The Secret Formula

The Secret Formula

Postby J-Pav » Sat Aug 20, 2005 2:20 pm

[b:50702609d7]How It All Started[/b:50702609d7]

I set out to build an experimental team that would take advantage of groundball pitchers. I went after A-Rod, Hudson and Rolen (or something like that) and followed that up on the autodraft card with Westbrook, Webb, Hudson, Lowe and Drese, all of whom have a groundball to flyball ratio over 2.20. This is a project that I wanted to pursue for two seasons now, and as it turns out, I still need to pursue to get it out of my system.

The autodraft came back perfectly and I got all five pitchers. The problem was, virtually every single opponent (especially in my division) was set up to kill hard righties, and looked very vulnerable to the reverses. So I completely scrapped my project, grabbed three stud relievers and Trachsel, Lowry and Haren, and coasted to 98 wins. I played in The Cell, but finished second in pitching with 32 million spent on pitchers (more than half of that on the three studs).

I noticed I walked a ton of guys, very much against my Strat-O religion. But I had solid defense, hit my share of dingers and led the league by a decent margin in hits allowed.

[b:50702609d7]The Insight[/b:50702609d7]

:idea: Now it was time to review the CHAMPS teams from my 13 completed $80 million salary leagues. I went in with last years bias, half expecting to see net walks/homers paving the road to greatness again, and was completely baffled to discover the net walks/homers at a paltry +22 (as an aside, last years CHAMPS teams averaged WELL over +100).

The ranks of the CHAMPS teams in offense were entirely all over the map, but averaged out just below middle of the pack (6.53 out of twelve); however, in pitching (earned runs), the CHAMPS teams finished with a whopping 3.23 out of twelve (adjusted to 2.50 if you take away one single team that won with big offense and was last in pitching, just edging the best pitching team in a hard fought finals!)

Time to check the defense. Not some, not most, but ALL 13 teams had either a "1" or a "2" at SS and CF. At second base, again 1s and 2s, but a third of the teams played 3s successfully.

Pitching and defense win baseball games?


[b:50702609d7]The Next Level[/b:50702609d7]

The average record of the CHAMPS teams is 90-72. They spent on average $21 million on starting pitching and $11 million on relievers, for a grand total of $32 million. This is interesting because this figure has popped up in a few other threads as something of an "ideal" ratio (ie, 60% hitting, 40% pitching).

The CHAMPS teams, in pitching, sported an average 4.05 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP (again it's all relative, but they usually finished in the top three in pitching regardless of the ERA and WHIP numbers). [i:50702609d7]But they are not getting it from net walks/homers.[/i:50702609d7] It appears that there is a bias toward giving up less hits at the expense of surrendering more walks.

[b:50702609d7]The Secret Formula[/b:50702609d7]

Last year, Jamie399 and I had a few back and forths about my net walks/homers philosophy (which was very successful for me last year). He seemed a little skeptical about it, because he was a successful pitchers park guy who focused on low on base, low total bases.

It looks like this year, that philosophy might be the more exploitable one. Nine of the 13 teams sampled allowed fewer hits than total innings pitched. Find pitchers who give up less than average hits, but who may or may not walk a few extra batters. Back them up with a tight middle infield defense to turn a few extra double plays from the surplus runners reaching first base.

Don't overspend in any one category...the CHAMPS teams rarely had more than "One Stud Starter" (and the invincible RJ was on only two of the 13 teams!)

My guess is, whoever best spends his $32 million on pitching stands the best chance to win the race. Luckyman mentioned this earlier in one of his posts, and what I see appears to agree entirely with his findings.

He said, "most of the added value was in pitching, not in offense. In other words, these teams had superior value for the money they spend on pitching, giving them lots of money to build good offenses."

