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In part one of this series, I presented a system for the analysis of NCAA Division I stats for hitters. In that piece, I hinted at but did not actually present a system for analyzing pitchers' statistics. This article will explain the analysis of pitchers a bit more fully and present a top 50 for 2003. A top 50 for 2002 will follow shortly.

Readers should refer to that earlier article to get some background on this project. As I discussed there, I used RSAA as the basis for my analysis of pitchers. I have used runs allowed, rather than earned runs, to do these calculations in particular because of the extremely wide variation in scoring practices at 280 mostly uncoordinated schools.

The data for most schools (well over 90% in 2003) includes the full breakdown of offensive events for all pitchers. This allows us to use xRuns in the pitching context, by calculating xRuns allowed. I prefer this to component ERA, since component ERA formulas aren't generally very portable from context to context. Basically, xRuns allowed (where it's available) does a very good job of predicting runs allowed, but makes allowances for where pitchers have lowered ERAs or RAs due to being relievers, getting lucky, or getting good bullpen support. Or vice versa.

I think the xRuns calculation is slightly more accurate than runs allowed in analyzing a pitcher's true effectiveness, though of course it doesn't take into account clutch pitching ability and adds in a scorer's bias. Some pitchers are just very, very lucky or unlucky and wind up with runs allowed totals that vary widely from how they performed in individual contexts.

Just as I did for hitters, I calculated park adjustments for each pitcher, both to runs allowed and to xRuns allowed. I also calculated competition adjustments, as detailed in my hitters article. I used these figures to compare each pitcher to the NCAA average, both in terms of RSAA, and as RA+ - which is calculated like the familiar ERA+ figures 100 is average, and a pitcher who allows half the number of runs of the average pitcher is a 200.

The Top 50 pitchers by **RSAA (park-and-competition-adjusted runs saved above average) are listed below. Before signing off, though, I'd like to give a short update on the project. Robert Dudek, analyst extraordinaire as he is, has been contributing some new park factor calculations which I am hoping to include in the final release of the full statistical breakdowns. I still intend to put up 2002 top 50 data, for both hitters and pitchers, in the very near future within the next week or so. A lot of work needs to be done on cleaning up the database, removing double entries and so forth, as well as some stray team totals that got mixed in, and there are quite a large number of player names that have been somehow corrupted (Harvard's and Illinois' pitching staffs apparently have no first names, St. Louis's pitchers no last names, to name just three!) so I need to chase those down. Once that is done, a more analytical article should follow along with a full listing of every player for 2002 and 2003.

Top 50 pitchers by **RSAA, 2003
1 Jeff Niemann Rice 77.6 80.6 137.3 370
2 John Hudgins Stanford 79.7 77.7 165.3 226
3 Jered Weaver Long Beach State 79.6 68.4 133.3 268
4 Tom Mastny Furman unav 63.2 124.0 358
5 Wade Townsend Rice 65.1 61.8 118.7 284
6 Abe Alvarez Long Beach State 44.6 59.7 122.7 247
7 J. P Howell Texas 52.9 54.7 114.3 229
8 Jason Windsor Cal State Fullerto 49.1 54.7 95.3 334
9 Philip Humber Rice 54.8 52.5 128.0 204
10 Jeremy Sowers Vanderbilt 51.6 50.7 115.0 225

11 Huston Street Texas 50.3 49.7 74.3 471
12 Brad Sullivan Houston 57.0 48.8 123.7 190
13 Mike Pelfrey Wichita State 45.4 48.5 104.7 268
14 James Vermilyea New Mexico 48.6 47.8 119.3 216
15 Tim Stauffer Richmond 55.9 47.5 114.0 227
16 Aaron Marsden Nebraska 45.9 46.9 115.0 207
17 Ryan Wagner Houston 52.6 45.9 79.3 327
18 David Marchbanks South Carolina 29.9 45.9 135.3 175
19 Chad Mulholland Southwest Missouri 44.3 45.1 119.7 196
20 Clayton Jerome Texas Christian 44.7 44.7 111.7 213

