Friday, September 7, 2012

Raising Aces

I think about baseball a lot, we all do (right?). I especially think about baseball when daydreaming. I daydream a lot when I'm in class. I had a lot of class today. Ergo, I thought about baseball a lot today. Especially pitchers. Pitchers are a funky, curious bunch (just ask Andy) so there's plenty to think about. My train of thought led me to thinking about which teams developed the most ace level starting pitchers. It could be interesting to see which teams are having the most success with high level talent and where it generally comes from. However, there are a few logistical problems.

Logistical problems

First off, I'm guessing something similar to this has already been done and done better than my attempt. But I really don't have the time to look for it and I want to try it myself.

Secondly, 'ace' isn't an easy label to put on a hurler. Some may say all #1's are aces, others would suggest there are only a handful in the league at any given time. For the purpose of this 'study', we'll say there are a dozen 'aces' at any given time. Mostly because I like writing dozen, but also because it presents a manageable but large enough sample to draw from.

Thirdly, I'll only look at the last decade. Much like 'dozen' I like saying decade more than other numbers of years. But it also works well as it will be a more accurate representation of the current regimes in baseball.

Fourthly(?), this is not a scientific study. There will be no method, just madness.

The Madness

Starting off, this is a list of the top dozen pitchers in baseball each year for the last decade by bWAR. I'm not including 2012, as it's in progress, so sorry Nationals. And sorry to you, because this looks ugly.

-2011                        -2010                     -2009                    -2008                      -2007
Roy Halladay           Roy Halladay        Zack Greinke       Tim Lincecum         Roy Oswalt
Cliff Lee                   Ubaldo Jimenez    Tim Lincecum      Johan Santana         Josh Beckett
Justin Verlander       Felix Hernandez    Roy Halladay       Ryan Dempster       Brandon Webb
CC Sabathia             Josh Johnson         Josh Johnson        Cliff Lee                 John Lackey
Jered Weaver           Adam Wainwright  Chris Carpenter   CC Sabathia           CC Sabathia
Clayton Kershaw     Roy Oswalt           Dan Haren            John Danks            Mark Buehrle
Cole Hamels            Tim Hudson          Jair Jurrjens           Roy Halladay    Roberto Hernandez
Ricky Romero          Clay Buchholz       Adam Wainwright    Dan Haren          Jake Peavy
Josh Beckett            Clayton Kershaw  Matt Cain               Jon Lester              Javier Vazquez
Doug Fister              Cole Hamels         Jon Lester              Rich Harden          Aaron Harang
Ian Kennedy            John Danks           CC Sabathia          Brandon Webb       Brad Penny
James Shields          Jon Lester              Javier Vazquez      Daisuke Matsuzaka  Erik Bedard

-2006                      -2005                   -2004                  -2003                    -2002
Johan Santana        Roger Clemens    Johan Santana     Pedro Martinez     Randy Johnson
Brandon Webb      Dontrelle Willis    Randy Johnson   Roy Halladay       Curt Schilling
Bronson Arroyo     Johan Santana     Curt Schilling      Mark Prior            Roy Halladay
Chien-Ming Wang  Pedro Martinez   Ben Sheets           Tim Hudson         Derek Lowe
Roy Oswalt            Andy Pettitte        Jason Schmidt     Esteban Loaiza    Barry Zito
John Smoltz            Roy Oswalt        Carlos Zambrano  Jason Schmidt      Bartolo Colon
Curt Schilling         Chris Carpenter   Brad Radke         Mike Mussina       Roy Oswalt
Roy Halladay         Randy Johnson    Oliver Perez        Livan Hernandez  Tim Hudson
Aaron Harang        Roy Halladay       Joe Kennedy       Brandon Webb     Pedro Martinez
Carlos Zambrano   Carlos Zambrano  Pedro Martinez   Kerry Wood         Paul Byrd
Jonathon Papelbon John Smoltz         Roger Clemens    Curt Schilling       Jamie Moyer
Chris Carpenter      John Patterson     Carl Pavano         Javier Vazquez     Mark Buehrle

That takes me back, fun to see the likes of Brandon Webb, Jason Schmidt and Joe Kennedy. Also, the only reliever on any list was Papelbon's 2006, so there's that.

