Benefit of the Doubt: Mo and the Wide Zone

Mo-lhb-rhb_medium

Last week, we looked at the pitchers who cost or saved their teams the most runs via their respective strike zones. This week, I present to you the pitchers whose zones made the biggest difference over approximately 9 innings.

When we calculate the LWD differential for every 75 pitches called (the average number thrown in a 9 inning matchup), we find Wide Zone Mo at the top of the list. In regular season games from 2008-2010, Mariano Rivera's zone (heat map above) has saved the Yankees about 1.61 runs every 9 innings. This works out to about 0.16 runs per outing.

Considering how seldom Rivera allows any runs at all, the runs saved by his strike zone are especially valuable.

On the other end of the scale we find maligned reliever Andrew Miller. His zone (mapped below) cost the Marlins about 0.52 runs per 9. 

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Below is a list of the ten most pitcher- and hitter-friendly zones over the last three seasons based on LWD/75. Same as last week, only pitchers with at least 250 pitches called in each of the previous three seasons qualify.
Pitcher Called Pitches LWD LWD/Year LWD/75 Standard Deviations
Rivera, Mariano 1404 -30.19 -10.06 -1.61 -1.73
Hoffman, Trevor 997 -13.82 -4.61 -1.04 -1.07
Hernandez, Livan 4877 -67.49 -22.50 -1.04 -1.07
Wilson, Brian 2029 -25.41 -8.47 -0.94 -0.96
Lowe, Derek 4965 -54.63 -18.21 -0.83 -0.83
Moyer, Jamie 4055 -38.96 -12.99 -0.72 -0.70
Cordero, Francisco 1878 -17.79 -5.93 -0.71 -0.69
Okajima, Hideki 1499 -13.90 -4.63 -0.70 -0.68
Halladay, Roy 4985 -43.49 -14.50 -0.65 -0.63
Peavy, Jake 3051 -25.41 -8.47 -0.62 -0.59
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Madson, Ryan 1445 5.43 1.81 0.28 0.45
Lindstrom, Matt 1210 4.69 1.56 0.29 0.46
Hernandez, Felix 5054 20.06 6.69 0.30 0.46
Perez, Oliver 2971 12.44 4.15 0.31 0.48
Linebrink, Scott 1352 5.75 1.92 0.32 0.49
Nippert, Dustin 1813 8.38 2.79 0.35 0.52
Rodney, Fernando 1758 8.39 2.80 0.36 0.53
Robertson, Nate 2718 14.35 4.78 0.40 0.58
Ohlendorf, Ross 2618 14.41 4.80 0.41 0.60
Miller, Andrew 2110 14.55 4.85 0.52 0.72

 

Felix Hernandez, who brought up the rear in last week's column, has only the 8th worst zone among qualifying pitchers.

In this week's list, I also present standard deviations from the mean (since, when talking rate stats, this actually means something). As you can see above, only three of the best pitcher's zones—and none of the best hitter's zones—fall more than a standard deviation away from the mean. This would imply that the real strike zones for most pitchers (excepting Livan Hernandez, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera) are not significantly different from the average zone from 2008-2010.

This is somewhat misleading. As it turns out, the rankings of hitter's and pitcher's zones are somewhat sensitive to the minimum called pitch cutoff. Let's take a look at another list for comparison's sake. In this chart, a pitcher qualifies if he threw 750 called pitches over the last three seasons, regardless of whether he threw a minimum of 250 in any single year.

Pitcher Called Pitches LWD LWD/Year LWD/75 Standard Deviations
Rivera, Mariano 1404 -30.19 -10.06 -1.61 -1.73
Duchscherer, Justin 1407 -22.44 -7.48 -1.20 -1.25
Hoffman, Trevor 997 -13.82 -4.61 -1.04 -1.07
Hernandez, Livan 4877 -67.49 -22.50 -1.04 -1.07
Mussina, Mike 1814 -23.03 -7.68 -0.95 -0.97
Wilson, Brian 2029 -25.41 -8.47 -0.94 -0.96
Weathers, David 1200 -14.55 -4.85 -0.91 -0.92
Gallardo, Yovani 3445 -41.71 -13.90 -0.91 -0.92
Martin, J.D. 938 -11.08 -3.69 -0.89 -0.89
Lowe, Derek 4965 -54.63 -18.21 -0.83 -0.83
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cabrera, Daniel 2173 11.29 3.76 0.39 0.57
Robertson, Nate 2718 14.35 4.78 0.40 0.58
Rupe, Josh 987 5.35 1.78 0.41 0.59
Baez, Danys 923 5.04 1.68 0.41 0.59
Ohlendorf, Ross 2618 14.41 4.80 0.41 0.60
League, Brandon 1182 6.83 2.28 0.43 0.62
Lowe, Mark 1298 7.95 2.65 0.46 0.65
Samardzija, Jeff 811 5.08 1.69 0.47 0.66
Miller, Andrew 2110 14.55 4.85 0.52 0.72
McGowan, Dustin 903 22.36 7.45 1.86 2.25

 

Under the new criteria, we find a number of new pitchers populating the list. Perhaps most notable is Dustin McGowan, whose LWD/75 of 1.86 is beyond one standard deviation from the mean.

In fact, there's a notable if not earth-shattering year-to-year correlation for the stat: LWD/75 over the 2008-2009 period predicted about 45% of the variance in 2010 LWD/75. So we can say that the stat is a somewhat reliable indicator of what the real zone for any individual pitcher is over the course of a season. This is true even if very few individual zones ever deviate by more than one sigma from the mean.

PitchF/X data originate from Darrell Zimmerman's SQL-based PitchFX database, run expectancy data by Tom Tango at Inside the Book. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and licensed under Creative Commons terms.


Previous episodes in the Benefit of the Doubt series:

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