Opening Day Starters

Here’s one I just posted to High Heat Stats.

Throughout the winter months, High Heat Stats, like Replacement Level, has been primarily devoted to history. We’ve dissected Hall of Fame cases, debated the relative merits of Circle of Greats candidates, and mulled over the value of the stats we use to measure value. With meaningful baseball on the docket for tomorrow (or today, as I’m posting this after midnight), let’s get back to the present.

Thirty men will take the mound in their teams’ first tilts of 2013, each representing said team’s greatest hope. Someday we’ll dissect the Hall cases of eight to twelve of these guys, making sure to properly adjust for parks and eras and defenses. But tomorrow is not about objective analysis and advanced metrics- it’s about baseball. Let’s celebrate by slicing and dicing the 30 opening day starters by their rankings in a few categories, some more meaningful than others.

Best ERA, 2012

1. Clayton Kershaw, 2.53
2. David Price, 2.56
3. Brett Anderson, 2.57
30. Justin Masterson, 4.93

Perhaps not the three most pitcher-friendly ballparks, but…

Best ERA, career

1. Brett Anderson, 2.72
2. Clayton Kershaw, 2.79
3. Stephen Strasburg, 2.82
30. Jason Hammel, 4.78

Which of these guys pitched in Colorado for a while? And how many of them have thrown 1,000 career innings?

Best FIP, 2012

1. Brett Anderson, 2.72
2. Stephen Strasburg, 2.82
3. Felix Hernandez, 2.84
30. Jhoulys Chacin, 5.15

Interesting that both Anderson’s and Strasburg’s 2012 FIPs equaled their career ERAs.

Best FIP, career

1. Stephen Strasburg, 2.47
2. Clayton Kershaw, 3.01
3. Chris Sale, 3.19
30. Edinson Volquez, 4.39

This Strasburg guy is pretty good. Wonder why I don’t see his name on last year’s postseason roster.

Most innings pitched, 2012

1. Justin Verlander, 238 1/3
2. R.A. Dickey, 233 2/3
3. Felix Hernandez, 232
30. Brett Anderson, 35

First time we’ve seen any of the three names at the top of this list. I have a feeling we’ll see them again.

Most innings pitched, career

1. Tim Hudson, 2,682 1/3
2. C.C. Sabathia, 2,546 1/3
3. A.J. Burnett, 2,162 2/
30. Stephen Strasburg, 251 1/3

Tim Hudson is the longest-tenured ace on any staff. I feel old.

Best strikeout to walk ratio, 2012

1. C.C. Sabathia, 4.48
2. R.A. Dickey, 4.26
3. Cole Hamels, 4.15
30. Jhoulys Chacin, 1.41

What’s more surprising- that a knuckleballer is second in this category, or that the top two both go by initials? S.J. Strasburg and F.A. Hernandez were fourth and fifth in this category, respectively.

Best strikeout to walk ratio, career

Stephen Strasburg, 4.67
Cole Hamels, 3.80
James Shields, 3.68
30. Edinson Volquez, 1.76

You know who’s good at this category? The Phillies.

Fewest home runs allowed per nine innings, 2012

Brett Anderson, 0.26
Felix Hernandez, 0.54
Tim Hudson, 0.60
30. Jhoulys Chacin, 1.30

Lessons learned from this list, the other component of FIP: sample size matters. So do ballparks.

Fewest home runs allowed per nine innings, career

1. Clayton Kershaw, 0.59
2. Adam Wainwright, 0.66
3. Tim Hudson, 0.70
30. Bud Norris, 1.18

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Houston Astros. Might want to keep Bud out of Arlington.

Highest ground ball percentage, 2012

1. Brett Anderson, 54.0%
2. A.J. Burnett, 56.9%
3. Justin Masterson, 55.7%
30. Jered Weaver, 36.0%

Ground balls don’t turn into home runs very often, but they do become hits. Masterson can attest to that.

Highest ground ball percentage, career

1. Tim Hudson, 58.7%
2. Justin Masterson, 56.0%
3. Felix Hernandez, 54.5%
30. Jered Weaver, 33.5%

Probably best for the Rangers and Yankees to steer clear of Weaver next time he’s a free agent.

Best ERA+, 2012

1. Justin Verlander, 160
2. Brett Anderson, 156
3. Johnny Cueto, 152
30. Justin Masterson, 79

Trying to keep this trivial, but I’ll throw in a few park-adjusted numbers, just to remind us all how fortunate we are to get to watch Justin Verlander.

Best ERA+, career

1. Chris Sale, 150
2. Clayton Kershaw, 138
3. Stephen Strasburg, 135
30. Bud Norris, 89

Those three guys are young, but none of them has ever been anything but dominant at the Major League level.

Most WAR, per fangraphs, 2012

1. Justin Verlander, 7.0
2. Felix Hernandez, 5.9
3. Clayton Kershaw, 5.4
30. Jhoulys Chacin. 0.5

This exercise wasn’t about listing the best active pitchers in baseball, but this list is not a bad start.

Most WAR, per fangraphs, career

1. C.C. Sabathia, 58.7
2. Tim Hudson, 46.8
3. Justin Verlander, 38.7
30. Jeff Samardzija, 3.2

…and the guy at the top of the list is younger than I am.

Most WAR, per baseball-reference, 2012

1. Justin Verlander, 7.7
2. David Price, 6.9
3. Clayton Kershaw, 6.2
30. Justin Masterson, 0.3

B-r was more impressed with Price’s .285 BABiP and 81.1% strand rate than fangraphs was.

Most WAR, per baseball-reference, career

1. Tim Hudson, 54.4
2. C.C. Sabathia, 54.1
3. Justin Verlander, 36.0
30. Jeff Samardzija, 2.0

Their replacement levels are unified; their assessments of Tim Hudson are not.

Happy baseball season, everyone!

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