Just How Many Arms Are Needed in 2007?
Let me first catch up by answering the most frequent criticism I had on my first post ‘Just How Much Bop is Needed in 2007?’ — that I hadn’t considered the improvement of the players on the current roster. Let me answer that by stating quickly that even if all 8 position players improve their RC27 production 5%, meaning a 40% total improvement overall, the net gain would only be 3% toward the 9% deficit we currently have, and we would still be 6% below the MLB median.
Also, don’t forget that some players regress while others improve. So, it is highly unlikely that you will see a net gain averaging 5% per each position player.
That being said, we now know that adding a free agent bopper really isn’t going to help us much next year and so we are going to have to rely on our pitching some to reduce runs allowed. As of 8/31/06, Pirates pitching has allowed 5.15 runs per game on average and we are scoring only 4.45 per game.
Obviously if we could reduce runs allowed by three-quarters of a run per game to 4.40 average overall, we would be closer to where we need to be. That’s one heck of a reduction though. Can we do it? Let’s see.
I’m going to concentrate on Duke, Snell, and Maholm’s 2006 work from here on out because Gorzelanny’s sample size is too small to use for this and we don’t have any idea who our 5th pitcher will be in 2007. Actually, I refuse to accept a Santos or Chacon. hehe.. Also, what I say here will apply to our younger relievers as well, so follow with me.
The Pirates have issued the 4th highest amount of walks in MLB so far in 2006. The major league average is 3.2 walks per 9 innings and we are averaging 3.9 as a team overall. That .7 means we will allow 113 more walks this year than the league average. That’s a lot of walks and Perez didn’t help by contributing his 51 walks in just 71 innings of work.
Tom Trippett at Diamiond Mind Baseball did a wonderful study back in 2003 where he looked at every single pitcher’s production since 1913. One of the results of his study involved walk rates.
Trippett determined that the longer a pitcher pitches, the fewer walks he would issue. Look at this graphic to get an idea of what I mean:
Duke, Snell, and Maholm are essentially all in their first year of pitching in the bigs, give or take a couple of months. As you can see from Trippett’s study, those pitchers who went on to pitch a second year were able to reduce their walk rate by about 6% the second year. Those that pitched into their third year, saw another 1% reduction.. and so on.
Notice that first year pitchers on average had a net walk rate of 13%. Duke, Snell, and Maholm have a combined 2006 net walk rate of 8.9%. That’s pretty good considering Trippett’s findings. But let’s take that one step further.
Here are Duke, Maholm, and Snell’s stats so far this year broken down by pre all-star game and post all-star game:
So as these three pitchers head toward their second full year of pitching, they have already improved their net walk rate by 19% just since the all-star game. That is huge.. but what does it translate to? They have pitched 174.7 innings since the break so that equates to about 14 less walks. (Trippett’s study used Pete Palmer’s run value of one-third a run for a walk.)
That’s a good start knowing we have continued to improve since the break and we expect to see even more improvement in 2007 as a whole. When we equate that to runs saved, that could put us around 30 or more runs saved in 2007.. just from pitchers reducing their walk rates. That is one-quarter of the three-quarters of a run drop we stated above we needed to find.
Littlefield also wants to add another starter. Who he gets will be the key to 2007 because the pitcher will have to be a strike thrower and should be a pitcher that can miss bats (get strike outs). Obviously, removing Perez, Chacon, and Santos from the rotation in favor of even a rookie Gorzelanny and a new middle order starter will drastically improve runs allowed.. probably another 60 or 80, and the balance of what we need. But maybe not..
More strikeouts would mean fewer balls in play and that would also reduce runs allowed. We can expect that eventually from Gorzelanny but until we know who the 5th starter will be, I won’t count on it in this post.
And just think, we achieved nearly our goal of reducing the opponents RC27 against us by simply reducing walks (and getting rid of Perez, Chacon, and Santos). But let’s assume we only get half that value.. say we save 60 runs overall from removing garbage from the roster, adding Gozy and a middle order starter, and issuing fewer walks. Where can we pick up the other 60 runs we need to get us down to 4.40 runs allowed per game?
Fewer walks means more balls in play unless all our pitchers become strikeout kings all of a sudden, so our defense will be an even more critical component for ‘getting better’. Can we get 60 runs better?
We’ll see in the next post.
– Tidbits –
Here is some additional info on these three pitchers..
– combined ERA: 4.85
– combined 1st inning ERA: 8.24
– combined 2cd inning on ERA: 4.16