And now, to mess around with the list, I'll try to total up each players top 12 finishes in order to weight the team rankings (developing Roy Halladay should count more than Oliver Perez) and assign a developing team to each player:

Roy Halladay (8) - Toronto
Cliff Lee (2) - Cleveland
Justin Verlander (1) - Old Dominion, jk, Detroit
CC Sabathia (4) - Cleveland
Jered Weaver (1) - LAA
Clayton Kershaw (2) - LAD
Cole Hamels (2) - Philadelphia
Ricky Romero (1) - Toronto
Josh Beckett (2) - Florida
Doug Fister (1) - Seattle
Ian Kennedy (1) - NYY
James Shields (1) - Tampa Bay
Ubaldo Jimenez (1) - Colorado
Felix Hernandez (1) - Seattle
Josh Johnson (2) - Florida
Adam Wainwright (2) - St Louis
Roy Oswalt (5) - Houston Astros
Tim Hudson (3) - Oakland
Clay Buchholz (1) - Boston
John Danks (2) - CWS
Jon Lester (3) - Boston
Zack Greinke (1) - Royals
Tim Lincecum (2) - Giants
Chris Carpenter (2) - St Louis (Sorry Toronto, gotta earn it)
Dan Haren (2) - St Louis
Jair Jurrjens (1) - Detroit
Matt Cain (1) - SFG
Javier Vazquez (3) - Montreal
Johan Santana (4) - Minnesota
Ryan Dempster (1) - Florida
Rich Harden (1) - Oakland
Brandon Webb (4) - Arizona
Dice-K Matsuzaka (1) - Boston
John Lackey (1) - LAA
Mark Buehrle (2) - CWS
Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) (1) - Cleveland
Jake Peavy (1) - Padres
Aaron Harang (2) - Reds
Brad Penny (1) - Florida
Bronson Arroyo (1)- Pittsburgh
CM Wang (1) - NYY
John Smoltz (2) - Braves
Curt Schilling (4) - Phillies
Carlos Zambrano (3) - Cubs
Jon Papelbon (1) - Red Sox
Roger Clemens (2) - Red Sox
Dontrelle Willis (1) - Florida
Pedro Martinez (4) - LAD
Andy Pettitte (1) - NYY
Randy Johnson (3) - Seattle
John Patterson (1) - Arizona
Ben Sheets (1) - Brewers
Jason Schmidt (2) - Atlanta
Brad Radke (1) - Twins
Oliver Perez (1) - Padres
Joe Kennedy (1) - Tampa Bay
Carl Pavano (1) - Montreal
Mark Prior (1) - Cubs
Esteban Loaiza (1) - Pittsburgh
Mike Mussina (1) - Baltimore
Livan Hernandez (1) - Florida
Kerry Wood (1) - Cubs
Derek Lowe (1) - Boston
Barry Zito (1) - Oakland
Bartolo Colon (1) - Cleveland
Paul Byrd (1) - Mets
Jamie Moyer (1) - Cubs

And finally, we're breaking it down by team-

9 - Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox
8 - Cleveland Indians, Florida Marlins,
7 - Nobody!
6 - LA Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies
5 - Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros
4 - Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos
3 - New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants
2 - Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, LA Angels, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates
1 - Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets
0 - Texas Rangers


-Toronto hasn't actually been that good at developing pitchers: eight of their nine "points" come from Doc Halladay. Boston on the other hand, has developed six unique pitchers making up their "points". The other team that has developed six unique "aces" is Florida. Interesting to note that each team has won a world series in this time frame. Cleveland and the Cubs have also produced four unique "aces".

-The Mets are lucky not to be shut out on the list, their only product so far is Paul Byrd. The same goes for the Orioles, who sneaked on by developing Mike Mussina in the very early nineties. In the same vein, the Nationals are reaping the rewards of the Expos developing Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez early on.

-Texas has not yet developed an ace. This brings up a few points. Obviously they've done well recently, producing CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and others, however, this points to a long dry spell that lasted most of the 2000's in which their rotation was a vacuum of talent. This list isn't a reflection on the current state, but more a reflection of late 90's - mid 00's development. As a result, it helps explain the cellar-dweller-ness of the Orioles, Royals, Rockies, Brewers and friends. On the flipside, the consistent success of the Red Sox, Cardinals, Twins and A's is also evident in the findings.

In my next post, I'll look deeper into how these pitchers were acquired and what that tells us about raising top-shelf pitching.

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