Joe Saunders

24 Dec

Baseball Prospectus may rescind my membership for this statement, but I’m going to say it anyways: I don’t think Joe Saunders is a bad pitcher. In fact, I think his career 69-52 record, and 4.16 ERA prove he’s a pretty good pitcher. Sure Saunders doesn’t have swing and miss stuff, and his career FIP is half a run higher than his ERA; however, did he deserve to be derided as worthless when he was traded to the Diamondbacks or non-tendered by the same team after a season with an ERA of 3.69 in 2011?
As much as I love statistical analysis, I’m not in love with it in a way where I ignore its flaws. Many Stat-heads have gone to an extreme where WAR and peripheral stats are the end all be all for valuing a player. This leads to mis-evaluations like Ryan Dempster, who spent much of 2011 getting bombed, having a 2.8 WAR because his peripheral numbers were that of a pitcher with an ERA over a run lower. Saunders actual ERA was a full run lower than Dempster, (pause here for necessary mention of PADE, xFip, SIERA…) and his WAR was 1.1, because his peripherals, as always, were not as good as his results. If peripheral numbers were the end all be all, the Marlins wouldn’t have needed to spend all that money on Mark Buehrle, a player whose peripheral numbers do not tell the whole story, because Ricky Nolasco would be an ace rather than a headache.
It’s ironic to suggest that overvaluing pitchers’ peripheral statistics has become the new overvaluing pitchers’ actual results, but we may have reached that point. We don’t know exactly why relievers have more control over their BABIP than starters do, or
why Jered Weaver consistently produces more pop-ups than other pitchers. And until we do, it’s unfair to value Saunders solely on what our limited mathematical calculations project his results to be, and ignore what his results actually are. Being ignorant of all the available information is what led to the Money Ball era in the first place.

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One Response to “Joe Saunders”

  1. the self-hating hipster December 25, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    I cannot believe I’m hearing this coming from the formerly obsessed baseball statistician. Are you still in the process of developing your own stat? Induced ground balls vs. pop-ups while facing left-handed Dominican batters in National League parks.

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