Baseball BeatJuly 09, 2006
There's A New Sheriff in Town
By Rich Lederer

Francisco Liriano pitched seven scoreless innings yesterday and is now eligible to be listed among the league leaders in rate stats such as ERA and one of our favorites, strikeouts per 100 pitches (or K/100P). The rookie southpaw allowed four hits and three walks while striking out seven batters in winning his 10th game and lowering his league-leading ERA to 1.83 Liriano's ERA is nearly a full run better than the #2 pitcher, teammate Johan Santana (2.76).

Among AL pitchers, Liriano ranks:

  • 1st ERA (1.83)
  • 1st K/9 (10.39)
  • 1st WHIP (0.97)
  • 1st SLG (.283)
  • 1st OPS (.543)
  • 2nd BAA (.201)
  • 2nd Win Pct (.909)
  • 4th K/BB (4.43)
  • 4th Wins (10)
  • 6th SO (102)

    According to Elias, Liriano is the second rookie to head into the All-Star break with at least 10 wins and a sub-2.00 ERA. The other was Jerry Koosman of the New York Mets in 1968 when he was 11-4 with an ERA of 1.94. There is one big difference between these two seasons. Koosman's rookie campaign was the Year of the Pitcher. The league-wide ERA was 2.98. The Cincinnati Reds had the worst team ERA at 3.56. This year, on the other hand, the league-wide ERA is 4.56--or more than 50% higher!

    Outside of the Mark Redman family, does anyone really believe that the fans of Kansas City would rather see the Royals veteran LHP than the Twins rookie LHP in the All-Star game?

    Here are the K/100P totals for all qualified pitchers:

    PLAYER          TEAM   K/100P
    F. Liriano      Min     7.86
    Johan Santana   Min     7.08
    Pedro Martinez  NYM     7.04
    Jake Peavy      SD      6.59
    J. Bonderman    Det     6.50
    Scott Kazmir    TB      6.37
    C.C. Sabathia   Cle     5.91
    Carlos Zambrano ChC     5.82
    Felix Hernandez Sea     5.82
    Mike Mussina    NYY     5.81
    Chris Capuano   Mil     5.81
    Aaron Harang    Cin     5.81
    John Smoltz     Atl     5.78
    Dave Bush       Mil     5.78
    Curt Schilling  Bos     5.67
    Chris Young     SD      5.61
    O. Hernandez    NYM     5.52
    Chris Carpenter StL     5.51
    Ted Lilly       Tor     5.43
    Jason Schmidt   SF      5.35
    Brandon Webb    Ari     5.28
    Josh Beckett    Bos     5.24
    Randy Johnson   NYY     5.16
    Vicente Padilla Tex     5.14
    John Lackey     LAA     5.12
    Dan Haren       Oak     4.99
    Brett Myers     Phi     4.92
    Cory Lidle      Phi     4.89
    Ian Snell       Pit     4.84
    Bronson Arroyo  Cin     4.79
    Javier Vazquez  CWS     4.77
    Jason Jennings  Col     4.74
    Erik Bedard     Bal     4.73
    Kelvim Escobar  LAA     4.67
    Gil Meche       Sea     4.63
    Brad Penny      LA      4.62
    Chan Ho Park    SD      4.61
    Roy Oswalt      Hou     4.59
    Ervin Santana   LAA     4.54
    Barry Zito      Oak     4.49
    Nate Robertson  Det     4.48
    Jose Contreras  CWS     4.43
    Taylor Buchholz Hou     4.38
    Kevin Millwood  Tex     4.37
    Andy Pettitte   Hou     4.34
    Doug Davis      Mil     4.24
    Tom Glavine     NYM     4.23
    Jeff Weaver     StL     4.19
    Tim Wakefield   Bos     4.18
    Tim Hudson      Atl     4.17
    J. Verlander    Det     4.12
    Greg Maddux     ChC     4.10
    Roy Halladay    Tor     4.04
    Sean Marshall   ChC     4.03
    Cliff Lee       Cle     4.03
    Jeff Francis    Col     3.94
    D. Willis       Fla     3.83
    Kenny Rogers    Det     3.78
    Paul Maholm     Pit     3.78
    Wandy Rodriguez Hou     3.76
    Zach Duke       Pit     3.74
    Matt Morris     SF      3.72
    M. Hendrickson  LA      3.66
    Miguel Batista  Ari     3.66
    Paul Byrd       Cle     3.64
    Freddy Garcia   CWS     3.62
    Rodrigo Lopez   Bal     3.61
    Mark Mulder     StL     3.53
    Jamie Moyer     Sea     3.47
    Jake Westbrook  Cle     3.44
    Livan Hernandez Was     3.41
    Clay Hensley    SD      3.37
    Jarrod Washburn Sea     3.34
    Joe Blanton     Oak     3.30
    Ramon Ortiz     Was     3.28
    Derek Lowe      LA      3.26
    Jamey Wright    SF      3.23
    Brad Radke      Min     3.20
    Jon Garland     CWS     3.08
    Aaron Cook      Col     3.05
    Jason Marquis   StL     3.04
    John Koronka    Tex     3.03
    Kris Benson     Bal     3.01
    Jeff Suppan     StL     3.00
    Mark Buehrle    CWS     2.98
    Josh Fogg       Col     2.92
    Steve Trachsel  NYM     2.79
    Carlos Silva    Min     2.77
    Joel Pineiro    Sea     2.72
    Scott Elarton   KC      2.60
    Chien-Ming Wang NYY     2.41

