Quick, close your eyes.
Name me this season’s top five pitchers by ERA.
Who comes to mind? Well, Ubaldo, certainly, everyone knows that. Then, probably Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, right? Maybe throw in some Carpenter, Wainwright, and Cliff Lee, just as an AL guy for the hell of it.
Now open them. This is the list:
1) Ubaldo Jimenez, 0.88
2) Jaime Garcia, 1.14
3) Doug Fister, 2.03
4) Livan Hernandez, 2.08
5) Jon Garland, 2.10
Now, I imagine, you might be saying, well, that sounds like an argument against using ERA as a statistic.
You’d be pretty much right. If one uses Fangraphs’ WAR to look at pitchers, the top five this season are a little more familiar:
1) Roy Halladay
2) Ubaldo Jimenez
3) Adam Wainwright
4) Tim Lincecum
5) Ricky Romero
(sidenote: I saw Romero pitch for AAA Syracuse when I was a student there…and fell in love with him. If he doesn’t hurt himself, he’s gonna have a very nice career)
That said, this blog’s not so much about what is predictable, ie, the WAR, as it is what isn’t–for example, we can start with Livan’s 2.08 ERA and 90% LOB rate.
Ninety percent of runners that reach base against Livan Hernandez this year haven’t scored.
Chew on that for a moment.
Think about the pitcher you’d most associate with letting baserunners on, and then not letting them score. Daisuke Matsuzaka probably comes to mind. His LOB% this year? It’s a paltry 53%. (This is low for him; in his career he has a 75.2% rate).
So perhaps it’s not surprise, then, that Livan doesn’t make the top page of the WAR leaderboard…
If we examine the other surprises on the ERA list, it’s easy enough to find reasons for their ERA success (such as Garland getting the benefit of PetCo Park), even if there is still a WAR disconnect.
Over the long run, the ERA and WAR leaders will likely even out, as the guys pitching way over their heads regress and those underperforming (I’m looking at you, CC Sabathia, et al), begin to heat up.
That said, for the moment, let us embrace the oddities. Let us embrace Livan’s 2.08 ERA, and see just how long he can keep it going, before some dude named Strasburg means we actually have to start watching the Nationals, as opposed to doing it just now for fun…