November 16, 2003

Steriods, Gagne, Etc. Dr. Charles Yesalis, a Penn State professor and expert in the field of steroid abuse for 25 years: "I'm not trying to be a wise guy, but I didn't think there were that many dumb ballplayers who could flunk that many drug tests. ... The results shouldn't have been that high, when you consider how easy it is to circumvent the tests and knew that they were coming. ... [B]ecause they're testing only part of the year, all players have to do is go to their scientific advisers -- and they're paid enough to have one -- or go to night school to learn how to [beat] these tests. ... When you do all the testing behind closed doors, and no organization is an arm's length away from the organization you're testing, you run into the old 'fox guarding the henhouse' thing. I think there is legitimate speculation whether they would call out as guilty one of their superstars. I wouldn't bet my house they would."

2003 Organizational Report Card on Bill Mueller.

Eric Gagne won the NL Cy Young Award.
Player   1   2   3  Pts

Gagne 28 2 - 146
Schmidt 2 17 12 73
Prior 2 11 17 60
Ortiz - 2 3 9
Gagne had an amazing season, but I wasn't sure he deserved the award (or he didn't deserve to win so decisively). I looked at Gagne's numbers:
GM   IP   H   R  ER  BB   K    AVG  OBP  ALG  OPS   W   L  SV   ERA

77 82.1 37 12 11 20 137 .133 .196 .176 .372 2 3 55 1.20
Many people gushed over Gagne's perfect save conversion percentage (55 of 55) (including, surprisingly, Rob Neyer), but Gagne did have some bad outings, and most of them came during tie games.

May 12: Gange enters a 4-4 tie, gives up 4 runs, LA loses 11-4
June 23: Gange enters a 2-2 tie, gives up 1 run, LA loses 3-2
July 1: Gagne enters a 2-2 tie, gives up 2 runs, LA loses 4-3
August 20: Gagne enters a 0-0 tie, gives up 1 run, LA wins 4-1

Here's a breakdown of the leads he had coming into a save situation:
3-run lead: 20
2-run lead: 11
1-run lead: 22

Numbers of saves should not be a strong factor in determining who deserves the Cy Young. Pitching with a 3-run lead in the 9th inning is not a high leverage situation, so if Gagne gets credit for "saving" those games, his performance in tie games must be considered as well. ... Originally, I thought Gagne had pitched fewer innings than he actually did. I looked at the workload of the top 10 leaders in saves in 2003:
Pitcher    G    IP    BF

Gagne 77 82.1 306
Smoltz 62 64.1 244
Wagner 78 86.0 335
Foulke 72 86.2 338
Guardado 66 65.1 260
Rivera 64 70.2 277
Worrell 76 78.1 335
Julio 64 61.2 273
Biddle 73 71.2 330
Percival 52 49.1 206
Gagne pitched in more games, totaled more innings and faced more batters than most of his peers. He also allowed the fewest hits of any of them (except Percival, but Percival pitched 33 fewer innings!). Gagne also had an eye-popping WHIP (walks+hits per 9 innings) of 0.69.

The new "Bill James Handbook" breaks saves up into three categories: easy - when the first batter faced does not represent the tying run; regular - when the first batter faced does represent the tying run; tough - when the pitcher enters a game with the tying run on base. Rivera led the majors with 5 tough saves, probably because he often entered games with an out or two in the 8th. Guardado and Foulke led the AL in easy saves with 28. Gagne also had 28 easy saves and only 2 tough ones.

Gagne was clearly the best reliever in the majors in 2003, but for my money, Jason Schmidt and Mark Prior were better candidates. Applying my MVP definition to the Cy Young -- which pitcher would I take for my team if I was guaranteed his 2003 performance? -- Schmidt and Prior were more valuable. Schmidt led the NL with a 2.34 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 207.2 innings. Prior had a 2.34 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 211.1 innings. I mentioned Schmidt as my pick in an earlier entry, but taking the quality of his opponents into account, perhaps Prior was more deserving.

Jayson Stark reports that White Sox lefty Kelly Wunsch became the fourth reliever in history to make at least 40 appearances in a no-win, no-loss, no-save season:
Pitcher		       GM   W  L  S

Scott Aldred 1998 48 0 0 0
Kelly Wunsch 2003 43 0 0 0
Mike Flanagan 1992 42 0 0 0
J. Christiansen 2003 40 0 0 0
At Baseball Primer, a discussion of crazy pitching lines. A few examples:

Slim Sallee, 1919: 21 wins, 20 BB, 24 K.
Cherokee Fisher, 1875: 22 wins, 9 BB, 8 K.
Nolan Ryan, 1987: Led NL in K (270), ERA (2.76) and ERA+ (178), but went 8-16.
Anthony Young, 1993: His 3.77 ERA was slightly better than league average, but he was 1-16.
Frank Bates, 1899: Went 1-18 for Cleveland Spiders (who made the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers both look like the 1927 Yankees). In his only win, Cleveland began the 9th trailing Boston 7-0, scored 7 to tie and won the game 10-9 in 11 innings.
Colby Lewis, 2003: 7.30 ERA, 68 ERA+, 10-9 record.

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