[i:50702609d7]The offense appears to be much less relevant this year, largely because of a deeper pool of efficiently priced players. The secret lies somewhere with the pitching.[/i:50702609d7]

I would offer up to focus your attention not only on low on base, but more so on LOW total bases (backed up with sufficient defense). Maybe we should begin sifting the low ERA column before we zip right over to the WHIP column to sort through our pitchers.

Unfortunately, nothing visionary or profound, but for all those newbies out there trying to learn the game...

my two cents. 8)
Last edited by J-Pav on Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 3:04 pm

Interesting ideas. But I don't concur with the conclusion.

If I understand you correctly, the conclusion of the argument for this year's success is: "spend 32M on pitchers who don't give hits, backed up with solid defense"

However, in the 98-win team you showed, what stands out from this team is the use of three super-stud relievers. This adds extra evidence to something I pointed out in an other thread, when I said that what one common trend in all 103+win teams is the use of super-stud relievers. With one exception, all most succesful teams this year (as found on Moose site) had two super-stud relievers, or one super-reliever and two very good relievers. The so-called exception was a team who used only one super-stud, Gagné, for 170 innings but also had some of the best SPs.

Therefore, if there is one conclusion to take out from these rosters, it is: "spend high on super-stud relievers, and the rest will take care of itself".

Am I missing something?
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Postby J-Pav » Sat Aug 20, 2005 3:43 pm


Yes, sorry for the confusion.

I was trying to show how I got from point A to point B. My Lab Rats team was a jettisoned project. Obviously after the autodraft, the highest priced starter left would've been Ted Lilly or something. I had to patch together a pitching staff from what was left, to combat the opposition, but still do well in my hitters park. I spent $32 million the best way I could given my circumstances, and accidentally discovered that "wow, these guys walk a lot of hitters...but, hey, it's not hurting too much."

The point here was "how to best spend the pitching money" given the parks, the opponents and the FA pool. The three stud reliever strategy would likely not have worked out as well in a more competitive or at least a better balanced league ( Noah Lowry went 9-2 as a starter).

This team will better describe the conclusions I've been coming to...

Now, pitching wise, this was a much more competitive autoleague (Altec1969, Bigmahon, me, a few others as well). I finished 6th in pitching, but heck a 4.14 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP usually would be higher if not for the better competition. Still, I led the league in fewest hits allowed, and the monster 1.08 K's per inning couldn't have hurt either.

This probably would have better demonstrated what I was trying to say in the first place, but me and Big are still battling in the finals and I didn't want to throw this team out there for scrutiny yet!

Hope that better explains things.
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:55 pm

I see your point, but I am yet to be convinced :P

Here is where I bulk:

you spent almost 36M on your pitching. This pitching squad did finish first (or second) for lowest hit allowed, but it nonetheless finished sixth in ERA.

What's the point of finishing first in lowest hits allowed if it fails to get your team's era better than sixth?

Sure, you did win 93 wins. But look at your line-up: you made nothing short of a steal with the duo Hudson-Everett, both backed-up by solid Reyes. All three together, they gave you 150 rbis, 160 runs, AND outstanding defense...all this for less than 8 buck!!!!

Newman gave your team a 5M-6M performance. Taken together, the roster is excellent, and the back-ups are cheap, but solid.

In my opinion, your pitching in fact was a LIMITING factor for not having more than 93 wins.
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:12 pm

To express my point differently:

In Schmidt+Perez and Peavy, you have three of the 12 best starting pitchers. Peavy is not among the top 12 in price due to the lack of innings he can pitch, but in terms of quality, he's right there in the top 12.

I have Burnett at 38th spot for best pitcher, in my ratings adjusted for Fenway. 38th is not superb, but in a 12-league team, this ranking puts him in good shape for a solid #3. He was a #4 for you. Same argument for Villone.

You had one of the best closer in the game.

Nevertheless, your era was in the middle of the pack.

This tells me that the rotation somehow struggled to make the work done.

But what do I know, I still waiting for my first 90-win team this season! :oops:
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Postby J-Pav » Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:48 pm

Again, ERA and WHIP are a bit relative.

