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  • Don Sutton

    Don Sutton received an 82 on my PARC-D ratings. That puts him at about 110 all-time. His BBRef WAA totals are lowish (around 20) with very similar BBGg scores. He was nothing interesting in the postseason or with his bat. He was almost 100 runs worse in high leverage situations than low. he had three seasons in his career over 5 WAR despite playing in one of the easiest eras to accumulate WAR. But...

    Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Tom Thress are not only favorable to his HOF case, but all have him as an EASY, upper-half HOFer. Like pushing top -25 all-time level HOFer. One would initially think that Sutton must have been a guy like Ryan with MUCH better FIP-based pitching that peripheral-heavy systems like BBPro and FG would love. But according to FG, at least, Sutton was actually PLUS 3.5 BABIP/LOB wins for his career, not negative.

    Is there something drastic in the team defense components that BBref and BBG are seeing that the other systems do not or are leaving-out while focusing on peripherals?

    How should we treat a guy most everyone is okay being in the HOF that seems WELL below the line in half of the systems but WAY over the line in three others?
    1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

    1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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  • #2
    Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
    Is there something drastic in the team defense components that BBref and BBG are seeing that the other systems do not or are leaving-out while focusing on peripherals?
    The best answer to your question will be somewhat of a ramble, even after pondering and research. The primary consideration is that since Sutton was a compiler, playing in Chavez Ravine and on a contending team for his first 15 years, he was an important cog around whom the team could build and sustain. The infield which played together behind him at his peak was with him from 1973-1980. Although that infield of Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey was only marginally positive, Sutton was able to pitch to it. In fact, it is clear that Lopes did not age well in the field based on Lopes' 1979 season, and Garvey was mediocre in the field as well.

    Sutton may have 3574 Ks, but it is clear that this K total was compiled. In no way shape or form was a strikeout pitcher after his rookie year. Although his rookie season he had 209 Ks and 8.3 Ks per 9, his career high was only 217. Sutton amassed his Ks by staying healthy and sticking around. So, he had to pitch to his defense. There is never an alternative once given ordinary strikeout talent. This is not to say that he was a Randy Jones clone, but he had to pitch to contact in order to win.

    Furthermore, I have always suspected that he was able to benefit greatly from Mike Marshall's presence in that 106-game appearance season Marshall had in Marshall's Cy season of 1974. Marshall appeared in over 1/3 of the games of 1971-2, and then well over 1/2 of the games in 1973-4, for the Dodgers as the Dodger's closer. Sutton in 1974 led the league with 40 starts and finished only 10 in one of his better years. While Sutton's CG column doesn't show this, I believe Sutton's early 1970s peak was largely due to Marshall's ability to relieve so often.

    He pitched to his defense because he was smart enough to do so, and he had a durable and consistent bullpen. Modern analytics can't account for the synergy of everything on the roster. This is the problem of looking for one-size-fits-all stats. Defense is dependent on some factors which don't show up in the stats, including favorable hometown umpiring, home field infield groundskeeping, and the infielders knowing a pitcher's repertoire. No stat can account for what goes on between the ears of the players.

    Catfish Hunter, RIP. Mark Fidrych, RIP. Skip Caray, RIP. Tony Gwynn, #19, RIP

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    • #3
      Originally posted by abolishthedh View Post

      The best answer to your question will be somewhat of a ramble, even after pondering and research. The primary consideration is that since Sutton was a compiler, playing in Chavez Ravine and on a contending team for his first 15 years, he was an important cog around whom the team could build and sustain. The infield which played together behind him at his peak was with him from 1973-1980. Although that infield of Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey was only marginally positive, Sutton was able to pitch to it. In fact, it is clear that Lopes did not age well in the field based on Lopes' 1979 season, and Garvey was mediocre in the field as well.

      Sutton may have 3574 Ks, but it is clear that this K total was compiled. In no way shape or form was a strikeout pitcher after his rookie year. Although his rookie season he had 209 Ks and 8.3 Ks per 9, his career high was only 217. Sutton amassed his Ks by staying healthy and sticking around. So, he had to pitch to his defense. There is never an alternative once given ordinary strikeout talent. This is not to say that he was a Randy Jones clone, but he had to pitch to contact in order to win.

      Furthermore, I have always suspected that he was able to benefit greatly from Mike Marshall's presence in that 106-game appearance season Marshall had in Marshall's Cy season of 1974. Marshall appeared in over 1/3 of the games of 1971-2, and then well over 1/2 of the games in 1973-4, for the Dodgers as the Dodger's closer. Sutton in 1974 led the league with 40 starts and finished only 10 in one of his better years. While Sutton's CG column doesn't show this, I believe Sutton's early 1970s peak was largely due to Marshall's ability to relieve so often.

