New Measures for Pitchers

This article was written by John Schwartz

This article was published in the 1979 Baseball Research Journal


Pitching, as the old cliché goes, is somewhere between 75 and 90% of baseball. The official averages issued each year provide us with a record for each pitcher. This article will present a summary of data compiled on 14 different measures for a group of 46 pitchers active in the 1957-78 period.

The pitchers selected have all pitched more than 2000 innings. Some are still active; the rest have retired in the years 1973-8. None pitched in the major leagues before 1957. Of the 46,28 are right-handed, and 18 are southpaws. The lefties are labeled in the table.

The first measure compiled for each pitcher was his BFP (total batters facing pitcher) total. This item has been a part of the official National League averages for well over 20 years, and has been included in the American League averages since 1974. For AL seasons prior to that, BFP was found by adding up the number of official at bats, bases on balls, hit batsmen, sacrifice hits, and sacrifice flies listed for each pitcher. Admittedly, a few batters reaching base on interference or obstruction might be missed, but these rare instances would have a negligible effect on each pitcher’s total.

The first ratio listed is BFP/IP (innings pitched). Each IP consists of 3 batters retired. A BFP/IP ratio of 4.00 would mean that a pitcher and/or his teammates retired 75% of the batters he faced. The lower the BFP/IP ratio, the fewer times a pitcher is throwing with men on base. The range of this statistic was found to be quite small, the best ratio being 4.00, and the worst 4.29. Considering the period 1957-78, Tom Seaver is the most efficient pitcher in this regard, with slightly more than 3/4 of the batters he faces being put out (his actual ratio is 3.996). Ferguson Jenkins and Jim Palmer, with 4.05, and Juan Marichal and Catfish Hunter, at 4.06 rank next. Vida Blue’s 4.07 is the best ratio for a lefty. At the other extreme we have Mike Torrez with 4.29, Ray Sadecki and Woodie Fryman at 4.28, and Joe Coleman, Sam McDowell, and Jim Lonborg at 4.25. The major league average for this measure usually falls between 4.2 and 4.3 each year.

The range of the second ratio, BFP/Hits, is much greater than the BFP/IP ratio. The best quotient belongs to Nolan Ryan, whose hundred-mile-an-hour fastball is a big factor in his excellent 6.09 figure. Sudden Sam McDowell, another fireballer, leads the lefties with 5.43. Andy Messersmith’s 5.32, Tom Seaver’s 5.04, and Jim Palmer’s 4.96 are also superb efforts. At the other extreme, we have Rick Wise, who allows one hit for every 4.10 batters he faces. Fritz Peterson is listed at 4.11, Jim Kaat at 4.12, Nelson Briles at 4.14, and Claude Osteen at 4.16. All of these save Peterson have allowed more hits than innings pitched.

The next two measures, BFP/Runs and BFP/Earned Runs, complement the BFP/IP ratio. The latter includes men left on base. BFP/R does not. BFP/ER, like earned run average, is a measure of runs crossing the plate due to the actions of the pitcher alone.

The best BFP/R quotients are Seaver’s (13.1), Palmer’s (12.5), Bert Blyleven’s (11.5), Messersmith’s (11.4) and Bob Gibson’s (11 .3). Vida Blue’s 11.0 is the best portside figure. The pitchers who gave up runs most frequently were Ray Sadecki (8.9), Rick Wise, Jim Lonborg, Woodie Fryman, and Jack Billingham (all 9.0).

Seaver also has the best BFP/ER ratio, 14.3, closely followed by Palmer’s 13.9. Messersmith has 13.1, and Blyleven 13.0. Dean Chance and Bob Gibson each had 12.8. The difference between Chance’s BFP/ER and BFP/R ratios (2.1) is the highest listed, contrasting sharply with the 0.9 difference for Dave McNally, who had several Oriole gold gloves behind him when he pitched. Tommy John and Vida Blue both give up one ER for every 12.5 batters faced, the best ratio for southpaws.

Jim Lonborg and Woodie Fryman, at 10.0, Jack Billingham, at 10.1, Ray Sadecki, at 10.2, and Rick Wise, at 10.3, give up earned runs most frequently. All have high ERAs. Since ERA is a measure of ER/91P, and since the BFP/IP range is not large, the fact that ERA should correlate highly with BFP/ER is to be expected.

