Levale Speigner Report

Here’s something that I compiled over the season, that I haven’t even looked at until now. I thought it was somewhat interesting (obviously, since I spent the time to compile the numbers), but we’ll see whether it was worth it.

Levale Speigner made 6 starts this season for the Washington Nationals. In the five starts against a team other than the Twins, he never lasted more than 4 innings, he allowed 30 earned runs, and 49 baserunners (hits+walks) in 17 2/3 IP.

Of course, against the Twins, this was his line: 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 3 SO for his only victory as a starter.

Anecdotally, this seemed to be a pattern for the Twins this season. When they faced a struggling pitcher (probably young, especially left-handed) they seem to have enormous struggles putting up any kind of offense. I know it’s easy to remember getting only 2 hits off of a pitcher like Speigner, but if Minnesota had knocked out 7 or 8 hits in five innings and put some runs on the board, the game would have been quickly forgotten. Do the Twins actually struggle more against below average pitchers? Or is this a case of selective memory making a problem seem worse than it actually is?

To investigate that question, I looked at the 93 different opposing starting pitchers the Twins faced in 2007. I looked at the 5 starts immediately preceding their start against the Twins for each opposing starter (if they didn’t have 5 starts under their belt, I just took the 5 starts closest to their start against the Twins) to get an idea of how the pitchers were doing about the time they faced Minnesota. I calculated FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) as well as the more conventional ERA statistic for the 5 starts. Then I calculated runs per nine innings and WHIP for the start against the Twins.

Data and all that after the jump.

FIP Starts ERA v. Twins R/9 v. Twins WHIP v. Twins IP/Start v. Twins
All starters 162 4.19 4.61 1.35 6.1
FIP above 5.00 56 4.03 4.52 1.33 6.1
FIP between 4.20 and 5.00 50 4.36 4.86 1.41 5.8
FIP below 4.20 56 4.21 4.49 1.33 6.3
ERA Starts ERA v. Twins R/9 v. Twins WHIP v. Twins IP/Start v. Twins
ERA above 5.20 58 4.54 5.20 1.40 5.9
ERA between 3.60 and 5.20 52 3.31 3.67 1.25 6.3
ERA below 3.60 52 4.71 4.94 1.41 6.1

Generally, you could make an argument that there’s something to my observation. In both FIP and ERA, the starters with the worse numbers (in the highest category) coming into the game gave up less earned runs than the starters with the best numbers (in the lowest category). Although, it has to be noted that factoring in unearned runs levels those out significantly. I think I can spin that to my advantage though: The poor pitchers (high ERA / high FIP) are still not that good, they can’t pitch around mistakes behind them. The fact that the Twins needed those breaks just to produce at the same level against the struggling pitchers as they did against the pitchers going well speaks to the Twins struggles against subpar pitching.

Oddly, it seems that as an opposing starter, you wanted to come in with a middling ERA, since those starters allowed almost 1.5 runs/9 less than the others. Not sure if anything can be made of that.

Left-handed starters vs. Right-handed starters:

Starts ERA v. Twins R/9 v. Twins WHIP v. Twins IP/Start v. Twins
FIP RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP
All starters 116 46 4.25 4.05 4.71 4.37 1.34 1.38 6.0 6.1
FIP above 5.00 40 16 4.24 3.52 4.83 3.78 1.32 1.37 6.1 6.4
FIP between 4.20 and 5.00 35 15 4.33 4.45 4.82 4.97 1.40 1.43 5.8 5.8
FIP below 4.20 41 15 4.19 4.26 4.50 4.45 1.32 1.35 6.3 6.2
ERA RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP RHP LHP
ERA above 5.20 40 18 4.64 4.35 5.34 4.92 1.40 1.39 5.8 6.1
ERA between 3.60 and 5.20 37 15 3.56 2.72 3.99 2.91 1.25 1.25 6.2 6.4
ERA below 3.60 39 13 4.53 5.28 4.79 5.40 1.37 1.54 6.2 5.9

The American League average for starters in these stats are FIP – 4.48, ERA – 4.61, R/G – 4.71, WHIP – 1.41.

The only category where the Twins approach the league average starters ERA is against righthanded starters coming in with an ERA over 5.20 in their last 5 starts and left-handed starters with and ERA under 3.60 in their last 5. Which seem to be two pretty disparate categories. Obviously with only about 15 starts in each category, the left-handed starter data suffers a bit from sample-size concerns, but the Twins numbers against lefties are pretty consistently equal or worse than against righties in the same category. Except for the “good” lefties. Populating the “ERA under 3.60” category are names such as Bedard, Sabathia, Buerhle, and Washburn so there are some quality names in there but the Twins did their damage against the likes of John Danks, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Miller, all of whom had significantly larger FIPs than ERAs, so it wasn’t that surprising they gave up more than their recent ERAs would indicate.

One more side note, 42 times this season the opposing starter allowed 0 or 1 run before exiting. Those starts are pretty evenly distributed across the categories I described above.

0 run 1 run Total
FIP above 5.00 4 9 13
FIP 4.20-5.00 9 6 15
FIP below 4.20 6 8 14
ERA above 5.20 6 4 10
ERA 3.60-5.20 6 12 18
ERA below 3.60 7 7 14

So, after looking at all that, I would say that if there was a struggling pitcher the Twins offense didn’t necessarily evaporate, it just didn’t get much more productive. I have to think that the anemic offense is the main contributor (moreso than anything the pitchers did), the Twins just weren’t capable of punishing struggling pitchers like they should have. It just got especially frustrating with a pedestrian starter out there against them.

If you’re interested, here’s the raw data.

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