      He pitched to his defense because he was smart enough to do so, and he had a durable and consistent bullpen. Modern analytics can't account for the synergy of everything on the roster. This is the problem of looking for one-size-fits-all stats. Defense is dependent on some factors which don't show up in the stats, including favorable hometown umpiring, home field infield groundskeeping, and the infielders knowing a pitcher's repertoire. No stat can account for what goes on between the ears of the players.
      All you say is true - but I already know why he won so many games despite a 107 ERA+. I am wondering why the metrics disagree so much. ESPECIALLY why the peripheral-centric systems are SO high on him despite none of them showing a strange amount of BABIP or LOB% luck.

      I am also fine with people saying NO to one-size-fits-all metrics. As long as they don't cling onto older metrics like wins and ERA that are even LESS contextualized and consider pitcher/player interactions even LESS than what modern metrics do
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      • #4
        I wish we had batted ball data for Sutton. Did he induced an unusual high amount of weak contact? Sutton did pitch in a low scoring era and pitched in a pitcher's park. Under such circumstance I can see how a pitcher would struggle to put up a super high ERA+ unless they are Sandy Koufax.
        Last edited by Honus Wagner Rules; 09-25-2019, 09:12 AM.
        Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
          I wish we had batted ball date for Sutton. Did he induced an unusual high amount of weak contact? Sutton did pitch in a low scoring era and pitched in a pitcher's park. Under such circumstance I can see how a pitcher would struggle to put up a super high ERA+ unless they are Sandy Koufax.
          Maybe BBref is crediting the Dodger defense with TONS of run prevention that FG and BBPro is not. If ERA and FIP are close, that is one way I could see BBRef and BBG viewing a guy much lower. But BBref and BG should be capturing run prevention via the FIP skills too though...
          1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

          1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post

            Maybe BBref is crediting the Dodger defense with TONS of run prevention that FG and BBPro is not. If ERA and FIP are close, that is one way I could see BBRef and BBG viewing a guy much lower. But BBref and BG should be capturing run prevention via the FIP skills too though...
            So I looked at the data that I have access too. Role and Defense basically cancel out in BBRef (It's a little confusing but a +defense raises RA9avg, making it harder for the player to get more war, but a +role lowers RA9avg making it easier). BBRef says his opponent lineups were normal.

            What I was left with is in how they go from runs to wins conversion. Sutton has 679 RAR in BBRef and 753 in FanGraphs. That would be a lot closer than their WAR difference. It would correspond to a Fangraphs WAR of 75 to a BBRef of 68 or a BBRef of 77 to a Fangraphs of 85.5 That is half or a little less than half the WAR difference. It corresponds to about a win per 8.8 runs in Fangraphs and about 9.9 in BBRef.

            At one point, BBRef was experimenting with formulas to account for the fact that pitchers actually alter their own run environments and make wins easier to come by.

            https://www.baseball-reference.com/a..._to_wins.shtml

            Halladay WAR: version 1.0, 8.57 WAR; version 2.0, 10.25 WAR; version 2.1, 9.22 WAR. As you can see this estimate makes a big difference, and with 2.1, our estimate is now very tight and technically correct.

            You can see from this^ that BBRef first used a run based estimat (1.0) then went to an altered run environment method (2.0) which you may recall briefly had some huge war pitchers. Then they moved to a "Pythagorian" estimate based on the players average effect on the games that he played. This ended up in the middle ground. Supposedly. Have you noticed that Walter Johnson is at 117 in Fangraphs but 151 in BBRef? Grove is at 88.8 in Fangraphs but 113 in BBRef.

            It looks like a bunch of guys lose war in Fangraphs because they are more FIP based, while Sutton's FIP is in line with his overall era, so a lot of all time pitchers lose ground on him in the FIP area, but the whole pack is lifted up some by the more extreme wins per run conversion.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by brett View Post

              So I looked at the data that I have access too. Role and Defense basically cancel out in BBRef (It's a little confusing but a +defense raises RA9avg, making it harder for the player to get more war, but a +role lowers RA9avg making it easier). BBRef says his opponent lineups were normal.

              What I was left with is in how they go from runs to wins conversion. Sutton has 679 RAR in BBRef and 753 in FanGraphs. That would be a lot closer than their WAR difference. It would correspond to a Fangraphs WAR of 75 to a BBRef of 68 or a BBRef of 77 to a Fangraphs of 85.5 That is half or a little less than half the WAR difference. It corresponds to about a win per 8.8 runs in Fangraphs and about 9.9 in BBRef.