21 Glen Perkins Minnesota 42.8 44.4 105.3 217
22 Randy Beam Florida Atlantic 50.1 44.2 101.7 239
23 Brandon Hankins Southwest Texas St 37.2 43.8 94.3 252
24 Greg Ramirez Pepperdine 37.9 43.7 122.0 196
25 Steven White Baylor 44.6 43.1 129.0 166
26 Josh Baker Rice 38.1 42.8 95.0 227
27 Justin Verlander Old Dominion 46.6 42.7 116.3 194
28 Matt Durkin San Jose State 42.6 42.6 100.3 235
29 R. J. Swindle Charleston Souther 51.3 41.3 119.3 189
30 Jessie Corn Jacksonville State 52.9 41.2 115.0 194

31 Mark Romanczuk Stanford 40.9 41.1 112.3 177
32 Jeremy Plexico Winthrop 41.1 40.5 117.7 194
33 Justin Meier Louisiana State 30.0 40.5 95.3 200
34 Danny Zell Houston 41.9 40.2 113.3 174
35 Brent Carter Alabama 51.9 39.7 122.7 165
36 Justin Orenduff Virginia Commonwea 36.0 39.5 95.0 234
37 Scott Lewis Ohio State 45.8 39.2 83.7 270
38 Dustin Miller Cal State Fullerto 34.1 38.9 100.0 190
39 Jaymie Torres UC Riverside 36.9 37.9 110.3 185

40 Chris Niesel Notre Dame 41.1 37.4 98.3 209
41 Paul Jacinto Brigham Young 43.0 37.4 113.0 184
42 Paul Maholm Mississippi State 28.4 37.3 107.7 178
43 Chad Cordero Cal State Fullerto 35.0 37.3 57.0 499
44 Aj Shappi UC Riverside 46.3 37.1 113.0 179
45 Tim Alvarez Southeast Missouri 35.2 36.2 108.3 193
46 Daniel Davidson Florida State 37.7 36.0 85.7 207
47 Trent Peterson Florida State 45.0 35.9 116.7 161
48 Cla Meredith Virginia Commonwea 28.2 35.4 60.3 520
49 Zac Cline West Virginia 33.4 35.2 125.7 160
50 Ben Thurmond Arizona State 26.1 34.6 79.0 235
Statistical Evaluations of College Pitchers | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Pistol - Thursday, March 11 2004 @ 11:12 PM EST (#76254) #
Again, this is a great, if not revolutionary, study.

Interesting, and perhaps not surprising, that Vermilyea ranks so high. He was just ahead of Stauffer, who was one of the top picks in the entire draft. Mastny was another Blue Jay pick in the last draft who pitched really well in Auburn.

If I'm not mistaken the trio of Rice pitchers in the top 10 are all draft eligible this year, along with Jered Weaver (brother of Jeff).
_Dean - Thursday, March 11 2004 @ 11:38 PM EST (#76255) #
The stats are interesting but they don't measure "stuff". I know I am going to get roasted for this but they are not the end all and the Jays best pitching draft pick from 2003, Banks, does not even make the list. Ryan Wagner is ranked 17th and he is in The Show already.
_Kristian - Thursday, March 11 2004 @ 11:42 PM EST (#76256) #
Great stuff to look at and very interesting. Sleeth didnt make the cut which is surprising. Alvarez is a guy the Red Sox are very high on and the Younger Weaver has looked amazing this year so far and should be a top 5 pick in this years draft.
Pistol - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 12:12 AM EST (#76257) #
Dean - I don't believe that Craig is implying that this list is a ranking of the future ability of pitchers. It's just a way to evaluate players on a level playing field, so to speak.

Tom Mastny would have certainly been drafted higher if a team thought that a list like this was a predictor of future success.
Pistol - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 12:47 AM EST (#76258) #
Vermilyea is a nice example of how these conversions have so much value.

In 2003 at New Mexico, Vermilyea had a 4.27 ERA, gave up 147 hits (46 extra base hits) in 126 innings, and was an underwhelming 7-4 in 17 starts.

