Designated HitterJune 02, 2006
Aluminum Adjustments (Part 1)
By Kent Bonham

If Moneyball taught us anything, it's that you should never underestimate a man with titties.

I am referring, of course, to the infamous passage from Michael Lewis's 2003 best-seller which details the reaction of an Oakland minor league coach after seeing the club's prized 7th round pick, Brant Colamarino, take off his shirt. But there are larger questions that this anecdote invokes, beyond the size of manzier for which Colamarino should be fitted. Namely, is it possible that in college baseball there still exists an entire class of players who are either over-looked or missed altogether due to the effects of the parks in which they play, the level of competition against whom they play, or due to scouts who might too often worship at the altar of The Five Tools?

Before going any further, let me be clear on two important points. First, I am not here to pick a fight with the scouting community. Because no major league team should, in their right mind, ignore the experience and observations of their professional scouts. Rather, what follows is an attempt at using the best of both worlds to determine the top seasons as recorded by this year's draft-eligible college hitters and pitchers.

Second, this is not a prediction of how a player's college performance will translate to wood bats and the major leagues. I am certain that work is being done, but you won't find it here.

With that out of the way, here's what I did. First, I took every draft-eligible college pitcher who had appeared on any of Baseball America's Top College Prospects lists at any point this year. Next, I sought to refine this "scouting" list by using the metrics explained below. So, it's as if your team's scouting department runs into the Baseball Operations office with their list of the best 50 or so pitchers in college baseball from the past season, the GM takes a look, and then turns to you as you sit at your laptop and says: "get to work."

So, here goes...

NAME: The player's name. See, this is going to be easy!

TEAM: Where they go to school. Still with me?

POSITION: I even threw in their handed-ness for free.

IP: Innings Pitched.

ERA: Your standard Earned Run Average. Joe Morgan should probably stop reading here.

STUFF: What defines a pitcher's "stuff?" Seriously. I'm asking. I don't know. To me, it's always been one of those things that everyone knows exists, but no one has been able to adequately explain. Like Scientology. Or David Hasselhoff's career. Alas, we'll seek to define it here through the prism of the following metrics:

  • K/9: Strikeouts per 9 IP. A traditional measure of a pitcher's dominance.
  • K/100P: The Baseball Analysts' own Rich Lederer posited that looking at strikeouts per 100 pitches thrown was the best measure of a pitcher's strikeout dominance. Works for me.
  • (K-BB)/BFP: Rich's article spurred a good deal of debate throughout cyberspace. This stuff-esque stat came from the ensuing discussion at the fanhome sabermetrics site (frequented by a cenacle of sabermetricians such as Tom Tango, David Smyth and David Gassko). This metric was developed by Tango and, I believe, elegantly encapsulates a pitcher's dominance and control, by incorporating his walks allowed and placing the number of batters he faced in the denominator.
  • (K-BB)/HR: Another stuff-esque fruit harvested from the fanhome discussions, this metric was originally introduced by David Smyth. It walks us near the line of defense-independent pitching performance by looking at a pitcher's control over the Three True Outcomes.

    DERA: Did somebody say defense-independent pitching performance? OK, then. Years ago, Voros McCracken penned what is arguably the most important sabermetric article on pitching ever written. The long-and-short of it is this: the analysis of a pitcher's effectiveness should be based only on plays which are completely under his control: home runs allowed, strikeouts, hit batters, and walks. By doing this, and thus assuming that a pitcher's singles, doubles, and triples allowed will all follow certain regular characteristics, you can peer into what a pitcher's true ERA would look like if they had an average defense playing behind them. So, there you go. What I've used for the list below is an equation developed by Boyd Nation specifically for the college game.

    AdjDERA: This is where things get tricky. This analysis looks further than DERA by adjusting for both Strength of Schedule and Park Effects. These are critical factors when analyzing the college game, as the level of competition and the characteristics of the parks in which they play vary widely from team to team. For pitchers, there is an added level of complexity because this should be done only for teams against whom they have pitched, and only for stadiums in which they have played. Don't worry. I've gone through the 2,000+ game logs so you don't have to. Note that adjustments for schedule strength and park factors stem from Boyd Nation's ISR and PF.

