Judging pitchers

Since most folks here are mainly here because of pitching, I’m curious about something. To be honest, I’m a numbers kinda guy, so when I hear people talk about anything that measures pitchers, of course I look for numbers.

When I think about pitchers, I think about them in terms of other pitchers mostly, rather than just themselves. IOW, if we have a pitcher on our team that for various reasons I think is either pretty good or pretty bad, I’m making that judgment based on how his numbers stack up against other pitchers.

If I think he’s a good strikeout pitcher, I can look at the number of K’s he’s gotten, but I know that number can be misleading, so I try to look for a way to compare him fairly equally with pitchers who may have been in the program 2 more years than him. Usually that comes down to computing K’s in relation to something else, like batters per K, K’s per inning, K’s per BB, pitches per K, etc… That way I can look at Joe and compare him to Tom as far as K’s go.

Looking at one particular factor about pitching is fairly simple, but trying to go a bit further is much more difficult. FI, when one looks a pitcher and tries to determine if he’s the “best”, things get much tougher. So, how do you make the determination in your mind about how the pitchers on your team get ranked? What makes the #1 guy, the #1?

Of course there’s always something in his character that can’t be measured, but I’m not really interested in things that can’t be measured. I’m interested in things like WHIP or ERA that are finite and can be used to set up the queue so that those things like character can be applied to reach a final decision.

An example would be to rank the pitchers by say Batters pitched to, then consider things more deeply. That way a kid who’s only thrown to 6 batters all season wouldn’t even be considered as having been the ace, even if he struck them all out. So, what is the measuring stick you use, and is it the same if you’re a coach, a player, or a fan?

Something that isn’t there is quality of competition, you typically pitch your best guy against the toughest team. And then of course there is the who you are matched up against.

I’m going to respond based on my experiences, which are not youth ball realted.

Pitchers comprise a rotation, and a rotation is like a mechanic’s tool box. Thus, certain tools require a bit more expertise to use and apply than others.

Humans on the other hand, although just as useful and surprisingly share a lot of traits with tools-for-use, have that added influence of being just human.

What effects a man today, may not effect him two days from now. For example, personal conflicts, sleeping in strange bed, minor colds and such, bad food on the road, personality mood swings and such, will never pop up in the numbers - BUT, an experienced eye can spot said same and do some real quick shuffling of personnel, thus making the numbers seem better for one pitcher then, say, another that would have been pounded.

I’ve had straight-out bulls that could throw a ball through a battleship - but, get into a session with the wife while on the road - forget it! Next week, make up, all kissy-kissy, and the guy is golden! Numbers will spot the man in Vegas next week, but not this week.

In the amature world, especially for youth ball - high school and such, I have no idea how numbers can be depended on. But then again, I’m not in that world, nor have I ever. So I speak out of ignorance.

On the other hand, there are men in the professional ranks that can be depended up like rocks. Take DeMaggio, Clemente, Gibson, Campanella and others. True craftsmen. Numbers say only say so much - but for those men and men like them, they’re what everyone else reached for.

However, I can appreciate the “number’s guy”. I spent a fair share of my nights calling in, then later on, pushing my stubby fingers on a lap top plugging in numbers on some complicated spreadsheet program. But no where was there a space for … He’s a idiot - yes he can pitch - but he’s still an idiot!

Anyway, good question.

Coach B.

Reading all this, I was reminded of two stories.
The first one concerns the composer Franz Schubert, who was a member of a clique of other composers, poets, you name it—actually a fellowship. When an outsider professed interest in becoming part of the group, Schubert had only one question: “Kann’ er was?” Translated it means “Does he know something?” He had only one criterion by which to measure his fellow men: Did they know their jobs?
The other is about a poem by Walt Whitman, from his “Leaves of grass” collection. In this poem, titled “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer”, he tells of sitting in a great hall and listening to said learned astronomer expounding on graphs and charts, all kinds of measurements and other statistics—and how Whitman was getting a royal headache as a result, so he got up, left the hall and went out into the night, and as he put it, “Looked up in perfect silence at the stars”.
Sometimes all one needs to know about a pitcher is whether or not he’s getting the batters out. It all comes down to that. And as I write this I just thought of another anecdote: A young man asked a noted rabbi to teach him the Torah while he was standing on one foot. The rabbi replied, “What is hateful to thee, do not do unto your fellow man. That is the whole law; everything else is commentary.” Of course, it helps to know what that commentary is all about, but one should not get so wrapped up in it as to lose focus on the main issue. 8)