Economic sociology of baseball OR Why DID the Dodgers pay that much for Juan Pierre?

I had a fascinating discussion the other day at work with a friend who’s a fellow baseball fan and psychologist (he gets my extremely nerdy baseball psychologist joke of “What do you call a three game series between Oakland and Baltimore?”  Answer: A’s and O’s times three!)  He had been to a lecture given by an economic sociologist (a career path I didn’t know existed until our conversation) on how value is assigned in society.  He knew that I am a practicing Sabermetrician and told me that he was interested in extending the concept to baseball players.  He asked me if I could point him to any resources and I gave him a few tips (Sabernomics for baseball and econ, Bob Ngo for the sociology of Sabermetrics, a few folks who do empirically based research on the actual value that a player brings to a team.)  His interest here isn’t so much how much is a player really worth to a team, but instead, what factors go into what value a player is actually assigned.  His question encompasses both salary concerns and social constructions of value (why are some players seen as heroes and others are not?), but for the moment I’m most interested in salary.
Juan Pierre got a ridiculous contract because he is fast and he’s a .300 hitter.  Plenty of pixels have been lit up discussing why this was a bad idea both before and after the signing, but Mr. Pierre is currently cashing his (rather large) checks.  Sabermetrics has done a good job pointing out where some of the inefficiencies are in talent evaluation, the marketplace, and game strategy.  In doing so, we’ve explained what people are doing that they shouldn’t be doing.  But, there’s not much written on why it is that people persist in these errors.
The reasons have to go beyond a simple lack of knowledge.  Maybe there is a lack of knowledge, but at this point, one would have to be actively ignoring Sabermetrics to not at least have heard its arguments.  Good Sabermetric research and writing is out there and this stuff isn’t a secret.  There has to be something more.  I offer this as a conversation starter.  Why?
A few theories of mine:

  1. A structural theory: What is the real goal of a team?  To win a World Series, right?  I suppose it depends on whom you ask.  The owner is in it to make money.  The marketing department is more concerned with how the players on the roster “connect” with the fans (would you sign a player who still hits like crazy, but was an arrogant jerk who might be a cheat?  Not B referring O to N anyone D specific S here… just a hypothetical.)  Some of the players might be more interested in their own stats/perception than the team’s success.  The third base coach is clearly in it so as to minimize the blame on himself.  The GM might need to look like he’s “doing something,” despite the fact that it’s actually a bad move.  Are teams really set up to look for top talent?  Given that there is a “traditionalist” taboo against embracing Sabermetrics, is there a risk that a GM runs in alienating the fan base if he goes too far with it?
  2. A psychological theory: People look up to baseball players in some way as a reflection of themselves.  People assign value to traits that they admire and that they wished that they had in their own lives.  The ability to come through in the clutch or the ability to “play through pain” is something that I suppose we would all love to think that we have.  So, we over-value those players that appear to have those traits (no matter how illusory those are).  GMs are humans as well and simply have the same prejudices.

Now, first we need a few good working theories.  Theory can then inform actual research, perhaps research that no one has really gotten into: systematic research on how players are actually perceived by the general public (the closest thing I’ve seen would be something like Tango Tiger’s fan surveys or the Great Clutch project).  So, I come to you, oh Sabermetrically-inclined readers.  Let’s chat about the subject at hand.


