The Padres edged out a win over the DBacks today, on the strength of a Chris Denorfia HR in the bottom of the 8th inning, driving in Cameron Maybin, who drew a walk before him. The 2-1 Pitch was driven to center field and into the glove of Chris Young. The glove was not attached to Chris Young, however, so the hit was a Home Run. Huston Street came on in the ninth to get his first save as a member of the Padres. It seemed like a pretty typical PETCO game, with neither team generating any offense. The Dbacks got their run of of four Luebke walks (very rare for him to give so many let alone in one inning) while Joe Saunders stymied the Padres offense for 7 innings.
The lack of offense prompted this tweet from Padres fan and author of websoulsurfer.com I had argued that Saunders would be a #3 starter for San Diego. I also questioned the #firephil . I understand the frustration but not sold , 1 week into a new season with a new coach, that he is to blame. It's another argument altogether, but I would liken it to firing a teacher because their students all got Ds and Fs the first week of a long semester. THe students have always been D and F students, so why fire the teacher after 1 week of results that have been consistent with previous results after such a short time. I digress. Websoulsurfer responded that Saunders would be a five arguing that his 4.16 career ERA and 4.65 FIP would make him a 5 behind Stauffer, Volquez, Luebke and Richard. I was at work at the time, but now that I've had a chance to look at the numbers, I admit I was wrong about Saunders being a 3. I would actually argue he would be the Padres 2 or Even the Ace.
Here are the Career Numbers from Each of those 5 Pitchers
Saunders Career: 4.16 ERA, 103 ERA+, 10.7 WAR
Stauffer Career: 3.92 ERA, 94 ERA+, 3.7 WAR
Volquez Career: 4.61 ERA, 93 ERA+, 3.2 WAR
Richard Career: 4.14 ERA, 95 ERA+, 2.6 WAR
Luebke Career: 3.50 ERA, 101 ERA+, 1.9 WAR
Saunders comes neck and neck with Richard for the number 3 and 4 ERA, but in terms of ERA+ Which adjusts for park factors and compares to the league average, Saunders edges out Luebke for the best numbers. Career wise, his 10.7 War is Clearly the best over his 7 seasons, although his average of about 1.5 WAR per season is bested by Luebkes 2011. Speaking of 2011, Lets look at the numbers from that season
Saunders 3.69, 107, 2.4
Stauffer 3.73, 95, 2.0
Volquez 5.71, 68, -1.0
Richard 3.88, 92, 0.2
Luebke 3.29, 107, 1.8
Saunders is bested only by Luebke last year in terms of ERA, but has a higher WAR than Luebke. THey had identical ERA+. Luebke posts better Strikeout, Walk and HR rates, so from that standpoint, I would give the ace nod to Luebke. To be fair to Websoulsurfer, I cant compare FIP. I'm fairly new at this and was unable to find the FIP numbers on each pitcher but when comparing by ERA+ or WAR, Saunders and Luebke would be battling out for the title of staff ace. Do I think Volquez or Stauffer may have a better year than Saunders? I certainly believe they can. But there is more to suggest that Saunders would benefit from playing in Petco, and have a better chance at being good than Volquez. Saunders ERA is nearly the lowest in the bunch despite playing in Arizona, a hitters park. Imagine how that number would look in Petco.
Maybe Saunders isn't our Ace. But he certainly wouldnt be our number 5 either.
Part of this project for me is to learn even more about the game that I love. I've always been somewhat of a stats nerd, but have not took the time to understand the more advanced metrics of baseball. It has become somewhat of an alphabet soup for me and when I don't see how a stat is calculated, it might take me a little bit to comprehend it. After I originally posted the above, Websoulsurfer so kindly chastised me for the stats I used, and challenged me to use more advanced metrics, such as FIP(Fielding Independent Pitching) and xFIP (expected FIP.) So, I took the time and read on Fangraphs how they are calculated. Not as complex as I thought, and also learned more about SIERA (Skill Indicative ERA.) In brief, part of life is admitting you may have been wrong, and learning from mistakes. Upon further research, it is possible Saunders would be a number 5 starter. His xFIP is Poor. Here are the numbers from 2011:
FIP xFIP SIERA
SAUNDERS 4.85 4.38 4.44
LEUBKE 2.99 3.02 2.89
STAUFFER 4.08 4.03 3.92
VOLQUEZ 5.34 4.16 4.25
RICHARD 4.28 4.49 4.21
One of the things that stands out to me is Volquez's disparity from FIP to xFIP. The difference between the two stats , from how I understand it, is that FIP factors in HR, while xFIP utilizes a comparison between a pitchers flyball percentage and the leagues average HR/Flyball rate. In short, Volquez's pitching in a bandbox affected the FIP. His SIERA, more closely matches his xFIP and I believe he will benefit greatly from pitching in San Diego. Stats are numbers that can be used as metrics when used properly. One has to know which tool to apply in which scenario. Call me the brand new carpenter who is using a ruler when i needed a tape measure. I'm still learning how some of these stats work, and how to best apply them, so I welcome feedback. Hope you stay on this journey with me and bear with me on the way