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A Market Case Study: Ryan Dempster

With the Winter Meetings now starting, the free agent class could potentially become a lot less top heavy very quickly. It is known around the baseball-verse that the Brewers are looking for a starting pitcher. The real question of the matter relates to selecting the appropriate player for the team. But which one?

Of all the players on the market, Ryan Dempster has been linked to the Brewers on a consistent basis. In an attempt to find a way to gauge his value, I searched for a correlation between a particular statistic and both ERA, an overall barometer for a pitcher's performance, and WAR, a way to measure a player's overall value. Eventually, I settled upon examining RA9, or runs allowed per nine innings. This includes unearned runs allowed by pitchers. For a normalization of the statistic, I subtracted RA9 from RA9opp, or the average number of runs scored by a pitcher's opponents per nine innings. To this value, I added a RA9def term for team defense corrections and subtracted RA9role, a factor between starting pitchers and relievers. This was necessary as relievers typically have lower ERAs than starters and this accounts for the variation. Finally, the value was multiplied by innings pitched to give weight to a year by year basis. In the end, the equation for the statistic (RAD) looked like this:

RAD = (RA9opp - RA9 + RA9def - RA9role)*IP

Ideally, this would give the number of runs a pitcher allows above or below what opposition typically scores. Lets examine the relevant numbers for Dempster.

Year Age Tm Lg IP G GS R RA9 RA9opp RA9def RA9role WAR RAD ERA WAR
1998 21 FLA NL 54.2 14 11 47 7.7 4.85 -0.08 0.11 -1.3 -166.936 7.08 -1.3
1999 22 FLA NL 147 25 25 77 4.7 5.05 0.04 0.19 1.3 27.93 4.71 1.3
2000 23 FLA NL 226.1 33 33 102 4.1 5.04 -0.06 0.18 3.9 167.314 3.66 3.9
2001 24 FLA NL 211.1 34 34 123 5.2 4.58 0.08 0.17 -0.2 -158.325 4.94 -0.2
2002 25 FLA NL 120.1 18 18 66 4.9 4.49 -0.08 0.17 0.3 -258.706 5.38 -0.5
2002 25 CIN NL 88.2 15 15 61 6.2 4.38 0 0.17 -0.8
2003 26 CIN NL 115.2 22 20 89 6.9 4.69 0.03 0.17 -1.9 -274.176 6.54 -1.9
2004 27 CHC NL 20.2 23 0 9 3.9 4.57 -0.1 -0.33 0.2 17.776 3.92 0.2
2005 28 CHC NL 92 63 6 35 3.4 4.62 0.02 -0.16 2.1 126.96 3.13 2.1
2006 29 CHC NL 75 74 0 47 5.6 4.78 -0.08 -0.35 -0.5 -44.25 4.8 -0.5
2007 30 CHC NL 66.2 66 0 36 4.9 4.71 0.19 -0.34 0 25.156 4.73 0
2008 31 CHC NL 206.2 33 33 75 3.3 4.57 -0.15 0.18 6.7 200.014 2.96 6.7
2009 32 CHC NL 200 31 31 94 4.2 4.49 -0.15 0.18 3.2 -14 3.65 3.2
2010 33 CHC NL 215.1 34 34 110 4.6 4.38 -0.24 0.17 2.4 -135.513 3.85 2.4
2011 34 CHC NL 202.1 34 34 111 4.9 4.19 -0.22 0.16 0.5 -228.373 4.8 0.5
2012 35 CHC NL 104 16 16 28 2.4 4.39 0.01 0.17 3.3 116.48 3.38 3.6
2012 35 TEX AL 69 12 12 43 5.6 4.77 -0.02 0.18 0.3
15 Seasons 2215 547 322 1153 4.7 4.6 -0.07 0.12 19.5 -598.649 19.5

Spanning his career, Dempster has allowed almost 600 more runs than the opposition scores on average. At a first glance, this doesn't sound overwhelmingly positive, but let's look at plots of RAD vs. ERA and WAR

8241265944_df5cc92790_medium

8240197807_8c67b8c9e8_medium

The correlation between the data is not overwhelmingly strong, even after the first year of 7.08 ball is removed, but is still existent. If we can believe this numbers follow a normal distribution, we can cautiously project numbers.