    Finally, then. After all are the Top 25 pitching performances this year (through the weekend of May 21), as sorted by AdjDERA.

    1 Mark Melancon Arizona RHP-R 39.1 2.97 12.0 7.87 0.222 No HR 2.15 1.84
    2 Steven Wright Hawaii RHP-S 101.2 2.48 9.8 7.82 0.227 45.500 2.25 2.20
    3 Chase Lirette South Florida RHP-R 39.1 2.97 9.9 7.71 0.217 35.000 2.37 2.26
    4 Craig Baker Cal State Northridge RHP-S 99 3.91 9.0 6.52 0.155 22.667 3.14 2.44
    5 Andrew Miller North Carolina LHP-S 89.2 1.71 9.9 7.67 0.194 71.000 2.57 2.48
    6 Justin Masterson San Diego State RHP-S 111 4.54 8.5 6.40 0.168 10.125 3.50 2.67
    7 Harold Mozingo Virginia Commonwealth RHP-S 82.2 2.07 10.2 8.42 0.255 15.800 2.67 2.74
    8 Brad Lincoln Houston RHP-S 113 1.67 11.2 8.48 0.261 14.375 2.77 2.75
    9 Joba Chamberlain Nebraska RHP-S 75 3.72 10.4 7.14 0.174 18.667 3.29 2.75
    10 Kyle McCulloch Texas RHP-S 93.2 2.98 7.2 4.65 0.120 51.000 3.12 2.77
    11 Kris Johnson Wichita State LHP-S/R 46.1 3.11 8.6 6.48 0.145 No HR 2.95 2.82
    12 Jeff Manship Notre Dame RHP-S 88.1 2.65 10.4 7.89 0.234 16.600 2.73 2.86
    13 Tim Lincecum Washington RHP-S 116.1 2.01 14.3 9.87 0.257 17.714 2.95 2.86
    14 Ian Kennedy Southern California RHP-S 94.1 3.63 9.0 6.61 0.155 21.000 3.23 2.97
    15 Max Scherzer Missouri RHP-S 59.2 2.11 10.0 7.28 0.181 14.333 3.46 3.00
    16 Brett Sinkbeil Missouri State RHP-S 61.2 2.34 9.9 7.55 0.188 22.500 3.13 3.03
    17 Chris Perez Miami-FL RHP-R 43.1 1.87 11.3 7.84 0.164 No HR 3.15 3.08
    18 Andrew Carpenter Long Beach State RHP-S 110.2 2.93 7.6 6.37 0.176 18.250 3.08 3.10
    19 Josh Butler San Diego RHP-S 102.2 2.89 8.0 5.81 0.128 29.000 3.30 3.12
    20 Daniel McCutchen Oklahoma RHP-S 112.1 3.61 8.4 5.83 0.144 10.286 3.70 3.15
    21 Jonah Nickerson Oregon State RHP-S 94 2.59 8.8 6.74 0.172 16.750 3.18 3.24
    22 Mike Felix Troy LHP-S/R 88.2 3.35 12.1 8.35 0.206 15.800 3.22 3.24
    23 Doug Fister Fresno State RHP-S 102.2 3.86 8.5 5.50 0.113 26.500 3.58 3.33
    24 Brandon Morrow California RHP-S 93.1 1.74 9.3 6.99 0.157 12.000 3.71 3.35
    25 Adam Ottavino Northeastern RHP-S 86.2 2.91 11.9 8.86 0.242 21.000 2.70 3.38

    THANKS: These articles, and the research that underlies them, simply would not have been possible were it not for a few extremely smart people I have had the pleasure of getting to know in a non-creepy internet way over the past few months. First, Tom Tango offered insight, wisdom, and advice every step of the way. He is a brilliant guy, and the fan in me can only hope that he is on Theo Epstein's speed dial. Craig Burley's previous work in this area helped inspire me to undertake this effort in the first place, and his thoughts along the way even helped it all make sense. And finally, of course, I can't even begin to thank Boyd Nation for all of his time and help. Remember, when it comes to college baseball, it's Boyd's World, and we're just living in it.

