David Gassko has a piece up at the Hardball Times about which pitchers were especially lucky and which pitchers were unlucky in 2006. Using DIPS (Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics) and LIPS (Luck Independent Pitching Statistics), Gassko concludes that Chien-Ming Wang was the luckiest pitcher in 2006: "While Wang was worth 52 runs above replacement last year, he should have been worth about seven, according to LIPS, so Yankees fans should expect a big step backwards this year." At the same time, Randy Johnson, the pitcher so many Yankees fans are anxious to get rid of, was one of the unluckiest, and Gassko expects bigger things from him in 2007: "New York can legitimately expect an under-4.00 ERA from the Big Unit next season, which will make for a nice comeback after his 5.00 ERA in ‘06."
And that is not all, loyal readers of YFSF. Gassko also writes that Josh "The Most Overrated Human Being Ever!" Beckett actually was very unlucky this past season: "…the LIPS stats show that Beckett allowed many more home runs than we would have expected. Expect him to have a much better season next year."
As with all statistics, DIPS and LIPS are not the end-all and should be viewed with suspicion and applied according to your personal biases. For instance, Gassko is clearly wrong about Wang and Beckett (Wang transcends stats, he is a freaking pitching genius; Beckett is rated better than he actually is by a lot of reasonable people, I clearly understand this while everyone else is a bit crazy), but is probably right about Johnson (the numbers do not lie).
Another note on Johnson: After 2005, most Red Sox fans were not ready to count Curt Schilling out, even though he had posted a mid 5 ERA that season. Their reasoning (which eventually showed itself to be true) was that Schilling’s poor 2005 was, in large part, a result of his struggles with injuries. In the off-season, he recovered, and his 2006 was very good. At the end of the 2006 season, we find out that Johnson, for a large part of the year, was dealing with a back injury, which he recently had successful surgery for. Presumably before a trade occurs, the D-Back (or whatever team eventually gets him) will look at his medical records, do a physical and deem him ready to go for 2006. Otherwise, the trade isn’t happening. My point is that Johnson will probably be healthier in 2007 than he was in 2006, and he has a history of being a spectacular pitcher, actually a better pitcher than Schilling. Perhaps, I’m deluded, but I’m fully expecting a rebound by Johnson in 2007, and if that happens, he’s going to be a #1 or #2 pitcher. Maybe, the money we save will help the Yanks land a Clemens or Zito. But should we count on either possibility? And should we be excited about either pitcher? Why not let Johnson pitch out 2007 with us and get his salary off the books in 2008 when we can pursue Carlos Zambrano?