But from this study we can see that playing at New Mexico was the main reason for mediocre results. He apparently was undervalued because of it as he was a 9th round pick, yet made it up to high A ball by the end of the season, which not too many draftees did.

Vermilyea was basically the same pitcher before and after the draft (as far as I know he didn't learn any new pitches, etc..), yet his performance at low altitudes against tougher competition blew his NM results out of the water.

Dunedin 2003
0-2, 2 Sv, 2.49, 9 G, 0 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 2 BB, 25 K, 1 HR, 29.0% KBF

Auburn 2003
5-1, 0 Sv, 2.37, 9 G, 2 GS, 30 IP, 22 H, 5 BB, 53 K, 0 HR, 44.5% KBF

I would think that if more teams had a better grasp of college park effects and competition he wouldn't have lasted until the 9th round. I suspect that the Jays probably underestimated Vermilyea a bitas well.
robertdudek - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 01:03 AM EST (#76259) #
This is an evaluation of the relative and contextualized performance of college pitchers.

However, we don't know enough about how college performance relates to professional pitching to use it to answer any questions pertaining to the likelihood of future success. Yet.
Gitz - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 02:37 AM EST (#76260) #
Put Ryan Wagner on Oakland, or the Yankees, or the Cubs, or the Giants, etc, etc, etc, and he'd be in AAA blowing hitters away. Rookies need more than talent: they need opportunity. Wagner got his in Cincinnatti; many other places, he wouldn't have gotten it.
Mike Green - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 09:52 AM EST (#76261) #
I don't know how I missed this thread when it was posted, but once again Craig, this is truly inspired.

If you combine this data with normalized K, W and HR rate information (this data would be complementary to yours), you've got an excellent picture of where a pitcher is.

Finally for display purposes, I'd probably break it down into 5 run increments; it makes it easier to see the wide separations, and the groups of players who had essentially similar seasons.

Coach - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 10:09 AM EST (#76262) #
Tremendous, Craig.

This supports the consensus choice of Niemann as the best in the country. However, as we all know, there are no guarantees when it comes to pitchers. Not only is it difficult to project MLB ability years down the road, every season, at any level, brings new challenges. Even a 6' 9", 260 pound monster who goes 17-0 is human; Niemann is off to a 1-2 start this year, with a 4.43 ERA. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up. Top 10 teammates Townsend and Humber are doing fine, but something is not right with the big fella. Could be the psychological pressure of being the potential #1 overall pick, but my guess is, he's hurting somewhere.

Mastny is the Ryan Roberts of pitchers -- a great find by the Jays, doing a lot of things right so far as a pro.
robertdudek - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 10:17 AM EST (#76263) #
There was talk some time ago about a highly-touted Rice pitcher being shut down after signing a pro contract. I don't remember the name of the pitcher, but it was suggested that the Rice baseball programme is an arm shredder. Something to think about when following this year
's college baseball season.
robertdudek - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 10:24 AM EST (#76264) #
After some research, I determined it was Kenny Baugh, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2001 draft (Detroit) and missed all of 2002. In 2003 in AA he struck out only 58 batters in 109.7 innings.
Lucas - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 11:11 AM EST (#76265) #
Fine work, Craig.

Interesting that Huston Street ranks so high on the list given that he's a reliever. I don't know, but I'd guess the chances of college relievers becoming worthwhile pros are pretty slim. But how's this for a career line:

85 games, 15-2 with 31 saves, 1.13 ERA, 134 innings, 78 H, 26 BB, 134 K.

BTW, Street is the son of former famed Texas QB James Street, who played in the "Game of the Century" against Arkansas in 1969.
Craig B - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 11:35 AM EST (#76266) #

* This is an analysis of college stats and not a projection system. There is a fairly vast gap between Division I ball and even the lowest minor leagues. We also have no public studies (except of course the large amount of anecdotal evidence) on whether success at the NCAA level translates into pro success.

* There are a large number of reasons why a good college pitcher might not be a good pro pitcher (let alone MLB pitcher), none of which this purely statistical analysis will capture.

