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Thread: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

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    Member GullyFoyle's Avatar
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    AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    I've been reading a lot lately about how much tougher it is to pitch in the AL than the NL. Particularly on one well known Boston message board. The examples cited are:

    Bronson doing well in NL (which can't be right because the Redsox let him go)
    Lowe doing well in NL (which can't be right because the Redsox let him go)
    Pedro doing well in NL (which... you get the idea)

    Beckett doing poorly in AL (...)

    This has also been picked up on by Boston fan.. err.. ESPN writer Bill Simmons:

    And maybe the inferior quality of the National League plays a bigger role than we realize; we've seen too many NL guys switch leagues and flounder, and too many AL guys switch leagues and thrive, and if you don't believe me, look at Josh Beckett's home run stats over the past few years compared to 2006.
    Link

    Of course Curt is doing fine in the AL, but never mind...

    Now, don't get me wrong. There is obviously a difference and I'm actually very interested in what this difference is.

    My questions is, which statistic would give you the best comparison between pitchers regardless of league? (preferably accessible on the web for free, but anything is fine)

    I've looked at WS on The Hardball Times, but I'm not sure if this is a good start. How about VORP, RC?

    Thanks for any feedback...

    Gully

    (BTW, nothing but love for SoSH )

    edit: added link
    Last edited by GullyFoyle; 06-07-2006 at 08:01 PM.

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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Thanks to the ugly DH, it is more difficult to pitch in the AL if you're going by cold, unadjusted stats. Since the DH was created, I can't think of any single season where the AL's league ERA was lower the NL's league ERA. Just for starters, here's the last few seasons:

    2005 AL ERA: 4.35
    2005 NL ERA: 4.22

    2004 AL ERA: 4.63
    2004 NL ERA: 4.30

    2003 AL ERA: 4.52
    2003 NL ERA: 4.28

    2002 AL ERA: 4.46
    2002 NL ERA: 4.11

    2001 AL ERA: 4.47
    2001 NL ERA: 4.36

    2000 AL ERA: 4.91
    2000 NL ERA: 4.63

    Overall, we're looking at a difference of about five percent in any given season. A pitcher tossing up a 3.50 ERA in the AL is more valuable than if he tossed up that 3.50 ERA in the NL. If a guy in the NL puts up a 3.50 ERA, then goes to the AL and sees the ERA climb up to 3.70, that should be expected. Adjust the stats to fit league context (AL pitchers adjusted for AL league averages and NL pitchers adjusted for NL league averages), and the gap would tighten up a bit for the overall value/production of an individual pitcher.

    Of course, it is also very likely that the AL is just simply a stronger overall league the NL right now, and historically it's not uncommon for one league to be stronger than the other. If the AL is currently the stronger league, it'd fit that common historical pattern of one league being slightly stronger than the other league.
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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    The DH is a curse and all would be better without it.
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    I wouldn't think RC would be the best stat to use, since it would just reflect the higher numbers of hits, HRs, etc. VORP, on the other hand might already be adjusted for league context. Actually doesn't BP in their team audit (I guess technically their DT stats or something like that) have adjusted stats for leagues? Not positive, but I think that it may be adjusted for league. One interesting thing to look at would be to look at the XR or maybe RC for the ninth hitters in each league for the games. But I don't know how to get this information. I know retrosheet has play by play data and box score data but I've never made an attempt to understand how to get the play by play data, and the box score data, I think, doesn't tell you what each player did in their spot in the lineup, though I could be wrong there.

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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Baseball Prospectus' WARP2 and WARP3 is adjusted for league strength whereas WARP1 is not. How BP makes their league strength adjustments, I have no idea, and it's one reason I'm a bit skeptical of using WARP3.

    Last fall over at Baseball Fever, there was a looonnng thread discussing league/era strength and difficulty with some attempts of trying to quantify it. It's a 12 page thread so kudos to anybody who is able and willing to plow their way through it, but it does have some very interesting highlights and analysis.

    http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=34915

    BTW, a secondary item about the DH and how it benefits a team/league is how it helps your defense. It's obvious how it helps your offense by swapping in a position player to hit for the pitcher, but when you think about the total effect there's also benefits to the DH. Some teams are able to just take their worst defensive player off the field entirely but keep his bat in the lineup. Think of a guy like David Ortiz, for example. If he was in the NL, his bat would demand that he be in the every day lineup despite his lead glove at first base. But since he's in the AL, Boston can install a better fielding first baseman and allow Ortiz to DH for the vast majority of his games.

    And, yes, for the record I'm with Krono ... if the DH was outlawed today I'd be absolutely thrilled.
    Last edited by Cyclone792; 06-07-2006 at 04:33 PM.
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Has there been enough interleague games that you could do a sort of League factor in the same vein as Park Factor? That could be an interesting experiment.

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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    I've been trying to pull up Retrosheet to check out what they've got for Interleague game splits, but I've been having problems getting it to load. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what all they've got for those splits. It'd be interesting to glance over, but I'm not sure how much more information we'd be able to learn from it.

