Reduce what pitchers do down to the basics: There are the types of balls they give up -- ground balls, fly balls, pop-ups and line drives -- and when the ball isn't put into play, you have strikeouts and walks. Good pitchers get strikeouts, pop-ups and ground balls more often than they allow walks, line drives and fly balls. All of the advanced statistics you see bandied about on Web sites like
Three of those factors are what we might call "luck" stats, numbers that don't reflect a pitcher's particular skill, good or bad. These are events that are impacted by a pitcher's defense, or his bullpen, or just the vagaries of where a baseball lands, and while they add up to real runs on the scoreboard, they're useful for determining which pitchers are being aided or hampered by things outside of their control. The three primary measures of pitching luck are:
Now, one way to see who's been touched by fate and who's been slapped down by it is to rank all the pitchers in baseball in these areas. There are 110 pitchers who have qualified for the ERA title in their leagues, so using
Let's get the first misconception out of the way: "luck" is not a derogatory term. A pitcher can be both lucky and good, as you can see above with
On the other hand, you see what getting lucky can do for a mediocre pitcher.
The flip side:
All five of these pitchers have pitched better than their ERAs indicate, and if they can just hold on to their rotation jobs, they should allow fewer runs. That's particularly good news for the Reds, who need
The important thing to take from this exercise is rethinking the concept of "luck." The word has an edge to it, as if you're denigrating a success or excusing a failure. In the world of baseball performance, though, where pitchers control some, but not all, of their world, understanding luck is critical to understanding performance.
Just looking at run prevention would give you a misleading idea of what