Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lincecum in the California League: Versus 22 Year Old

I finally remembered to download the data in Baseball Cube for all the leagues the Giants have affiliates at and thought, since I just went all in on Lincecum, how exactly did he do in A+ ball, the highest level he pitched at. For this post, I compared him against other 22 year olds.

Demographics

The average age for pitchers and hitters in the Cal League were nearly 24 years old (23.7 years for hitters, 23.6 years for pitchers, when all pitchers ages are averaged), and about half a year less when weighted (23.3 years for hitters, 23.0 years for pitchers, when weighted by AB/IP).

Thus, 22 year olds are facing more players who are older than they are and therefore are at a slight disadvantage in maturity and skill advancement. There were 32 pitchers who were 22 year old and pitching in the California League and who pitched at least 25 IP (Lincecum only pitched 27.2 innings). These 32 pitchers accounted for 21.4% of the IP in the Cal League (out of a total of 244 pitchers) and 57.5% of the IP by pitchers age 22 and younger (i.e. the majority of IP by 22 and under were done by 22 year olds).

Lincecum only pitched 27.2 innings, so obviously there is the small sample effect, but he has clearly been a dominating pitcher everywhere he has gone, so I don't think that many batters would have learned enough to bring that performance down. Plus he clearly is a learner, having added a pitch last season to help his repertoire, so who is to say that he won't learn fast enough to counteract that. Just look at how he has improved from his freshman year to his junior year.

Lincecum Versus 22 YOs
  • ERA: He was tied for 4th out of 32 with an ERA of 1.95, and the group's mean ERA was 4.59, and his ERA is 1.59 standard deviations away from the mean.
  • H/9: He led the group with a very low 4.23 H/9, almost a hit less than the second lowest, which was 5.20 H/9. The group's mean H/9 was 9.48, and his H/9 is 2.41 standard deviations away from the mean.
  • HR/9: He was just under the middle, 20th of 32, with a 0.98 HR/9, so he did not do so well here. But the group's mean HR/9 was 0.82, and his HR/9 is only 0.34 standard deviations higher than the mean.
  • BB/9: Again, he didn't do so well here, though better, 18th with 3.90 BB/9. The group mean BB/9 was 3.78, and his BB/9 is only 0.09 standard deviations higher than the mean, so he was pretty much average with the group here.
  • K/9: Here is where Lincecum shines brightly, leading with a 15.6 K/9, far outdistancing his second place finisher, who had only a 12.6 K/9. Admittedly, small sampling because he only pitched 27.2 innings, but still pretty good nonetheless. The group mean was 7.77 K/9 and thus his K/9 was 3.29 standard deviations higher than the mean.
  • WHIP: With his very low H/9 helping greatly, he was 2nd here, with 0.90 WHIP (first was 0.72) and the group mean was 1.47 WHIP. His WHIP was 1.97 standard deviations lower than the mean.
  • K/BB: His stellar K/9 made up for his average BB/9, resulting in the 4th best K/BB among the 22 YOs. His K/BB was 4.00 and the mean K/BB for the group was 2.06, and his K/BB was 0.94 standard deviations higher than the mean.

So this is not surprising to anyone who has been following Lincecum's career closely since the Giants drafted him. His main problems in college was the walks but he has been great at preventing hits and at striking out batters much more than other pitchers, and those all continued in the minors.

However, the good news there is that, despite facing what should be tougher competition in A+ ball (versus the Pac-10), he was able to reduce his H/9, BB/9, and WHIP while increasing his K/9. Based on DIPS theory, that makes a little sense, because with what should be better fielders behind him in the pros, his H/9 should go down. I am not sure exactly what accounts for the lower walks and higher strikesouts other than because he should be facing better batters, they could be swinging more often whereas before the lesser college hitters would just let the ball fly by without trying to swing at it.

The only blip on his performance was the increase in HR/9, double what it was in college, but that, again, would be explained by the batters being more willing to swing at his pitches than batters were in college.

He was dominating relative to other pitchers his age, against competition who are a year or two older than he is (and therefore should have one to two more years of professional baseball experience). I knew he did great in A+ ball, but these numbers are mind-boggling. The dominance reminds me of when Cain was going up the system and basically doing the same thing, low H/9, mediocre BB/9, high HR/9, very high K/9, high K/BB, resulting in low WHIP, low ERA. I hope the Giants are really serious about giving him a real chance to make the roster in spring training, I would not be surprised if he does it.

2 comments:

  1. The K/9 rate is what stands out and seems to drive his other numbers, the low WHIP and hits per nine innings.

    A question: Is there any information of past prospects with a k/9 of above 15. I've never heard of anyone being close to those numbers, but of course this is still A ball. What's the precident for those kind of numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some fun comparisons of K/9 rate.

    Santana, his last year in AAA Edmington: 48 IP, 75 strikeouts, 14.1 k/9. His A league stats were nowhere near that good.

    Roger Clemens, in A ball (didn't write down the team), 1983, 29 IP, 35 stikeouts, 11.8 k/9

    Randy Johnson, 2 years in A league (1985-1986), 146 IP, 154 strikeouts, 11.2 k/9

    Lincecum, 15.6 k/9 in 27.2 innings.

    At least in terms of minor league performances, Santana, Clemens, and Johnson don't come close to his strikeout rate.

    Now these are small sample sizes, but they're not that small--and the minor league stats of Lincecum weren't all that out of line with his college performance.

    ReplyDelete

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