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December 29, 2006

Notes On The McCarthy-Danks Trade

(I’ve been out-of-pocket for a few days, so if I’m repeating someone else’s observations, I apologize…)

Age and Level
As mentioned by Adam yesterday, McCarthy isn’t two years older than Danks, only seventeen months. Because ages as applied to seasons are determined by a player’s age as of July 1, McCarthy is listed as two years older. Here is how McCarthy and Danks have advanced through minors in terms of age:

McCarthy Danks
Rookie Rookie, Short-Season
Rookie, Short-Season Low A, High A
Short-Season, Low A, High A High A, AA
High A, AA AA, AAA
AAA, Majors ---
Majors ---

Danks is only about a year ahead of McCarthy. McCarthy debuted in the Majors at the age of 22 years, 10 months. Danks will turn 22 next April.

Minor Performance
McCarthy clearly has pitched better than Danks in the minors. In addition an ERA nearly a full run lower than Danks, all the peripheral stats favor McCarthy.

Opp. Avg.
McCarthy 3.92 3.39 .236 2.3% 4.9% 28.5%
Danks 4.96 4.33 .256 2.6% 8.6% 24.1%

But, stats can mislead. Many pitchers with good minor-league stats in aggregate have a shaky combination of outstanding stats in the low minors and mediocre performances in AA and AAA. To place more importance on higher levels, I created a weighted average, giving a lower level in the minors only two-thirds the weight of the one above it. So, AA counts two-thirds as much as AAA, high-A counts two-thirds as much as AA, etc. By the time we hit bottom, the Rookie League gets only about one-seventh the credit of AAA.

Why two-thirds? Well... it seems reasonable. I’m sure I (or someone) could look into the stats and devise a better weight for each level, but for the purpose of this simple exercise, two-thirds will suffice. Now, how do McCarthy and Danks match up:

Minors, Weighted
Opp. Avg.
McCarthy 3.94 3.71 .230 2.7% 5.6% 28.2%
Danks 5.35 4.58 .262 2.9% 8.9% 23.3%

Again, McCarthy runs the table, and Danks’s weighted RA jumps to an uncomfortable 5.35 (21% of his runs in AAA were unearned.)

Chicago’s US Cellular Field plays nearly as hitter-friendly as Texas’s Ballpark. Cellular had a run factor of 1.05 versus the Ballpark’s 1.08 in 2006. Cellular depresses singles, doubles and triples but allows more homers and walks. Translating McCarthy’s statistics to Arlington increases his ERA only by about 0.05.

Intentional Walks
Ozzie Guillen ordered more intentional walks than any AL team and more than nine NL teams last season. Nine of McCarthy’s 33 walks were intentional. He got off easy; Neal Cotts issued seven free passes in just 30 innings. Losing the IBBs decreases McCarthy’s walk rate from 3.5 to 2.6 per nine innings.

McCarthy has permitted an uncommonly low hit rate on balls in play of .252 in the Majors. The White Sox as a whole allowed a .290 average on balls in play during 2005-2006. Perhaps McCarthy has a genuine ability to depress hits, but the probability of him continuing to allow an average 48 points below his teammates is very remote. Giving him a team-average hit rate in 2006 results in ten more hits allowed and a full run added to his ERA.

Earned Run Average
Pitchers who allow a high number of unearned runs usually aren’t as good as their ERAs would suggest. For example, in 2005 Kevin Millwood had an ERA of 2.86 but allowed eleven unearned runs (15% of his total), indicating his season was a bit of a fluke.

McCarthy has allowed zero unearned runs in 152 innings. He has a career ERA+ of 104, but his RA+ is 112. In 2006, he had a Component ERA (a Bill James creation that estimates what the pitcher’s ERA “should be” based on peripheral stats) of just 4.10 compared to his actual ERA of 4.68. (Note that the Component ERA does not compensate for his abnormally low hit rate on balls in play. Again, giving him a typical hit rate increases his ERA and RA by a run.)

Posted by Lucas at December 29, 2006 10:25 AM