Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 11, 2003
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year N.L. Central DIPS Report
Continuing on with Tuesday's theme, let's look at Defense-Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS) for the NL Central (stats through Tuesday's action), but again with a caveat: the rough DIPS formula seems to persistently produce higher DIPS ERAs for the NL as a whole than the league ERA. This split doesn't show up for the AL; for 2002, the NL DIPS ERA/ERA split is 4.37/4.10, but the AL split is 4.52/4.46. I assume this is because pitchers, when batting, put a far smaller number of well-hit balls in play, thus leading to fewer hits and many fewer doubles and triples than DHs (who's more likely to double when he puts the ball in play -- Edgar Martinez, or Al Leiter?). In short, they're dealing with a different selection of hitters.
I'm not an expert on statistical significance, but in general, a variance of less than about a half a run in this context means that the pitcher's performance is basically in line with his ERA. I'm less surprised by bigger variances for relief pitchers, since they work fewer innings, and (especially for non-closers) under conditions where their ERAs are often subject to the whims of other relievers.
The main news here is that Shawn Estes, owing to his stinginess with the longball, isn't quite as bad as his 5.51 ERA, and that Kerry Wood's problems with walks and homers mean they shouldn't go putting him on the cover of Sports Illustrated just yet (oh, wait . . . ).
The rest of the division, including one very big surprise:
The Cards' pitching has really been dismal behind Woody Williams and Matt Morris (and Morris himself has been pretty disappointing). The main revelation here is that Garret Stephenson's 4.30 ERA doesn't nearly reflect how badly he's pitched (19 homers, 47 walks and just 61 K in 113 innings; Stephenson has survived so far because he's allowed just 100 hits).
So, who's disappointed in Wade Miller? OK, 3.99 isn't perfect either, but for a pitcher at Minute Maid, not bad. Also, once again, one of the biggest gaps is a reliever pitching well (Dotel). The big story of the Astros staff, though, is that they're in the top half of the league in fewest HR allowed; Wednesday night, Robertson became the first pitcher on the staff to allow more than 10 home runs on the season.
Yes, the Reds' only two half-decent starters have been worse than they look; everybody stinks here. But the good news is that Dempster and Riedling shouldn't be as disastrous as they've been so far.
Yes, that would be the All-Star Mike Williams. The real long-term bad news for the Bucs, given their need to develop young arms, is how bad Lord Fogg has been, and that Kip Wells has been more lucky than good.
First of all, those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it -- and Ben Sheets' workload this season has had a real "Cal Eldred 1993" feel to it. Sheets is one of an unusual number of pitchers with nearly as many homers allowed (24) as walks (29). Challenge 'em?
But the big news here -- this will come as a shock to anybody who's watched the Brew Crew this season -- is that the team's best starter has been . . . Glendon Rusch???? Bad luck and bad defense has added nearly four runs to Rusch's ERA. Consider the record through Wednesday: 82.1 IP, 9 HR (0.98/9IP, not great, but not bad), 36 BB (3.94/9IP, more than you'd like from a control pitcher, but no wild man), 60 K (6.56/9IP, pretty good, actually). What's missing? 128 hits (13.99/9IP!). Some observers blame Rusch's approach with men on base (opposing hitters are batting .406 with a double every 10 at bats with men on base against Rusch this year vs. .313 with the bases empty; for 2000-02, the breakdown was a more modest .294 vs. .273), but it's hard to tell if that's a skill or a symptom of bad luck. It's true that, by this formula, his career DIPS ERA (through Wednesday) is now 4.37 compared to a career ERA of 5.20 in nearly 1000 career innings, suggesting that maybe something more than luck is at issue here. But I still think he's a guy worth taking a flyer on, for a team that's rebuilding. Back to Shea, perhaps?