Eight days ago, Rich Lederer of the terrific (and highly underrated) Baseball Analysts released the 2008 results of his annual K/100P study, which evaluates pitchers not on the number of strikeouts notched per batter faced or per inning, but rather per pitch -- a purportedly better indicator of a given pitcher's efficiency on the bump with respect to maximizing strikeouts while minimizing the number of pitches required to amass those strikeouts:
All of us like pitchers who can rack up strikeouts. There is no argument between statheads and the scouting community over the value of missing bats. In a nutshell, Ks are the out of choice. The more, the merrier.
We also know that pitch counts are important. The fewer, the better. As such, it seems logical that combining high strikeout and low pitch totals is a recipe for success . . . The best way to measure such effectiveness is via K/100 pitches. The formula is (strikeouts divided by total pitches) x 100.
Soundly logical and more readily correlatable to the assortment of runs allowed metrics (i.e. ERA and fielding-independent ERA, and presumably the likes of even more advanced pitching metrics such as tRA) than the classic K/9 or K/BF: a winning combination. Lederer's research did comprise the three Texas Rangers starters who logged 100-plus innings in 2008 (Scott Feldman, Kevin Millwood, and Vicente Padilla), but several other starters meriting mention were excluded for failing to reach that threshold.
Pictured below in an attempt to redress those omissions are all six Rangers starters who (a) tossed at least 50 innings in 2009 and (b) made starts in at least 50 percent of their appearances, with total innings pitched, number of pitches thrown, number of strikeouts collected, and fielding-independent ERA totals also included:
According to the distribution of K/100P (as computed by Lederer), Millwood was the lone Rangers starter above the average (4.54 K/100P) and median (4.51 K/100P); conversely, Harrison, Feldman and Ponson all placed below the bottom 10 percent threshold of 3.13 K/100P. Not very pretty, and while Ponson was thankfully jettisoned from the picture many months ago, the other two occupants of that bottom rung figure to toss a significant quantity of innings for the Rangers in 2009. Neither is a slam dunk to measurably improve, though if I were a betting man, I would place more money on Harrison's future major league prospects than Feldman's.
On a somewhat related note, Baseball Prospectus has just published the first iteration of its PECOTA Weighted Means Projections spreadsheet, which remains the gold standard in player forecasting; unfortunately, suffice it to say that the tentative outlook for the 2009 Rangers where PECOTA is concerned is indubitably grim.
The projected offensive regression, while not at all unexpected, is alarming in its severity, with particularly dire forecasts issued for the likes of Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, Max Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Michael Young -- not to mention forecasted reductions in offensive value for Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler, three integral components of the 2009 lineup. The defensive improvement should be substantial, with a considerable share of that projected turnaround coming from the dramatically enhanced left side of the infield, and the likelihood of every single young hitter in the Rangers' lineup worsening with the bat -- such as PECOTA portends to be the case -- is quite small, but it's all a tad unsettling nonetheless.
And the pitching staff projects as ... well, awful. But what PECOTA painted as a 70-win team last season still managed to win 79 games, so the hope obviously has to be that the Rangers will again surprise with a high-powered offense that no longer boasts Milton Bradley -- or, perhaps even more novelly, cobble together a moderately effective starting rotation predicated on a stronger defensive infield and the reinforcing influx of talented young arms.
Quick Hits: Texas has agreed to terms with Byrd on a one-year, $3.06 million contract for 2009, closing out their final potential salary arbitration case.