The Cleveland Indians and Three-True-Outcome Pitchers


Cleveland Indians Pitchers Own High “Three True Outcome” Totals

Lots of analyses have been written about the Cleveland Indians’ pitching staff and it’s respective members. Just the other day, the author investigated the death of the strikeout machine and Katrina Putnam listed three pitchers Corey Kluber needs to beat to win the Cy Young Award. The day before that, Nick Blazek asked if Trevor Bauer is in trouble.

To continue this analysis, let’s look at three of the most talked about statistics in these posts: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. These three counting statistics are often referred to as the Three True Outcomes (TTO), as they are the only three outcomes with no fielding interference. This special significance has led them to be the foundation of many advanced metrics, such as Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and its ballpark-adjusted counterpart xFIP.

Batters who are heavy in the Three True Outcomes are frequently referred to as three-true-outcome batters. These sluggers do very little but mash the ball as hard as they can, which can leave holes in their swings that cause strikeouts, and walk. But this term isn’t usually applied to pitchers. With this in mind, let’s do just that and identify the top three-true-outcome pitchers.

Now, all the readers who have not lost consciousness and smacked his or her head into the keyboard to click on this article have a pretty good idea of what we will find; after all, the first line of the post spoiled the rest. So, with slightly less fanfare, let’s look at the top three-true-outcome pitchers in baseball.

As with looking at the top three-true-outcome batters in baseball, we find some pretty impressive names at the top of the list. While it is possible to make this list by walking a lot of batters or allowing a lot of home runs, it’s more likely that a pitcher will make this list by striking out a lot of batters.

Still, there’s only one Cleveland Indian on that list. Danny Salazar, who has punched out an impressive 27.71% of batters, has had a pretty impressive season. Without his little blow-up yesterday, he owns a 3.12 ERA on the season that is more-or-less matched by ERA estimators.

Nevertheless, the Cleveland Indians have more than one three-three-outcome pitcher. Let’s take a bit of a different look at the rankings that will give us more Cleveland Indians.

The fact that the Indians have all four of their qualified starting pitchers in the top sixteen is quite a feat. In fact, it makes me wonder if it’s some sort of organizational philosophy on which the author has stumbled. It’s common knowledge that this team is built to win around strikeouts, and whether or not the team preaches strikeouts with no regard to walks and home runs is debatable.

This tendency of dominating continues into the bullpen as well and the team has the highest percentage of Three True Outcomes in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays – whom former Tribe bullpen coach Kevin Cash now manages – lag behind the Cleveland Indians by one percentage point. As a whole, the team’s rate is 12% higher than league average.

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Now, let’s not start any misconceptions or confusion. Being a three-true-outcome pitcher is not necessarily a good thing just because some of the top three-true-outcome pitchers are good pitchers, and there are some very good pitchers on the other end of the spectrum.

Even further, being a three-true-outcome team has absolutely no benefit. When looking for a correlation between three-true-outcome percentage and team ERA, wins, and losses, there was never an r-squared value higher than 0.07. For those who are not statistics majors, the author included, an r-squared value of zero means no correlation and one means that the model – three-true-outcome percentage, in this case – accounts for 100% of the variance in the real world rates.

The reason for this post is not to argue for or against the value in three-true-outcome pitchers, but rather to point out a cool factoid about the Cleveland Indians.

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