C'mon--get outraged already!! Or are you just waiting for the Hall of Fame results before it's "appropriate" to behave badly??

Answer to the question at the top: Dickey is not the first CYA winner to get traded over the off-season. (Greg Maddux changed teams, but he was a free agent after winning for the Cubs in 1992.)

David Cone: happy to escape the oncoming, seemingly never-ending
slice'n'dice of the "terrible swift sword" as it made mincemeat
of a once-proud, progressive Kansas City Royals franchise...
No, the other pitcher traded after Cy was David Cone, who was sent packing to Toronto just before the start of the 1995 season by the Kansas City Royals. The Royals were apparently annoyed with Cone's visibility during the 1994 player strike. Their "reward" for such transparent retribution has been akin to the "terrible swift sword" scenario which was referenced in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but really goes back to the dawn of civilization: since 1995, the Royals have the worst won-loss record in baseball (.425, 1230-1664).

Look out, Mets!!!