The BFP/Home Run ratios are in the next column. Nolan Ryan yields one homer per 78.1 batters faced. Other good ratios are those of Dean Chance (73.0), Bill Singer (69.3), Tommy John (66.8), and Sam McDowell (64.6). Ryan and McDowell especially relied on their speed on the mound. John, on the other hand, is considered a “junkball” pitcher. What they have in common is an aversion to gopher balls.

Catfish Hunter throws the home run ball most frequently, once to every 37.8 batters. He is closely followed by Fergie Jenkins (38.9). Luis Tiant (40.8), Mickey Lolich (43.5), and Milt Pappas (44.3), also rank high in the four-base futility sweepstakes.

Larry Dierker, who pitched for Houston during most of his career, gave up a sacrifice bunt for every 127 batters faced. The Astros were the first team to install artificial turf, and Dierker may have yielded fewer bunts because teams were more reluctant to sacrifice on Astroturf. Jim Palmer(123) and Jim Kaat (120), both multiple gold glove winners, rank next. Milt Pappas (117) is also high in this category, as is Juan Marichal (114), despite the high kick that would seem to make it harder for him to field a bunt, and herky-jerky Luis Tiant (also 114).

Lefthanders dominate the other end of the BFP/SH scale. Mike Cueller (77), Wilbur Wood and Al Downing (79), Claude Osteen and Jerry Koosman (81) are all portsiders. Joe Coleman and Dean Chance at 85 are the lowest of the righties. Is it easier to bunt lefties? Whatever the case may be, Jim Kaat’s outstanding BFP/SH ratio takes on more significance when compared with most other southpaws, and should support his many gold glove awards.

Phil Niekro, who set a major league record by giving up no sacrifice flies with Atlanta in 284 innings in 1969, has the best lifetime BFP/SF ratio, 241 batters faced for each SF. Chris Short (228), Tommy John (224), and Juan Marichal and Tom Seaver (219 each) also rank high. Seaver’s ratio was much higher until he yielded 12 SF in 1978. The pitchers who give up SF most often are Ray Sadecki (116), Jim Perry (130), Jerry Koosman (140), Jim Kaat (147), and Bill Singer (147). Kaat holds the major league record for SF yielded with 118, and Jim Perry holds the AL record with 106.

The best control pitchers (fewest walks yielded) among those listed are Fritz Peterson (1 BB for every 21.4 BFP), Ferguson Jenkins (20.3), Juan Marichal (20.1), Jim Kaat (17.8), and Wilbur Wood (16.3). The wildest hurlers are Nolan Ryan (6.8), Sam McDowell (8.1), Mike Torrez (9.5), Al Downing (10.2), and Rudy May (10.6). If Ryan stays healthy he will probably reach Early Wynn’s major league record of 1775 walks (Nolan has 1532) before Walter Johnson’s 3508 strikeouts (he has 2686).

Jim Palmer yields the fewest intentional passes, one for every 372 batters he faces. Other good ratios belong to Al Downing (298), Vida Blue (281), Bert Blyleven (277), Luis Tiant (268), and Nolan Ryan (268). The pitchers who give up intentional walks most frequently are Jack Billingham (102), Nelson Briles (112), Jerry Koosman (114), Pat Dobson (117), and Dean Chance (119).

Mike Cuellar hit only 12 of 11,505 batsmen he faced during his career, a remarkable ratio of 1/959. No other pitcher on the list comes close. It has been suggested that this might be due to Cuellar’s reliance on the screwball, a pitch that tailed away from the righthanded batters he faced. Other good ratios belong to Vida Blue (499), Jim Palmer (436), Steve Carlton (372), and Juan Marichal (356). Marichal, it should be noted, ranks high in both fewest walks and fewest hit batsmen. The moundsmen who hit batters most frequently are Jack Billingham (99), Jim Lonborg (101), Joe Coleman (123), Nolan Ryan (141), and Bill Singer (145). Jim Katt (147) is the lefty who hits batters most often.

Nolan Ryan strikes out one batter for every 3.90 he faces, far and away the highest frequency. Sam McDowell (4.32) is the best lefty in this category. Tom Seaver (4.70), Bert Blyleven (5.08), and Bob Gibson (5.15) also have good ratios. At the other extreme we find Mike Torrez (9.29), who walks more batters than he strikes out, Fritz Peterson (8.97), Claude Osteen (8.95), Mel Stottlemyre (8.73), and Jim Perry (8.71).