This Week in News and Sabermetrics: 4/6-4/12

Welcome to the first edition of TWINS – This Week in News and Sabermetrics.  This will be a weekly article recapping the goings on in the baseball world, ranging anywhere from top games of the week or oddest stats to frontrunners for awards based on my formulas and links to great articles.  Expect one of these bad boys every Saturday.  If anybody has suggestions for additions they would like to see feel free to post them in the comments.  Without further delay:
Interesting Bits of Tid
Well, the Tigers finally won a game after starting the season 0-7 and worrying the moustache off of Jim Leyland (not in a literal sense).  Unfortunately, any hope of a winning streak was put to rest when Tim Wakefield took the mound the next night.  Two weeks into the season the team expected to score 1,000 runs in 162 games (6.17/gm for anyone wondering) has scored 28 runs in 9 games (not 6.17/gm for anyone wondering).  To show how bad things have been Placido Polanco even made errors in consecutive nights.
Staying in the AL, Travis Buck of the Athletics started the season by going 0-21, with 9 strikeouts, and a .043 OPS… out of the leadoff spot.  He was about as effective as Travis Buckley–the other guy that appears when you type “Travis Buck” into Baseball Reference–but then remembered how to hit.  In his next three games Buck went 7-16, with 6 doubles, 4 RBIs, and a 1.284 OPS.
MVP Predictor
I came up with a pretty simple formula to see who would win the MVP should the season end at any given point.  The formula is: (OPS+ / 2) + VORP + VB.
OPS+ compares production to the rest of the league; VORP offers how important a player proved to be in accounting for runs than a replacement level player; VB is a Victory Bonus, just like in the James Cy Young Predictor, that awards points to a division leader.  In this case, +10 for first place and +6 for second place.  It’s simple but effective in determining how important a player statistically performed.  It does not take into account the more human factors of the game but the MVP is usually awarded to the best hitter on the best team; this formula measures that. 
I will be revising this throughout the season I am sure but for now it will work fine.  Here are the top five in the NL:

  1. Kendall, MIL, 135.7
  2. Ramirez, FLA, 130.9
  3. Burrell, Phi, 123.5
  4. Pujols, StL, 120.9
  5. Upton, Ari, 107.2

And the AL:

  1. Pierzynski, CHW, 131.4
  2. Scott, BAL, 126.7
  3. Crede, CHW, 123.2
  4. Dye, CHW, 120.0
  5. Drew, BOS, 114.8

Cy Young Predictor
In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers Bill James presented a formula that could, with pretty good accuracy, predict the eventual Cy Young Award.  For a description of the formula, click here.  Though I altered his formula in previous articles to account for old-time players, his works great here.  Here are the top five in the NL:

  1. Jake Peavy, SD, 23.3
  2. Brandon Webb, ARI, 19.6
  3. Micah Owings, ARI, 18.8
  4. Ben Sheets, MIL, 18.6
  5. Jason Isringhausen, StL, 18.4

And the AL:

  1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS, 23.2
  2. Zach Greinke, KC, 22.2
  3. Edwin Jackson, TB, 22.0
  4. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY, 20.3
  5. Brian Bannister, KC, 19.9

Beane Count
Over at Rob Neyer created a really cool stat I had never heard of until earlier this month, titled Beane Count.  The stat measures all of the contributions Athletics GM Billy Beane looks for in players and evaluates the teams that best fit his desires.  The total is found by adding the team rank in home runs hit, walks, home runs allowed, and walks allowed.  Interestingly enough, as of right now, both the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs lead their respective leagues–and by significant margins.
Cain Watch
Many readers here should know that I have some crazy manlove for Matt Cain, despite having no allegiances to the Giants, and really cannot stand how unlucky he gets on the mound.  In 2007 he went 7-16, though my Adjusted W-L system had him pegged at 16-7; my SP Effectiveness System even scored him a +50, just meeting the cutoff for a #1 pitcher.  Each week I will look at his starts and see if the unlucky trend continues.

  • #1, 4/1/08, 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, ND.  Records an AQND because it was an Adjusted Quality Start.  Game Score of 64.  From what I saw and heard he was squeezed and really should have only walked two batters.
  • #2, 4/7/08, 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 5 K. Loss.  Does not record an AQS and legitimately deserved to lose.  Unlike his first start he was not terribly squeezed and this was not a good start by any means.

Game Scores of the Week
Bill James created the Game Score statistic to measure the exact quality of a pitched game.  Info on the easy to calculate figure can be found here.  For the record, a GSC of 50 or higher is good.  Below are the top three game scores of the week of 4/6-4/12.

