Baseball BeatNovember 10, 2003
Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Willis?
By Rich Lederer

Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum
What might be right for you, may not be right for some
A man is born, he's a man of means
Then along come two, they got nothin' but their jeans
But they got Diff'rent Strokes
It takes Diff'rent Strokes
It takes Diff'rent Strokes to move the world

--Lyrics by Alan Thicke, Gloria Loring, and Al Burton

Perhaps the headline is backwards and should read "Willis? Whatcha talkin' 'bout!"

The selection of Dontrelle Willis over Brandon Webb as the National League Rookie of the Year on Monday is more comical than the popular show of the late 1970s and 1980s starring Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. Even Mr. Drummond is scratching his head over this one.

How laughable is it? Let's take a look at the finished script for 2003.

	G    GS   IP      H     R    ER   HR   BB   SO
Webb 29 28 180.2 140 65 57 12 68 172
Willis 27 27 160.2 148 61 59 13 58 142

Personally, I tend to favor pitchers who throw more innings with fewer hits, earned runs, and home runs allowed while also striking out more batters. Unless one is a control freak, the raw stats make a strong case for Webb over Willis.

Maybe I'm missing something in the rate stats.

	ERA    WHIP   K/9    K/BB   BAA    OBP    SLG	   OPS
Webb 2.84 1.15 8.57 2.53 .212 .295 .307 .601
Willis 3.30 1.28 7.95 2.45 .245 .313 .385 .698

Nope, it's not that. Webb beats Willis across the board. Lower numbers when it matters. Higher numbers when it matters. Eight-for-eight.

So what could it be?

	W	L
Webb 10 9
Willis 14 6

Ahh, the ol' won-loss category. Geez, I nearly forgot. Even though Webb beat Willis up and down and around in every stat in which the pitchers have some say in the matter, Willis had more wins and fewer losses than his rookie counterpart.

I guess voters didn't take into account the fact that Florida's offense scored 34 more runs than Arizona's or that the team won seven more games overall. Perhaps they think Willis was the one responsible for the difference in these two teams win totals rather than the other way around.

In any event, it is obvious that the voters didn't pay attention to the fact that Florida's Pro Player Stadium favors pitchers and Arizona's Bank One Ballpark favors hitters. According to, Pro Player Stadium is rated 94 for pitching (meaning the park helped pitchers by 6%) while Bank One Ballpark is rated 109 (meaning the park hurt pitchers by 9%). In fact, Webb's adjusted ERA is 165 (or 65% better than the league) and Willis' is 122 (22% better).

Alternatively, it might be enlightening to take a look at Lee Sinins' favorite stat for pitchers -- Runs Saved Above Average or RSAA. Webb ranked fifth in the N.L. with 39 while Willis finished tied for 34th with 12. In other words, Webb saved 27 more runs above the average pitcher than Willis (or approximately one per game).

Another way to evaluate Webb vs. Willis on a more level playing field is to compare their performances on the road.

	G    GS   IP    H    R    ER   HR  BB   SO   BAA    ERA
Webb 15 14 91.1 72 27 23 5 32 83 .213 2.27
Willis 12 12 72 74 30 29 7 24 67 .264 3.63

C'mon now...2.27 vs. 3.63? Not only should Webb have won the ROY Award, but it should have been a unanimous decision--at least with respect to these two players. A vote on behalf of Scott Podsednik is an entirely different matter, but there is no way one can justify voting for Dontrelle Willis over Brandon Webb.

Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, I guess.