Fan Post: A New Angle for Rating Pitching Performances

Or, My Obsessive Desire to Create Even More Lists

I’m always looking for a better statistic to judge pitchers by than the one I grew up with, ERA, because it is such a mess. If you are a pitcher who walks a batter, then you get taken out and the next pitcher gets knocked around and allows that runner to score, the initial pitcher’s ERA takes a hit for that walked batter scoring even though the other pitcher was responsible for allowing him to go from first to home. The first pitcher should be charged for 0.25 runs while the second pitcher should be charged with 0.75 runs when calculating their ERAs, but none of the public stat sites figure it that way.

I was reading some Bill James recently where he was championing “OPS Against” as a stat to more honestly evaluate a pitcher’s performance, whether that pitcher is a starter or reliever. Considering how many fans rely on OPS to evaluate a batter’s worth, it seems like we should start using OPS Against to evaluate pitchers.

Luckily, over at b-ref, you can click/tap on the words “Advanced Stats,” and you can find the OPS Against figures for any player or team.

I spent way too much time with this and made some discoveries. Here is the franchise top ten for the lowest OPS Against in a season (minimum 50 innings pitched:

  1. 1995 Troy Percival .475
  2. 2004 Francisco Rodriguez .482
  3. 1991 Bryan Harvey .491
  4. 1968 Andy Messersmith .491
  5. 2014 Joe Smith .491
  6. 1969 Ken Tatum .495
  7. 1964 Dean Chance .505
  8. 1968 Tom Murphy .507
  9. 1996 Troy Percival .508
  10. 1964 Bob Lee .512

There are only two starting pitchers on this list, Chance and Murphy.

Next, I wanted to do two things, separate the starters and relievers and create something similar to an OPS Against +. For this, I took the pitcher’s OPS Against and subtracted it from the OPS the league’s batters had put up that year.

Here are the top ten biggest discrepancies between a starting pitcher’s OPS Against and the OPS the league’s batters produced:

  1. 1964 Dean Chance, -191
  2. 2014 Garrett Richards, -177
  3. 1986 John Candelaria, -163
  4. 1977 Nolan Ryan, -150
  5. 2006 Jered Weaver, -150
  6. 2011 Jered Weaver, -132
  7. 1969 Andy Messersmith, -131
  8. 1968 Tom Murphy, -130
  9. 1986 Mike Witt, -126
  10. 2012 Jered Weaver, -126

Here is the list for the best relief seasons according to the discrepancy between the Pitcher’s OPS Against and the AL OPS put up by the batters that season:

  1. 1995 Troy Percival, -296
  2. 2004 Francisco Rodriguez, -289
  3. 1996 Troy Percival, -287
  4. 2001 Troy Percival, -246
  5. 2002 Brendan Donnelly, -237
  6. 1991 Bryan Harvey, -233
  7. 2017 Blake Parker, -226
  8. 2008 José Arredondo, -223
  9. 2014 Joe Smith, -215
  10. 2003 Brendan Donnelly, -201

Here are the top five Angel pitching staffs when looking at the discrepancy between the AL batters’ OPS and the Angel pitching staff’s OPS Against:

In fifth place is the 1971 staff that had a -45 discrepancy. This staff featured standout seasons from Messersmith, Clyde Wright, and Rudy May. In fourth place with a -49 discrepancy is the 2002 championship staff. In third with a -50 discrepancy is the 2014 staff that last went to the playoffs. In second is the 1964 staff with a -53 discrepancy that featured Chance’s Cy Young season. In first with a -57 discrepancy is the 2006 staff that had Weaver, Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvin Escobar, K-Rod, Scot Shields, Donnelly, and Hector Carrasco all crushing it.

So what about the Angel squad in training camp right now? Last season, AL batters put up a .762 OPS, and the only Angel pitchers who held opposing batters to an OPS lower than that were the following:

  • Griffin Canning .739
  • Noe Ramirez .698
  • Felix Pena .696
  • Luke Bard .691
  • Ty Buttrey .690
  • Cam Bedrosian .619
  • Hansel Robles .595

Also of note, Dylan Bundy’s OPS Against for 2019 was .784. In the NL last year, batters had a .753 OPS, and Julio Teheran’s OPS Against was a good looking .717, but Matt Andriese’s was .757.

And there is also Shohei Ohtani, who had a .621 OPS Against in 2018 when the league’s batters had a .734 OPS for a discrepancy of -113.

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Jeff Joiner
Super Member
10 months ago

This is really quality stuff. You should give it a cool acronym and claim it.

10 months ago

I really like this, thanks for your time to post!

Trusted Member
10 months ago

Love this. Very interesting as I love OPS from looking at offense. Of course, guys pitch differently under different circumstances and some can simply get out of jams better. For instance, I look at Buttery as a guy whose skills diminished with guys on. (Just from the eyeball perspective, maybe the stats don’t equate that way.) Others flourish with the heat up. It would be interesting to look at TBP Against too.

10 months ago