Despite his erratic motion, Luis Tiant has the best ratio of wild pitches to batters faced, 1/503. Ferguson Jenkins is next, with 313, followed by Catfish Hunter (289), Juan Marichal (279), and lefty Fritz Peterson (276). Sam McDowell, on the other hand, gave up 1 WP for every 76 BFP. Phil Niekro’s knuckler contributes to his 1/88 ratio; Nolan Ryan (90), Joe Coleman (94), and Tommy John (106) also tend to throw a lot of wild pitches.

Mel Stottlemyre balked only once in his career and has a better balk ratio than any of the listed pitchers. Ken Holtzman has balked twice, for his 5770 figure. Jim Perry’s 4577 is due to three balks; Gaylord Perry (3546) and Jim Kaat (3470) each have balked five times; Gaylord’s ratio went way down due to 3 in 1978. Steve Carlton’s 32 balks account for his 418 ratio.  He tied for the NL lead with 7 in 1978. Jerry Koosman’s 20 balks give him a 526 ratio; Phil Niekro has balked 26 times for his 547 figure; Rudy May has 15 balks (579), as does Woodie Fryman (616). Stottlemyre’s performance is not a record. Pete Palmer has uncovered the fact that Lefty Grove only balked once in his entire major league career (on June 1, 1927). Pete also learned that Grover Alexander did not balk during the last 11 seasons (1920-30) of his career; records are not complete for 1911-19. Walter Johnson only balked four times (once each in 1908, 14, 18, and 19) during his career. So Grove, with 3940 2/3 IP and only one balk holds the known record, although Alexander, with 5189 1/3 IP, may have a better record when his early career is thoroughly researched. Further research may also yield a pitcher with no balks in 2000 or more innings.

The purpose of this article has been to call attention to different ways of looking at pitchers’ statistics. All but two of the measures (BFP/IP and BFP/SO) may be considered “negative” in that pitchers try to avoid giving them up. The negative measures have been turned into ratios so that comparisons between pitchers can be more easily made. This article can be considered a progress report in that research will continue to include seasons prior to 1957. It is hoped that a fuller understanding of the statistics compiled for major league pitchers over the past 22 seasons has been achieved.  The author welcomes comments, criticisms, corrections, and suggestions on how to make the data more meaningful.

The full list of hurlers who pitched 2,000 or more innings between 1957 and 1978 are carried in the following compilation. Included are 13 categories related to batters facing pitchers.

 

                 

/Tot.

         

