Reviving The Quadrinity–The Pitchers

Let’s shift now from Lucky/Unlucky, where we’ve been for the last three installments, to another gimmicky approach that has proven surprisingly useful over the seasons. We refer to the Quadrinity. Brief history lesson: long ago, Bret Sayre, then of Baseball Prospectus, posited that “the three skills that are most important to the art of pitching [are] getting strikeouts, reducing walks, and keeping the ball on the ground,” and that pitchers who can do those three things, as betokened by their above-average numbers in those categories, are worth the attention of those of us who care about such matters. He called this approach The Holy Trinity. And it made sense to us.

Back then, in the Roto Middle Ages, there wasn’t the kind of blanket monitoring of hard-hitness (hard-hittedness?) that there is now. So when we came along and started writing for Fangraphs, we proposed a variation on Sayre’s approach that takes that information into account. We call it the Holy Quadrinity, and to identify The Elect who qualify, we look for pitchers who are in the upper half of two categories (strikeout percentage and soft-hit percentage) and the lower half—that is, the better half, from the pitcher’s standpoint—of two others (walk percentage and hard-hit percentage). We were dubious about whether this approach would be worthwhile, not because it wouldn’t identify strong pitching performances but because it would identify only the obviously strong pitching performances. You don’t need us to tell you that Sandy Alcantara had a great 2022 season. But to our surprise, the approach identified a fair number of pitchers who, to the naked eye, had not-great (and sometimes even not-good) seasons. And while it’s not infallible, it points you more often than you’d expect to mid-priced-to-cheap pitchers whose performance in the following season outstrips expectation. And, moreover, and perhaps even more surprisingly, it works with relief pitchers, too. (Oh, and by the way: it also works for hitters — more on that in the next installment.)

Each year, we start by looking for Trinitarians, of whom there are usually so many that it’s not, by itself, an especially useful winnowing exercise. Then we look for Quadrinitarians, of whom there are generally fewer. And then we identify the elite pitchers who qualify as both. We call them Super High Fives, after an absurd racetrack sucker bet with a ruinous vig that helps explain why horse racing is a moribund industry in the US. And if a Super High Fiver is coming off a season in which he was unlucky—see our last three articles for an explanation—we double down.

Here, then, are the starting pitchers we came up with:

First, the Super High Fivers: Alex Cobb, Chris Bassitt, Joe Musgrove, Sandy Alcantara, Zack Wheeler, Clayton Kershaw, Max Fried. Next, the Quadrinitarians: Rich Hill, Taijuan Walker, Austin Voth, Alek Manoah, Marcus Stroman, Nestor Cortes, Julio Urías, Steven Matz, Yu Darvish, Bailey Falter, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer. (We’ll list the Trinitarians at the end of the article.) Matz and Falter, we note, were unlucky last season.

And here are the relievers:

Super High Fivers: Shawn Armstrong, Evan Phillips, Edwin O Díaz, Adam Ottavino, Andrés Muñoz, Jhoan Duran, Michael King, plus Scott Effross, who’s out for the season. Quadrinitarians: Taylor Hearn, Phil Maton, Rafael Montero, Connor Brogdon, Collin McHugh, Kenley Jansen, Ryan Helsley, Hunter Harvey, Erik Swanson, Joe Jimenez, Dylan Lee. Munoz, Duran, and Brogdon were unlucky last season. Once again, the Trinitarians are listed below.

The trick we attempt every year is to assemble an inexpensive pitching staff composed exclusively of these guys. Heretofore, we’ve used $80 as our benchmark, figuring that a nine-pitcher staff in plain-vanilla 5×5 Roto costs about $85. But, as our own research showed us, times have changed, and the average team spends a bit more than $100 for pitchers. So let’s use a $95 budget, relying on the National Fantasy Baseball Championship’s Average Auction Values for the prices of individual pitchers.

Here’s what we came up with: Fried ($23), Manoah ($23), Bassitt ($7), Cobb ($4), Stroman ($1), Matz ($1), Helsley ($18), Munoz ($9), Duran ($9).  That’s $93. We think that both Munoz and Duran will be their teams’ closers before long this season, but if you want a “proven closer,” go with Jansen ($15) and, say, Montero ($1) instead. (Speaking of Jansen: every year we expect him to topple off the high wire he walks when he pitches, and every year he produces a Wallendaesque performance. Two more seasons like last year and he belongs in the Hall of Fame conversation, don’t you think?)

Next time, we’ll identify the hitter Quadrinitarians, and try to assemble a plausible Roto team comprised entirely of them. Meanwhile, here are the Trinitarian pitchers who aren’t also in the Quadrinity:

Starters: Shohei Ohtani, Lance Lynn, Gerrit Cole, Tylor Megill, Tony Gonsolin, Aaron Nola, Pedro Severino, Garrett Whitlock, George Kirby, Frankie Montas, Tarik Skubal, Zac Gallen, Carlos Carrasco, Pablo López, Nathan Eovaldi, Corbin Burnes, Jordan Montgomery, Braxton Garrett, Walker Buehler, Alex Wood, Shane Bieber, Brady Singer, Shane McClanahan, Kyle Wright.

Relievers: Jordan Romano, Jason Adam, Ryan Pressly, Trevor Stephan, Chris Martin, Jalen Beeks, Andrew Chafin, Mark Leiter Jr., John Schreiber, Sam Hentges.

The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

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1 year ago

Pedro Severino? Huh? I don’t think a bad catcher is a Trinitarian pitcher.

1 year ago

You meant Kenley Jansen but typed Pedro Severino and expected people to know who you meant?