  • Ben Sheets, April 6th: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K – 85 GSC
  • Edwin Jackson, April 10th: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K – 80 GSC
  • Wandy Rodriguez, April 7th: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K – 78 GSC

Weekly Oddibe Award
The Oddibe Awards are given to the hitter with the slash stats (BA/OBP/SLG) closest to the league average and are named after Oddibe McDowell, whom RJ Anderson of Beyond the Box Score determined to have the career slash line closest to the league average from 1960-2006.  As of this week the league average slash line is .257/.327/.403.  Should the season for some odd reason end today, the 2008 Oddibe Award recipient would be – Orlando Hudson, Ari: .270/.325/.405.
If the Season Ended Today
Speaking of whether or not the season ended today I think it will be interesting to look at the playoff matchups each week if it did end.  This way we can see which teams were in it all year as opposed to burning out or surging in. Note – this was done at 11:16 PM EST, so the As had played while the Angels were still playing.

  • Baltimore Orioles (AL East) vs. Chicago White Sox (Wild Card)
  • Kansas City Royals (AL Central) vs. Oakland Athletics (AL West)
  • Arizona DBacks (NL West) vs. Winner of Tiebreaking Game between CHC/MIL
  • Florida Marlins (NL East) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central)

In Case You Missed It
Here are some great sabermetrics articles from this past week:

Open Letter to ‘Baseball Tonight’

I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago almost made me vomit, in a metaphorical sense, of course.  The idea behind the show is phenomenal; who wouldn’t want to watch 30-60 minutes of baseball highlights and analysis?  Despite this, what I saw the other day was almost as bad as those mock Steve Phillips press conferences and the “Who’s Now?” competition.  Below is a video of what disgusted me.  Before watching, understand that I think Tim Kurkjian is a tremendous orator, analyst, and writer.  This is more directed at John Kruk, though it seems Krucky ended up wearing off a bit on Kurkjian.

In the clip you will see Karl Ravech (who really needs to learn that his opinions are irrelevant and his job is merely to direct traffic between analysts) read questions that viewers sent in via e-mail to Kruk and Kurkjian for insight with regards to the chances of certain teams.  Five or six teams are discussed and, with the exception of the Cubs, John Kruk’s key analysis for every other team is some variation of: “…if (insert player/team) stays healthy…”

