They say there's never a math professor around when you need one, but one came to my rescue when I asked for help with my newly invented baseball stat three months ago, and so, without further ado, this column is proud to present the current National League leaders in pitcher run value, or PRV, which I'd like you to pronounce, as in "perv."
To skip to the good part, the leader is Chris Carpenter of St. Louis at 2.79. If you noticed that Carpenter is also the league leader in earned-run average at 2.84, and that those two numbers are awfully similar, please come to the front of the class. And be quiet.
The calculations here were provided by Chris Rasmussen, a math professor at Rice University. Any errors are mine, though.
PRV, as you no doubt recall, having waited breathlessly for three months, is an attempt to account for more of a National League pitcher's contribution to his team than just his work on the mound. Pitchers bat in the National League, after all, and the few who are good at it provide some extra value.
Not much, but hey, the boffo stats have already been invented. Somebody beat me to home runs, OK?
For offensive value, PRV uses a simple formula for the Bill James stat runs created, which is a measure of how many runs a batter was personally responsible for. The formula looks like this: [Total bases divided by plate appearances] times [hits + walks + hit-by-pitch].
We then divide that by the number of innings pitched, multiply that by nine, and voilà, a number we'll call runs created per nine innings pitched, or RC/9IP. In other words, while ERA measures how many earned runs a pitcher allows per nine innings, RC/9IP measures how many he contributes with his bat. Subtract RC/9IP from ERA, and you have his net effort, which is his PRV.
By the way, the reason we're using ERA, rather than all runs including unearned ones, to figure PRV is that all runs created as a batter are earned. If you're safe on an error, you're credited with making an out in your batting stats.
Now, most pitchers don't account for too many runs, as we'll see in a little while. In fact, the top 10 in N.L. PRV looks an awful lot like the top 10 in ERA. It's the same 10 guys. The only difference is that Carlos Zambrano of Chicago, with an RC/9IP of .15, moves up from ninth in ERA to sixth in PRV.
Zambrano's ERA is 3.50, his PRV is 3.35. So if you count his hitting, he's been worth more than Chris Capuano of Milwaukee, Jason Jennings of Colorado and Jason Schmidt of San Francisco, all of whom are ahead of him in ERA.
Here are the top 10 in PRV through Monday night, with their ERA noted as well:
|1. Carpenter, St.L.||2.84||2.79|
|2. Webb, Ari.||3.00||2.92|
|3. Oswalt, Hou.||3.15||3.03|
|4. Johnson, Fla.||3.20||3.16|
|5. Arroyo, Cin.||3.29||3.17|
|6. Zambrano, Chi.||3.50||3.35|
|7. Schmidt, S.F.||3.45||3.37|
|8. Jennings, Col.||3.48||3.41|
|9. Capuano, Mil.||3.49||3.44|
|10. Lowe, L.A.||3.64||3.58|
If you simply want to see who the best hitting pitcher in the National League is, that's easy. The answer, this year, is Mark Mulder of the St. Louis Cardinals. By a lot.
Here's ESPN's listing of runs created per 27 outs as a batter for pitchers. That would tell you how many runs a theoretical lineup of nine of those guys would score per game.
I set it to a minimum 25 plate appearances just to weed out relief pitchers who are 1-for-1 or something. Mulder created 6.00 runs for every 27 outs he made before shutting down for the season. Jorge Sosa of St. Louis is second at 3.03. That's not second place. That's Mondaling.
Mulder was the early-century Barry Bonds of pitchers this year, or the circa-1917 Babe Ruth, if you'd like, except for one thing, which I'll get to in a second.
To give you an idea of what 6.00 runs created per 27 outs looks like, if Mulder were a position player and had enough plate appearances, that 6.00 would put him 36th in the league in RC/27. Nothing special -- the league leader is Ryan Howard of Philadelphia at 10.11, and there are seven players over 8.00. But pretty solid.
If talent were distributed evenly in the National League, being the 36th best hitter would mean you'd be somebody's third-best bat. Mulder would be behind Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez and just ahead of San Diego outfielder Mike Cameron in N.L. RC/27. These are legitimate big-league sticks. Small sample size and everything, only 36 plate appearances, but still. Good hitting.
Mulder had two doubles and a homer, plus five walks. Any pitcher with any walks beyond a random accident or two is getting some respect.
But here's that one thing I mentioned: Mulder's job is to pitch, and unlike Babe Ruth circa 1917, he stunk at that this year. His earned-run average was 7.14, speaking of Babe Ruth, and not Babe Ruth the pitcher.
Even with his runs created per 9IP of .39, which is almost twice as good as the league leader among pitchers with enough innings pitched to qualify for the ERA title, Eric Milton of Cincinnati at .23, Mulder was still responsible for giving up 6.75 earned runs per nine innings, about twice as many as a typical No. 1 starter.
Among pitchers with enough innings to qualify -- one inning for each game played by his team -- the leaders in RC/9IP after Milton are Livan Hernandez of Arizona and Jamey Wright of San Francisco, tied for second at .22, Jason Marquis of St. Louis, fourth at .21, and Andy Pettitte of Houston, fifth at .20.
Like Mulder, all five of those guys would help their teams much more by pitching better than by hitting even twice as well as they already are. But thanks to PRV, now we know exactly what they're doing in both sides of the game. Tell your friends.
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Put the B-team in, ESPN [PERMALINK]
The nightcap of ESPN's "Monday Night Football" double-header looked like it was going to be a pooch of a game, and the San Diego Chargers' rout of the hapless Oakland Raiders certainly lived up to the billing. So I didn't plan to watch much of it and I followed my plan quite well.
But I watched just long enough hear how much better the new "Monday Night Football" would be with ESPN's B-team of announcers, Brad Nessler on play-by-play with Ron Jaworski and Dick Vermeil doing color.
Holy cow, these guys made Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser, the A-team that did the Washington-Minnesota game earlier in the evening, sound like a bunch of chattering chipmunks.
Jaworski is hands down the best football analyst on television. He's terrific on ESPN's wonky "NFL Matchup" every week, and it's a shame he's not in the booth at games more often. Unless you've played quarterback in the NFL, I defy you to listen to Jaworski talk about football for five minutes and not learn something.
I didn't stick around long enough to get much of a handle on Vermeil, but I remember him as a solid, interesting analyst in the '80s and '90s, before he returned to coaching. Nessler is a total pro who does a lot of good work on college basketball and football for ABC and ESPN.
Listening to these three for even a few minutes, I found myself weeping openly that we're all consigned to 15 more weeks of Kornheiser yammering on about his fantasy team, Theismann trying to one-up Kornheiser and Tirico being Tirico.
Maybe that team will grow on me, and I'll give them a full review later in the year, but I can tell you now that if anybody's listening, I vote for the B-team.
Previous column: As the Mannings turn
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