The Pleasures of Strand Rate

Name the pitchers:
Pitcher A: 172.2 IP, 17.31% K, 5.85 BB%, 10.1% HR/FB, 67.7% LOB, 5.16 ERA, 4.55 FIP
Player B: 112.2 IP, 14.64% K, 7.88 BB%, 10.8% HR/FB, 85.9% LOB, 2.64 ERA, 4.53 FIP

Pitcher B is Kevin Millwood, benefactor of an unsustainable amount of stranded runners, thus keeping his ERA at a comfortable, and easily overrated, 2.64. Pitcher A is also Kevin Millwood, two seasons ago. The differences between the two seasons are minimal. This Millwood walks a few more, strikes out a few less, and has a vastly superior defense behind him, otherwise, they’re the same pitcher – literally and figuratively.

Millwood’s spiffy ERA has some placing him on their All-Star ballots, which is fair, as long as shortstop Elvis Andrus, right fielder Nelson Cruz, and the rest of the Rangers defense gets to play tag along to St. Louis. Don’t be surprised to see Millwood sneak onto some Cy Young ballots either, even if he cannot avoid the regression but as the season progresses. What would regression hold for the Texas righty?
Millwood’s strikeout and walk ratios share company with Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Bannister, Paul Maholm, and Dallas Braden. Guthrie’s homerun rate is too high, while Bannister’s, Maholm, and Braden’s are too low to be perfect matches with Millwood, but check out their ERA:

Guthrie 5.11
Bannister 3.93
Maholm 4.35
Braden 3.26

The closest, Braden, has a lofty 75% strand rate of his own and his ERA is still about a half run higher than Millwood. Even if you discount the high/low totals, you see Millwood’s company has an ERA in the 4-4.5 spread, about equal to his FIP. If you have Millwood on your fantasy team, sell him now. There are some examples of seasons like this actually lasting through October, but don’t bet on another Steve Trachsel 1996, just pull the trigger before it’s too late.

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14 years ago

The proper word here is “beneficiary” (the one who receives a benefit) instead of “benefactor” (the one who gives the benefit). Although in this case Millwood is both – since he puts the runners on base that he ends up stranding – but the real benefactor here, as your article points out, is the Tecas defense.