If Randy Johnson stays healthy the Diamondbacks will have a shot.
If the Mets pitching/lineup stays healthy they have a good shot.
If Brad Lidge stays healthy for the Phillies they’ll have a good shot.
If Ben Sheets stays healthy the Brewers could win the Central.
Now, granted, Kruk is not a Harvard graduate but my grandmother (insert funny line about how little she knows about baseball) could tell me that a team’s success will increase if everyone stays healthy.  He does end up offering little tidbits of solid analysis but it seems that the biggest weapon in his arsenal is health.  Can we please stop talking about health?  Seriously… why is this a staple of every analysis?  People DON’T stay healthy.  That is one of the reasons baseball is so hard to predict; if you cannot make educated predictions or provide valid analysis without mentioning health, do not half-ass it, pardon my English “profanity.”  Or, at least explain the injuries; tell me that a torn labrum severely hinders the ability to move the shoulder freely; or why the pitching wind-up of Shawn Hill or Kerry Wood will lead to an injury due to poor mechanics.  But, more importantly, give actual analysis.
How about discussing how the Diamondbacks played so many close games last year and are now trying out another closer?  Can Tony Pena repeat the success as a setup man?  Will Chris B. Young regress and enter the sophomore slump?  Can Micah Owings pitch?  What do the Mets do if El Duque/Pelfrey are ineffective?  How will Kyle Kendrick fare in his sophomore season?  How will the combination of Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth fare in relation to replacing Aaron Rowand?  Can Chris Capuano rebound from a dreadful 2007?  How about Gagne and Turnbow?
These are all valid questions that viewers could actually benefit from and yet they are ignored so that we can learn a team will be better if their key components stay healthy.
I don’t expect analysts to provide insight from a sabermetrics point of view, but why can’t we have Rob Neyer or Jayson Stark on for five minutes discussing more than health or “psychology”?  Or, as Pizza Cutter could attest to, if they are going to explore the psychology, really explore it.  Don’t just mention something and brush it off.  We want analysis, not blue-balls.
The entire point of a sports analyst is to provide insight into a certain topic that a casual fan–or even a huge fan–can benefit from.  They are supposed to provide us with information we potentially could not get elsewhere.  Mentioning health or a team’s chances if players stay healthy, without diving deep into the specific injury and how it could really hurt a team, does not fall into either of these categories.
Later in this particular show Peter Gammons discusses how great John Maine looks in spring training and how many heads he is turning; he goes very in-depth and it is a fantastic analysis.  I had no idea Maine was doing so well.  When I turned the channel to watch Rock of Love Flavor of Love manly sports I felt as though I actually learned something.  All I learned from the video above is that Karl Ravech thinks Fukudome sounds like a stadium (Thanks, Karl!).
I do not know if anybody from ESPN reads this or if they would even care what one of their biggest viewers thinks but this really needs to change.  There are so many pre-season questions to explore OTHER than health and few, if any, are acknowledged.  Mentioning health as an issue would work as perhaps the 3rd, 4th, or 5th point in an analysis, not the major/only point.
Can we get Harold Reynolds back?  Or lock Mel Kiper, Jr in a room with every video of baseball (high school, collegiate, and professional) ever made and then unleash him?
Will Leitch’s ( book God Save the Fan touches on issues like this and it really resonated with me.  In it, he discusses how Kruk admitted on a radio station that some of the opinions are fake and pre-determined.  I mean, that says it right there.  This is a show designed to benefit viewers and we are left with pre-determined opinions that analysts do not truly agree with and analysis that features health as its key proponent.
The point of having someone like Kruk is that he was a player and so he “understands” what it is like to play the game.  And this is all we get?  I was an All-Star first-baseman on my high school team and served as the Color Commentator for a Trenton Thunder game (a TV training operation) and I got rave reviews for my analysis.  I never played major or minor league baseball but people from the crew actually took things away from what I discussed.  If I–a 20-yr old in 2005 when I announced–can do it for a TV training operation these “analysts” better be able to do much better than that on a show like Baseball Tonight.  That is, unless they are unhealthy, which would be the key reason their analysis suffers.

Open Letter to 'Baseball Tonight'

