I modified the assumptions, and did a third version of the study. I made five changes for the third version:
1. Rather than assuming that all the teams would be .500 teams when the key pitcher wasn't on the mound, I randomized the quality of the team. In some years, the win expectation of the team without the key pitcher might be as high as .610; in other years, it might be as low as .410.
2. I also improved the average quality of the team, from .500 to .510.
3. I reduced the quality of the "added" pitchers from an expected winning percentage of .584 to an expected winning percentage of .560.
4. I made the contrast between the two pitchers less sharp. The Pappas/Sutton-type pitcher was increased from 30 decisions in his peak years to 32; the Drysdale/Carlton type was decreased from a maximum of 39 decisions to 38, and also the quality difference between them in their best years was reduced very slightly.
5. I gave the Drysdale/Carlton-type pitcher a 17th season, and gave both pitchers a few more career decisions. I changed the expected career won-lost record for the prototype from 218-155 to 240-189.
These changes were intended to improve the realism of the study, make the conditions studied more like actual teams. The effect of the changes was to make it much, much more likely that the team could win the pennant without the help of this pitcher, and thus much more likely for the "Bill Singer problem" to occur, wherein the key pitcher might actually prevent the team from winning the pennant if he had an off season.
In the third version of the study, the difference between the two pitchers in terms of pennant impact was sharply reduced.
In this study, which does replicate real-life conditions better than the others, the incremental value of the Pappas/Sutton type-pitcher is 180 pennants in 10,000 years; the incremental value of the Drysdale/Carlton type is 203 pennants. The advantage decreases, but it doesn't go away.
So it is very clearly true, based on these studies, that big years mean something. The historic bias in favor of pitchers who have big seasons appears to be justified -- and Pappas' argument that he should be treated equally with Drysdale, because his record is almost the same, should be rejected.
Copyright © 1994, 1995 by Bill James. Excerpted with permission.