Oh My God… It's ALIVE!!

After nearly three weeks of partying and celebration following Brett Tomko’s release, I have now returned. But fret not, during these two weeks of partying, and making a rare trip to Wrigley Field to broadcast the Dodgers vs. Cubs series, I did keep up reading as much as I could on here, and my apparent pedophiliac writing parter – Michael Jackson’s Tragic Illness (kidding!) – did a great job holding fort… and certainly kept up the viewership with the Eliza Dushku picture, which I see has garnered some comments.

However, I am back now, so I am going to post this picture of David Wells above The Dushku to just absolutely kill your fantasies and hard on and prevent you from one hand browsing while viewing this, so you can pay attention to my obviously more important article! FOCUS, DAMMIT!!

Speaking of David Wells…

You have to hand it to ol’ Boomer. After putting up Brett Tomko type of performances for San Diego near the end, he has awoken from the dead since signing with L.A. Let’s take a look at his starts since he’s been a Dodger:david-wells.jpg

August 26th, 2007 vs. Mets: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

August 31st, 2007 vs. Padres: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

September 8th, 2007 vs. Giants: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

If you added up the total, it would make him 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA, which should actually be lower if it wasn’t for the way he got screwed over in San Diego with Juan “Stevie Wonder Could Track Balls Better Than Me” Pierre completely missing the fly ball and costing him a run. Then after serving his seven game suspension, Wells came back on Saturday and went all vintage Boomer on the Giants. For anyone who watched that game, he was absolutely masterful, taking advantage of the Giants usual overaggressiveness, while effectively changing speeds and had the better curve ball of the starting pitchers… the other pitcher happening to be Barry Zito. Oh yeah… he also had a perfect game through five innings. He did start to lose it in the sixth a bit, but Shea Hillenbrand’s throw into center field didn’t help matters. Either that or the booze just wore off, take your pick.

However, the point is, while a small sample size, Wells has been good thus far and, if these three starts of any indication, then David Wells is back! But the number that is particularly nice to see from Wells is his 1.22 WHIP since being a Dodger. What has worried me with Wells – as it did during his first start against the Mets – is his ability to let a ton of runners on, which I feared would eventually lead to him getting pummeled again like he has throughout the second half this year, before getting cut with SD. But then I decided to take a deeper look at the numbers and found some interesting trends. So, before I tell you about these trends, I’m going to introduce a few of those evil sabermetric statistics to you – something I’ll do from time to time – to shed light on some of this and hopefully give you more tools when evaluating pitchers, as well as not be led astray by Joe Morgan and ESPN. So let us begin with BABIP…

BABIP – Batting Average (On) Balls In Play – is basically the batting average on the balls that a player puts into play. This doesn’t include home runs, strikeouts or walks because… well… shockingly, they aren’t in play. While not a perfect stat, it is a decent one to use to spot hitters that are having fluky or unlucky seasons. The league average for BABIP is usually .290-.300, so anything above that is generally considered fluky, while below that level is unlucky. To demonstrate the former, take when James Loney came up this year and was hitting like .450. Well, during that first month, his BABIP was an insane .452. So once the law of averages began to balance out and his BABIP dropped towards league average levels, so did his numbers.

O.K., O.K., I know what you’re saying… so what the hell does this have to do with David Wells? Simple: it also applies to pitchers. To be incredibly succinct, basically, there was this guy about 5 years ago or so called Voros McCracken who was a lawyer living with his Mom in their basement and came up with this utterly shocking idea: that once pitchers put the ball into play, there is hardly little that they can control. He noticed that even with the very best pitchers – and I think he used Greg Maddux to demonstrate this – they can give up a shit load of hits one year and then very little the next, then a lot the next year, etc., etc. Go ahead, look up your favorite pitcher and notice the hits allowed per season… notice how drastically different it is per season? Anyways, because of this, according to McCracken, there are only three things that a pitcher can control: walks, strikeouts and home runs. He found that the reason the very best pitchers are able to sustain success is because of their ability to be successful at the things they CAN control, the aforementioned BB’s, K’s and HR’s. The nitty gritty of the article is right here – and there have been modifications to the system since – but the point is that he came up with a statistic for this: Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS). Essentially, it’s your ERA but independent of defense. We’ll get to that later, but to finish off BABIP, what does it mean? O.K., basically if your pitcher starts out the year with awful numbers on the surface, but his K rate, BB rate and HR rates are roughly the same, though say his BABIP is about .350, then the chances are that he’s been unlucky and his BABIP will drop – as the league average won’t be that – and thus so will his ERA, etc., etc. It’s typically a decent method to see how a pitcher will perform the next year. But enough with the boring stuff. Let’s use some of these things on Wells…

In using those three things that pitchers can control, Wells’ K/9 (strikeouts per nine rate) is actually better than it was in 2006, as is his HR/9 rate. What has killed Wells – which would likely explain the high WHIP – is his normally great control that was great in 2006 went to shit in 2007… kinda like Olmedo Saenz. But Wells’ BB/9 ratio has gone from 1.43 last year to 2.45, so yeah… that’s not good.

Though here’s something to notice: Wells’ ERA is 5.31, but his DIPS – which, again, means defense independent – is 4.49 (exactly Carlos Zambrano’s DIPS, by the way), which still isn’t great by any means, but the large difference might indicate that Boomer has had some bad luck. So let’s look at his BABIP… well, whatdoya know? His BABIP this year is .334. So Wells hasn’t had much help this year. To further back this up, Baseball Prospectus has a statistic called Pitcher’s Defense Efficiency: basically, how efficient the defense is behind a certain pitcher, based on percentages. Usually, the average seems to be in the low 70′s, with the really efficient one’s in the mid-high 70′s. Where was Wells’ defensive efficiency while with SD?

65.6%.

No, folks, don’t let that near 66 confuse you with his waist size. That number is not efficient by any means, though it’s risen to 69.6% since coming to L.A., but, again, small sample size. To compare though while in SD, his former teammate, Chris Young, has a defensive efficiency rating of 76.4 (2nd highest in MLB amongst starters), while Jake Peavy – the little psychofuck who needs to be beat badly tomorrow – is at 71.5%. Just a quick note on Young: remember how his ERA was like below 2 for awhile? Well, his DIPS was a run ABOVE that – indicating luck – as well as an incredibly LOW BABIP of like .230, but as it’s started to slowly rise, so has his ERA. But back to Boomer…

While still early, Wells has done everything the Dodgers have asked him to do and that is simply go out there and keep the team in the game and provide stability in the back end of the rotation. I’m not saying he’s going to be great, but just merely that he’s had a bit of bad luck which has affected him. In other words, the numbers do show that he has more Petrol in the tank than it might seem and that his last few horrendous starts that he had with SD were more of an aberration. Even if he ends up putting up an ERA in the mid-4′s from here on out, you really can’t ask for much more. Plus, Boomer just freaking rocks. Though, for some reason, I keep thinking back to Maddux last year: before they traded for him, he was pitching like shit, and then he came to L.A. and pitched great. So while the Dodgers hope to catch lightening in a bottle again as they have Wells pitch to save their ass – while Wells’ pitches to save his asses and career – it should be an interesting remaining three weeks of baseball to watch. But if the first three starters are of any indication, he is off the Chump-O-Meter and is definitely a hungry pitcher.

Then again, when isn’t he?

(rimshot!)

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