Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Nerdy

While nearly everyone and their sister visits Fangraphs, I wonder how many actually stick around and read the posts. If you don't, you're surely missing out as the gale-force blasts of levity provided by Carson Cistulli. His work is nothing short of brilliant. Look no further than the Cistulli-created NERD system; a ranking of the watch-ability of various starting pitchers.

Completely in-line with the founding (if slightly neglected) philosophies of Ghostrunner on First, I thought I'd lay out the Jays starting staff by NERD, mostly to see if my guts match up.

For reference, here is Cistulli's NERD definition/calculation:
To calculate NERD, I found each pitcher’s z-score (standard deviations from the mean) for cats 1-3*. I multiplied the xFIP score by 2, divided both the swinging strike and strike percentage scores by 2, and then added Luck to the total.

* - ed note: categories 1-3 are pitching ability by xFIP, swinging strike rate, and percentage of strikes thrown
Pretty awesome, no? This set of criteria seems pretty common among baseball fans. No doubt many of us hate a guy like Dice-K as he's impossible to watch. Conversely, the big red-head that used to hang out around here....well, let's move on.
  • Ricky Romero - 9
  • Brandon Morrow - 8
  • Shaun Marcum - 7
  • Brett Cecil - 7
Personal heartstrings aside, this adds up to me. Ricky Romero is a quick working whiff machine yet to reach his ceiling. Cecil's rating actually improved from the NERD launch to this past week, thanks I'm sure to his increased emphasis on strike throwing. Not listed here but worth noting: Dana Eveland's NERD score is 0. None.

The spreadsheet of magical nerdiness includes 2009 numbers, showing Scott Richmond and Brian Tallet as solid 4s. No data for Jesse Litsch but I'd guess 3 or 4, which likely means he'd actually be a 7.

The 2010 version of the Blue Jays bullpen would likely rank somewhere between 0 and negative a billion thanks to their seeming attraction to missed spots. Contrast that with the bullpens of the White Sox or Padres, who provide endless entertainment and confidence among their fanbases.

I think the ChiSox pen might actually break the Nerd scale, with their endless parade of bat-missing hulks straight out of Baseball Bugs. Each guy throws harder than the last, they miss innumerable bats and come across downright mean. That the White Sox pen features detestable dudes like JJ Putz and Bobby Jenks.

Guys like David Purcey (and Brandon League) are complete NERD fodder, owed to their constant presence in the "underperform their xFIP" realm. Scott Downs is admirable without being really lovable, while Shawn Camp's "I can't believe he's getting away with this charm" breaks down even the stodgiest non-believer.

Let's open this up: what skills and attributes do you look for in a starter? Is being good —by hook or by crook —good enough? When does one cross the line from endearingly promising to GTFO-frustration?

Carson Cistulli's NERD via Fangraphs, his brain via some very expensive institutions of higher learning, me thinks. Image from Reuters via Daylife.


  1. Holy sheeeeeeit, this is amazing. A baseball metric actually called NERD. I love it. And I think I just switched allegiances from Team Marcum to Team Romero.

    Was at the game last night with some Twitter folks; Ricky's a saint. Gregg? Not so much.

    Also: we were praising your work. We're all unabashed fans of this corner of the Jays blogosphere; most of us agreeing that it is our favourite Jays blog.

    Next time you're in the area, give me a shout. I'm buying. Cheers, Drew.

  2. On the Sportsnet pregame show the other day, AA said that we might see Tim Collins up in the bigs by the end of 2010, and if not, then definitely sometime in 2011. I mention this because the guy works incredibly quickly and strikes everybody out -- combine that with the fact that he's four feet tall, and I fully expect him to be by far one of the most fun pitchers to watch in the league, and definitely a NERD leader for the Jays.

    (By the way, for anybody who hasn't checked in a while -- Collins is currently rocking 15.5 K/9 with a nifty 4.43 K/BB rate in 36 innings at AA so far this year. Shiiiiiiiit, son.)


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