              At one point, BBRef was experimenting with formulas to account for the fact that pitchers actually alter their own run environments and make wins easier to come by.

              https://www.baseball-reference.com/a..._to_wins.shtml

              Halladay WAR: version 1.0, 8.57 WAR; version 2.0, 10.25 WAR; version 2.1, 9.22 WAR. As you can see this estimate makes a big difference, and with 2.1, our estimate is now very tight and technically correct.

              You can see from this^ that BBRef first used a run based estimat (1.0) then went to an altered run environment method (2.0) which you may recall briefly had some huge war pitchers. Then they moved to a "Pythagorian" estimate based on the players average effect on the games that he played. This ended up in the middle ground. Supposedly. Have you noticed that Walter Johnson is at 117 in Fangraphs but 151 in BBRef? Grove is at 88.8 in Fangraphs but 113 in BBRef.

              It looks like a bunch of guys lose war in Fangraphs because they are more FIP based, while Sutton's FIP is in line with his overall era, so a lot of all time pitchers lose ground on him in the FIP area, but the whole pack is lifted up some by the more extreme wins per run conversion.
              I have looked at the r2w conversions for 1990s guys a lot and saw some pretty big differences. BBRef has some WEIRD seasons. 1993 is strange, for example. I know a guy like Greg Maddux, who was spectacular in a slightly offensive season had a r2w conversion close to 1. FG has that season well under 1, as it should be.

              With chosen preferential differences in FIP vs. RA or UZR vs. DRS, you wouod think they could find some agreement on r2w and AL vs. NL league quality. They came to an agreement re: their different replacement values a few years back.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post

                I have looked at the r2w conversions for 1990s guys a lot and saw some pretty big differences. BBRef has some WEIRD seasons. 1993 is strange, for example. I know a guy like Greg Maddux, who was spectacular in a slightly offensive season had a r2w conversion close to 1. FG has that season well under 1, as it should be.

                With chosen preferential differences in FIP vs. RA or UZR vs. DRS, you wouod think they could find some agreement on r2w and AL vs. NL league quality. They came to an agreement re: their different replacement values a few years back.
                2 points. 1) Wins and runs aren't quite linear within a season. People like to see things converted to runs first, but if a players nets a lot of runs in a few games (pitchers) it will have a different impact than if they net a lot of runs in many games. Also, a run saved affects a game more than a run produced because of "pythagorian" effects. At one extreme, a player who saves 50 runs in 10 games in a 5 run environment would be worth 5 wins above average (say a pitcher throwing 10 dominating shutouts). A pitcher who saves 50 runs spread out evenly over say 35 games would actually be worth about 5.7 WAA, while a player who produced 50 runs extra in 162 games would be worth about 4.8 WAA.

                2) This all still begs the question as to whether WAR is an attempt to account for win contributions of players, or to predict what a player's contribution would have been on an average team. Obviously, pythagorian estimates have to be based on an average team since they vary a lot at the edges (high or low winning percentage teams), however usage patterns for a pitcher are dependent on the rest of the team, so actual and "hypothetical neutralized" win contribution for a player vary on several fronts.

                The thing that was interesting ragarding Sutton by the was that old time pitchers seem to be losing war in Fangraphs because their FIPs don't match their run prevention. We know that Fangraphs rates guys who beat FIP much lower and guys with good relative FIP better. Ryan has a huge boost but we know that he was a historically poor sequencer who did bad things more in high leverage. Clemens and Pedro break even. Grove, Young, Walter Johnson lost massive amounts of war. Was sequencing and other peripherals more "in practice" in the past, especially for guys who knew they were going to pitch a compete game?

                Ryan destroys Seaver in OPS+ against, but Seaver's good sequencing and Ryan's poor sequencing separate them. Also, not sure why Maddux is better in Fangraphs since he was supposed to be a good peripheral pitcher. Consider too that most great pitchers beat or match FIP with ERA, while only a very few exceptions like Ryan do much worse. Even Schilling and Mussina who looked good in defense neutral systems don't really get a bump in WAR in fangraphs. Ryan is by far the big mover and looking at his situational pitching clearly reveals how FIP overrates him. So, it looks like non FIP factors may have been more effective in the past while FIP has become close to equivalent to ERA over a reasonable time frame, and that top 50 pitchers almost all beat or match FIP with their real ERA.
                Last edited by brett; 09-26-2019, 06:23 AM.

