Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rob Neyer Asks: Does Kevin Brown have Cooperstown case?

Click here to read what Rob has to say. He lays out a good case for Brown. Here is some info on Brown I posted recently at Baseball Think Factory. I was surprised by how good the case for Brown is.

I have not thought too much about Kevin Brown one way or another but looking at his Baseball Reference page seems to show he deserves it. 34th in career WAR among pitchers despite the lower usage of starters in recent times.

Here are his ranks in WAR in the NL from 1996-2000: 1, 3, 1, 3, 2 (also a 3 in 2003). The only pitcher with more WAR from 1996-2000 was Pedro Martinez, 36.6 vs. 34.6. He was in the top 7 in IP in all those years.

He was in the top 6 in ERA+ every year from 1995-2000 with one 1st place. 53rd in career ERA+.

He was in the top 10 in strikeout-to-walk ratio 7 straight years (94-2000) with 5 top 5 finishes. His ratio relative to the league average is only 69th all-time among pitchers with 2000+ IP (through 2009). But that includes 406 pithers, so he is in the top 17%.

Using that same group of pitchers he is 5th all-time in HRs allowed relative to the league average. I know he pitched 5 years in Dodger stadium (and maybe some other tough HR parks), but look at the top 15. Data from the Lee Sinins Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Jack Taylor 200
Eppa Rixey 200
Tim Keefe 180
Addie Joss 174
Kevin Brown 172
Ed Morris 170
Eddie Plank 166
Dean Chance 165
Ed Walsh 165
Pete Donohue 161
Eddie Cicotte 161
Cy Falkenberg 157
Harry Howell 156
Tim Hudson 154
Roger Clemens 154

The 172 for Brown comes from the fact he gave up 208 HRs while the average pitcher would have given up 358. 208/358 = .581. 1/.581 = 1.72. That gets multiplied by 100. Taylor, Keefe and Joss all pitched in the dead ball era or earlier. If we only look at 1920-2009, Brown is 2nd only to Rixey who pitched alot in Cincinnati and that park in those days was really hard to hit a HR in.

Here is the top 15 from 1920-2009

Eppa Rixey 202
Kevin Brown 172
Dean Chance 165
Pete Donohue 161
Tim Hudson 154
Roger Clemens 154
Mark Gubicza 153
Danny Jackson 152
Derek Lowe 150
Greg Maddux 149
Hoyt Wilhelm 147
Mike Garcia 146
Roy Halladay 145
Dizzy Trout 144
Andy Pettitte 144

Pretty impressive rank for Brown.

Brown's HR rate (HR/PA), home, road

H 1.57%
R 1.50%

So his HR prevention excellence is not due to pitching in pitcher friendly parks. Brown seems to have very high career value and very high peak value. He was also very good at preventing runs and homeruns. He was good at striking batters out and not walking them. All that covers quite a bit of what we expect pitchers to do.

To analyze how good Brown is just using walks, strikeouts and HRs, I ran a regression in which a pitcher's ERA relative to the league average was the dependent variable and walks, strikeouts and HRs (all relative to the league average) were the dependent variables (in this case being over 100 is better than average like with HRs allowed, as discussed above). I looked at all pitchers from 1920-2009 with 2000+ IP. Here is the regression equation:

ERA = 35.23 + .235*HR + .264*SO + .176*BB

Here are Brown's rates for each stat:

HR 172
SO 106
BB 140

Plugging those values into the equation gives him a relative ERA of 128.27. Here is the top 10

Dazzy Vance 140.23
Lefty Grove 134.04
Pedro Martinez 133.46
Roger Clemens 129.85
Eppa Rixey 128.72
Kevin Brown 128.27
Greg Maddux 127.80
Nolan Ryan 127.32
Bret Saberhagen 126.97
Roy Halladay 125.27

Brown is 6th. That is very, very good. Just based on HRs, BBs, and SOs, Brown was 28.27% better than the league average.

But none of this is park adjusted. I also found RSAA per 9 IP (that is Runs Saved Above Average and is park adjusted, from Lee Sinins). Here is the top 20

Pedro Martinez 1.579
Lefty Grove 1.526
Roger Clemens 1.340
Roy Halladay 1.152
Randy Johnson 1.147
Hoyt Wilhelm 1.126
Greg Maddux 0.992
Tim Hudson 0.961
Tommy Bridges 0.958
Curt Schilling 0.955
Hal Newhouser 0.929
Whitey Ford 0.911
Urban Shocker 0.901
Carl Hubbell 0.890
Lefty Gomez 0.866
Gro. Alexander 0.857
Sandy Koufax 0.852
Bret Saberhagen 0.846
Kevin Brown 0.840
Mark Buehrle 0.838

Brown is 19th. Still pretty good.

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