Best Measure of Pitching Staffs

ROAD ERA'S TAKE OUT HOME FIELD POLLUTION

We wanted to start off the second half of the Major League season by getting you in touch with the REALITY of team pitching right now.

You just enjoyed a few days of All-Star festivities. You just read about all the great pitchers who made the team, and the near-greats who were snubbed. Unfortunately, the mainstream media does a poor job of the following:

  • Adjusting for home ballpark influences

  • Focusing on TEAM pitching rather than just the elites

If you want to pick winners against the Vegas numbers in baseball, you must adjust for ballpark influences so you know who's really throwing well and who's just an illusion of their surroundings. And, you need to account for the guys on the mound who come in after your starter leaves the game in the seventh or eighth inning (and sometimes the sixth).

So, today, we're going to look at team ERA's in ONLY road games through the first half of the season. This is about as pure a stat as you can get because home park influences are erased. We think you'll learn some things you didn't know. And, you're likely to be impressed with how well these numbers lineup with informed assessments of team quality. Many of the powers will show better than you may have expected. Many of the surprise teams will be explained. Many of the picks you lost with on your own last month will turn into winners this month because you'll be making more informed decisions.

We'll be running through all 30 teams today, so let's jump right in...

AMERICAN LEAGUE'S BEST
NY Yankees 3.24
Seattle 3.31
Texas 3.34
Oakland 3.50
Boston 3.54
LA Angels 3.68
Toronto 3.70
Cleveland 3.74

Probably the biggest "unreported" story from last year in Major League Baseball was the fact that the Texas Rangers had a mediocre offense but a great pitching staff. It was hidden because they play their home games in a hitter's paradise. The mainstream media never caught on even as the Rangers pitched their way past Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees into the World Series. This stat helped YOU realize what was going on in that regard last year. And, now it's helped uncover what might be the biggest unreported story of 2011.

The New York Yankees have a dominant pitching staff!

Like Texas, the Yankees play home games in a great hitter's park. In the case of New York though, the issue is compounded by a huge media presence that plays up offensive stars and largely ignores pitchers who aren't named Sabathia and Rivera. The Yankees supposedly "outscore" people because of a great offense and a sub-par pitching staff. What's actually happened this year is that the offense has been good, and the pitching's been GREAT. That (and a home friendly schedule) is why the Yankees rank so well in run differential (discussed here over the ASB) and won-lost record.

Let's note that Texas is up amongst the leaders again this year. Nolan Ryan has built a WINNER! Hopefully he'll get credit for it somewhere else besides these pages before the year is out.

Boston is a very respectable fifth even though this has supposedly been a disappointing year for them on the mound. John Lackey's been terrible. Dice-K has disappeared. Other arms are carrying the load fairly well though. The LA Angels and Cleveland Indians are in contention thanks to their pitching. Cleveland doesn't have a lot of consistent depth in the rotation, but they have the best staff in their division by a good bit (as you'll see in a moment).

AMERICAN LEAGUE'S WORST
Tampa Bay 3.87
Minnesota 4.09
Chicago White Sox 4.12
Detroit 4.55
Kansas City 4.95
Baltimore 4.99

Tampa Bay is kind of a tweener between best and worst. They rank 9th in a 14-team league, so it's hard to put them with the best. They stand clear of 9th place Minnesota by 0.22 of a run, which is a decent amount on a chart like this. Just think of the Rays as a tweener. Then, look for ways to take advantage of that because the market seems to think of this as an elite staff when it just isn't performing that way on a consistent basis.

The next four teams after the Rays are all in the AL Central...and those poor numbers show you why the division as a whole is struggling this year. And, it's not like that's a division of offensive superstars, and an unbalanced schedule is warping the stats. It's just a BAD division with relatively few impact players on the mound or at the plate.

One of the true impact players of course is Justin Verlander of Detroit. He seems on the verge of throwing a no-hitter every time out. It's amazing that Detroit can rank third worst in the league with him anchoring the staff. That gives you a hint about why their pitching coach was fired recently. And, it may also suggest some of the problems with letting your hurlers throw high pitch counts, which Jim Leyland loves to do. Old school managers can be dangerous to a staff's arms. A handful of guys can handle a high pitch workload (like Verlander). Why destroy the rest of their staff because they're not in that handful?


NATIONAL LEAGUE'S BEST

Atlanta 3.32
Philadelphia 3.41
San Francisco 3.54
San Diego 3.58
Colorado 3.68
Arizona 3.81
Pittsburgh 3.82

Last weekend we talked about how the Atlanta/Philadelphia series was a showcase of great pitchers (even though a couple of key players missed out in the rotation). You can see how well those staffs rate here in this measurement. They're the only two NL teams below 3.50. And, they're WAY ahead of the bulk of the field in this league.

The top three teams are the three most likely choices to win the NL this season. San Francisco is the defending World Champions of course. Don't get the idea that their pitching is an illusion based on their home park. They get people out everywhere.

Two of the biggest surprise teams in the NL this year are Arizona and Pittsburgh. They crack the upper half of the league in this stat. It's pretty clear that the National League is fairly balanced in terms of offenses. If you can pitch, you're going to win. If you can pitch great, you're going to make the playoffs. The eventual NL Central winner is going to have some troubles because they won't match up on the mound with the top three here...and they really won't match up well in terms of the frontline arms that get the bulk of postseason innings.

NATIONAL LEAGUE'S WORST
Washington 4.05
Cincinnati 4.10
NY Mets 4.16
LA Dodgers 4.20
Milwaukee 4.43
St. Louis 4.44
Florida 4.45
Houston 4.74
Chicago Cubs 4.99

We have a few more tweeners here. Washington and the Mets can make you money if you pick your spots. Cincinnati has a run differential suggesting they'll be a bigger force in the second half of the season than they were in the first. These are far from elite staffs. But, you'd have to give them the edge over the dreck beneath them.

And, as we saw over in the other league...many of the weak spots are in the Central division. St. Louis and Milwaukee are battling for first place with very vulnerable pitching staffs. We have to say we're surprised about both of those. Milwaukee upgraded their staff in the offseason but isn't seeing the production they thought they paid for. St. Louis has created some illusions with their home park. The pitching is not as good as you think...Albert Pujols has been even more amazing than you realized in recent years.

You know Houston and the Cubs have been awful. No surprises that they bring up the rear.

The Major League schedule resumes tonight with three games in the National League and four in the American League. We're paying particular attention to San Francisco/San Diego in the senior circuit in a rematch of last week's entertaining series...and NY Yankees/Toronto because of the logjam at the top of the AL East.

Everyone's back in action Friday. Other series of interest for us through Sunday will include Boston/Tampa Bay, Chicago White Sox/Detroit, Philadelphia/NY Mets, and St. Louis/Cincinnati.

Game day releases can always be purchased here at the website with your credit card. We have a great package for the second half of the MLB season. Don't forget that early bird rates are still available for football too. We hope you football fans will be with us Saturday and Sunday here in the NOTEBOOK as our summer series of college football previews continues with a look at the SEC.

THE BREAK IS OVER...LET'S GO MAKE SOME MONEY!

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