Yankees

By The Numbers: A Closer Look At Pitcher Efficiency Average

Justin Verlander (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Justin Verlander (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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By Father Gabe Costa
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Gunner Carroll is our guest blogger this week. He discusses a metric called Pitcher Efficiency Average.

In the realm of sabermetrics, there are copious amounts of statistics that deal with hitting.  These include cumulative, efficiency and rating statistics — all of which allow for comparisons and rankings of batters to determine who is ‘better’, or ‘more valuable,’ than the player standing next to him.  This is to be expected as the nature of batting is purely discrete, with quantifiable objectives and outcomes.  But what about the man holding the baseball sixty feet, six inches away?  How can we compare him to his peers?  What are the things that he controls and can these be quantified?  Pitching, relative to batting, has little statistical history or background.  There are some cumulative stats, like wins, strikeouts or innings pitched.  There are some rate-oriented statistics, such as earned run average or the newer version called ERA+.

Efficiency, however, is not something that has been delved into very deeply with regard to the pitcher’s side of the clubhouse.  In searching for a baseball statistic that can truly measure a pitcher’s efficiency and effectiveness, we must first define what an efficient pitcher may do.

Efficient pitchers get outs, they don’t allow many runs and they do all of this by going deep in games, thus saving their bullpens.  These are among the most important characteristics of an efficient pitcher. This is clear because over the course of a 162-game season, the pitcher that can give his bullpen a rest every fifth day will be the one that puts his team in a position to succeed.

A relatively new statistic that has come up through sabermetrical circles is known as pitcher efficiency average (PEA).  First noticed on the chat boards of the baseball-oriented discussion site Baseball Fever, PEA is a mathematical formula aimed at capturing many, if not all, of the factors that pitchers directly control and to normalize those numbers over a factor that would bring efficiency in to play.

To find PEA, one must first add up a starting pitcher’s hits allowed, earned runs and walks allowed.  This total is then divided by the total number of innings pitched by that pitcher. That value is then multiplied by 9 (the number of innings in a regulation game) in order to normalize the numbers at a per-inning basis.  The true efficiency measure is then implemented when that value is divided by the pitcher’s innings pitched per start (IPPS).  This value is relevant because it is a direct indicator of how far one pitcher goes into a game compared to another. It also reveals more than merely counting the number of pitches thrown. For example, a shutout hurled by Justin Verlander which takes 137 pitches is just as valuable to a team’s bullpen as the 58-pitch gem that Red Barrett threw for the Boston Braves in 1944 because neither game required any effort from the bullpen.

While this is certainly not a perfect metric, many consider this a valid attempt to being able to compare and rank pitchers based on efficiency.  To put these numbers into a context, a good PEA over the course of a 162 game season comes out to roughly 2.40.  Over the course of the 2012 season, 39 pitchers had a PEA under that mark.  The lowest in the league went to Justin Verlander, which is no surprise based on his 7.22 IPPS.  The Cincinnati Reds had the best team rotation based on PEA, as four of their starters ranked in the top 38 of the league.

If a statistic such at Pitcher Efficiency Average were to become popularized around baseball in the coming years, it would mean some changes in how players are valued by Major League teams.  While some of the traditional stats like ERA and strikeouts would still be prominent when evaluating top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers, efficiency would become a large measuring factor when evaluating fourth and fifth starters, where teams are looking to conserve their bullpen as well as win games.

An efficient pitcher makes their rotation and bullpen better. This is why PEA should be a metric used by all of baseball.

Do you think that measuring pitcher efficiency average should be a regularly reported statistic? Let us know in the comments section below…