* Once I publish the full dataset, K and K/W rates will be included, and HR rates where available.

* Josh Banks did not pitch as well as hoped in college in 2003 - though he did pitch well. He was still recovering from the elbow injury. That, by all accounts, is what pushed him down from the first round. He still showed up very well on these numbers (don't have his totals available right now.

* Huston Street has been dominant in his college career, and he did pitch a lot of innings for a reliever. But check out that adjusted RA+... 471! That means he allowed almost five times fewer runs than the average pitcher would have been expected to. Nice. (Chad Cordero had a 499 but he only threw 57 innings, and Meredith from VaComm had a 520.)
robertdudek - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 11:57 AM EST (#76267) #
Incidentally, I like Cordero a lot as a big league closer. His stuff isn't overwhelming but he uses it extremely well. Very savvy pitcher.

Getting back to college pitchers versus high school pitchers for a moment ...

There are two reasons I like college pitchers (I don't have the same preference for college position players).

1) Injuries, as discussed. If a pitcher is three years older, he's that much closer to being a 25-year old pitcher with a mature arm.

2) A lot of pitching success is based on a successful mental (and strategic) approach. I would figure that college kids as a group are better "thinkers" than guys signing pro contracts out of high school.
Mike Green - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 12:20 PM EST (#76268) #
In addition to the reasons that Robert gives, there is one other factor which favors college pitchers. The 40 man roster rules essentially require that a decision be made on high school pitchers earlier on in their development process than for college pitchers. Young pitchers, even more than hitters, are susceptible to ups and downs, and it is more difficult for an organization to make an evaluation of a pitcher at age 21 or 22 at single A than at age 24 at triple A.
_Dean - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 12:36 PM EST (#76269) #
The 40 man roster works both ways, another team is not going to pluck some 21 year old from A ball and make him stay on the 25 man roster, Rule V, unless they think he can contribute. I'm not sure of the minor league portion of the draft but I know there is more protection there to prevent a team from grabbing guys and putting them on their A-ball team.
There is no doubt that drafting high school pitchers is riskier, but the team also gets to control that players development, monitoring pitch counts and teaching him the organizational way. A guy who has spent 3 or 4 years playing college ball now has to adapt to a different game. Some thrive, Vermilyea who is now probably breaking bats rather than giving up aluminum bat hits, and others will struggle.
_Sword of the Mo - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 01:13 PM EST (#76270) #
Has anyone heard anything on Steven White signing with the Yankees? He was a senior but had Boras for an agent so maybe he'll go independent league.

Give 'em the Cold Steel!
Craig B - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 01:21 PM EST (#76271) #
White is still unsigned, but according to the Yankees' website as of March 5th they are still negotiating with him.
_Young - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 04:03 PM EST (#76272) #

The list probably isn't worth any use to analysis as to how quickly players get to the MLB.

Of the top ten, only 3 of the players were even drafted by teams, the others are still in college. Does that mean they are worthless? No, it just means they are still in college.

From WTNY, COMN for link.

1. Jeff Niemann- Rice
2. John Hudgins (Texas Rangers)
3. Jered Weaver- Long Beach State
4. Tom Mastny (Toronto Blue Jays)
5. Wade Townsend- Rice
6. Abe Alvarez (Boston Red Sox)
7. J.P. Howell- Texas
8. Jason Windsor- Cal State Fullerton
9. Philip Humber- Rice
10. Jeremy Sowers- Vanderbilt
_Dean - Friday, March 12 2004 @ 04:49 PM EST (#76273) #
My 1st post wasn't about the race to the top but about a "value" being placed on the pitchers without addressing their potential as pros based on the quality of their pitches - velocity, command, secondary pitches etc. In Craig B's disclaimer post he addressed this.
Craig B - Monday, March 15 2004 @ 08:39 AM EST (#76274) #
Welcome to all the Hardball Times readers who find their way over here.

Stay tuned to THT over the next month or so, as I will be presenting much more information from this study.
Statistical Evaluations of College Pitchers | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.