It won’t last

ESPN.com – MLB – MLB Team Stats: 2005

Last season, the Braves led the NL with a 3.74 team ERA. The Cards were at 3.75, the Cubs at 3.81, and everyone else over four. The league ERA was 4.30.

We’re just what, a seventh of the way into this season, so it’s early yet, but seven NL teams have ERAs below four. The Braves are at 2.97, which would be the best in the majors since… Gosh, I don’t know how long. A long time. (UPDATE: The last sub-three ERA was the Dodgers in 1989; there have only been ten since the introduction of the DH in the AL, which was a pitcher’s league in the early seventies.) But that’s nothing compared to the Marlins’ 2.54 team ERA. That would have been the second-best individual ERA in the league last year.

Interestingly, the league ERA hasn’t fallen too much, because the bad pitching staffs are even worse than usual. The Rockies have a 6.37 ERA, which would be the worst in their storied history; even the Rockies have only once topped a 6.00 ERA, a 6.02 in 1999.

It’ll probably all even out in the end (for one thing, the Marlins have to make up games in Colorado and the Braves haven’t played there yet) but I thought it was interesting.

12 thoughts on “It won’t last”

  1. I suspect it will even out a bit, but it might also represent a larger disparity between top of the line staffs and the shitty ones.

  2. The Braves’ underlying numbers don’t support them keeping their 2nd place ERA.

    WHIP; 5th in NL,
    BAA; 7th,
    OPS; 6th,
    K/BB; 10th,
    K/9; 12th

    Looks more like they are getting a little lucky early on. Take yesterday for example: Smoltz scrapes by with almost 2 baserunners per inning and a single K, but only gives up one run. Luckily, the wind was blowing in from left and Rolen ends up with a long noisy out. I’m afraid if they don’t start pitching better the averages will catch up to them.

  3. That’s a funny argument. One might argue that because they are pitching so well, they are able to defy the statistics (say by buckling down with RISP).

  4. I see your point BC. I couldn’t find RISP on any of the easy sites so I can’t say either way.

    I tend to think it is more luck than good pitching, and that if they don’t start keeping people off base it will bite them in the KolBB.

  5. Of course the Braves are unlikely to maintain a 2.97 ERA. However, I’d be reluctant to classify their 2nd place standing in ERA as “lucky”.

    In 2004, the Braves had the following rankings in team pitching stats:

    ERA: 1st in NL, 1st in MLB
    WH
    BAA: 11th in NL, 17th in MLB
    OPS: 3rd in NL, 4th in MLB
    K/BB: 9th in NL, 13th in MLB
    K/9: 12th in NL, 20th in MLB

    Philadelphia, with a team ERA of 4.45 to Atlanta’s 3.74, was ahead of Atlanta in WHIP, BAA, K/BB, and K/9 in 2004.

    In 2002, the Braves led the league (and MLB) in team ERA by a large margin (3.13 to the second place 3.54). Atlanta also finished 7th in K/BB (and we were closer to 11th than we were to 6th) and 10th in K/9 in the NL (13th and 14th in MLB).

    K/BB rate is an excellent predictive tool, and K/9 is certainly useful. However, the Braves have led the majors in ERA in 2 out of the last 3 years without finishing in the MLB top 12 in K/BB and/or K/9.

    If Braves pitchers are just getting lucky, then it’s been a long luck streak. Hampton in particular has been lucky for a long time (virtually every year outside of his Colorado seasons).

  6. It’s hard to believe that luck had much to do with Smolz’s performance the other day. I mean no one is that lucky. His splitter (his best pitch) wasn’t working, so he adapted. I think what we saw was experience and a cool head at work. If anyone got lucky in that series, it was our offence. Mondesi facing a rookie instead of Isringhousen, Edmonds singling off Pujols’ foot, etc.

  7. Steve Karsay is going to be DFA’d by the Yankees – I doubt he’ll accept. Would anyone besides me think he would return to form quickly back where he last enjoyed success?

  8. I wonder, in those categories you list dawg are we more consistant. Much like Mac describes the league averge balancing out, maybe the team 1st in whip is 20th in BAA.

    I guess I could look that up but I’m being a bit lazy today. Baseball certainly isn’t zero sum and attributing the disparity to luck, I believe, is short sighted.

  9. You know, if you are a major league ballplayer, you didn’t get there by luck (unless you are T*M M*&$%n). So to say that they got lucky is not giving them credit for doing what they get paid millions of dollars to do with their God-given talents.

    Luck sometimes plays a role in life and in MLB games, but it’s not what got the Braves to 15-10 or 13 division titles. Luck isn’t what cost them the 1991 World Series, it was a good dupe job against Lonnie Smith.

  10. Luck isn’t what cost them the 1991 World Series, it was a good dupe job against Lonnie Smith

    Not to get fussy, but I have a bit of a peeve about this , um, urban legend. Look at the replay – Lonnie never breaks stride while Knobcheese is whacking his glove. I don’t know how this was ever interpreted as a “deke”, but as I recall, it wasn’t at the time (I am open to correction on the second part though).

  11. His splitter (his best pitch) wasn’t working, so he adapted. I think what we saw was experience and a cool head at work.

    Exaclty. I think many are quick to attribute things to luck when they believe the statistics indication one thing should happen most of the time yet something else happens in a specific instance. To me that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of stastical correlations and how they should be applied. Just becauase most pitchers with the kind of peripherals smoltz had wouldn’t have had his results doesn’t mean he was lucky, it means he did something that won’t happen most of the time with those peripherals. Just because something happens that is not the most statistically likely outcome does not mean its happening is luck.

  12. I would argue that Smoltz did get lucky on Sunday. He was not controlling the wind, and I seriously doubt he was thinking “hey the winds blowing in from left, I’ll give Rolen a pitch he can crush to left and it will be held up by the wind”. How do I know that? The expression on Smoltz’s face when Rolen hit the ball.

    However, I am willing to concede that my half hearted attempt to correlate ERA to the sub-statistics was flawed at best, and after checking the Pythagorean standings the Braves are right where they should be at 15-10.

    Maybe it just feels lucky to me and I was trying to prove my point, only to be skewered by the highly intelligent posters on this site.
    I always start the season pessimistic about the Braves chances, but I usually come around by August ;)

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