Monday, April 16, 2012

Introductory Post and the Starting Rotation

          Since this is the first post of this blog, I should lay out some thoughts about the purpose of this blog.  The primary goal of this blog is to write about baseball.  I have been a Royals fan for my entire life, so naturally I will write mostly about the Royals; however, I will probably add in some posts every so often about other teams in baseball or the sport in general.  I am also a fan of the Chiefs and Sporting KC, so I might post about them every once in awhile.

          The second goal of this blog is to use statistics to analyze the Royals.  There are plenty of statistic websites out there, like Fangraphs, but I want to distill the statistics to a more readable form and come away with some sort of conclusion.  With these things in mind, on with the blog!

          Before the 2012 season began, the general consensus was that the starting rotation was the weakest part of the Royals and TheirTime.  After the above average initial turn through the rotation, I decided to track the stats of the Royals starting pitchers throughout the season.  Here is what has happened so far.

          The first turn through the rotation was not terrible; the pitchers did not last longer than 6.1 (6 and a third) innings, but no starter pitched shorter than 5 innings.  Collectively, the starters gave up 5 runs in 5 games.  Not bad.

          The second turn through the rotation took a turn for the odd and the horrible; bad defense, bad calls, and bad pitches permeated 4 of the 5 starters.

          Since DuffMan's start is over for the night, I now have complete data for 2 starts for each pitcher.  Over the first ten games, the starters have averaged just over 5 innings per start.  This means, on average, the relievers will throw 4 innings per game.  Across a 162 game season, that's 648 innings spread across about 8 or 9 pitchers, depending on injuries.  That's roughly 76 innings per reliever.  Of the top 40 relief pitchers with the most appearances last year in the majors, only 5 pitchers had 76 innings or more.  This is a recipe for injury and consistent ineffectiveness from the relief pitchers.  The starters MUST throw more innings for the bullpen to be as effective as last year.

          The starters are currently averaging 6.49 K/9 and 4.38 BB/9, which leaves a 1.48 K:BB ratio.  For those who don't know, K/9 and BB/9 are the numbers of strikeouts and walks per nine innings, respectively.  The strikeout numbers are low; 6.49 K/9 would rank 27th out of 30 (tied with Baltimore) in 2011*.  4.38 BB/9 would rank as dead last by a large margin in 2011.  If we remove DuffMan, who is the only starter good at striking out batters, the starters have a 5.12 K/9.  Awful.  The starters MUST limit walks and increase strikeouts to be more effective.

*The 2011 data I present for K/9, BB/9, and WHIP includes all pitchers on a team, not just starters, so take the comparison with a grain of salt.

          The staff currently boasts a 1.52 WHIP, which is the number of walks and hits given up per inning.  For those who don't know, it's a good measure of the number of baserunners a pitcher gives up in an inning. A 1.52 WHIP would be dead last among all pitching staffs in 2011.  The starts MUST limit baserunners.

          So what did we learn from this quick-and-dirty analysis?  Well, not a whole lot other than the starters must improve in pretty much every aspect of pitching.  They simply need to throw more strikes.  Throwing more strikes reduces pitch counts so they can stay in games longer and give the relievers more rest.  It will be good for everyone.  This is just 10 games; 6.2% of the way through the season.  If this were the NFL season, we would be in the final minute of the 4th quarter in the first game of the season.  It's not time to panic, but it is time to be concerned.

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