Best Pitchers in 2018 – Final Report | The Process Report

Best Pitchers in 2018 – Final Report

With the smell of autumn in the air it is natural to turn sights toward individual awards once team success stops carrying meaning. With all the data on the season captured herein are the prominent names that should be in the conversation. Data is current through the end of the season, and as throughout the year, the currency will be park-adjusted actual and true performance using this year’s model. Additionally, because some rows are easier to hoe, each player will be adjusted up or down based on the difficulty of their collective opponents.

Walking left to right you’ll find the total batters faced for each pitcher, my calculations for their park-adjusted actual and true production, and the average true production of their opponents faced. These values are converted into weighted runs above average (wRAA) for each of those three categories, and you can think of Opponent wRAA as how many runs above or below average would an average pitcher likely be if they only faced batters of the quality experienced on the year. True-actual gives you a good idea of which pitchers show the largest divergence between the two lenses, and then finally we get to Total wRAA.

Let’s start with the top National League pitchers:

As a final summation and the source of our sort here I have averaged actual and true performance and then credited the pitcher for the difficulty of their opposition faced. Jacob deGrom is far and away the best pitcher with with a fifteen run advantage over first runner-up Aaron Nola. The Mets ace saw actual results that were close to nine runs better than expected as anyone has to overperform a bit to be in consideration for best in the league. Furthermore, deGrom faced one of the more difficult opposition lineups in the National League where the pitcher as a batter is already making things a little easier.

The aforementioned Nola and new entrant Max Scherzer were a little tighter together as the next grouping. Scherzer was a little better by the math, Nola a little better by the results, and he gets a boost with Scherzer having faced one of the easiest slates in Major League Baseball. Neither of deGrom nor Nola getting to face their own lineups is probably a source of the difference there. The soon to be PAID Patrick Corbin rounds out the serious contenders.

Things start to bunch up a little more from there, but a recurring theme is youth, throws hard, and has at least one other pitch. Josh Hader, Walker Buehler and the underrated German Marquez are three guys that took giant steps forward this year in solidifying their name in the game. The next step will be sustaining that high level of performance with each having a solid chance to do so considering how tightly their actual and expected performances are intertwined.

Switching over to the American League you can see the layout is pretty much the same, though most of these guys faced better than average hitters in the aggregate, as you would expect when pitchers get to catch their breath instead of looking silly at the plate. Justin Verlander and Chris Sale were pretty much interchangeably the best pitchers in the American League over the course of this year. Sale’s missed time caused him to slide out of the number one slot, but his performance even upon return keeps him neck and neck to the wire. Sale’s great performance looks well deserved with almost no difference between actual and true performance. Verlander, however, shows a massive split with the model giving him around fourteen more runs on top of what was already very good actual results.

Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole make up the group that falls just short. Cole showed a little bit of overperformance, but Snell took that to another level with a seventeen run gap between actual and expected results, while facing one of the most difficult groups of opponents for all pitchers. Cole’s opposition was slightly easier while not being a picnic, yet still managed to place top-five for both true and actual wRAA. Trevor Bauer lags behind mostly due to the easier degree of difficulty manifest in the lineups he faced and the fact that his injury took away all pretense of opportunity. Otherwise, he’s fairly on the level in shown performance with the other two. Tampa Bay’s ace, Blake Snell, has shown the third most actual production trailing only Verlander andSale, but the model believes a good deal of that has come through good defense or fine fortune. This should be meant as no slight to the lad who has a bright future in the game, and you’ll find seasonal rolling averages compared to these peers if you make it to the bottom of this post.

Much like in the National League this point and on starts to introduce the very best relievers, and the pretty good starters with very little separating one from the other. If you like one guy over another then feel justified it’s within the margin of error. Baseball is about being able to talk the positives of your guy over the positives of the other guy. Show how smart of a fan you can be out there by not resorting to dumbshit arguments that only serve to support your point of view.

For those still interested, here is the total list of the top 45 or so pitchers in MLB this year:

And for further fun here’s a look at Blake Snell’s evolution over the season compared to the other top performers, though please note these do not include the last week or so of performance:

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