Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bob Nightengale makes generally valid point, chooses terrible examples and sample sizes to make it with

Everyone knows it's anywhere from slightly- to significantly harder to pitch in the AL than in the NL. Period. If you don't believe that, you're wrong. I don't dispute the main thesis of this article by Bob Nightengale. But look at the hilariously awful examples he uses to make his case:

Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay, out of the AL East, is mowing down the NL as if he were a reincarnation of Bob Gibson. He's 5-1 with a 1.47 ERA, pitching three complete games and two shutouts

Last I checked, Halladay was a pretty exceptional pitcher in the AL. Pitching in the toughest division in the toughest league in baseball, he's certainly had stretches where he's put up similar numbers over 6 starts. Unless Nightengale is suggesting the NL East has transofrmed Halladay into a 1.47 ERA pitcher over an entire season. Which....he's not

Oh, and sample size.

Carlos Silva was 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA the last two years for the Seattle Mariners. Traded for outfielder Milton Bradley, he is 2-0 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts for the Chicago Cubs

Carlos Silva

a.) Is a notoriously fast starter
b.) Put up his best years in the....American League
c.) Bob Nightengale isn't really suggesting that a league change is the difference between going 5-18 with a 6.81 ERA and going undefeated with a 2.90 ERA, is he?

Oh, and sample size.

Javier Vazquez, a 15-game winner with a 2.87 ERA with the Atlanta Braves last year, is 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA for the New York Yankees, who will push back his next start.

Once again, must be the league that accounts for a 7.00 ERA differential. Anyone who has ever followed baseball ever knows that the knock on Vazquez is that he's mentally soft and can't pitch in big games (or for big teams). Terrible example.

Oh, and sample size.

The Los Angeles Angels' Joel Pineiro, a 15-game winner for the St. Louis Cardinals last year, is yielding a .320 batting average and has a 5.76 ERA, allowing 21 hits and 15 earned runs in 9⅓ innings in his last two starts.

Ah yes, Pineiro's regression has everything to do with his league and not the fact that his 2009 was way off his career numbers--and therefore likely to be difficult to maintain--and that he was working with a coach who is renowned for wringing solid years out of shitty pitchers.

Oh, and sample size.

Ben Sheets, after eight years with Milwaukee, is 1-3 with a 7.12 ERA for Oakland. Rich Harden, who left the Cubs, has allowed 44 baserunners in 23⅔ innings for the Texas Rangers.

Not like Sheets isn't coming off a season where he didn't play at all, right? But it must be the AL/NL thing. And Harden? He just threw a gem last night. But that must be because the American Leagues is a notoriously streaky league.

Oh yeah and:

2009 with the Cubs Harden went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA (and a 1.34 WHIP, and a 2.5 K/BB for those semi nerds among us)

2005, his last full season with the American League Hard To Pitch For A's Harden went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA (and a 1.06 WHIP and 2.8 K/BB)

Oh and sample s....well you get the point.

Look clearly the AL is more difficult to pitch in than the NL--for one there's the DH. I mean it just intuitively makes sense. And my general impression is that studies show it's about a 1 run difference between leagues, favoring NL pitchers. But if you're going to make that argument, why not use actual evidence. Not just swaths of 5-7 starts from pitchers with myriad other explanations for their success/failure besides "dey switched to day easier/harder league!"


Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

Edwin Jackson probably feels like he's getting screwed right now.

Larry B said...

Milton Bradley led the AL in OPS in 2008. In 2009 in Chicago, he was a disaster. That alone disproves everything the author of this article said.