    On Deck: The Hitters.

    Kent Bonham is a consultant in Washington, DC. He can be reached here.

  • Comments

    Kent, this is groundbreaking work. Thanks again to bringing it to this forum.

    If we look at what this mean's for the draft, I've come up with some quick comments:

    - Andrew Miller is your top dog, plain and simple. While Brad Lincoln had him beat in simple ERA, Kent's numbers show that in reality Miller rises to the top. And, in fact, Miller's numbers are probably even hurt by a schedule that wasn't great!

    - Suddenly doubting Justin Masterson became more difficult. The Aztec doesn't have super-high K numbers, but no pitcher on this list had a bigger ERA-AdjDERA spread. Masterson's season numbers were simply misleading. Since the scouts like him and he has the body, I think it's safe to say he should be rated higher than ...

    - Greg Reynolds, who sucks. Not on this list, yet indication that Reynolds enters the draft as its most overrated player.

    - Kent's list is really fun because it brings us a group of sleepers. My favorite? Mike Felix, from Troy. Felix is very good in terms of K-BB/BF, indicating his stuff matches the results. He profiles as a reliever, no question, but Felix has an argument to be ahead of Blair Erickson and possibly Chris Perez.

    - Besides Reynolds, we should probably be noticing the absence of Jared Hughes, Wade Leblanc, Brooks Brown, Dave Huff, and Daniel Bard. All early round talents, none were good enough to make this list.

    Can't wait for the hitters.

    Kent - Good "stuff." Thanks.

    is it possible that in college baseball there still exists an entire class of players who are either over-looked or missed altogether due to the effects of the parks in which they play, the level of competition against whom they play, or due to scouts who might too often worship at the altar of The Five Tools?

    Yes. I believe the opposite is true as well. There exists players who are overrated based on ballparks, competition, and tools. Analysis like yours can help ferret out both.

    Wow! It seems every time I come to this page I get to learn something new. Thank you so much for the extensive work. You are truly making me a more knowledgeable baseball fan.

    Thanks, guys.

    In addition to Bryan's observations above, I was shocked to see how low Hochevar's 2005 seaon compared when subjected to a similar analysis. Very weird.

    And Steven Wright had a pretty damn good year, any way you slice it.

    Thought I'd chime in on Mike Felix, as well. It's interesting to note that even his impressive stats from above are skewed by his games as a starter.

    Consider the following (updated through 5/28):


    IP: 95.1
    ERA: 3.49
    (K-BB)/Batters Faced: .188

    Not bad. But look at this...


    IP: 53
    ERA: 4.58
    (K-BB)/BF: .163


    IP: 42.1
    ERA: 2.13
    (K-BB)/BF: .220

    He could be a great pick for a team looking to move him to the bullpen.

    Anybody know how you pronounce Tim Lincecum's name?

    Is is Lintz-i-cum?
    Or Lintz-ess-sum?
    Or something else?

    I believe it's "LINS-kum."

    Kent, really just wow. That was some real good stuff you and the other guys did there. Just very impressive!

    Thanks, doug. I appreciate it.

    Who are you hearing/hoping the Reds might be after at 1.8?

    Kent, I havent heard how the workout with Bill Rowell went, but they did bring him in for one. If it went well, I think that is who they are going to take at #8. From everything I have read the past few days though, they are saying that they are going to be taking the best player available at their selection. With the way the draft is looking right now, who knows who will be available really. I mean outside of Longoria and Miller, I think anyone else has a chance of falling to them so its going to be interesting.

    Now that jimmy negych was drafted by pittsburgh, where do you think he will end up. Does he have a chance to move up?

    j. demm:

    This comment thread is still active? Yikes. Sorry for the late reply.

    I hope you don't see this as a cop-out, but that's a very tough question for me to try and answer. It's WAY out of my league. I know very little about how college stats translate to the majors, and even less about the PIT farm system.


    On a (not really) somewhat related note, I'm dying to head up to PIT and see a game in PNC Park, though I'm still pissed BOS returned Mike Gonzalez to them in the botched Brandon Lyon deal.

    - Kent