Cleveland Indians’ Starting Rotation Is Least Wild in American League


Cleveland Indians Least Wild Team in the American League

It may seem strange to think this, but the Cleveland Indians pitching rotation is not wild, when compared to the league as a whole. In fact, the team is arguably the least wild team in the American League. Now, it’s worth noting that limited wildness does not mean command or control, as this is not a discussion about balls and strikes or hitting targets. This is an outcome-focused analysis that doesn’t care about what led to the end of each at bat.

Before we jump into spreadsheets, let’s refine our definition of the term “wild”. For the purposes of this study, a plate appearance that includes a walk, wild pitch, or hit-by-pitch will be considered wild. While this arguably could be improved by using balls thrown, the inconsistency in umpires calling balls and strikes accurately helps to balance it out.

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To turn these three values – walks, wild pitches, and hit by pitches – into a wildness factor, let’s first gather the sums of these totals for each team. The Colorado Rockies have walked the most batters; the New York Yankees have thrown the most wild pitches, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have hit the most batters.

To weight each statistic equally, the author calculated the number of walks per wild pitch, a WPconstant of about 8.15, and the number of walks per hit-by-pitch, an HBPconstant of about 8.7. Then, he multiplied each team’s walks by one, wild pitches by the WPconstant, and hit-by-pitches by the HBPconstant and summed these totals into what we will call the Wild Factor. Currently, the Pittsburgh Pirates lead baseball in this Wild Factor.

The final step in the process is to adjust each Wild Factor for total batters faced, as a team with more batters faced will tend to have a higher Wild Factor. To accomplish this, the author simply calculated each team’s Wild Factor per 100 batters faced, which will be referred to as WILD/c. As a quick way to check if this helped to make the wildness rankings fairer, the r-squared value between Wild Factor and total batters faced was 0.266 and the value between WILD/c and total batters faced was 0.148. While neither r-squared value suggests that the amount of batters faced has a strong correlation with our wildness statistics, the adjustment clearly helped.

Finally, let’s take a look at how teams rank in WILD/c:

Clearly, the Cleveland Indians are a team that has avoided being particularly wild. What is less clear is the margin of how much better they are than the MLB average WILD/c of 22.5. Perhaps being roughly 12 percent less wild than league average isn’t a huge achievement, but it is still noteworthy. By this measure, the Cleveland Indians are the least wild team in the American League, although the Houston Astros are nipping at their heels.

When applying these same computations to individual players, it becomes even more apparent how much the Tribe has avoided wild pitching this season. Cody Allen rates as the wildest Cleveland Indian and the 28th wildest in baseball. The next Indian on the list is Shaun Marcum at the 120th wildest pitcher in baseball, and the Tribe only has four of its ten qualified pitchers in the upper half of the 385 qualified pitchers. (Pitchers were considered qualified if they had pitched at least 30 innings.)

Another Cleveland Indian worth noting is Cody Anderson, who is the 13th least-wild pitcher in baseball and the fifth least-wild pitcher in the American League. Anderson didn’t last too long in the major leagues, but in his time with the big league club, he managed to walk just 12 batters and hit only one with a pitch. His WILD/c of 8.9 is by far the best on the team and is 153 percent better than league average.

On a final note about specific players, former Cleveland Indians Justin Masterson rates as the wildest pitcher in baseball by this stat. His WILD/c of 62.7 is almost ten points higher than the next-wildest pitcher, Fernando Rodriguez. Masterson famously turned down an extension from the Cleveland Indians before collapsing into a shell of his former self.

Now, let’s shift gears a bit and discuss how this wild factor does not correlate with success. The r-squared values for correlation between WILD/c and ERA, FIP, and xFIP are 0.18, 0.15, and 0.11, respectively. None of these figures suggests that there is any relationship between being wild and successful or unsuccessful. Some of the wildest pitchers, by this measurement, are some of the best relievers in the game with names such as Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland, and Carson Smith. On the other end of the spectrum are players such as Jose Fernandez, Drew Smyly, and Dallas Keuchel.

Even further, skimming over team names in the ranking shows how wildness doesn’t correlate with team success or defeat. While this may seem counter-intuitive, let’s remember that the spread of data in this study is quite small with a standard deviation of just 2.5 points. Naturally, there is an advantage to being able to hit one’s targets, but Randy Johnson once struck fear into the hearts of batters before he reigned in his command.

Before we go our separate ways, the author has included a table with the qualified Cleveland Indians at the bottom of the post. If any readers have any questions about either the process or the results that were not covered in the write-up, please feel free to leave a comment asking for clarification.

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