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Looking Beyond ERA to Predict Performance

Their core numbers look almost identical (through June 25), but one of these pitchers should perform far better than the other in the second half. Can you guess who?

Digging deeper into their statistics shows that Tim Lincecum has pitched better than his ERA, while Jered Weaver has not pitched as well as his. This provides a strong indication of which way their ERA will trend. Core statistics like ERA have limitations. Especially in the short term Ė half of a season for example Ė ERA wonít always capture a starterís actual performance.

Left on base percentage helps identify whether pitchers should sustain their success. Weaverís 82.1 LOB percentage is unbelievably high. While the Angels righty has shined at escaping jams, itís a trend unlikely to continue as the season progresses. Lincecum, conversely, has an LOB percentage (75.8) much closer to his league average (72.5) than Weaver.

Lincecum also has a high batting average allowed on balls in play. BABIP measures factors largely beyond a pitcherís control, such as how well their defense converts balls in play to outs. Lincecum has allowed a .338 BABIP. That greatly exceeds the NL average (.295) and reveals how he has pitched in tough luck. Balls hit against Weaver have found fielders gloves far more often, as shown by his .261 BABIP. These figures should also approach the league average as the season continues.

To reinforce this point, Lincecum has the edge in all three outcomes that pitchers completely control: their rates of strikeouts, unintentional walks and home runs. The gap is wide in strikeouts and homers.

Projecting player performance carries tremendous value for agents. The seasonís midway point is a great time to examine where arbitration-eligible starting pitchers are headed, especially if contract talks heat up.

Examining Park Effects

Ballparks have a major impact on player statistics. So whether for arbitration or finding potential free agency destinations, it pays to know park factors. Hereís some brief insight into one stadium and how it affects the numbers. Ballparks impact different players in different ways. So The Sports Resource examines park effects in a variety of other ways as well.

Minute Maid Park

Power: Dramatically increases overall home run frequency, by 12 percent since the start of 2006. Right-handed pull hitters benefit far more due to favorable left field dimensions. Since the park opened in 2000, only one left-handed Astros hitter has posted a 20-homer season (Daryle Ward had exactly 20 in 2000).

Offense: The park has virtually no impact on batting averages. But the boost it gives to power makes it a strong offensive park. Minute Maid helps gap hitters with speed as well. It has increased triples by 15 percent since 2006.

Strikeouts: The ballpark causes strikeout frequency to rise slightly.

Pitching: The park is a good fit for hard-throwing right-handers, especially those with a high groundball-to-flyball ratio. Itís not a good home for left-handed pitchers, although Andy Pettitte and Wandy Rodriguez have had success here.

The Sports Resource can analyze park effects as part of both our free agency and arbitration packages.

The Sports Resource Blog and Twitter

The Sports Resource Blog features analysis and commentary of special interest to agents.

Agents and their staffs can also follow Steve Fall on Twitter at www.twitter.com/StatsMan. Postings include special insight into statistical trends you wonít find anywhere else.

See copies of all previous newsletters and more on The Sports Resource website: http://sportsresource.net/

Note: All players used in this newsletter and our sample charts are selected at random, and are not from actual projects. All projects and conversations are confidential.

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