When is one not one? No, I’m not operating in some alternative universe outside of the Matrix with Morpheus trying to wake me up to the truth (if you don’t get that pop culture reference you need to start seeing some movies), I’m simply asking when is one not necessarily equivalent to one? If you are interested in riddles, or just want to know what the hell I’m talking about, please read on.
AVERAGE BASES ALLOWED
Average Bases Allowed, henceforth ABA, is an innovative way to look at pitcher’s effectiveness and is designed to replace WHIP (Walks + Hits / IP), though I would settle for it to be used alongside WHIP until it catches on (I’m so amenable aren’t I?). What spawned the idea of ABA? Consider the following simple comparison.
Pitcher A allows one hit and one walk in two innings. Therefore his WHIP is 1.00 (two base runners in two innings).
Pitcher B allows one hit and one walk in two innings. Therefore his WHIP is 1.00 (two base runners in two innings).
So, according to WHIP, both pitchers have performed the same. However, does that mean that they were equally effective? What if we added a bit more depth to our example?
Pitcher A: Allowed a walk an a single in his two innings.
Pitcher B: Allowed a walk an a home run in his two innings.
It is reasonable to posit that Pitcher A had an ERA of zero. After all he gave up only two bases in his two innings. However, Pitcher B’s ERA was at least 4.50. Why? If Pitcher B walked a guy and then gave up a home run to the next batter he would have allowed two runs in two innings – hence his ERA would be 9.00, an even if it was a solo shot it would have still plated a run leading to a 4.50 ERA. So as you can plainly see, while the hurlers may have the same WHIP, the actual result of their performances in the real world would have been drastically different. Because of this simple yet often overlooked fact, I went about trying to set up a way in which I could analyze a pitcher’s performances in a more equitable way. Instead of using hits and walks as does WHIP, I decided to use total bases allowed and walks (because WHIP leaves out things like hit by pitch, I made the decision to do the same with ABA). Why replace hits with total bases?
Is it more important to know how many batters are allowed to reach base or is it more important to know how many bases they received when they reached base?
Here is the formula for ABA.
ABA = (TBA + BB) / IP
Does it not stand to reason that the pitcher who allows fewer bases to those batters who do reach base would have a better chance of limiting the amount of runs that score? Let’s take a look at a concrete example to illustrate.
In 2011 Tim Lincecum and Colby Lewis had identical WHIP’s of 1.21. Does this fact mean that they were equally effective hurlers in 2011 at limiting hitters ability to produce bases and runs? Let’s use ABA to investigate to see if we can form a more nuanced opinion between the two hurlers who had the the same WHIP last season.
Lincecum: 111 singles, 48 doubles, two triples,15 homers, 86 BBs in 217 IP
Lewis: 112 singles, 35 doubles, five triples, 35 home runs and 56 BBs in 200.1 IP
Remember, according to WHIP both pitchers were equal with a 1.21 mark. This is not the case according to ABA.
Lincecum: 273 total bases + 86 BB in 217 IP = 1.65 ABA
Lewis: 337 total bases + 56 BB in 200.1 IP = 1.96 ABA
As you can see, if you were only looking at each pitchers WHIP columns last season, you might miss the fact that Lincecum did a much better job at limiting baseball runners last season (this is also reflected in the ERA – 2.74 for Lincecum and 3.38 for Lewis). Thanks to ABA we can state that, despite equal WHIP marks, Lincecum was easily the more effective pitcher last season. All told there were five pitchers who threw at least 160-innings and posted a WHIP of 1.21. Here are the ABA mark for all five.
1.61 – Madison Bumgarner
1.65 – Tim Lincecum
1.80 – Jeff Karstens
1.83 – Hiroki Kuroda
1.96 – Colby Lewis
As you can tell, WHIP really doesn’t tell the whole story. ABA may not either, but it certainly is a much more accurate gauge of how a pitcher has performed.
Speaking of that, how in the heck to read ABA? Glad you asked. The lower ones ABA the better, but it doesn’t read the same was as WHIP. Whereas the average WHIP last season was 1.32, the league average ABA of all pitchers in 2011 was 1.86.
Here is a rough key you can employ for ABA.
Below 1.50: elite level performance
1.50-1.70: All-Star level
1.71-1.89: Solid major leaguer worthy of counting on in fantasy
1.91-2.10: Barley holding on to an role as a fantasy starter.
2.11 and up: Might as well line up a pitching machine
So there is my brief explanation of Average Bases Allowed, or ABA. Now that you know what it is, you’ll have to read PART II where I will take a look at the hurlers who threw at least 40-innings in 2011.
To sign up for your baseball league this year make sure you check out Fleaflicker.
By Ray Flowers