The Atlanta Braves have had a roller coaster season, especially on the pitching front. First, Brandon Beachy starts the season with a sub-2.00 ERA, looking like an early CYA candidate before his elbow popped. Craig Kimbrel then proceeded to get some CYA pub. While Kimbrel has maintained his dominance, Kris Medlen has stepped up and thrown his hat in the CYA race, quite shocking after doing an effective, but unremarkable, job in the bullpen the first half of the season.
Below is a B-Ref WAR leaderboard, with a couple names taken out near the bottom due to their lack of notoriety and CYA credentials. For those not too familiar with the B-R WAR system for pitchers, their main basis for value is runs allowed, not FIP like FanGraphs. I like this system better for awards and FanGraphs for projections. After figuring out RA/9, they adjust for quality of opponents, defensive support, role, park factors, and leverage.
RA9opp is the amount of R/9 an average pitcher is expected to allow against the lineups that pitcher has faced. RA9def uses team DRS and that pitcher’s percentage of batters faced who put the ball in play, and this is actually subtracted from the RA9opp, while the rest are added. GB/FB tendencies are NOT factored in, which does lead to a bit of problems, but not enough to drastically affect the results. RA9role gives a bonus to starters, since they are expected to allow about half a run more per nine innings compared to throwing in relief. PPFp is the weighted average of the park factors that a pitcher has thrown in this year. RA9avg is what an average pitcher is expected to allow, after adjusting for all of these factors.
At the end of June, I doubt anyone would have imagined Medlen sitting fifth on this list, even though this will be one of the lowest league-leading WAR values ever. Clayton Kershaw has faced the toughest opponents, while Kyle Lohse has had the easiest matchups. Medlen and Kimbrel have had the most defensive support of everyone, though Kimbrel’s huge K numbers give him less BIP, therefore less defensive support. R.A. Dickey has dealt with the worst defensive support. Medlen, Aroldis Chapman, and Kimbrel are the only pitchers on the list who have spent significant time in the bullpen, which hurts their value a bit. As expected, pitching in Cincinnati and Arizona increases the run environment, while throwing in San Francisco and Los Angeles lowers it. Kimbrel and Chapman get over half a win increase due to their high-leverage outings, while everyone else gets docked about .1 WAR.
Overall, Medlen misses out on sitting on top because of the defensive support and relief stint. WAR is generally considered accurate + .5 WAR, so don’t use this table to say Dickey has been better than Kershaw because of the .1 difference. Medlen will get one or maybe two more starts to help his case, but he will likely not make it to 5 WAR. Aside from someone like Keith Law, this table will mean nothing to most voters, who choose based on wins, ERA, and team performance. Medlen has two of those three in his favor, but Johnny Cueto and Gio Gonzalez have all three, while Dickey has the full-season performance. Medlen might get a couple votes, but I see Kimbrel and many others finishing ahead of him in the end.