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Starting Pitching: Stats & Anti-Stats

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The starting pitchers in 2017 for the Arizona Diamondbacks have been amazing. But just how amazing have they been compared to other staffs in franchise history, and why the success?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2016 season, expectations were sky high. We just signed a $206 Million dollar ace and traded for another all-star pitcher and they were supposed to lead a young staff (and young team) to the promise land. Our dreams were quickly punched in the eye socket by the time game 1 was in the books. A.J. Pollock went down with a nasty elbow injury and was likely going to miss the entire season, and our shiny new toy just laid an egg on opening day. From there, expectations were continually tempered the rest of the year.

After such a tough year, many people were cautious coming into 2017. How much could we expect from a team that went 69-93 last year, where Greinke had an ERA over 4.00 and we traded away Jean Segura who was our best hitter? Not a lot, and rightfully so. But what we forget in this inundated era of numbers and predictions, is that there is often far more for information than we can conceivably calculate. I often times find it comical that statisticians of any measure think that they are able to provide information sufficient to predict what will happen with any level of certainty. Yes, per the numbers in the past, we can tell how likely something is to occur on a general scale. But how can we possibly ever know or calculate all of the factors that determine these statistics that we all love?

How could we have known that Shelby Miller was going to look so darn good before going down with a UCL tear? How can we pretend to know that because Zack Greinke is 33 and coming off of a down year he must be on a steep decline? All we have are results. We cannot account for the situations or circumstances that cause a player to excel or fail. It may be as simple as the management prior was forcing pitchers to pitch a certain way, or it could be as small as one of the pitchers has a new girlfriend and found some new level of confidence. Obviously, that last analogy was an egregious attempt at hyperbole, but the point remains the same. Many things contribute to the successes and failures of players, many of which are, and will remain, unknown.

Tonight I was inspired to write this article because of Robbie’s amazing performance, and what it meant to a team on a personal level. I will dive into some fun stats here in a minute, but take a moment and consider that this team was fresh in the middle of a three game losing streak when Robbie took the hill yesterday. Sure his shutout was a great performance that will go into the books as a nine inning win with 10 strikeouts, but it meant far more to the Dbacks than just a win. With his start, Ray said “Don’t worry boys, I’ve got your back. The losing stops here”.

Ray’s start has accentuated how well our starting staff has done to start the year, and how well they have weathered the storm when issues arise. A few years ago I wrote about an exercise that I did where I took the five starters with the most starts every year for the Dbacks and compiled their bWAR to see how well our “starting five” has done each and every year. What is really amazing is how well our staff is doing this year.

After last night, Ray has been worth an astonishing 2.8 bWAR and the others are not far behind him. Below are the “starting five” stats for this year.

Starters.csv

Name W L ERA IP K WHIP bWAR
Name W L ERA IP K WHIP bWAR
Zack Greinke 6 3 3.24 72.1 84 0.99 2.6
Robbie Ray 5 3 3.00 69.0 84 1.10 2.8
Zack Godley 1 1 1.99 31.2 26 1.04 1.8
Taijuan Walker 4 3 3.46 52.0 46 1.29 1.6
Patrick Corbin 4 5 5.14 61.2 50 1.55 0.3
TOTALS 20 15 3.37 286.2 290 1.19 9.1

Please note that for the ERA and WHIP totals, I just summed and divided by five; I did not do a weighted total. Quite an impressive starting five to say the least though! To put in to perspective just how great our starting staff is performing so far this year, here are a couple of interesting tid bits of information about them:

  • Through 54 games (as of this writing), this staff has been more valuable in terms of bWAR than 2016, 2015, and 2014. Combined!
  • They are on pace to record 27.1 bWAR, which would be the highest ever recorded by a Diamondbacks “starting five”, just ahead the 2002 team (they had 25.2). Now I know there is a long way to go to compare the two, but that is the pace that they are on.
  • Both Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke are on pace for 7.5+ bWAR which has not been achieved by a Dbacks pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2004 (8.5).

Now of course these factors can drastically change before the season ends, but again, this is how they are doing so far. In a similar tune to Jim’s article the other day, we should not take this amazing start for granted. Although we pay Greinke an exorbitant amount of money, he is doing exactly what we need him to do this year and be the ace of the staff. Robbie Ray is quickly becoming an ace and the transformation is occurring right in front of our eyes. Before his stint on the DL, Taijuan Walker was shown flashes of brilliance and Zack Godley is one heck of a fifth starter huh? Corbin is struggling but what a problem to have when your worst starter is replacement level and the rest are tearing it up! Remember to stop and smell the roses this season because this is shaping up to be a wild ride!

Poll

How much bWAR will this year’s "Starting Five" accumulate by years end?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Less than 5.0
    (1 vote)
  • 11%
    5.0 - 10.0
    (7 votes)
  • 27%
    10.0 - 15.0
    (17 votes)
  • 59%
    15.0 +
    (37 votes)
62 votes total Vote Now