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                • #9
                  I was curious about Sutton's situational stats, so I used BBRef's pitching split finder to look at how he compared to post-war, pre-90's hurlers.

                  From 1946 to 1993, there were seventy-three pitchers who had 2500 IP and 175 GS. Sutton is 18th in raw ERA , but falls to 41st with men on, and 43rd with RISP. Just for comparison- Tommy John is 26th in raw ERA, 29th with men on, and 30th with RISP.

                  Looking at FIP with fangraphs during the same time period and using the same 2500 IP minimum, Sutton is 34th (among 73) in ERA-, and 25th in FIP-, so apparently FIP gives him a boost, as it does with John, who is 28th in ERA- and 18th in FIP-. Even ignoring FIP (which I do) it seems John has a great case as the better pitcher. He should probably be getting more support for the Single Ballot HOF, as Sutton is already in, and may very well be the inferior pitcher of the two.





                  Last edited by layson27; 09-26-2019, 10:41 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by brett View Post



                    Ryan destroys Seaver in OPS+ against, but Seaver's good sequencing and Ryan's poor sequencing separate them. Also, not sure why Maddux is better in Fangraphs since he was supposed to be a good peripheral pitcher. Consider too that most great pitchers beat or match FIP with ERA, while only a very few exceptions like Ryan do much worse. Even Schilling and Mussina who looked good in defense neutral systems don't really get a bump in WAR in fangraphs. Ryan is by far the big mover and looking at his situational pitching clearly reveals how FIP overrates him. So, it looks like non FIP factors may have been more effective in the past while FIP has become close to equivalent to ERA over a reasonable time frame, and that top 50 pitchers almost all beat or match FIP with their real ERA.
                    Greg Maddux is getting the runs 2 wins boost from FG without the same-sized NL vs. AL LQ deduction that BBref provides.

                    Also - Maddux's ERA was only .1 better than his FIP. Peripheral-beating Maddux is a huge misnomer. That was Tom Glavine. Maddux gave back a lot of his BABIP run prevention due to his relatively poor LOB% (-55 runs or for his career). He was NOT very good with men in scoring position compared to when bases were empty. He was the exact opposite of Glavine in that regard. Also opposite to Glavine, Maddux was very poor holding runners and preventing stolen bases.

                    A massive, overwhelming majority of his run prevention came from his historically dominating walk rates and historically dominating homerun prevention - not by creating weak contact. Maddux had 12 BABIP wins for his career and I estimate about 3 of those can be attributed to the team defense behind him and about 5-6 his own defense. His K rate was not that far below league average either. All of those things are showing up in his FIP. In fact, Maddux's FIP is only .07 WORSE than Randy Johnson.
                    Last edited by Bothrops Atrox; 09-27-2019, 09:48 PM.
                    1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                    1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by layson27 View Post
                      I was curious about Sutton's situational stats, so I used BBRef's pitching split finder to look at how he compared to post-war, pre-90's hurlers.

                      From 1946 to 1993, there were seventy-three pitchers who had 2500 IP and 175 GS. Sutton is 18th in raw ERA , but falls to 41st with men on, and 43rd with RISP. Just for comparison- Tommy John is 26th in raw ERA, 29th with men on, and 30th with RISP.

                      Looking at FIP with fangraphs during the same time period and using the same 2500 IP minimum, Sutton is 34th (among 73) in ERA-, and 25th in FIP-, so apparently FIP gives him a boost, as it does with John, who is 28th in ERA- and 18th in FIP-. Even ignoring FIP (which I do) it seems John has a great case as the better pitcher. He should probably be getting more support for the Single Ballot HOF, as Sutton is already in, and may very well be the inferior pitcher of the two.




                      I certainly agree. When I just ran the PARC-D calculations, John was at 94 and Sutton was at 84. Anything between 85 and 95 is borderline for the HOF for me.
                      1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                      1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                      1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                      The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
                        Also opposite to Glavine, Maddux was very poor holding runners and preventing stolen bases.
                        More like "Completely uninterested in the process to the point of being disdainful of the very concept" but...that gets us to the same place.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Los Bravos View Post
                          More like "Completely uninterested in the process to the point of being disdainful of the very concept" but...that gets us to the same place.
                          Indeed, it does. It was almost as if he thought "that *********** shouldn't have gotten on base anyway so *********** what he does next."
                          1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                          1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                          1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                          The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                          The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                          • #14
                            They should call Don Sutton "Mr. Shutout" for his extremely high number of shutouts for his era (1966 to 1988).

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