PITCHER

BFP

BFP/IP

/H

/R

/ER

/HR

/SH

/SF

BB

/Int. BB

/HB

/SO

/WP

/Bk

G.Perry

17728

4.07

4.61

10.8

12.5

56.6

108

206

15.8

125

211

5.9

143

3546

J. Kaat (L)

17350

4.17

4.12

9.4

11.0

46.8

120

147

17.8

220

147

7.4

147

3470

B. Gibson

16068

4.14

4.90

11.3

12.8

62.5

94

169

12.0

136

158

5.2

149

1236

M. Lolich(L)

14917

4.16

4.51

9.9

10.9

43.5

90

168

13.9

233

149

5.3

122

1865

C. Osteen (L)

14433

4.17

4.16

10.1

11.4

58.0

81

187

15.4

155

321

9.0

215

2406

F. Jenkins

14380

4.05

4.52

10.3

11.4

38.9

103

158

20.3

158

218

5.5

313

1198

J. Marichal

14236

4.06

4.52

10.7

12.6

44.5

114

219

20.1

174

356

6.2

279

712

P. Niekro

14210

4.15

4.59

10.3

12.2

51.9

91

241

13.9

215

161

6.5

88

547

J. Perry

13732

4.18

4.39

9.8

10.9

44.6

103

130

13.8

148

172

8.7

250

4577

C. Hunter

13572

4.06

4.80

10.3

11.4

37.8

110

156

14.8

238

283

6.9

289

1939

D. Sutton

13427

4.08

4.73

10.8

11.9

51.4

97

197

15.6

181

232

5.7

168

1221

S. Canton (L)

13383

4.14

4.67

10.8

12.2

52.7

98

169

12.0

150

372

5.4

138

418

M. Pappas

13198

4.14

4.33

9.9

11.0

44.3

117

186

15.4

148

183

7.6

136

2200

T. Seaver

12945

4.00

5.04

13.1

14.3

55.8

97

219

14.6

164

270

4.7

160

1618

J. Palmer

12643

4.05

4.96

12.5

13.9

58.5

123

211

12.1

372

436

6.8

171

1580

L.Tiant

12581

4.10

4.74

10.7

11.7

40.8

114

213

12.9

268

262

5.8

503

3145

T. John(L)

11627

4.15

4.39

10.6

12.5

66.8

108

224

14.6

157

204

7.2

106

1938

K. Holtzman (L)

11540

4.20

4.35

9.6

11.0

49.3

113

210

13.5

183

268

7.4

125

5770

M.Cuellar(L)

11505

4.10

4.53

10.2

11.8

51.8

77

172

14.0

189

959

7.1

217

1918

D.McNally(L)

11229

4.11

4.51

10.5

11.4

48.8

99

190

13.6

201

163

7.4

187

1021

W.Wood(L)

11153

4.16

4.32

9.9

11.6

53.4

79

157

15.4

157

177

7.9

155

1859

R.Wise

11099

4.20

4.10

9.0

10.3

52.1

102

166

16.3

185

258

7.6

252

1586

M. Stottlemyre

10972

4.12

4.51

10.9

12.5

64.2

101

183

13.6

146

249

8.7

192

10972

J. Coleman

10829

4.25

4.54

9.2

10.4

46.5

85

155

10.9

169

123

6.3

94

1547

R. Sadecki (L)

10694

4.28

4.35

8.9

10.2

44.6

84

116

11.6

130

261

6.6

114

1782

S. McDowell (L)

10587

4.25

5.43

10.6

12.0

64.6

99

216

8.1

143

179

4.3

76

1512

J. Koosman (L)

10517

4.13

4.61

10.6

12.0

56.2

81

140

12.8

114

215

5.9

159

526

N. Ryan

10467

4.24

6.09

10.8

12.2

78.1

98

177

6.8

268

141

3.9

90

952

J. Lonbong

10457

4.25

4.38

9.0

10.0

45.5

109

183

12.8

147

101

7.1

143

1162

C. Short (L)

9801

4.22

4.42

9.9

11.1

53.6

96

228

12.2

132

161

6.0

134

1634

B. Blyleven

9704

4.07

4.63

11.5

13.0

58.8

89

194

15.7

277

152

5.1

187

882

L. Dierker

9661

4.14

4.54

10.2

11.3

52.5

127

176

13.6

225

193

6.5

93

966

S. Bahnsen

9624

4.24

4.35

9.5

10.5

48.4

105

150

11.8

196

292

8.0

120

3208

A. Downing (L)

9539

4.21

4.90

10.2

11.8

53.9

79

167

10.2

298

308

5.8

124

867

W. Fryman (L)

9240

4.28

4.31

9.0

10.0

52.2

85

192

11.6

151

151

6.5

147

616

B. Singer

9143

4.20

4.68

9.7

11.2

69.3

98

147

11.7

183

145

6.0

136

831

F. Peterson (L)

9103

4.10

4.11

9.6

11.2

52.6

90

186

21.4

121

217

9.0

276

1517

V. Blue (L)

8977

4.07

4.77

11.0

12.5

59.5

97

152

13.1

281

499

6.0

145

1496

S. Siebert

8951

4.16

4.66

9.9

11.7

45.4

103

149

12.9

163

166

5.9

149

1119

D. Chance

8906

4.15

4.78

10.7

12.8

73.0

85

212

12.1

119

146

5.8

127

990

P. Dobson

8872

4.19

4.34

9.4

10.7

45.0

91

153

13.3

117

341

6.8

174

1774

N. Briles

8858

4.19

4.14

9.5

11.0

47.6

105

161

16.2

112

174

7.6

177

1772

A. Messersmith

8854

4.08

5.32

11.4

13.1

53.7

95

206

11.1

211

221

5.5

132

1265

R.May(L)

8681

4.17

4.79

9.3

10.6

52.3

89

167

10.6

197

255

6.3

185

579

M. Torrez

8662

4.29

4.52

9.5

10.7

63.7

101

197

9.5

167

197

9.3

117

1732

J. Billingham

8653

4.24

4.21

9.0

10.1

55.5

94

188

12.9

102

99

8.1

112

2163

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