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Sunday, June 06, 2004

Historical Baseball Abstract

This weekend I finally bought a copy of the revised version of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. I bought the first version almost 20 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This one is updated to include a complete section on the 1980s and well as the 1990s with new player rankings largely based on the Wins Shares statistic that James developed.

Not 10 minutes after cracking open the book I ran into an essay that has immediate relevance to the Kansas City Royals. James notes that one of the most obvious truths of sabermetrics is that young pitchers with low strikeout rates don't have long careers. He goes so far as to say that there are no exceptions to this rule and sets the bar at 4.5 strikeouts per 9 innings historically. Further, the greater the rate above the threshold the more proportionally successful the pitcher is. In other words, a higher strikeout rate at a young age gives a pitcher more wiggle room as they age and loose their stuff. The reason this is the case is largely due to the discussion related to DIPS that I blogged about previously.

This is relevant to the Royals because of their young pitchers Jimmy Gobble and Zack Grienke. Gobble, in 117 innings in the majors has a strikeout rate of 2.3. Grienke, in just 19 innings has struck out 7 (3.3 K/9 in). Obviously, Grienke's sample size is too small to draw any conclusions. Fortunately, his minor league rates were much better and struck out 23 in 28.2 innings at Omaha this year. Gobble, however, has a pretty decent amount of innings under his belt and doesn't look to be increasing his strike out rate over time. In short, I wouldn't look for Gobble to be a mainstay in the rotation for years to come.

In another note Calvin Pickering at Omaha now has 18 homeruns in 150 at bats and has drawn 32 walks.

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