I am a huge fan of the show Baseball Tonight but what I witnessed a few days ago

Liveblogging ‘Moneyball’ Underway

Fed up with the misconceptions and generalizations surrounding ‘Moneyball’ I decided to spend a whole day re-reading the book and live-blogging my experience.  What will follow is a chapter-by-chapter recap explaining what does and does not happen based on these misconceptions.  Newer chapters will appear at the top.  At the end I will re-organize everything. 
9:37 PM – Conclusion
Well, what started at 11:37 will come to an end; a 10-hr (though I was done at 9:33 and just waited until 9:37) liveblog on a book reading.  Overall, there was more mentioned about Chad Bradford’s religion in this book than there were overt references to scouting being irrelevant.  All Lewis (not Beane) did was discuss how Beane (not Lewis) decided to change things around due to their financial limitations.  They were never going to have a large payroll so it made no sense to continue drafting the players old-time scouts coveted.  These players would demand higher signing fees/bonuses and take the A’s to the cleaners when it came time for arbitration. 
Finding talent in places nobody else looked is not an idea to shoot down; it’s an idea to embrace, at the very least for its logistics.  If you want to be like Joe Morgan and completely write off the notion that there may be better ways to evaluate talent, go ahead and stick to your guns; but to call these methods of exploiting marketing inefficiencies stupid is, well, stupid itself.
Moneyball does not call scouting ridiculous nor does it point out any of the positives that come with scouting; it treats scouting as an outdated end-all method and points out that, for a team with a financial situation such as the Athletics, there may be better ways to evaluate talent.  Moneyball does not say that all player decisions need to rely on OBP; it points out, quite logically, that players with better OBP’s have historically been more likely to aid their team while simultaneously being undervalued.  Overall, Moneyball is not a book about using sabermetrics as a means to run your team but rather a way to succeed and attempt to ensure future success in ways that others would never think.  If you do not agree with statistical analysis, fine, but look no further than the Athletics 2000-2006 W-L records and standings position to realize that Beane may be doing something correctly.
8:37 PM – Chapter Twelve: The Speed of the Idea
This chapter, the final chapter, explores the major differences between the regular season and post-season as it relates to baseball in general and not just the Athletics.  Lewis refers to Palmer and Thorn’s The Hidden Game of Baseball to explain that the difference in skill is about 1 run per game whereas the difference in luck is about 4 runs per game.  The playoffs would be a whole different motha’ and Billy Beane openly admitted that his strategy was designed to get a team into the playoffs – after that it was all luck.
Rent-a-player at the time Ray Durham noted how all playoff games were 2-1 or 1-0–very close games.  In the division series, the Athletics ended up scoring more runs than they averaged in the regular season (5.5 to 4.9).  Joe Morgan stated that the Athletics could not win in the playoffs because they could not manufacture runs.  Clearly they manufactured runs.  DePodesta chalked their failure up as allowing 4.0 runs in the regular season and 5.4 in the playoffs.  On top of that, Tim Hudson–their usual unflappable ace–had two terrible outings.  The offense realistically had little to do with it, but rather their pitching.
The chapter closes with a discussion of Beane’s off-season move of trading Art Howe to the Mets as well as what appeared to be a changing of the guard in at least Toronto; DePodesta’s righthand man Ricciardi was hired within 5 minutes of his GM interview.  Ricciardi then brought along Keith Law and they rebuilt the Blue Jays.  DePodesta attests to hoping that other teams continued to consider their methods ridiculous because it would give them more time before they caught on; this would make the rare strategy more commonplace and new exploits in inefficiencies would need to be found.
I’m going to wait a couple of hours to gather my overall thoughts for the conclusion but I hope this, at the very least, sheds some light on what does and does not happen in Moneyball
8:04 PM – Chapter Eleven: The Human Element
Okay, the food did come.  And, I was almost brought to tears when I watched the warm-ups for the Sixers-Nuggets came and saw Allen Iverson get a standing ovation.  Though I write for a baseball blog, basketball has been an equally important part of my life and  I was one of few people that cherished every game I got to see him play; most took it for granted that his play was “normal.”
This chapter starts with our first real “conversation” with Billy Beane and ends with the description of a tremendous game.  In the beginning, Lewis is with Beane, talking about then 24-yr old Eric Chavez.  Beane strongly contends that Chavez has the potential to be an all-time great.  He compares Chavez at 24 to Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi at 24; Chavez had comparable numbers to A-Rod and better numbers than Bonds and Giambi.  In Chavez’s defense when compared to A-Rod, Beane states that “Chavvy is the best defensive third-baseman in the game.  A-Rod’s not the best defensive short-stop.”
Personally, I remember A-Rod as a pretty damn good short-stop.  I see where Beane was going with this but Alex Rodriguez has always been one of those “special” players; Chavez started his career in a very promising fashion but I (maybe I’m wrong, maybe not) never really considered him anything more than a good-great player.  Not to say there is something wrong with that but guys like A-Rod, Pujols, Bonds (please, no cliche steroids reactions) were clearly of a different ilk than someone like Chavez.
The most ironic line of the chapter comes towards the end of the comparison.  Beane says – “Health permitted, his career is a lock.”
Then it gets into Chad Bradford and his religious views.  I didn’t really care about Bradford’s upbringing and I care even less that he reads the bible.  Luckily it then moves into a beautiful description of what turned out to be Athletics 20th win in that 20-game win streak.  They led 11-0 and somehow gave all of those runs back to the last-place Royals, before Scott Hatteberg unknowingly hit a walk-off home run.  My description wasn’t as beautiful, I admit, but my sanity levels are slowly decreasing.  I can’t even remember at this point if I made the joke about Scott Hatteberg’s OBP and seeing numbers.
Read more of this post

Liveblogging 'Moneyball' Underway

Fed up with the misconceptions and generalizations surrounding ‘Moneyball’ I decided to spend a whole day re-reading the book and live-blogging my experience.

