## Month By Month

September 29, 2008 1 Comment

Well, the 2008 season is almost over, and as soon as the Twins and White Sox duke it out for AL Central supremacy, the regular season will officially be in the books. This year saw utter domination by Cliff Lee and Albert Pujols for the entire duration of the season, Mike Mussina finally notch his first 20-win season, the ageless Jamie Moyer prove to be the most consistent starter on the Phillies, some incredible streaks by the likes of Chipper Jones, Carlos Delgado, and Ryan Howard, and Tiny Tim Lincecum emerge as a true force to be reckoned with.

Since the season is virtually over, I figured it would be interesting to take a look, month by month, at the top performers, both offensively and on the mound. The tops for each month were taken using WPA/LI, and the monthly splits found at my home away from home, Fangraphs. WPA/LI essentially tells us how many wins above average a player performed. WPA may actually be better for pitchers, but for consistency’s sake we will use the leveraged wins.

The top offensive performer in April happened to be a tie between two members of the Philadelphia Phillies: Pat Burrell and Chase Utley both produced a 1.52 WPA/LI. Burrell hit .326/.452/.674, with 8 home runs and 8 doubles. Teammate Utley hit .360/.430/.766, with 11 home runs and 10 doubles. Suffice it to say, their hot starts more than made up for Ryan Howard’s early struggles. In the pitching department, Cliff Lee had an absolutely incredibly April, producing a 1.94 WPA/LI. In five starts, he posted the following numbers: 37.2 IP, 19 H, 1 HR, 2 BB, 32 K. Yes, folks, that is a 16.00 K/BB ratio. Coupled with his lone longball allowed, this resulted in a 1.94 FIP, but a sub-.200 BABIP helped his ERA to finish the month at just 0.96.

As May came to its close, two participants in the 2005 World Series topped the hitting and pitching leaderboards. Lance Berkman, continually one of the most underrated players, was 2.16 wins above average, hitting .471/.553/.856 with 9 home runs and 11 doubles. Jose Contreras of the White Sox, who likely will not be remembered for having a good year or anything of the sort, had a tremendous May, when he was good to the tune of a 1.57 WPA/LI. In 6 starts, he pitched 43 innings, surrendering 28 hits, just one of which left the yard. He issued 8 walks and punched out 31 hitters. His 2.09 ERA wasn’t all luck, either, as his FIP was a very low 2.62.

June was all about JD Drew and John Lackey. Drew put together a 1.99 WPA/LI thanks to his .337/.462/.848 slash line, as well as his 12 home runs, 7 doubles, and 2 triples. Lackey, who missed time early on, was back in full form as the summer began. In just five starts he performed 1.44 wins above average, on the heels of a 1.16 ERA/2.59 FIP, a 0.78 WHIP, and a 4.86 K/BB. In 38.2 innings, he gave up 23 hits (2 HR), walked 7, and fanned 34.

Next up, July, which happened to be the month of… Adam LaRoche? Yes, Adam LaRoche was July’s best hitter, with a 1.58 WPA/LI. With 7 home runs, 7 doubles, 2 triples, and a .390/.472/.805 line, he heated up just as the weather did. CC Sabathia owned the month, as well, despite posting the lowest WPA/LI for a monthly leader at 1.12. In six starts, he managed 47.2 innings, with just 36 hits given up. He walked 12 and struck out 39, en route to a 2.27 ERA.

As summer came to its close, newly acquired Mark Teixeira gave the Angels a 1.84 WPA/LI, thanks in large part to his .386/.479/.663 line, with 8 home runs. Sabathia again proved to be the top pitcher, right around one and a half wins above average. In six more starts, he totaled 48.1 innings, 40 hits, 8 walks, and 51 strikeouts. With a 1.12 ERA, 2.06 FIP, 0.99 WHIP, and 6.38 K/BB, nobody pitched better in August than CC. Coupled with July, Sabathia posted the following numbers: 12 GS, 96 IP, 76 H, 21 BB, 90 K, with a 1.69 ERA.

September was the month of Ryan Howard. He may have started off slowly, but he picked it up when the Phillies needed it most. Then again, if he didn’t stink so much in April and May, perhap they would not have needed such solid performance late in the season to win the division. Anyways, he hit .352/.422/.852, with 11 home runs, 7 doubles, and he somehow managed to hit 2 triples as well. All told, his 1.68 WPA/LI topped all hitters. Roy Oswalt came in at 1.64, just a few ticks under Howard. Oswalt struggled early on, but was a key member of the Astros’ late surge, and put together a great overall season. In the final month, he pitched in 44.1 innings, giving up 23 hits, walking 6, and fanning 30, with a 1.42 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 0.68 WHIP, and a 5.00 K/BB.

Overall, I had a blast covering the league this year and am looking forward to the post-season, where the Phillies will hopefully dominate. While I will sprinkle some more research pieces here and there throughout the off-season, I am going to be posting a year-in-review series, auditing teams so to speak, documenting data with the help of Pitch F/X, and examining splits and tendencies.