Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

MAD Factor for Pitchers

We wrote Tuesday about the pitching philosophy that aims to achieve the dual goals of enticing batters both to swing at balls and to not swing at strikes. We called the quantification of this approach the MAD Factor because it epitomized the style of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux. We calculated it simply as the difference between a pitcher’s in-zone swinging percentage (the lower the better) and his out-of-zone swinging percentage (the higher the better). Like ERA,  lower is better.

On Tuesday, we looked specifically at the Cardinal pitching staff. Today, let’s review pitchers and staffs more broadly. Here’s what the leader board looks like as of Wednesday:

# Pitcher Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% MAD
1 Zack Greinke Dodgers 36.3% 55.8% .195
2 Jose Fernandez Marlins 37.1% 60.9% .238
3 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 39.9% 64.3% .244
4 CC Sabathia Yankees 34.7% 59.4% .247
5 Rick Porcello Tigers 34.7% 59.7% .250
6 Felix Hernandez Mariners 35.9% 61.9% .260
7 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 35.8% 61.9% .261
8 Dan Haren Dodgers 31.9% 59.1% .272
9 Roberto Hernandez Phillies 33.0% 61.1% .281
10 Martin Perez Rangers 32.2% 61.5% .293
10 Chris Archer Rays 28.7% 58.0% .293
12 Brandon McCarthy Diamondbacks 32.1% 61.5% .294
13 Corey Kluber Indians 33.4% 62.9% .295
14 Yu Darvish Rangers 28.5% 58.1% .296
15 Dallas Keuchel Astros 32.5% 62.3% .298

We still have nearly 80% of the season remaining, so that list has plenty of time to change. For comparison, let’s review the top 10 MAD Factor leaders of 2013:

# Pitcher Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% MAD
1 Doug Fister Tigers 33.0% 56.5% .235
2 Adam Wainwright Cardinals 36.2% 63.1% .269
3 Chris Sale White Sox 32.9% 60.1% .272
4 Cliff Lee Phillies 34.6% 62.5% .279
5 Eric Stults Padres 35.2% 63.9% .287
6 Mat Latos Reds 34.9% 64.0% .291
7 Felix Hernandez Mariners 33.5% 62.9% .294
7 Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 32.7% 62.1% .294
9 Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks 35.0% 64.5% .295
10 Matt Harvey Mets 36.6% 66.2% .296

And what about teams? Here are this year’s teams in rank order of MAD Factor:

# Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% MAD
1 Nationals 32.4% 64.1% .317
2 Giants 32.0% 64.6% .326
3 Dodgers 29.3% 62.2% .329
4 Diamondbacks 30.2% 63.3% .331
5 Yankees 30.4% 64.0% .336
6 Pirates 32.6% 66.4% .338
7 Phillies 29.5% 63.7% .342
8 Astros 28.8% 63.4% .346
8 Brewers 29.3% 63.9% .346
8 Marlins 29.7% 64.3% .346
11 Athletics 29.2% 63.9% .347
12 Royals 28.8% 63.6% .348
13 Rangers 28.1% 63.2% .351
13 Rays 28.7% 63.8% .351
15 Padres 30.0% 65.5% .355
16 Braves 30.8% 66.4% .356
17 Indians 29.6% 65.3% .357
18 Reds 27.1% 63.4% .363
19 Red Sox 29.6% 66.1% .365
20 Mariners 28.2% 64.8% .366
21 Orioles 27.1% 64.0% .369
21 Rockies 28.8% 65.7% .369
23 Blue Jays 28.5% 65.6% .371
24 Tigers 28.9% 66.2% .373
25 Twins 28.8% 66.3% .375
26 Cubs 27.9% 66.3% .384
27 White Sox 25.5% 64.0% .385
28 Angels 24.8% 63.4% .386
29 Mets 27.1% 65.8% .387
30 Cardinals 26.3% 66.2% .399

That last-place finish may give Cardinals fans a start. The good news is that, while there is some correlation between MAD Factor and overall performance, it’s only medium-strong (.54 correlation coefficient in 2013 for xFIP and .62 for SIERA). That’s because MAD Factor tells only part of the story: The other part is how often batters actually make strong contact on the pitches they do swing at.

For his part, Maddux played most of his career before sophisticated pitch-location tracking came about, so we have only the final two years of his career to look at. From 2007-08, his O-Swing% was 27.8%, and his Z-Swing% was 62.4, for a MAD Factor of .346, about last year’s league average (.345). Then again, Maddux himself was rather middling in those two seasons, with an average 95 adjusted FIP (100 is league average).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.