Fielding and Ballpark Independent Outcomes: 2013 Lancaster Starting Pitchers

Anthony Boyer

What follows is how the Astros' 2013 Advanced A starting-biased pitchers at Lancaster graded out versus their California League peers per the Fielding and Ballpark Independent Outcomes system which I have been posting data from here at The Crawfish Boxes. A more detailed explanation as to how the scores are computed can be found in this prior FanPost that focused on the arms of the 2013 Greeneville Astros and Tri-City ValleyCats. Lancaster becomes the second of the organization's 4 full-season affiliates to put under this microscope, joining the AA Corpus Christi squad (analyzed here).


What the Scores Mean

"Performance Score" amounts to the pitcher's overall grade for the California League portion of their season relative to other league starters and is evaluated over every plate appearance that did not result in a foulout or bunt; it effectively assumes that the 2013 California-League-average effect on run expectancy occurred in every instance of each of the 12 possible plate appearance outcomes:

  1. walk or hit-by-pitch = +0.34 runs
  2. strikeout = -0.32 runs
  3. infield flyball = -0.30 runs
  4. groundball (GB) to batter's pull-field third of the diamond = -0.12 runs
  5. GB to center-field third = +0.02 runs
  6. GB to opposite-field third = -0.10 runs
  7. line drive (LD) to pull-field third = +0.38 runs
  8. LD to center-field third = +0.42 runs
  9. LD to opposite-field third = +0.31 runs
  10. outfield flyball (OFFB) to pull-field = +0.45 runs
  11. OFFB to center-field = +0.05 runs
  12. OFFB to opposite-field = -0.01 runs


The three performance subscores (Control Subscore, Strikeout Subscore, Batted Ball Subscore) quantify how the pitcher would rate versus league peers looking only at control, only at strikeouts, or only at batted balls. Age Score is tabulated independent of the performance measures and simply quantifies how young the pitcher was versus the league starting pitcher sample's average age. As for the numbers reported in the tables, a 50 score on any of the measures amounts to matching the league's average value (the pitcher topped or equaled 50% of peers), a 60 amounts to 1 standard deviation (SD) better than league-average (topped/equaled 83% of peers), a 70 amounts to 2 SD better than league-average (topped/equaled 97% of peers), a 40 amounts to 1 SD worse than league-average (topped/equaled 17% of peers), and so on with any 10 point swing in a score amounting to 1 SD.


The Scores

In the tables that follow, values that bettered the league average for that quantity by at least 1 SD are highlighted in green text ("very good") whereas those that trailed it by at least 1 SD are in red text ("very bad"). Asterisks indicate lefthanded throwers. The 9 pitchers in bold were official qualifiers for the study pool in so much as they faced at least 200 batters while averaging at least 10 batters faced per game (non-qualifiers do not enter into calculation of the averages and standard deviations that are used to assign scores to pitchers).


Lancaster fared quite well at Performance Score placing 5 pitchers inside the top 20 of the 75 league qualifiers: Cruz (6th), Rodgers (8th), West (11th), Rollins (13th), and Shirley (20th). Cruz was one of the league's top strikeout artists and also graded out well on batted balls. Rodgers was good or better at all three subscores. West was elite at control while also rating very well at the strikeout. Statistically, Rollins profiles as a slightly older Cruz with not quite so many strikeouts. Lowering Foltynewicz' Lancaster Control Subscore by 10 points results in essentially the same 3 subscores that he earned at AA later in the season. The oft-injured Shirley checks in with some rather nice numbers here. With the Carolina League season yet to be evaluated similarly, it remains unclear as to just how typical Smith's performance values in these tables are relative to those that he accrued for the Royals' Advanced A affiliate; for now, his 68 Age Score reminds us how very young he was to be spending a full year at that level of competition.

The table below shows how the same pitchers' event frequencies sort out for the California League part of their 2013. In contrast to most pitchers who excel at both racking up strikeouts and inducing popups, Cruz surrendered relatively few outfield fly balls. The Cruz, Rodgers, Rollins, and Shirley rows of the table are conspicuously red-free.



And here are the LHB splits data and the RHB splits data of the 9 qualifiers, again graded relative to the corresponding numbers of their league peers.


Though the southpaws Cruz and Rollins were each just a bit better than average against LHB, they posted the league qualifiers' 7th and 10th best Performance Scores against RHB, respectively. Rodgers and West were each similarly strong against LHB as they were against RHB, and that should bode well for the righthanders as they graduate to AA for 2014. While on the one hand Shirley's strong control and strikeout ratings versus LHB suggest that he would project nicely as a lefty relief specialist, his overall good numbers against RHB would support allowing him continue to start and/or face RHB for the near term. Perez' results are rather unique in that he grades out so strongly versus opposite-handed bats and so poorly against same-handed ones. The righty Devenski had the 2nd worst Performance Score against RHB of the 75 qualifiers, and that weakness figures to have played a key role in his late-season demotion to Quad Cities.


What Just Happened, Statistically

Every batted ball against these pitchers was effectively transplanted to a league-neutralized playing environment. As many readers are aware, the Lancaster venue is one of the most challenging ones for pitchers in all of the minors given its altitude and typically strong winds (a run environment eclipsed only in that league by the High Desert venue where the team plays many a road game). So this variety of statistical analysis tends to give us a better understanding of a Lancaster pitcher's true performance relative to league standards than would attention to more commonly referenced statistics.


On Tap

Quad Cities will likely be next in the pecking order. After the remaining two team-centric Fanposts are published, a wrap-up Fanpost will be put up to show how each starting pitcher did over their entire season spent over however many levels where they made an appearance. Given these Lancaster numbers and how well Luis Cruz finished up the year at Corpus Christi, it seems probable that Cruz will assume the number two spot on the organizational Performance Score leaderboard for 2013 behind Michael Feliz.

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