PTO% Mid-Season Update

July 7th, 2008 · 10 Comments

By Frankie Piliere

It’s been a while since we talked about PTO%. Isn’t it ironic that the first article I am doing after a long stretch of a busy scouting schedule is statistical in nature?

For those unfamiliar, it is a tool we developed that we believe is a measure of dominance or “ace hood.” Also, we’ve taken the same principles and applied them to hitters. As far as I can tell, it will not serve as an all encompassing statistic for hitters like it seems to be for pitcher.

By simply measuring the percentage of pitches that go towards outs and strikeouts (lower being better for hitters) we can’t know how effective his power is or other aspects of that nature. What I can tell us, however, is how “tough” an out the hitter is.

Just as with a pitcher who has a very low PTO% is someone who is laboring to get his outs, a hitter with a low PTO% is someone who is making a pitcher labor. Makes, sense right?

Now, let’s take a look at 2008’s most dominant pitchers (John Lackey, right, is leading the way among starters) and toughest outs in the league at the midway point of the season, all after the jump…

(John Lackey photo: Steve Nesius/AP)

Pitching stats are as of July 7th, hitting stats as of July 1st.

Top Starters
John Lackey - 33.7%
Roy Halladay - 32.7%
Rich Harden - 32.6%
Josh Beckett - 32.1%
Shawn Marcum - 32.0%
Cole Hamels - 31.8%
James Shields - 31.7%
C.C. Sabathia - 31.6%
Brandon Webb - 31.4%
Tim Lincecum - 31.4%
Felix Hernandez - 31.2%
Johan Santana - 30.9%
Dan Haren - 30.8%
Cliff Lee - 30.7%
Ben Sheets - 30.5%
Ervin Santana - 30.4%
Chad Billingsley - 30.3%
Andrew Miller - 30.2%
Javier Vazquez - 30.1%
Jake Peavy - 30.1%
Edinson Volquez - 30.1%

Top Relievers
Mariano Rivera - 37.8%
Taylor Buchholz - 36.1%
Jonathan Papelbon - 36.0%
Kerry Wood - 35.9%
Hong-Chi Kuo - 34.1%
Joe Nathan - 33.9%
Carlos Marmol - 33.7%
Chad Qualls - 33.7%
Joakim Soria - 33.3%
Huston Street - 31.8%

Toughest Outs
Joe Mauer - 17.3%
Albert Pujols - 17.9%
Luis Castillo - 18.0%
Ryan Spilborghs - 18.6%
David Eckstein - 19.1%
Jeff Keppinger - 19.5%
Todd Helton - 20.0%
Russell Martin - 20.1%
Juan Pierre - 20.1%
Chipper Jones - 20.2%
Ramon Vazquez - 20.6%
Kosuke Fukudome - 20.7%
David DeJesus - 20.8%
Mark Ellis - 20.9%
Johnny Damon - 20.9%
Brian Giles - 20.9%
Dustin Pedroia - 21.0%
Ryan Theriot - 21.0%
Conor Jackson - 21.2%
Jason Kendall - 21.3%

Might this be the method we’ve been looking for to quantify “gritty hitters” or guys that “grind out at-bats”? I think it may be.

Just to review, this percentage is the percentage of pitches out of the total number of pitches seen that go towards outs. So, a player who strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much will do poorly.

The ideal player is one who works the count, walks a lot, doesn’t strike out, fouls pitches off. This works in the opposite fashion that it does for the pitchers.

I’m being bold again, but I love where this stat could take us in terms of quantifying ambiguous terms like “gritty” or “tough out” or “ace”. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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Tags: Statistical Analysis

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 toby k. // Jul 7, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    that’s pretty ballin… all those pitchers are the best in the game, all those hitters seem pretty decent too, wheres joba mania’s pto% rank?

  • 2 fpiliere44 // Jul 7, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Joba just missed the cut. I decided to put guys with 30%+. He had like 29.4. He was in the top 15 before last night.

  • 3 jscape2000 // Jul 7, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Great stuff.
    I was initially skeptical of the whole approach because I don’t think it tells us enough more than pitches per inning to be worth the effort.

    But if we determine the average difficulty of facing each lineup, then we can (somewhat) neutralize the stat.

    For example:
    Lackey has faced the White Sox twice, the Jays 3 times, Oakland, Tampa, and 3 NL teams.
    How do those lineups stack up with what Beckett has faced (Tor, NYY3, TB2, Det, Bal3, Oak, NL4)?

