Joe Saunders is having a great season so far.
He's 8-1 with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Those are Cy-Young caliber numbers. To the untrained eye it might look like Saunders, at 27, has finally put it all together.
However, I can almost guarantee you that at some point soon Saunders will take a nose dive and finish with roughly the 4.00 ERA that he has for his career.
How can I say that with such certainty?
It's SABREmetrics my dear Watson!
ERA/WHIP/W/K's get so much pub mainly because of Fantasy Baseball. BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) doesn't get much publicity. However BABIP and K/9 (Strikeouts Per 9 Innings) are better indicators of ones season than ERA and WHIP.
Maybe they aren't "better" indicators per say, but what they can do is tell you if a season that seems kinda fluky is or isn't.
So to go along with Saunders marvelous ERA and WHIP he has a not so marvelous .216 BABIP (a very low number) and a 3.73 K/9 (a disturbingly low rate.)
To further elaborate on his BABIP there's a stat called Delta H.
> Delta H -The number of hits above or below average for this pitcher, based on his own number of balls in play and his team's rate of hits (minus home runs) per ball in play; (H-HR) - BIP * (team (H-HR)/BIP). Essentially, the Voros McCracken number. For a team, Delta-H should be zero. Positive numbers signify more hits allowed than expected ("bad luck," if you believe pitchers have nothing to do with the outcome of a BIP), negative numbers mean fewer hits than expected ("good luck").
Saunders Delta H is -14. That would indicate he's had a whole lot of good luck this season. And he's likely to fall flat on his face the second half of the season.
The whole point of SABRE pitching stats are too remove as many variables as possible. Win/Loss record is such an arbitrary stat. You need to equate ERA for the different dimensions of stadiums and the difference of the DH. Equate for defense, when the ball is hit in play the pitchers loses control of the outcome of the play. It's why strikeout pitchers (and K/9) are so much more valuable.
And it's why in my eyes Chien-Ming Wang will never be ace; he is a ground ball pitcher he leaves too much to chance. Is it raining, are my infielders going to miss balls? Is the grass cut to high? Is the wind blowing out? Does the other team have great speed and can beat out ground balls? It's why on any given day (and as we have seen in the playoffs repeatedly) if he doesn't have his sinker working he is ineffective.
He only strikes out 5.27 per 9 innings and his Delta H is -8 which would indicate he's had a lot of good luck this year. He's a nice pitcher and he seems to have an uncanny ability to win games but statistical analysis will tell you that you can't expect him to be an ace.
I looked at the early season stats and found a lot of anomalies. There's a lot of guys having absurd numbers and some of them are for real and some aren't.
The Joe Saunders Sell High Award
Joe Saunders (-14 Delta H, 3.73 K/9)
Gavin Floyd (2.93 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) (3.86 K/9, .167 BABIP, -19 Delta H)
Ryan Dempster (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) (7.53 K/9 .213 BABIP -10 Delta H)
Fausto Carmona (3.10 ERA 1.59 WHIP) (3.57 K/9 -Delta H -8 Delta Runs 4.5 Walks/9)
Scott Olsen (.216 BABIP 4.06 K/9 -12 Delta H)
The Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball It's So Real Award
Edison Volquez (.267 BABIP 11.04 K/9)
Tim Lincecum (.306 BABIP +4 Delta H 9.96 K/9)
Javier Vazquez (.313 BABIP +7 Delta H 8.91 K/9 36 STUFF)
Chad Billingsley (.305 BABIP +2 Delta H 10.25 K/9 34 STUFF)
and for Yankee fans, don't worry about Andy Pettitte
.326 BABIP +8 Delta Hits and 7.17 K/9. He'll be ok
The list could go on and on. If you want any pitchers analyzed leave the name of who you want in the comments.