8241288252_048a743ab3_medium

RAD WAR
Total -598.649 19.5
Past 5 -261.406 16.4 Career Past 5
AVG -39.9099 1.3 RAD ERA WAR RAD ERA WAR
Past 5 -12.2784 3.28 -1SD -196.487 5.43 -0.5246 -188.015 5.130441 -0.50202
STDEV 156.5774 2.329 1SD 116.667 3.58 3.17232 163.4582 3.117167 4.229964
Past 5 175.7366 2.253

Using these values, Dempster is likely to pitch somewhere between a 3.58 and 5.13 ERA, with a 50% chance he'll perform better than a 4.36 ERA and 1.84 WAR. However, these distributions/correlations could be off due to a small sample size. To account for this problem, more samples were added to the net pool from Dempster's top three comparables on Baseball Reference: Chan Ho Park, Hideo Nomo, and Darryl Kile.

8240239957_162aee9241_medium

8241307992_afc9acfc38_medium

These plots follow the same overall shape and correlation as Dempster's alone, adjusting the range slightly to 3.71 - 5.42, with a 50% chance of 4.57 or better. As pitchers typically do not age well, this is slightly unnerving, given Dempster's age and desire for long term contract.

Something interesting was found on Hideo Nomo's WAR graph:

8240256171_b2cba5226e_medium

Unlike the concave shape found in the Dempster, Park, Kile, and Overall WAR graphs, Nomo's displays a convex shape with a stronger correlation. This shape plots a higher WAR value for a given RAD value than the concave shape. Even when the polynomial power was raised to allow the line to fit better, the curve maintained a convex shape. Of the handful of possible free agent targets (Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum, Dan Haren, Anibal Sanchez, and Zack Greinke), only three maintained a convex shape: Marcum, Haren, and Sanchez.

Note: After removing Greinke's high and low seasons, the line flattened out but lost all correlation.

Shaun Marcum

Year Age Tm Lg IP G GS R RA9 RA9opp RA9def RA9role WAR RAD ERA WAR
2005 23 TOR AL 8 5 0 0 0 5.11 0.36 -0.39 0.4 46.88 0 0.4
2006 24 TOR AL 78.1 21 14 44 5.1 5.2 0.38 0.13 0.5 30.459 5.06 0.5
2007 25 TOR AL 159 38 25 76 4.3 5.02 0.55 0.14 1.7 179.67 4.13 1.7
2008 26 TOR AL 151.1 25 25 60 3.6 4.74 0.25 0.18 2.7 187.364 3.39 2.7
2010 28 TOR AL 195.1 31 31 84 3.9 4.59 -0.01 0.17 3.8 105.354 3.64 3.8
2011 29 MIL NL 200.2 33 33 84 3.8 4.21 0.08 0.16 2.9 72.072 3.54 2.9
2012 30 MIL NL 124 21 21 57 4.1 4.4 0.03 0.17 1.3 14.88 3.7 1.3
7 Seasons 916.2 174 149 405 4 4.64 0.19 0.15 13.3 636.679 13.3

8241360640_41fa223240_medium

8240292619_011a81f3c2_medium

Total 589.799
12.9







Past 5 559.34
12.4

Career Past 5
AVG 98.29983
2.15

RAD ERA WAR RAD ERA WAR
Past 5 111.868
2.48
-1SD 25.01622 4.19966 1.139666 38.84474 4.088402 1.704163
STDEV 73.28361
1.202913
1SD 171.5834 3.798651 1.611627 184.8913 3.847344 4.758299
Past 5 73.02326
0.995992







Marcum's first season was removed due to its size and to achieve a better correlation. An odd quirk about Marcum's line is that he has maintained a positive RAD every season. Unfortunately, the correlation is not great and the sample size may be too small or eerily consistent, as there is a 68% chance Marcum pitches between 3.80 and 4.09 ERA to the tune of a 1.6-1.7 WAR. That's too specific to pass the logic test, plus coupled with injury concerns makes the situation not entirely appealing.

