But what I don't necessarily remember is that the team's exceptional offense apparently came with a hefty price tag of an exceptionally rubbing defense. In the field, Philadelphia's position players cost their pitchers a whopping -49 runs that year according to Total Zone. That is abysmal. It's the sort of number that makes you enjoy watching Mitch Williams blow it game 6. Like, good. You deserve that, Mickey Morandini.
|Rank in 14 NL teams||13||2||1||2||1|
The poor defensive play certainly shows up in the pitching totals as well. Curt Schilling, a master of his craft if there ever was one, showed exceptional command that season, striking out 19% of the hitters he faced, while only walking a mere 5.8%. But his ERA of 4.02 doesn't exactly scream "hey, check me out, I'm an awesome ERA." One mildly-reliable indicator of a defense really sticking it to their pitcher is a sizable FIP-ERA score. Schilling's F-E was 15 that year. And his rotation-mate, Tommy Greene (who I have no memory of at all), had an 11 F-E.
All this got me wondering about the greatest discrepancies of FIP/ERA throughout history. And how their defenses contributed to that dubious honor. For historical reference I've used FIP+ and ERA+
TOP TEN FIP-ERA SEASONS
|min 150 IP|
It's wildly amusing to me that Pedro's 1999 season is #1, but lets just move along and chalk that up to Pedro simply breaking the scale of awesome in that season. Doctor K could be accused of doing some damage to the machines of greatness as well, but apparently his teams were also pretty poor defensively.
After those two anomalies we have a steady diet of flat-out bad leather. Dutch Leonard's 1949 Cubs predates Total Zones capabilities, but incidentally, the club ranked 1st in errors that season with 187 (holy puke). Roy Smalley, the shortstop, led that awesome charge with 39.
Ron Reed's 1975 Braves were worth a barely-conceivable -85 runs. Holy what?
Interestingly, Schilling again shows up in 2002, a year in which his club wasn't exactly terrible in the field, but he nevertheless raised my eyebrow. The LOB% in the chart above is the generic version of strand rate added just for immediate approximation (that and its a lot easier to calculate). His actual strand rate is a bit lower at 70% and a quick look at his base-state splits reveals that hitters were vastly more successful while Schilling was in the stretch. With Bases Empty, opposing batters hit for a .550 OPS. With Men On , they were good for a .742 OPS. That's a holy whopper of a split at almost 200 OPS points!
I'm not surprised Ricky Nolasco has such a strong discrepancy between his FIP and ERA at all. Years upon years of investing in him in fantasy leagues have made me all too aware of this. But that he showed up this high on such an historic group of seasons was sort of like, holy woah. It's been that bad, huh? Like historically bad? But 2009 was a bizarre year even by Nolasco's standards-- a 5.06 ERA and a 3.35 ERA do not typically hang out together. They rarely shop at the same piggly wiggly.
All but one of these seasons saw BAbips over league average (and the one that was under was only .001 under). In most of these cases it's clear the defense was at fault, judging by the unsightly TZ numbers. Schilling's schism seems to have stemmed from problems with the stretch, but these weren't nearly as much of a problem during the rest of his career (.651 /.709 opposing OPS). So 2002 seems to be nothing more than an aberration.
Nolasco will continue to confound the planet, I imagine. Mostly his problems have stemmed from inflated BAbips and HR/FB rates and they will likely continue to stem from there. This puts Nolasco in a rare position of historical uniqueness, and for that I give him an A+.