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Just The Sports: Really, Tom?

Just The Sports

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Really, Tom?

Tom Verducci of, in one of the far-reaching arguments of all time, wants to attribute the poor play of late of the New York Mets to the fact Pedro Martinez injured his hip on May 26. This would be kind of funny if Verducci were not serious about every word he writes. His lack of satire makes the whole article a depressing ordeal instead.

You can take the temperature of the New York Mets just the same way you could the Boston Red Sox for a seven-year period: Use Pedro Martinez as your thermometer.

Why exactly would you take the temperature of the New York Mets by using their second-best pitcher as your thermometer? What can you really learn from doing that? As of the writing of Verducci's article, Glavine has been the best pitcher for the New York Mets this year. He leads the Mets starting pitching staff (with at least 35 innings thrown) in actual total wins, actual winning percentage, expected total wins, expected winning percentage, team wins, SNLVAR, run average, and fair run average. He may lead the Mets pitchers in other categories, but those are the ones I came across in the first thirty seconds or so or looking. In addition to those categories, Glavine bests Martinez when it comes to having more consistent outings with a FLAKE of .201 to Martinez's .239 and Glavine leaves more runners on base with a 79.8 LOB% to Martinez's 72.4 LOB%.

Despite the overwhelming support I just laid out to suggest Glavine has been the better pitcher, I will still follow Verducci's advice and using Pedro as my thermometer.

Since May 26, when Martinez slipped while having to change his undershirt during a Mets-Dodgers Game, the Mets have gone 21-15 for a winning percentage of .583. Up to May 26, the Mets were 28-19 with a winning percentage of .596. There is not exactly a great disparity between the two records and if Martinez is supposed to be the thermometer, well, he is not a very good at gauging the temperature of the New York Mets.

Pedro, in his own words, has not "been the same since," but whether that has to do with his hip injury the teams he has faced, you will have to decide for yourself after reading this post. The two time spans I will be comparing are the same ones Verducci looks at during his article: April 6-May 26 and May 31-June 28.

Looking at the surface, it would be easy to point to his 5-1 win-loss record (in ten starts) in the first span and his 2-3 record (in 6 starts) in the second span and wash your hands of the whole matter, but wins do not always provide a good indicator of how good a pitcher really is. What does provide a good picture are a pitcher's strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate, and even under those criteria, Martinez has struggled.

His home run rate (HR/9) has increased only marginally from 1.2 HR/9 to 1.3 HR/9, his walk rate (BB/9) ballooned from 1.9 BB/9 to 2.9 BB/9, and his strikeout rate (K/9) has fallen drastically from 10.6 K/9 to 8.2 K/9.

Still, even that is not enough and I wanted to see if his reduction in production had to do which teams he pitched against. Of Martinez's first ten starts, seven starts came against teams which rank in the top 6 in slugging percentage of their respective leagues. Contrast that to his last six starts where three of his starts were against teams who rank in the top 6 in slugging percentage of their respective leagues so Martinez had the same number of starts against good slugging teams in 60% of the starts.

Looking further into Martinez's performance, I took the games where he started against the bottom half slugging teams and compared them to the starts against the top half slugging teams. I looked at strikeout rate, home run rate, walk rate, and I even looked at RA (run average takes into account earned and unearned runs).

Run Average
Good Teams: 6.2 RA
Bad Teams: 2.7 RA

Home Run Rate
Good Teams: 1.3 HR/9
Bad Teams: 1.2 HR/9

Walk Rate
Good Teams: 3.6 BB/9
Bad Teams: 1.9 BB/9

Strikeout Rate
Good Teams: 11.1 K/9
Bad Teams: 9.2 K/9

As you can see, largely based on the disparity in RA and walk rate between when Martinez pitches against good teams rather than bad teams, there is more evidence to suggest Martinez's struggles are less a result of his hip than they are of him facing better hitting ballclubs.

It should not surprise you that his home run rate against good teams and bad teams is basically identical because it was the same when comparing the two time frames and has been his most consistent rate statistic. What did surprise me ws his increased strikeout rate, but that is nullified by his walk rate almost being doubled when he pitches against a good team.

I feel confident in predicting Pedro will regain his pre-May 31 form once he gets more starts against the Braves and the Nationals in the second half of the season.


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