Earlier in the week, I rolled out the WAR Index for 2014's hitters. WAR Index, to recap, is an exercise in comparing the three major implementation of the wins above replacement framework -- those found at FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus -- and melding them into an average. In order to average these numbers, I need to take them and put them all on the same scale. If you want to learn more about how I do that on a plate-appearance or innings-pitched basis, take a look here.
At any rate, now it's time for the pitchers! Pitchers often have a very interesting spread in scores among the different WAR implementations, due in part to the inputs used in the metrics. FanGraphs (fWAR) uses FIP as a primary input, while Baseball-Reference (bWAR) uses RA9. I'm pretty sure Baseball Prospectus (WARP) uses
RA9 as well, though you'll find that thanks to the way the metrics are calculated, and what other variables are used, WARP and bWAR tend to come up with very different scores FRA.
While all three of the position player metrics are "similar" in terms of total WAR allotted in a give year, and require little scaling, pitching WAR is different. Even with the changes in WAR / WARP metrics over the past couple of years, WARP still requires a bit more scaling than the other two metrics to put all three at an even playing field. Only 279.23 PWARP were alotted in 2014, compared to 411 rWAR to pitching stats and 430 fWAR. So, when scaling WARP to the same playing field as the other metrics, you can expect to see substantive bumps in scores.
Is that enough preface for you? Okay then! On to the big old spreadsheet, and the first of our leaderboards.
2014 WAR Index - Pitchers (Google Doc)
So, how surprised are you at the first name on the list below?
WARi 2014: The Best of the Best
|Name||Team||IP||rWAR||ADJ fWAR||ADJ WARP||WARi|
|Chris Sale||White Sox||174||6.4||5.324198||5.235706||5.65|
|Jon Lester||- - -||219.66||5.2||6.004307||5.093659||5.43|
|David Price||- - -||248.33||4.6||5.991817||4.660280||5.08|
|Jose Quintana||White Sox||200.33||3.2||5.212728||5.025257||4.48|
Here are the top 15 pitchers in 2014, by WARi.
The two 2014 Cy Young winners are above and beyond all the other pitchers on this list, but it's Corey Kluber who takes the 2014 WARi crown. It makes intuitive sense -- remember, WAR metrics, including WARi, are counting stats. And Kluber certainly pitched more innings than Kershaw in 2014. I guess it's pretty interesting to me that Kluber is one of the two pitchers on this list that fostered pretty much universal agreement by WAR, along with ...
... Max Scherzer! The new Nationals ace is looked at just as highly by all three major metrics, which is kind of neat. Would you have a greater sense of comfort acquiring a player who is looked at with roughly the same value by each of these metrics? I kind of would, as it minimizes -- in my mind -- the downside risk that a player may not actually be as good as one might think he is.
Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels are two pretty great examples of pitchers who're rated very highly by bWAR, but not so highly by the other systems. Cueto's an interesting guy, and he's proven he can outperform his FIP over the course of most seasons. Phil Hughes seems to be the opposite of Cueto / Hamels, at least for 2014.
There are a couple of interesting low-IP guys on the list: Sale, Arrieta, and Richards. It will be very interesting to see if Arrieta and Richards can maintain their 2014 gains, and if Sale can keep his arm from dissolving.
WARi 2014: Cover Your Eyes
|Name||Team||IP||rWAR||ADJ fWAR||ADJ WARP||WARi|
|Ernesto Frieri||- - -||41.66||-1.6||-0.81815||-0.45413||-1.0|
|Jim Johnson||- - -||53.33||-1.7||-0.72323||-0.31887||-0.9|
|Andre Rienzo||White Sox||64.66||-1.5||-0.42817||-0.41464||-0.8|
|Joe Saunders||- - -||43.00||-1.0||-0.51873||-0.69008||-0.7|
|Craig Breslow||Red Sox||54.33||-1.1||-0.62367||-0.31585||-0.7|
|Sergio Santos||Blue Jays||21.00||-1.3||-0.50915||0.043447||-0.6|
|Dan Straily||- - -||52.00||-1.0||-0.22265||-0.44289||-0.6|
Here are the bottom 21 pitchers in 2014, by WARi.
I guess that there's nothing too awful here, but I'm admittedly surprised by a couple of the names. Truthfully, I'm also a little surprised that a few of these guys (Ross, Straily, Crow) have been traded somewhat recently. My assumption is that these guys are being acquired by teams who know, or think they know, how to fix them -- or that they're viewed as depressed assets of some sort.
I guess I should get Frieri out of the way first, as I was wrong on him. I thought the mid-seasons Grilli-for-Frieri trade benefited Ernesto (and the Pirates) more than Jason Grilli and the Angels. Oops. He was only the worst pitcher in baseball last year.
I don't see a lot of starting pitchers on this list, which makes sense, because if you're pretty terrible, you're not likely to get a host of opportunities to develop. You want to guess which pitcher with, say, over 100 innings had the lowest WARi? It was Tim Lincecum. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
So there we go. A quick look at some of the WARi leaderboards for 2014. For more info, check out the full spreadsheet, and leave your comments and questions below!
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Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.