Breitbart Sports today introduces Value Add Baseball (see the top 100 pitchers here), a much more accurate measure than WAR for evaluating the value of starting pitchers by analyzing every start. A solid starting pitcher has only a 21 percent chance of getting his team a win if he needs an ERA of 1.00 to 1.99 for the game, but if his team gets him just one more run he has a 63 percent chance of winning. The simple “Runs Support” models simply do not work.
While WAR (Wins Above Replacement), like Value Add Basketball, is an excellent measurement of other players on the field, the pitcher’s position is unique. The starting pitcher is the one player who has responsibility each game for getting his team the win. He is the most important player on the field whenever he pitches, and yet he sits out most of the games.
To win, he needs to stay below an “ERA Needed” in each game, which is the total of: His team’s offensive runs that day MINUS unearned runs allowed by his defense MINUS relief runs allowed, DIVIDED BY his innings pitched TIMES nine.
We ran this formula on 2,157 starts this year by pitchers who were part of their team’s four man rotation, so these numbers do not include the poorest pitchers (No. 5 starters, spot starters, or fill-ins). Here are the team’s records based on the ERA Needed they gave their pitcher.
|ERA Needed||1-4 Starters||Victory||Actual W%||Replacement%|
A pitcher is credited with a “victory” if he either gets the “Win,” or if he pitches at least five innings and his team wins.
Obviously, a pitcher cannot get his team a win if the team never scores in the game, or the defense or relievers give up more runs than the team scores. Therefore, these pitchers did not win any of these 509 games in which their ERA Needed was 0.00 or less.
In 239 other games, pitchers had to throw shutout ball to get the team the victory, and they were successful 49 of 239 times, with two pitchers accomplishing it three times. Justin Masterson has guided the Indians to three 1-0 wins this year, throwing complete game shutouts when the White Sox visited April 12 and when the Yankees dropped in May 13. When the Rangers came July 27, Masterson needed a little relief help after leaving in the eighth inning of a 1-0 win. Jorge De La Rosa is the only other player to accomplish the feat three times, but those were all games in which his relievers gave up just one less run than the offense scored.
These are the truly hard wins. However, when teams get good pitchers just two runs to work with – the winning percentage jumps incredibly to over 60 percent. Replacement level pitchers do not fare as well of course, so the right hand column gives the chance a replacement player would have had to get the victory if given the same ERA Needed.
The actual formula used to pinpoint this approximate curve is the square root of the ERA Needed to win up to a 4.99 ERA Needed. From 5.00 to 6.99 the formula is the square root plus one, and from a 7.00 ERA up it is the square root plus two, with a maximum Replacement Chance of 8.00.
The flaw in simply using “Runs Support” is that three equal pitchers could all get 20 runs to work with over 10 games. A pitcher who had two runs to work with every game would likely win six games, while a pitcher who got four runs in half the games and none in the other half would likely win three games, and a pitcher who received all 20 runs in one game could only win that one game.
Calculating Value Add
This same pattern has played out – with slight adjustments during the high scoring years – since I introduced it in the New York Post more than 20 years ago, and it continues to measure the one position player that WAR cannot.
To determine each pitcher’s Value Add, he gets credited one Victory for any Win, or when he pitches at least five innings and his team wins. For each game we then subtract the likelihood that a replacement player could have won with the same ERA needed (see table for basic guideline). The result of those two figures is a pitchers Raw Value Add.
Any time a pitcher fails to go five innings he is given a “Blown Game,” and the best score he can receive is a -0.6 in Raw Value.
A player’s Value for that game is then adjusted by one of two figures. First, if his ERA Needed was 0.00 so he had no chance to win, his Raw Value Add is 0.0, but his Adjusted Value Add is +2.0 – a figure that continues to be as accurate as it was when first introduced when running all starts for all pitchers.
In any other case, the pitcher is given the ballpark adjustment for where the game is played. The biggest adjustment by far is a +0.09 a player gets any time he pitches in Colorado (see separate story).