    Four of the top five pitchers in the AL--Liriano, Santana, Scott Kazmir, and C.C. Sabathia--are left-handers. The only other pitcher in the top five is right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, who is enjoying a breakout season.

    I like to look for pitchers who combine the ability to strike out batters and induce groundballs. The top five pitchers in K/100P who also have a G/F ratio of at least 2.0 are Liriano (2.31), Bonderman (2.03), Felix Hernandez (2.18), Chris Carpenter (2.15), and Brandon Webb (3.84). All five pitchers rank in the top 21 in K/100P and top 13 in G/F.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I dislike pitchers who allow an inordinate number of flyballs and are unable to miss bats. The bottom five in K/100P with G/F under 1.00 are Scott Elarton with the second-worst K/100P and G/F (0.58) in the majors, Steve Trachsel (0.95), Jarrod Washburn (0.98), Livan Hernandez (0.86), and Jamie Moyer (0.93). Of these pitchers, only Elarton is an extreme flyball type. I have no idea why the Royals keep throwing his glove out there and hereby nominate the 30-year-old right-hander as the worst "regular" starting pitcher in the big leagues.

    Chien-Ming Wang (3.24 G/F), Aaron Cook (3.43), Jamey Wright (2.86), Derek Lowe (3.56), and Jake Westbrook (3.28) can get away with low K/100P rankings because they keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. However, Wright is walking too many batters (43 in 110 1/3 or 3.50 BB/9) to be effective, as evidenced by his 1.26 K/BB rate and 5.06 ERA.

    Now it's also important to point out that pitchers don't have to induce grounders to be successful. Pedro Martinez, Jake Peavy, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Chris Young, Jason Schmidt, and John Lackey have pitched well, despite allowing more flyballs than groundballs. Why? Because they all rank among the top 25 in K/100P.

    * * * * *

    Update: At reader and guest columnist Kent Bonham's request, here is a graph courtesy of Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times and Baseball Graphs, depicting K100P and GB % (rather than G/F).

  • Comments

    Thanks for the update, Rich.

    I like reading things with lots of pictures, so here's a thought that immediately came to mind.

    What would a chart plotting K/100p against G/F Ratio look like?

    Looks like F.Hernandez/Bonderman/Carpenter/Liriano would inhabit the "Northeast." Pedro/G38/Mussina/Peavy would live in the "Northwest."

    Anywho. Just a thought.

    Thanks again.

    - Kent

    Funny you should mention that. I was thinking the same thing. Plotting K/100P on the Y axis and G/F on the X axis would indeed produce the Northeast and Northwest results you mentioned.

    Thanks, Rich.

    Here's a less subtle way of putting it...

    Could you run the chart and post it? Maybe just including the names of the the outliers would help give my simple mind a "feel" for what type of pitcher would reside in each quadrant.

    Ha! I know it's probably not a great idea for you to open up the phone lines for listener requests, but thought I'd try.

    Either way, thanks again.

    - Kent

    Kent: You shall ask (nicely) and you shall receive.

    Cool. That rules.

    Looks like that Liriano guy might be pretty good, after all.

    Thanks much.

    - Kent

    anyone else notice that 3 of the bottom five in K/100P with G/F under 1.00 (moyer, washburn, and trachsel all have better era's than king felix? just an observation.

    Yes, Rob, I noticed that. It's also interesting that two of those three pitchers you mentioned are in the same rotation with King Felix.

    I actually believe Felix's excellent K/100P and G/F (or GB%) metrics are more predictive in nature than his mediocre ERA. The fact that Hernandez is living in the same neighborhood as Bonderman, Carpenter, and Webb suggests to me that his ERA will most likely regress toward theirs over time.