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Ranking the Aces

Update [2005-6-26 20:25:44 by Richard B. Wade]:Apparently I had Baseball Tonight's list wrong and they had the right ace ranked #1. The rest were off, though.

This evening ESPN's Baseball Tonight did a quick segment they called "Rank the Aces."  Their focus was on the ace of each division leader's pitching staff.  The list as they saw it was:

  1. Mark Buerhle, Chicago
  2. Bartolo Colon, Los Angeles
  3. Livan Hernandez, Washington
  4. Matt Clement, Boston
  5. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
  6. Jake Peavy, San Diego
How did they come up with that?  They didn't say, so we're forced to assume they picked names out of a hat.  The process of picking names out of hat doesn't seem particularly effective to me, so I'm going to try to answer it statistically.

We'll look at them in the order they were previously (erroneously?) ranked:

Matt Clement
ERA: 3.33
IP: 102.7
K/BB: 78/32 (2.44)
K/PA: .202
K/9: 7.19
BB/9: 2.80
HR/9: 0.53
IP/GS: 6.4

Clement's numbers are all solid, but unspectacular.  The high K/PA and low HR/9 are the most impressive.

Mark Buehrle
ERA: 2.48
IP: 116.0
K/BB: 73/17 (6.08)
K/PA: .163
K/9: 5.66
BB/9: 1.32
HR/9: 0.54
IP/GS: 7.7

Buehrle has some excellent numbers here.  His IP/GS is the best of the bunch as is the 6.08 K/BB ratio.  The only low points are the fairly weak strikeout rates, both K/PA & K/9.

Bartolo Colon
ERA: 2.99
IP: 102.3
K/BB: 77/23 (3.35)
K/PA: .184
K/9: 6.77
BB/9: 2.02
HR/9: 0.79
IP/GS: 6.8

There's nothing outstanding about those numbers, at least not in this company.

Livan Hernandez
ERA: 3.17
IP: 119.3
K/BB: 71/45 (1.58)
K/PA: .148
K/9: 5.36
BB/9: 3.39
HR/9: 0.38
IP/GS: 7.0

Livan Hernandez has only two things going for him: IP/GS and HR/9 and only the HR/9 leads the pack.

Chris Carpenter
ERA: 2.77
IP: 113.7
K/BB: 112/29 (3.86)
K/PA: .265
K/9: 8.87
BB/9: 2.30
HR/9: 0.63
IP/GS: 7.1

Carp has better stats than I anticipated.  The strikeout rates are excellent as is the IP/GS.

Jake Peavy
ERA: 2.88
IP: 100.0
K/BB: 110/20 (5.50)
K/PA: .299
K/9: 9.90
BB/9: 1.80
HR/9: 0.90
IP/GS: 6.7

The 24 year old Peavy is rather clearly the best strikeout pitcher of the bunch.  In fact, he's the only one managing to strike out at least one per inning.  However, his HR/9 rate is the worst of the six and his IP/GS is better only than Clement.

Based on those numbers, I think there are only two obvious rankings: Buehrle at number one and and Livan Hernandez sixth.  Buerhle has shown the consistent ability to go deep in games and has the best walk rate of the aces by a solid margin.  Livan Hernandez, despite his ability to keep guys in the park, strikes almost nobody out and walks just about everybody.

After that, it gets a little murky.  Peavy and Carpenter have established themselves as better than Clement and Colon, but there could be some argument as to who is actually 2/3 and 4/5.  That being said, my pick for #2 is Jake Peavy because of the knowledge that pitching with an upper respiratory infection affected his numbers and Clement at #4 because he pitches in front of a lousy defense.

And so our list looks like this:

  1. Mark Buehrle, Chicago
  2. Jake Peavy, San Diego
  3. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
  4. Matt Clement, Boston
  5. Bartolo Colon, Los Angeles
  6. Livan Hernandez, Washington
I'm sure some readers will disagree with my list, but I think we can all agree that Baseball Tonight was off.  If you disagree, explain why in the comments.