Looking Backwards at Relief Pitching

I wonder if Justin Miller minds being the guinea pig today…

Justin Miller, former Blue Jay starter and Marlin reliever, just got signed by Los Angeles after what looks like a pretty decent season in San Francisco.  Miller had a 3 – 3 record as a middle reliever with a 3.18 ERA.  Allowing that it’s hard to get a reading on how good a pitcher is in just 56.2 innings (facing all of 236 batters), I wondered if we could do more than just look at his basic numbers.  (His basics, other than ERA and hits allowed, aren’t that good – he walked a few too many guys, gave up seven homers, and doesn’t strikeout too many people.)  Anyway, I noticed that Retrosheet.org includes more details of the types of hits that Miller allowed during the season – doubles, triples, and homers.

So, what I decided to do was treat Miller’s stats as we would a hitter.  Plug in the hits, total bases, and what not – come up with a Runs Created value and then use THAT as the runs allowed rather than his actual runs allowed number.

Miller allowed 20 runs in his 56.2 innings, but once you factor in the seven doubles, three triples, and seven homers (a little high for him lately), the runs created value is 26 runs.  So, had Miller been credited with the 26 runs allowed, his 3.18 ERA becomes 4.13.  That’s much closer to the league average, and probably a more realistic appraisal of how good a pitcher Miller was last year.

So, I decided to do the same thing for the ten pitchers on the Giants who logged the most innings other than Miller.

Pitcher Inn Runs ER RC ERA RC ERA
Tim Lincecum 225.1 69 62 63 2.48 2.24
Matt Cain 217.2 73 70 88 2.89 3.51
Barry Zito 192 89 86 91 4.03 4.13
Jonathan Sanchez 163.1 82 77 105 4.24 5.51
Randy Johnson 96 55 52 59 4.88 5.25
Brian Wilson 72.1 27 22 24 2.74 2.36
Brandon Medders 68.2 26 23 31 3.01 3.67
Bob Howry 63.2 26 24 23 3.39 2.97
Jeremy Affelt 62.1 14 12 18 1.73 2.31
Merkin Valdez 49.1 33 31 31 5.66 5.29

What this suggests is that for the starters, Matt Cain got a little more help from his bullpen and the configuration of the hits allowed and I wouldn’t necessarily bet on Cain to match his ERA from 2009 next season.  The same would go for Jonathan Sanchez (avoid him in your fantasy draft!) or Jeremy Affeldt – not that an ERA of 2.31 would be a problem.  However, for closer Brian Wilson and set up man Bob Howry, the ERA listed for each is legit – his ERA is a valid indicator of his pitching skill.  And to think Tim Lincecum is actually BETTER than his stats – unreal.

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