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The Turnaround of the Starting Pitchers: An Historical Perspective


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#1 mabrowndog


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 11:06 AM

A little fun with the starting pitching numbers, where "Before" is the 2-10 stretch from April 1-15, and "After" is the 7-1 stretch from April 16-25. To get an idea of just how awful the "Before" stretch was at its absolute worst, bear in mind those numbers include 15 innings of shutout baseball from Beckett and Lester.

BEFORE
47 ER in 63 IP
6.71 ERA
105 baserunners
34 extra-base hits
14 Home Runs
1.587 WHIP
.281/.368/.546/.915 opponents' batting line
-1.184 win probability added

AFTER
6 ER in 53 IP
1.01 ERA
46 baserunners
10 extra-base hits
2 Home Runs
0.863 WHIP
.152/.228/.228/.456 opponents' batting line
+1.793 win probability added

It's been awhile since Boston starters had a run prevention streak like this. It's the best 8-game run since 2000 when the Sox gave up just 4 ER:

5/12 - Pedro Martinez (9 IP, 0 ER)
5/13 - Jeff Fassero (6 IP, 1 ER)
5/14 - Brian Rose (5 IP, 1 ER)
5/15 - Pete Schourek (8 IP, 0 ER)
5/16 - Tim Wakefield (5 IP, 1 ER)
5/17 - Pedro Martinez (7 IP, 0 ER)
5/19 - Jeff Fassero (7 IP, 0 ER)
5/20 - Pete Schourek (5 IP, 1 ER)* Between 2000 and 2010, the Sox' best 8-game starting stretches came when their SPs yielded 10 ER on three occasions:

# In 2009, between Sept. 8 (Buchholz 7 shutout innings) and Sept. 17 (an 8-IP, 3-ER outing by Beckett). It included no-run games by Matsuzaka (6 IP) and Lester (8 IP), 1-ER games from Beckett (5 IP) and Clay (7 IP), and a pair of Paul Byrd starts (5 ER over 10.1 IP). The stretch ended with 6 ER allowed in the final two games.

# In 2007, between April 8 (Schilling 7 IP, 1 ER) and April 18 (Wake 7 IP, 1 ER). The span included 8 shutout innings by Schilling, 2 ER over 13 IP by Beckett, 5 ER over 13 IP by Daisuke, and another 7-IP 1-ER game from Wake.

# In 2005, between April 15 (David Wells' 7 shutout innings) and April 22 (Wake's 2 ER over 6 IP). It included 7 IP of 1-run ball by Clement, a similar performance by Arroyo, 6 IP of 1-run ball from Wake, and back-to-back 8-inning shutouts by Clement and Wells. A 5-ER outing by Schilling was the only blemish.* Boston also had a 10-game, 7-ER stretch by its starters in 1999, but it really needs an asterisk. It came at season's end (Sept 24 to Oct. 3), and with the playoffs on the horizon Bryce Florie, Bret Saberhagen and Pat Rapp worked just 3, 2 and 2 innings respectively in their final starts of the year. It also included a 4.2-inning start by Wake where the Orioles scored 7 unearned runs. The stretch was technically extended to 11 games with 7 ER after Pedro opened 2000 with 7 shutout innings.

* Between the AL's adoption of the designated hitter in April 1973 and the end of 1998, the Sox only had two stretches where its starters all worked at least 5 innings per outing and yielded fewer than 10 total earned runs. One occurred in 1977, the other a year later:

7/30/77 - Luis Tiant (6.2 IP, 0 ER)
7/31/77 - Don Aase (9 IP, 0 ER)
8/02/77 - Rick Wise (8 IP, 2 ER)
8/03/77 - Mike Paxton (5 IP, 3 ER)
8/04/77 - Fergie Jenkins (9 IP, 1 ER)
8/05/77 - Luis Tiant (9 IP, 0 ER)
8/06/77 - Don Aase (7 IP, 1 ER)
8/07/77 - Rick Wise (8.1 IP, 2 ER)

