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Is ERA the Best Measuring Stick for a Pitching Staff

12 October 2011 No Comment

The most used and perhaps over-rated statistic in pitching is earned run average.  It dictates pitching leaders, and in many cases establishes who the best pitcher in the game is.  But, is it really the best measuring stick for a pitching staff?  How many times have you seen a staff give up runs after an error on what should be the third out.  All runs after that point are unearned, but, does that create a false perception of effectiveness.  If the pitcher gives up four runs after that error, it won’t show up on his earned run average.  Better yet, how about if the pitcher allows the runner score on his own error.  That is still not earned.  There are many coaches who feel earned run average can be a good tool to judge your staff.  In concept, it is there to tell you what the pitcher is really responsible for in regards to the runs being allowed.  Many staffs are judged and many pitchers/pitching coaches are judged on this one stat.  We asked our panel of coaches at InsidePitching.com to decide if earned run average is the best measuring stick for a pitching staff.

Derek Johnson
Vanderbilt University
I think ERA is a relatively poor indicator of what the pitcher is actually doing or not doing in his outings.  I think the true measuring stick is batting average against and well-hit average against.  If a pitcher has a high ERA but low well hit average against, then he is doing his job but the ball is not rolling his way.  On the other hand, a pitcher may have a low ERA but high batting average against, which means his defense is probably saving him.  You and I will welcome the defense saving him, but the big picture is the kid is not missing bats/forcing weak contact and that will not win games in the long run.

Terry Rooney
University of Central Florida
ERA is only a single element in analyzing the productivity of a pitching staff. The true success of a staff lies within what the individual coach chooses to emphasize. Whereas talent varies in each staff, the elements which pitchers can control do not.  For example: Command of the strike zone (walks per 9ing) Ultimately, the measuring stick is determined by the philosophy of that staff.

Ryan Sawyers
West Virginia Wesleyan
Using ERA as a measuring stick can be very tricky.  I personally don’t think it should be used as a major benchmark in the success of a staff, especially at the amateur levels.  A pitcher with a bad defense behind
him is going to give up his share of unearned runs but he will also give up more earned runs as well.  At higher levels ERA is a more useful measuring stick but as you move down the amateur ranks I feel it becomes more and more distorted.

Tim Dixon
The Air Force Academy
I think E.R.A is a good measuring stick for a team’s production, but is not the most important. Relievers can have one bad outing and spend the rest of the season getting their E.R.A. to a respectable number. I like to compare hits per innings pitched and strikeout to walk ratio. Those numbers are giving you a better idea of how your staff is pitching. We shoot for at least a two to one strikeout to walk ratio and the hits should be close, if not under, innings pitched.

Cory Domel
Flagler College
I don’t feel ERA is a true measurement of a pitching staff, but it is definitely the one looked at the most.  I feel stats like batting average against and K to BB ratio are better assessments of how a staff is performing.  ERA gives you a general idea (good or bad) of how things may be going but looking deeper in the stats will help you know why.

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