Notice how I said that in my 13 team sample, the average ERA and WHIP for a CHAMPS team was 4.05 and 1.31 respectively. At 4.14 and 1.33, I'd say my team was right where they should be.

I was only 25 earned runs out of second place; however, I was almost 300 runs better than 11th place (going in the other direction from 6th). In this instance, when measured by pitching alone, the top six teams dramatically outperformed the bottom six.

I don't see how my pitching let me down at all, just because I finished middle of the pack in earned runs (among six very good pitching teams). A tenth of one run per game would've let me finish four places higher on the list, but probably would've only resulted in a couple of more wins overall.

And HAL probably had more to do with things like Peavy's sub .500 record, rather than Peavy's card itself. I've had Peavy and Burnett perform much better on other teams, but how can you ever tell what or when HAL has been drinking?
Last edited by J-Pav on Sat Aug 20, 2005 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:45 pm

Ah, you're absolutely right.

So let's say that your pitching did a fine job. Still, not convinced that the success of your team had to do with having a walk-oriented pitching squad. But I am open to change my mind if I see more evidence. We all know that the pitching structure has changed this year. Perhaps these walk-oriented pitchers have become bargains.

But the evidence I have seen so far doesn't suggest me this trend. In fact, my deep inside opinion goes against it. I find hitters (as opposed to walkers) overvalued, which leads me to believe that hits-oriented pitchers are probably undervalued.

According to your point of view, Leiter should be "the" bargain among 5M+ pitchers (he has the most walks among them, and has less hits allowed than all pitchers except RJ and Santana), while Schilling should be a bust (0 walk on both side). My ratings find just the opposite.
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Postby J-Pav » Sat Aug 20, 2005 9:13 pm

Leiter has always done pretty well for me...I should've caught on sooner! But then again, I'm fond of Schilling too.

Don't know much about how your ratings work, I don't overdo it too much in this area. And I'm trying to be tongue in cheek about "the secret formula" thing, but I'm writing the thread because the trend towards low on base, low total base pitchers has definitely caught my attention among teams that win championships. Not the be all end all, just one way of many to heaven.
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 9:55 pm

LOL, keep them coming!!!

Seriously, thanks for posting your teams. Given their similitude, but yet changing performance, I might push the analysis when I have more time.

I sure get your point: there is many heavens. You don't want to argue that you found the one and only eden. Still, I don't think your "no-hit-many-walks" SPs is one.

What I see in your teams is great performance (89 wins, 94 wins) when you manage to get one outstanding performance from a cheap SP (Od.Perez and Jerome Williams, respectively), and adequate performance only (84 wins, 83 wins) when you failed to do so.

Which reveals a unforgivable truth about Strat : picking up the right cheap SPs can give you a championship!!!

As for Leiter, he is consistantly around 3.60, +/- 0.50, even though he is always pitching in pitcher's park (at least for lefties), which makes him, in my opinion, costly, given that he usually can't pitch for 200 innings only, on average. [I mention, in passing, that one of my arguments for saying that pitchers allowing lots of walks and few-hits are overpriced is because they are more susceptible to become fatigued faster in the game, forcing the computer to remove them earlier than other low on-base SP].

So, at best, your teams suggest me that I might be wrong in thinking that Leiter is overpriced. Perhaps he is priced just okay. But I don't find the evidence for thinking that Leiter, or any pitcher with the low-hit/high walk profile, are the way to go.

I guess the best way to resolve would be to go face-to-face in a league!! :lol:
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Postby MARCPELLETIER » Sat Aug 20, 2005 10:13 pm


Od.Perez: 3 walks vs rh, 0 walk vs lh. Second lowest on-base among sub 2M SP (Greinke is #1, but he has some power numbers as well).

J.Williams: 17 walks vs lh, but none vs rh. Overall on-base pretty good compared to pitchers with similar salary.

Yeah, my ex-girl-friends think I am a bit stubborn :lol:
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