6/06/78 - Bill Lee (5.2 IP, 0 ER) - 6 unearned runs
6/09/78 - Luis TIant (9 IP, 2 ER)
6/10/78 - Mike Torrez (8 IP, 0 ER)
6/11/78 - Dennis Eckersley (7 IP, 2 ER)
6/12/78 - Bill Lee (5 IP, 0 ER) - 4 unearned runs
6/13/78 - Jim Wright (9 IP, 0 ER)
6/14/78 - Luis TIant (9 IP, 0 ER)
6/15/78 - Mike Torrez (9 IP, 3 ER)*Following that '78 stretch, Eck tacked on a 7.2 IP, 1 ER outing to make it a 9-game, 8-ER stretch for the club's starters.

So there you go. This current run is the second-best 8-game stretch of starting pitching this franchise has seen in the 39-year span of the DH era. Not too shabby.

#2 John DiFool

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 05:10 PM

I think this team as a whole was a bit rusty-I think too many people (field management included) blew off spring training too casually, and it took them 2 weeks to finally get up to speed. I think it is as simple as that.

#3 rembrat


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 05:43 PM

Awesome job, mabrowndog. I was just looking at the run differential (-3) and couldn't believe just how fast it shot up.

Can they continue this?

#4 Kevin Jewkilis

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 05:45 PM

Including today's start, they're sporting a 2.1 K/BB ratio and a FIP of 3.17 over this stretch. I know they aren't going to be able to keep the ERA below 1 forever, but it hasn't been smoke and mirrors. Even when they regress, they still figure to be really good overall.

Edit: missed 4/16 Beckett start

Edited by Kevin Jewkilis, 24 April 2011 - 06:30 PM.


#5 smastroyin


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 05:58 PM

If by "this" you mean this level of performance then obviously no. (Or the Sox will win 130 games or so).

If by "this" you mean not pitching like the complete ass they did for the first 12 games, then yes, they can. I will be the punch bowl turd on Lackey though - he was very good against the AL West (except Texas) last year as well. I would like to see him find his footing against the big boys of the AL, but at least if he can dominate the scrubby offenses he will average out ok.

#6 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 06:06 PM

After Lackey's start today, the Sox have outdone even the 2000 squad.

This has been an amazing two turns through the rotation.

4/15: Buchholz -- 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K
4/16: Beckett -- 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K
4/17: Lester -- 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K
4/18: DiceK -- 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K
4/19: Lackey -- 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
4/20: Buchholz -- 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 2 K
4/21: Beckett -- 8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K
4/22: Lester -- 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K
4/23: DiceK -- 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K
4/24: Lackey -- 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Total: 66 1/3 IP, 37 H, 9 R, 24 BB, 53 K

WHIP = 0.920
ERA = 1.22
K/9 = 7.19
H/9 = 5.02
8/10 quality starts.

This has been the most sublime run of pitching I can ever remember seeing.

#7 JimBoSox9


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 06:08 PM

I think this team as a whole was a bit rusty-I think too many people (field management included) blew off spring training too casually, and it took them 2 weeks to finally get up to speed. I think it is as simple as that.


I know this has become a popular theory, but there is simply zero evidence to support it. Without a management turnover, why would they do anything differently than every year since 2004? Do you really think Theo and Tito bought into the hype and thought the team was so good that they could stop taking March seriously?

We've all gone a little crazy trying to explain what happened in those first two weeks (they didnt take spring seriously! The pitchers hate throwing to Salty!), but sometimes you can't find a single reason to tie it all up in a bow. It's not a real team sport - a baseball team is made up of 25 individuals each with their own best-case and worst-case scenarios. For two weeks, it seemed like all 25 of them had their worst-case occur, and it's far more likely to be a freak occurrence of variance for 25 different reasons than for any single, easily-definable reason.

Edited by JimBoSox9, 24 April 2011 - 06:09 PM.


#8 TheRooster

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 07:38 PM

I know this has become a popular theory, but there is simply zero evidence to support it. Without a management turnover, why would they do anything differently than every year since 2004? Do you really think Theo and Tito bought into the hype and thought the team was so good that they could stop taking March seriously?