    With most league difficulty/era factors, I've just assumed there'd always likely be a small variance between the strength of the AL and NL in any given season. Prior to free agency, the variance would probably change slowly, perhaps generationally, but now with players moving all over the place it could be prone to changing much more quicker and perhaps on a season to season basis sometimes.
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclone792
    I've been trying to pull up Retrosheet to check out what they've got for Interleague game splits, but I've been having problems getting it to load. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what all they've got for those splits. It'd be interesting to glance over, but I'm not sure how much more information we'd be able to learn from it.

    With most league difficulty/era factors, I've just assumed there'd always likely be a small variance between the strength of the AL and NL in any given season. Prior to free agency, the variance would probably change slowly, perhaps generationally, but now with players moving all over the place it could be prone to changing much more quicker and perhaps on a season to season basis sometimes.
    I did for last year, just looking at the game logs, and interestinly enough, the game played in NL parks yields more runs, 1192, than those games played in AL parks, 1094 runs. Furthermore the AL in both cases scored more runs than their NL counterparts, when a game was played in a AL park the NL teams scored 462runs and the AL teams scored 632, and in the NL parks the AL teams scored 598 while the NL teams only scored 594. One thing is that I think it was probably wrong headed of me to suggest this in the first place "league factor", but it was still kind of fun. One problem is that not all of the teams play home and home series, so it makes it a bit harder to judge anything. Plus as I was thinking about it, these AL team are designed to play with the DH and the NL teams are not, so its hard to really draw any kind of real conclusions for interleague data. But, I thought it might be fun to look at.

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    Member GullyFoyle's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Thanks for the good info... It looks like the DT Cards at BP have stats that are "Adjusted For All Time" that take league strength into account, but it is interesting to note that the "Adjusted For Season" stats make a point of saying the AL pitchers are at a disadvantage because of the DH.

    I'm assuming the Warp 2 + 3 numbers are for subscribers only?

    Thanks for the interesting numbers rdiersin...

  11. #10
    "Let's Roll" TeamBoone's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    The DH argument as to why NL converts has never held much water with me. It's one extra hitter on each team. Can it possibly make that big a difference?

    I really dislike the writer's comment "inferior quality of the NL". I think that stinks.
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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    The DH argument as to why NL converts has never held much water with me. It's one extra hitter on each team. Can it possibly make that big a difference?
    This is actually pretty simple to figure out

    In 2005, the AL DH created 1,198 runs, and the AL as a whole created 10,917 runs. The DH, in effect, created around 11 percent of the AL's total runs.

    In the 2005, the NL pitcher created 199 runs, and the NL as a whole created 12,121 runs. The NL pitcher created only 1.6 percent of all the NL's runs. However, there are also several pinch hitting PAs that occur for the pitcher, and most pinch hitting PAs are for the pitcher (there are a few that are for another hitter, but most pinch hit appearances are for the pitcher). In 2005, the NL pinch hitter created 400 runs, which was 3.3 percent of the NL's total runs created. Combine the NL pitcher's runs created to NL pinch hitters and we have a total of 599 runs created, which was about five percent of its total runs created.

    So, to summarize:
    • American League DHs created 1,198 runs in 2005, and that was 11 percent of the league's total runs created.
    • National League pitchers and pinch hitters combined to create 599 runs in 2005, and that was five percent of the league's total runs created.

    That's pretty much the difference right there, and it's pretty significant.

    BTW, Gully, WARP2 and WARP3 numbers are on each player's DT cards. They are located in the two far right columns under Advanced Batting Statistics.
    Last edited by Cyclone792; 06-07-2006 at 08:57 PM.
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    Member GullyFoyle's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclone792
    BTW, Gully, WARP2 and WARP3 numbers are on each player's DT cards. They are located in the two far right columns under Advanced Batting Statistics.
    Thanks...

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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Quote Originally Posted by GullyFoyle
    I've been reading a lot lately about how much tougher it is to pitch in the AL than the NL. Particularly on one well known Boston message board. The examples cited are:

    Bronson doing well in NL (which can't be right because the Redsox let him go)
    Lowe doing well in NL (which can't be right because the Redsox let him go)
    Pedro doing well in NL (which... you get the idea)

    Beckett doing poorly in AL (...)
    Pedro dominates everywhere, including in Boston over his 7-8 seasons. His final year in Boston was the only season he was above a 3 ERA.

    Lowe had some good years in Boston and Chavez Ravine is a pitcher's nirvana

    Let's hope Arroyo keeps kicking butt. Still incomplete, but looking good...

    In the specific case of the Red Sox guys (Arroyo, Beckett, Lowe) there could be a pressure factor. Takes guys longer to adjust when they arrive and they benefit when going to lower key environs.

    On the other side, don't forget the two studs from the A's Big Three who haven't dominated in the NL (Mulder's numbers are quite a bit worse and Hudson's numbers are slightly worse than his Oakland dominance -- 2006 not so hot)

    IMO, doesn't seem to be a league-wide factor

  15. #14
    Member Topcat's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Just a simple thought but is it not safe to say that AL teams design there roster to find a Power bat @ DH while a NL team constructs there roster more towards the league that a Majority of there team? Bottom line if the NL had a DH on a day to day basis, there would be an equal balance I am sure.
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  16. #15
    Member GullyFoyle's Avatar
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    Re: AL Pitchers v. NL Pitchers

    Thought I'd post this article at The Hardball Times that looks at the talent gap between the two leagues...

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/ar...he-talent-gap/


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