Dan Haren

Year Age Tm Lg IP G GS R RA9 RA9opp RA9def RA9role WAR RAD ERA WAR
2003 22 STL NL 72.2 14 14 44 5.5 4.66 -0.06 0.18 -0.2 -74.366 5.08 -0.2
2004 23 STL NL 46 14 5 23 4.5 4.65 0.19 -0.05 0.2 17.94 4.5 0.2
2005 24 OAK AL 217 34 34 101 4.2 4.8 0.25 0.18 3 147.56 3.73 3
2006 25 OAK AL 223 34 34 109 4.4 5 0.01 0.19 3.2 93.66 4.12 3.2
2007 26 OAK AL 222.2 34 34 91 3.7 4.97 0.12 0.19 4.3 271.084 3.07 4.3
2008 27 ARI NL 216 33 33 86 3.6 4.45 -0.19 0.18 5.8 108 3.33 5.8
2009 28 ARI NL 229.1 33 33 83 3.3 4.53 0.02 0.18 6.3 254.301 3.14 6.3
2010 29 ARI NL 141 21 21 79 5 4.43 0.15 0.17 0.4 23.03 3.91 2.8
2010 29 LAA AL 94 14 14 31 3 4.42 -0.1 0.16 2.4
2011 30 LAA AL 238.1 35 34 91 3.4 4.48 0.2 0.16 4 257.148 3.17 4
2012 31 LAA AL 176.2 30 30 95 4.8 4.45 0.37 0.17 -0.6 -33.478 4.33 -0.6
10 Seasons 1876 296 286 833 4 4.64 0.09 0.17 28.8 1064.88 0 28.8

8240309685_3b7662fc12_medium

8241377984_3d739e562b_medium

Total 1064.879 28.8
Past 5 609.001 18.3 Career Past 5
AVG 106.4879 2.88 RAD ERA WAR RAD ERA WAR
Past 5 121.8002 3.66 -1SD -18.4998 4.479937 0.780043 -10.4239 4.423151 1.015426
STDEV 124.9877 2.412836 1SD 231.4756 3.206014 5.042427 254.0243 3.140262 5.119656
Past 5 132.2241 2.763693

Now those correlations look a little more friendly. Haren has only had a negative RAD twice in his career, once at the beginning and one last year. The ERA projections should be fairly accurate as the correlations are strong and the polynomial matches up with the linear relationship. Haren looks to have a 50% chance of pitching better than a 3.82 ERA and a WAR of 3.03. Though that may be slightly optimistic with injury concerns, Haren appears to be the most consistent, and, albeit, likely the most expensive of the profiled pitchers, strongest candidate.

Anibal Sanchez

Year Age Tm Lg IP G GS R RA9 RA9opp RA9def RA9role WAR RAD ERA WAR
2006 22 FLA NL 114.1 18 17 39 3.1 5.03 -0.16 0.18 3.6 184.842 2.83 3.6
2007 23 FLA NL 30 6 6 17 5.1 4.74 -0.43 0.19 0.3 -29.4 4.8 0.3
2008 24 FLA NL 51.2 10 10 35 6.1 4.67 0.06 0.19 -0.3 -79.872 5.57 -0.3
2009 25 FLA NL 86 16 16 39 4.1 4.55 -0.33 0.18 1.6 -3.44 3.87 1.6
2010 26 FLA NL 195 32 32 89 4.1 4.43 -0.14 0.17 2.9 1.95 3.55 2.9
2011 27 FLA NL 196.1 32 32 85 3.9 4.17 -0.41 0.16 3.5 -58.83 3.67 3.5
2012 28 MIA NL 121 19 19 59 4.4 4.56 -0.31 0.17 1.4 -46.414 3.86 2.6
2012 28 DET AL 74.2 12 12 36 4.3 4.62 -0.22 0.18 1.2
7 Seasons 869 145 144 399 4.1 4.52 -0.25 0.17 14.2 -31.164 14.2

8240336157_13e216114c_medium

8240336081_26888430c7_medium

Total -31.164 14.2
Past 5 -186.606 10.3 Career Past 5
AVG -4.452 2.028571 RAD ERA WAR RAD ERA WAR
Past 5 -37.3212 2.06 -1SD -92.8663 5.176109 0.859073 -72.8389 4.795023 1.21298
STDEV 88.41435 1.544576 1SD 83.96235 2.920454 3.152032 -1.80345 3.702093 2.274199
Past 5 35.51775 1.487616

Anibal the Animal. Somehow he has made a career allowing more runs than the opposition scores on average while still maintaining a respectable ERA and WAR totals. Though the correlations are not high, Sanchez looks to have a 50% chance of pitching better than a 4.25 ERA and a 1.74 WAR. Maybe he'll keep it up, or maybe luck will catch up with him and he'll settle into a #3 or #4 role.

Disclaimer: All statistical number crunching is fairly elementary and assumptions were broad, there could be no physical basis in these numbers.

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