    If we know that Lackey has faced tougher lineups and been more efficient, then we can say with certainty that he has been more dominant than Beckett.

  • 4 fpiliere44 // Jul 8, 2008 at 12:13 am

    That’s a good idea. I’ve done some work on doing the team by team calculations. I’m not sure yet how to melt them together.

    As far as your original skepticism, I came up with this because I was sick of just going by pitches per innings. Chien-Ming Wang is really low in that department but isn’t anywhere close to the top in this. And it doesn’t just reward guys by saying “oh you strike guys out and have low walk totals so you are an ace”. I just feel it’s not that cut and dry. What if he’s not walking anyone and K’ing a lot but he’s 3-2 with 8 pitches at bats all the time. is that really dominant? Or vice versa, all hard groundball outs and lots of setup pitches…dominant? I think it just eliminates a lot of variables.

    Also, thoughts on the application for hitters?

    Thanks for the feedback guys.

  • 5 jscape2000 // Jul 8, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Well, the simple(?) thing to do for hitters would be to grab each guy’s PTO% and weight it for % of team ABs. Then you add them all together and you have a team PTO%.

    Average together the team-PTO%s each pitcher has faced and now you have a way to look at the pitcher’s season.

    (Pitcher’s PTO%)/ (season PTO% against) = X
    If x is greater than 1 the pitcher was more dominant than average (against the teams he faced).

    To complicate things, once you have the team average PTO% against, you can find the league average and set the teams against league average (think ERA+ and OPS+, but obviously not park adjusted).

    With the PTO% against+ you can rate the difficulty of each pitcher’s season, and then see how dominant he was against the difficulty. The question is (and I’m at the limits of my conceptual math skills) “how does PTO% relate to PTO% against+?” If there’s a 10% difference between the PTO% against for Team A and Team B, how much change is standard for a pitcher? Determining that coefficient would go a long way toward helping evaluate different player’s performances.

    Separate thought: you keep showing us the top performers. Are you doing your calculations by hand or in a spreedsheet? If you’re doing it in Excel, can you create a graph of the entire league? I’d expect PTO% to look like a bell curve rather than a straight line. I’m also curious what the average separation between players looks like.

  • 6 jscape2000 // Jul 8, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Re: value of the stat

    I guess my concern has to do with overvaluing the strikeout.

    One of the great revolutions in the baseball community in the last 20 years or so is the recognition that strike outs are not in and of themselves bad things for hitters.

    I feel like we should be able to say the same thing for pitchers- they’re nice because it’s an out without the risks of fielders (errors, range, etc), but they’re not a superior form of out.

    So a four pitch strikeout should not be worth more credit of dominance than a four pitch grounder to the shortstop. Especially if the contact is weak contact.

    Wang is a great example because his great challenge the last couple of years is to find a way to vary his approach enough to remain dominant. For me, a true measure of dominance has to measure the pitcher’s ability to keep hitters off balance his second time through the lineup and his second time through the league.

    Without some awareness of LD% and/or SLG, I just don’t think the stat stands up on its own as a measure of dominance (which isn’t to say it’s not worth pursuing or it isn’t a nice complimentary stat).

    Jeez… where’d my morning go?

  • 7 fpiliere44 // Jul 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Well, I think it can reward a pitcher even without the presence of strikeouts. If someone is rolling along and throws a 90 pitch complete game it probably would score 30%+. I like to almost think of it as the other part of the %. What % are those “other pitches”. But, yeah, maybe it doesn’t measure dominance but it’s got something to do with efficiency I’d say. But, that’s why it’s still in development. And, no stat will ever be “the” measure” for anything. We can’t just got by WHIP or DIPS or anything like that, all we can do is use them as tools.

  • 8 Uncle John's Band // Jul 9, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    How close did Zack Greinke come to making the list, and why is Soria so low on the list of relievers?

  • 9 fpiliere44 // Jul 9, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Greinke was at about 29% also so he just missed. And, I wouldn’t say Soria is low at all. He’s among the top five closers in this stat in baseball. Behind only Mo, Papelbon, Nathan and Wood.

  • 10 Joewho112 // Jul 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Definitely passes the sniff test. Have you looked to see how consistent/predictive PTO is across a player’s career?

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