Ben Sheets and standard deviations

That looks rather unnatural. - Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE

Ben Sheets was awesome. Let's use standard deviations to see how awesome.

I'll be honest. The words following are going to be full of excessive praise of Ben Sheets. Ben Sheets was completely awesome. We know this. His career was tragically cut short by injuries, but we must remember the good of what he gave us. At the end of this post, you will find the standard deviation numbers I used for the study. Consider this post a short wrap-up, if you will.

The spur of this treatise on Sheets' glory occurred while digging through the standard deviation results. There is a particular group, two standard deviations above the middle in strikeout rate and two standard deviations below the middle in walk rate. The highest of high in strikeout rate, and the lowest of low in walk rate. There is only one man who qualified for this group since 2002 (twice!), and his thread count is beyond luxurious.

The two seasons that qualified are Sheets' 2004 and 2006. Let's look at what he achieved during those two seasons, statistically.

Year IP K% BB% GB% ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
2004 237 28.2% 3.4% 43.3% 2.70 2.65 2.76 7.6
2006 106 27.0% 2.6% 40.4% 3.82 2.43 2.89 3.9

The 2006 ERA was kind of a blip, but otherwise, those stats are ridiculous. Unfortunately, Sheets never before and never again reached those heights. It's a shame that injuries are things that happen to pitchers. I should note that there were two other pitcher seasons that fit into this standard deviation group, but they were before 2002, so no batted ball data exist for them: 1995 Greg Maddux, who had a 2.26 FIP, and 2001 Curt Schilling, who had a 3.11 FIP. If we combine those four player seasons together, the median fWAR, as in the one in the middle, was 8.

Let me state that again. Of those players who fit this standard deviation group from 1995-2013, the mediocre, middle, median fWAR was 8 wins. According to the evidence, it's really good to strike out a lot of hitters while simultaneously not walking them. Astounding.

Finally, here are the standard deviations that I used. Intentional walks are eliminated from the BB% calculation. GB% was calculated as GB/(GB+FB+LD)*100. I report the medians because many years of data were not normally distributed. These numbers are from starting pitchers only.

Year K% SD K% Median BB% SD BB% Median
1995 4.3% 14.3% 2.5% 9.3%
1996 4.6% 14.4% 2.5% 9.1%
1997 4.5% 15.1% 2.3% 9.7%
1998 4.2% 15.2% 2.5% 9.3%
1999 4.2% 14.7% 2.8% 9.6%
2000 4.3% 14.6% 2.7% 10.1%
2001 4.7% 14.9% 2.5% 9.1%
2002 4.3% 14.8% 2.8% 9.1%
2003 4.5% 14.4% 2.5% 9.1%
2004 4.5% 14.7% 2.5% 9.0%
2005 4.5% 14.5% 2.6% 8.4%
2006 4.5% 14.7% 2.8% 9.1%
2007 4.6% 15.4% 2.6% 8.8%
2008 4.7% 15.2% 2.5% 8.9%
2009 4.6% 16.1% 2.5% 8.9%
2010 4.4% 16.6% 2.5% 8.7%
2011 4.5% 16.4% 2.3% 8.3%
2012 4.6% 18.3% 2.5% 7.9%
2013 4.6% 18.0% 2.1% 8.1%

Year GB% SD GB% Median
2002 7.4% 41.6%
2003 7.3% 42.0%
2004 7.1% 43.5%
2005 7.7% 43.7%
2006 7.4% 43.0%
2007 7.5% 42.2%
2008 7.0% 42.5%
2009 7.1% 42.5%
2010 6.9% 44.0%
2011 6.9% 44.0%
2012 7.1% 44.6%
2013 7.2% 44.7%

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Kevin Ruprecht is a Featured Writer of Beyond the Box Score. He also writes at Royal Stats for Everyone. You can follow him on Twitter at @KevinRuprecht.

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