The Replacement Pitchers

How good (or bad) is a replacement level starting pitcher?
I tried to answer this by looking at all starting pitchers for 2007, and remove the ones who are not replacement level pitchers.  In other words, take out all pitchers who started the season in the rotation, those who would have started had they not been injured, top prospects (those who made Baseball America’s top 100 list), and Roger Clemens.
What I would expect is that replacement level pitchers, as a group, would allow about 25% more runs than the league average pitcher.    That would be equivalent to a winning percentage around .400.  Maybe that should be a little lower, like .380 suggested here, but should be fairly close.  I used .400 when I calculated the top starting pitcher seasons of alltime.
How are they doing for 2007?  After taking out the non-replacements, as well as any pitcher who made more than half of his appearances in relief, I have 952 innings with a 5.03 ERA, against a league average of 4.32.  That’s a winning percentage of .430, so replacement level pitchers are having a pretty good season.  Perhaps I used too broad a definition of replacement pitcher, though perhaps the best pitcher in this group and the one with the most innings, Jeremy Guthrie, fits the mold of a replacement level pitcher.   The Orioles got him for essentially nothing after he was a failed prospect in Cleveland, and was removed from their 40 man roster.  Now, if only the Orioles can replace his bullpen…
The Orioles have done extremely well with replacement starters, both Guthrie and Brian Burres.  Its a bright spot for an otherwise brutal team.
The Yankees had more replacement level starts (21) than any other team.  That’s almost 1/3 of their games so far.  Since Phillip Hughes (top 100) and Roger Clemens don’t count, they have had to replace pitchers they were counting on with Tyler Clippard, Darrell Rasner, Matt Desalvo, Chase Wright, and Jeff Karstens.  That group put up a collective 6.15 ERA.

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4 Responses to The Replacement Pitchers

  1. tangotiger says:

    Hmmm… I guess I could do this myself!
    5.03 ERA, 952 IP means 532 ER
    Guthrie is 21 ER, 74 IP
    That makes the reason of the squad as 511 ER, 878 IP, for an ERA of 5.24
    This gives us a win % of .408.

  2. tangotiger says:

    I’m concerned that Guthrie makes up most of the innings. Could you break it down, classifying them by IP classes (say 3 groups of 320 or so total IP)?

  3. Sean Smith says:

    I’ll look at that when I get home tonight. Take Guthrie out and I think the replacements had an ERA around 5.2 to 5.25.

  4. Sean Smith says:

    Grouping them by innings:
    Top 3rd (5 pitchers) had a 3.59 ERA
    Middle 3rd (10 pitchers) 4.91
    Bottom third (30 pitchers – 2/3 of the group) 6.49 ERA
    This last group is the pitchers who get one or 2 starts, get hammered, and send back to the minors. The first group, well, some of them got lucky, some may be showing they were better pitchers than teams thought they were this past offseason.
    Median ERA is 5.74

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