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Adjusting Batter Performance by the Quality of the Opposing Pitcher

In the 2020 season, American League MVP José Abreu faced 107 different pitchers, including the top four in Cy Young voting point totals (Shane Bieber, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, and Kenta Maeda). Bauer was the only of the four not to allow a home run to Abreu in 2020. In comparison, MVP Runner-up José Ramírez faced 69 of the pitchers that Abreu faced. The third-place DJ LeMahieu faced a completely different set of pitchers, not a single one overlapping with Abreu’s.

While these batters were compared by their offensive production, it appears Abreu faced more challenging pitching. Using FanGraphs’s xFIP- (for which a lower number is better) as a measure of a pitcher’s quality, Abreu was up against a 96.75 xFIP- on average while LeMahieu faced pitchers with at a 105.93 mark. Both LeMahieu’s weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .429 and Abreu’s .411 were exceptional, but is the 18-point difference truly reflective of the difference between the two players’ seasons?

Overview

To answer the question, I derived a value with a similar intuition to Baseball Prospectus’s Deserved Run Average (DRA). DRA is a measure that adjusts a pitcher’s performance by the quality of the batters they are facing. This statistic also accounts for numerous context factors to attempt to better isolate the pitcher’s contribution. DRA shows that the quality of the batter can be influential in a pitcher’s performance, so it makes sense that the quality of pitcher is influential in a batter’s performance.

As for the statistic I will be working with, I choose to refer to this as “pitcher-adjusted weighted on-base average,” or pwOBA. The intuition is simple: a batter should get credit for offensive production against challenging pitching. The formula for pwOBA is based on the formula for wOBA. With wOBA, every event has a run value (ex. 1.979 for home runs in 2020) and a batter gets credit for these values accumulated over the course of the season. The sum of these values is then divided by (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP). Read the rest of this entry »