We've all gone a little crazy trying to explain what happened in those first two weeks (they didnt take spring seriously! The pitchers hate throwing to Salty!), but sometimes you can't find a single reason to tie it all up in a bow. It's not a real team sport - a baseball team is made up of 25 individuals each with their own best-case and worst-case scenarios. For two weeks, it seemed like all 25 of them had their worst-case occur, and it's far more likely to be a freak occurrence of variance for 25 different reasons than for any single, easily-definable reason.


Well they had two stars coming back from injuries and since both are ultra-intense it would be just like each of them to come back too hard and/or too quick. And they had two small market FAs arriving so there could have been some concern over having either of them try to "show they were worth" their mega-deals. Now throw in a new pitching coach who could have been worried about messing up the good things his predecessor was doing and it does makes one wonder.

#9 mabrowndog


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 08:18 PM

Revised numbers for the 9-game stretch:


AFTER
6 ER in 61 IP
0.88 ERA
54 baserunners
10 extra-base hits
2 Home Runs
0.864 WHIP
.159/.231/.224/.455 opponents' batting line
+2.02 win probability added

As you might expect, this is now the single best 9-game stretch of the last 39 years for starting pitching in terms of fewest earned runs allowed. Though it won't really be a fair comparison between eras, I might have to see how this rates with Sox teams from the pre-DH years.

Boston's starting pitchers have accounted for 44.8% of the club's maximum potential win probability (4.50) over these 9 games.

#10 OilCanShotTupac


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 08:35 PM

I think this team as a whole was a bit rusty-I think too many people (field management included) blew off spring training too casually, and it took them 2 weeks to finally get up to speed. I think it is as simple as that.


Don't discount the quality of the competition for the first two series. I know I was disappointed by being swept by the Indians, but they've shown themselves to be a much better team so far than they were last year. Could it be as simple as getting their butts kicked on the road twice in a row by a good team - which will happen to everyone at some point over the course of the season?

#11 EvilEmpire

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 08:53 PM

Don't discount the quality of the competition for the first two series.


Or the last two. Good teams to get pitching back on track against.

#12 John DiFool

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 09:20 PM

I know this has become a popular theory, but there is simply zero evidence to support it. Without a management turnover, why would they do anything differently than every year since 2004? Do you really think Theo and Tito bought into the hype and thought the team was so good that they could stop taking March seriously?

We've all gone a little crazy trying to explain what happened in those first two weeks (they didnt take spring seriously! The pitchers hate throwing to Salty!), but sometimes you can't find a single reason to tie it all up in a bow. It's not a real team sport - a baseball team is made up of 25 individuals each with their own best-case and worst-case scenarios. For two weeks, it seemed like all 25 of them had their worst-case occur, and it's far more likely to be a freak occurrence of variance for 25 different reasons than for any single, easily-definable reason.


Of course there likely isn't any magic bullet; my hypothesis was simply alluding to the reported (here) lack of spring training playing time by a lot of regulars-seemed Tito was playing a lot of the AA/AAA guys, which he got some heat for.

#13 Eric Van


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Posted 24 April 2011 - 11:04 PM

Or the last two. Good teams to get pitching back on track against.

Angels came into that series averaging 4.4 R/G, better than league average (4.3).

#14 Snodgrass'Muff


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Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:44 AM

Don't discount the quality of the competition for the first two series. I know I was disappointed by being swept by the Indians, but they've shown themselves to be a much better team so far than they were last year. Could it be as simple as getting their butts kicked on the road twice in a row by a good team - which will happen to everyone at some point over the course of the season?


After that 0-6 stretch the team has gone 10-5. Most of us were at a point where we'd have been thrilled with 8-7 or even 7-8 in that stretch. This team came around nicely and is showing everyone why it was the prohibitive favorite during the off season.

Of course, the .666 winning percentage in that span probably means someone sold their soul to the devil to turn things around and whether that someone was in the Boston front office or was simply a member of this board, I thank you for your sacrifice... whoever you are.

#15 Adrian's Dome

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 11:56 AM

Or the last two. Good teams to get pitching back on track against.


Extended west coast swings are never easy, I don't care who you're playing.