The Oceanic Six

Yes, I’m a LOST fanatic and, depending when this article is read, I cannot wait for/really enjoyed this week’s episode.  For those unaware, the show centers around a group of plane crash survivors that are stranded on an island with no outside communication.  Hell, there’s even some baseball involved as two episoded eluded to, or showed video of, the 2004 Red Sox World Series title.
With the plot of the show in mind, I decided to find some of the best pitched seasons in the Wild Card era (1995-now) that have either been forgotten, or never realized to have been so good thanks to poor evaluative statistical barometers.  My method involved parsing the Baseball-Reference Play Index in order to find seasons that I deemed forgotten while also meeting this criteria:

  1. Minimum of 25 GS
  2. ERA+ over 120
  3. OPS+ under 85
  4. Game Score average of at least 54
  5. Nothing after 2003 qualifies as it was too recent

Only ten seasons from 1995-2002 met this, and my mental “forgotten-ness” criteria, and I narrowed it down into a group of six.  The other four will be Honorable Mentions at the end.  These are in order by their Game Score average but nothing else; I don’t necessarily consider any of these to be more forgotten than the rest.
JUAN GUZMAN, 1996, TOR:  27 GS, 11-8, 2.93 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 6.95 IP/gm
Guzman began a series of career-shortening injuries at the end of the 1996 season and, thanks in large part to teammate Pat Hentgen’s 1996 Cy Young Award, Guzman’s campaign has largely been forgotten as anything memorable or noteworthy from that season.  In 27 starts, Guzman had a GSC (Game Score Average) of 60, but only posted an 11-8 record.  The Adjusted W-L method says he pitched well enough to go 13-6.  He held opponents to an incredible OPS+ of 65 while posting a tremendous 171 ERA+.  He also earned a +56 in the SP Effectiveness System, deeming him a true #1 in that season.
JUSTIN THOMPSON, 1997, DET: 32 GS, 15-11, 3.02 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.98 IP/gm
Once a promising up-and-comer in the Tigers organization, Thompson’s severe inactivity from the end of 1999 until his two-game stint in 2005 rendered him one of the forgotten.  His 1997 campaign, however, earned him an All-Star spot, and saw him finish in the AL top ten in ERA, ERA+, GS, IP, CG, IP/GM, WHIP, and H/9.  In those 32 starts, his GSC was 58, ERA+ was 151, and OPS+ was 68.  His 15-11 record translates to an Adjusted W-L of 21-5, as in the decisions he received, he recorded an AQS 21 out of 26.  His SP Effectiveness was a tremendous +76.
ISMAEL VALDEZ, 1997, LAD: 30 GS, 10-11, 2.65 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 6.57 IP/gm
The 2000-2005 seasons of Ismael Valdez were so average or poor that many people forget how solid his 1995-1999 seasons were.  During those first five years, he averaged just about 200 innings per season, had a max ERA of 3.98, max WHIP of 1.36, and posted K:BB ratios over 2.00 four out of five times, just missing it for the fifth time.  Then, it all seemingly went downhill.  His innings and strikeouts lowered while his walks and hits trended upwards.  His 1997 season, however, was a bright spot that little light gets shone upon.  In that season, Valdez’s GSC was 58, ERA+ was 146, and OPS+ 76.  His 10-11 record translates to a 13-8 Adjusted W-L.  Though that is not much of a difference, he was extremely unlucky in the sense that, in eight of his nine no-decisions, he went 6+ innings and gave up no more than 2 ER.  His Net Luck Rating (NLR) was -6.5 in 1997 which is rather high; the highest since 2000 belongs to, guess who, 2007 Matt Cain, at -12.5. 
DUSTIN HERMANSON, 1998, MON: 32 G (30 GS), 14-11, 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
