Thursday, October 22, 2015

Did Chris Sale Have Bad Luck This Year?

It seems like he pitched worse in high leverage situations than otherwise this year and that has not been the case before. The table below shows his OPS allowed for High, Medium and Low leverage situations from 2012-15. All data from Baseball Reference and the BR Play Index.

Year High  Medium  Low 
2012 0.639 0.626 0.715
2013 0.556 0.618 0.693
2014 0.612 0.522 0.607
2015 0.709 0.658 0.616

So he allowed a much higher OPS in High leverage cases than otherwise. But it looks like he did better in High leverage cases in 2012 & 2013. So maybe he had some good luck then. My guess is that most pitchers have this kind of pattern, where they have bad luck one year and good luck the next or vice-versa (I hope I can take a look at that).

But I did look at how pitchers in general did over the years 2012-15 (with stats for each pitcher being cumulative). I only looked at pitchers who had 100+ IP in all three leverage situations, so I think that means only starters got in (or mostly starters-the only guy with under 500 total IP was Wade Davis and I took him out).

Then I calculated a weighted average (by batters faced) of the OPS allowed for all three leverage situations over the years 2012-15 for this group. There were 72 pitchers (Chris Sale was removed as well). Here are the results:

High  0.706
Medium  0.706
Low 0.692

So pitchers generally do just a bit worse in High and Medium cases than Low cases (in the long run, as I combined years). So Sale might have had bad luck this year, after some good luck in the past.


Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced by your last table. It could be that using OPS to compare is too inexact because pitchers might be especially desirous to avoid walks with runners already on the bases, which would be the case in many high leverage situations. There also could be a selection bias with better pitchers having more low leverage plate appearances.

Thanks for the interesting blog posts though.

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for reading and commenting.

It could also be that pitchers want to avoid extra base hits with runners on. Either way, a walk or an XBH, the OPS will go up. They might even walk a power hitter to get to a weaker hitter. I am not sure what they would try to avoid more.

Yes, good pitchers will tend to have more low leverage cases since they will put fewer runners on. So that would tend to lower the OPS that we see for the whole group in low leverage cases.

So that would mean that the .692 should be higher than it is (maybe .706). But still, Sale got hit a lot harder in both high and medium cases than he did in low cases this year.

T. K said...

By the viewpoint of BABip, this year Sale`s BABip was .323, which is highest throughout his career(career BABip is .294). Also his LOB% is dropped pretty much in this year(career 78.3%, last year 81.5%, this year 73.2%). I think these are the more exact reason why he seemed to be unlucky in this year. I think the OPS in the high-leverage situations could be reasonable, but in order to find the reason of his 'unluckiness' in this year, I think we should look at the different stats.

I generally agree with you about he spent some good years past. But I think his true ability is above his good luck because of his K/9 and BB/9. It tell us that his good ERA consisted not by his luck, but by his good command and power of his pitches.

(Sorry for my bad English. I`m only a student who studies in North America recently, so maybe there is a bit bad and rough languages in my comment.)

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks for your comments. I agree that BABIP is a good thing to look at when looking at luck.

LOB% might relate to leverage since leverage goes up with runners on base and if he is not stranding runners, then his OPS in those cases is going up