#16 Rasputin


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Posted 25 April 2011 - 12:00 PM

After that 0-6 stretch the team has gone 10-5. Most of us were at a point where we'd have been thrilled with 8-7 or even 7-8 in that stretch. This team came around nicely and is showing everyone why it was the prohibitive favorite during the off season.

Of course, the .666 winning percentage in that span probably means someone sold their soul to the devil to turn things around and whether that someone was in the Boston front office or was simply a member of this board, I thank you for your sacrifice... whoever you are.


Just for yuks I point out that a .666 winning percentage over 156 games would be 104 wins. I'm just sayin' y'know?

#17 BroodsSexton

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 12:08 PM

Further to the issue of historical perspective, is there anything that comes close in terms of variation in a team's performance over a similar time frame? It's not just the incredible suck that the Sox displayed to start the season, or the dominance of the last ten games. It's the juxtaposition that is so amazing to me.

I mean, we all talk small sample size and everything, and everyone knew that the team would turn it around eventually, but I (at least) was concerned that it would be a much more gradual improvement, requiring some extended period of time to stabilize and then recover ground. What we're seeing is pretty much the best of the best case scenarios for the Sox performance after that initial couple of weeks.

#18 DukeSox


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Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:06 PM

After that 0-6 stretch the team has gone 10-5. Most of us were at a point where we'd have been thrilled with 8-7 or even 7-8 in that stretch. This team came around nicely and is showing everyone why it was the prohibitive favorite during the off season.

yes, prohibitive.

#19 MentalDisabldLst


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Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:25 PM

That's a correct usage of the term.

Reference 1.
Reference 2.

"3. So likely to win as to discourage competition: the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination."

#20 DukeSox


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Posted 25 April 2011 - 04:04 PM

That's a correct usage of the term.

Reference 1.
Reference 2.

"3. So likely to win as to discourage competition: the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination."

eh, just a silly reference. http://sonsofsamhorn...ost__p__3454250

anyway, i don't think the Sox are discouraging competition.

#21 Manramsclan

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:18 PM

Since April 16, Bostonís starting pitchers have combined for a 0.88 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, thatís the lowest ERA for the Red Sox rotation over any nine-game span since July 1918 (0.84).

That's quite a feat since 1918 is squarely in the deadball era. More on espn.com in the linked article.

#22 joyofsox


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Posted 26 April 2011 - 11:58 AM

I have box scores for the entire 1918 season, so here are the games, all of which were played at Fenway Park:

                             IP  H  R BB  K  Game
0715 vs White Sox  Carl Mays  9  5  1  2  3  Won 3-1
0716 vs Browns     Sam Jones  9  4  1  3  1  Won 2-1
0717 vs Browns     Joe Bush   9  7  0  3  4  Won 7-0 
                   Babe Ruth  5  4  0  1  2  Won 4-0 (rain-shortened)
0718 vs Browns     Lore Bader 6 10  5  4  1  Lost 3-6
0719 vs Tigers     Carl Mays  9  3  0  1  2  Won 5-0
0720 vs Tigers     Sam Jones  9  7  1  1  1  Won 5-1
0722 vs Tigers     Joe Bush  10  5  0  2  6  Won 1-0 (10)
                   Carl Mays  9  4  0  1  6  Won 3-0
In 75 innings, the starters allowed eight runs (seven earned) for an ERA of 0.84. The unearned run was in Bader's game.

By the way, earlier in the month:

July  8: Boston beat Cleveland 1-0 (10) and lost 3-4
July  9: Boston beat Cleveland 1-0 (12)
July 10: Boston beat Cleveland 2-0 (5, rain)
July 11: Boston beat Chicago 4-0

(fixed some typos)

Edited by joyofsox, 26 April 2011 - 04:37 PM.


#23 dbn

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Posted 04 May 2011 - 03:25 PM

The trend in game scores:
Posted Image


The dotted lines separate the top-10, middle-9, bottom-10 scores. Circles indicate victories, cross indicate losses. Unsurprisingly, the outcome depends greatly on the performance of the starting pitcher!