The most recent sight of Hermanson Munster saw him as the-closer-that-lost-his-job-to-Bobby-Jenks on the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox.  Prior to his relief pitching years, though, Hermanson actually came up in the bigs as a starter, averaging 31 GS/yr from 1997-2001.  Though his last three years as a starter were nothing to write home about, his 1998 season featured some pretty solid, yet oft-forgotten, numbers.  Dustin made 30 starts, averaged 6.13 IP/gm, while posting a K:BB of 2.75 (154 K to 56 BB).  His ERA+ was 134 while his OPS+ came in at 78.  His GSC during the season was 56.  The 14-11 record becomes a 15-10 in the Adjusted W-L system and there were an additional three games wherein Hermanson pitched extremely well but failed to record a decision.
FRANCISCO CORDOVA, 1998, PIT: 33 GS, 13-14, 3.31 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.68 IP/gm
Francisco Cordova’s brief major league career reads like some sort of statistical haiku, wherein his numbers increase to the maximum and then decrease back to where they originated.  Seriously, look at his Baseball-Reference page.  It’s quite odd as just about every statistic does this.  During his 1998 campaign, his 132 ERA+ and 82 OPS+ only resulted in a 13-14 record.  Of course, this was most likely a direct result of playing for the Pirates.  His Adjusted W-L would have been 18-9.  That’s a pretty significant difference.  In a 9-game stretch from 4/23 to 6/6, Cordova went 64.2 IP, 55 H, 14 ER, 8 BB, 41 K, 1.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, Opp. OPS of .599, and a GSC of 62.  Some of these were cancelled out by a few <5 IP starts and two consecutive 6 ER surrendered performances on 7/31 and 8/5, but Cordova’s season really could have resulted in serious Cy Young Award consideration had he been on a team with good run support.
JOEY HAMILTON, 1995, SD: 30 GS, 6-9, 3.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.78 IP/gm
Hamilton’s 1995 season proved to be a forgotten one simply due to its statistical oddities.  The year prior, his rookie, season, he received 15 decisions in 16 starts; a year later he received 15 decisions in 30 starts.  How does this happen?  Not because he didn’t pitch late into games; as mentioned above, he averaged 6.78 IP/gm and only went under 6 IP six times out of thirty starts.  There were nine games in which he went 6+ IP and gave up 3 or less ER, or 7.2+ IP with 4 or less ER (AQS requirements) wherein he received a no-decision.  Of his 15 decisions, though, his Adjusted W-L should have been 9-6.  Even if he went 5-4 in the nine no-decisions he should have won, we would have had a 14-10 record to work with; 15 decisions in 30 starts is just ridiculous.  What’s even more ridiculous is Odalis Perez’s 13 decisions in 31 starts in 2004.  Back to Hamilton.  His GSC was 54, and he had an ERA+ of 132 with an OPS+ of 80.  Greg Maddux was literally in a league of his own in 1995, but Hamilton’s GSC, ERA+ and OPS+ were extremely comparable when stacked up next to Pete Schourek, Tom Glavine, Hideo Nomo, and Ramon Martinez, all four of whom received Cy Young Award votes.
These were the seasons that qualified for inclusion but just missed the cut, not necessarily due to quality but due to “forgotten-ness”:

  1. Rick Ankiel, 2000, StL: 31 GS, 11-7, 134 ERA+, 76 OPS+, 55 GSC
  2. Ken Hill, 1996, Tex: 35 GS, 16-10, 145 ERA+, 76 OPS+, 53 GSC
  3. Jaime Navarro, 1995, CHC: 29 GS, 13-6, 125 ERA+, 82 OPS+, 55 GSC
  4. Todd Ritchie, 1999, Pit: 26 GS, 15-9, 132 ERA+, 86 OPS+, 53 GSC

If anybody has more seasons they feel qualify for inclusion, definitely post them in the comments section.  Let’s have some fun with this.