Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is Bud Norris actually J.A. Happ?

Yesterday I posed a topic on Twitter: Bud Norris is J.A. Happ. Discuss.

Response was mixed, at best. So, let's take a look and compare the two, shall we?


Okay, let's stop here for a second. Amazingly, both have pitched almost exactly the same number of innings, so we can actually get a pretty good idea here. Were you surprised about the ERA/WHIP favoring Happ? Of course Norris strikes out more batters - that is something we already knew - so the K:BB ratio is going to favor Norris. But still - that BB/9 ratio? Pretty similar, huh?

Let's dig a little deeper:

(Note: Strike% comes from FanGraphs and indicates the percentage of pitches thrown for strikes; Pit/PA is Pitches per Plate Appearance; BF/Out is Batters Faced per Out; GB/FB is Groundball to Flyball ratio)


Alright, this is where we start to see *a little* separation. Norris is slightly more efficient in terms of Pitches per Plate Appearance, but they're virtually identical in terms of FIP, Strike%, and Batters Faced per Out. Norris does generate more groundballs.

One more table, then we'll draw some conclusions. Again, stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

(Swing% is the total percentage of pitches a hitter swings at; Contact% is the total percentage of pitches in which a hitter makes contact; SwStr% is the percentage of swinging strikes; Zone% is the total percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone; F-Strike% is the total percentage of first pitches thrown for strikes)


This is my attempt to be fair and balanced, and not just post stats that favor my point. Norris gets more swings, generates less contact, more swinging strikes, and throws more first-pitch strikes than J.A. Happ. The point is, while Norris strikes out more batters (marginally, anyway) and throws more strikes, he's just as inefficient as J.A. Happ.

Norris has made 108 starts, and in those starts has thrown 623.2IP, meaning he's averaging about 5.2IP per start (5.77 innings, to be exact). Happ? He's made 20 appearances as a reliever (Norris' 1st ML appearance was in relief, and then it's been all starts). In Happ's 103 starts, he's thrown 586.1IP - an average of oh, hey, 5.2IP (5.69 innings per start).

Yes, Norris has better velocity, better stuff, but his results are almost exactly the same as J.A. Happ. When we think of the possibility of trading Bud Norris, we get indignant, and I can understand that. Norris is one of the few players left with whom we - as fans - can identify. Should the Astros trade Norris, there will be a backlash because, you know, INTEGRITY. But let's keep some perspective here. Was it hard to replace J.A. Happ? Not really. They're both perfectly decent pitchers. Norris is not great in the same way that J.A. Happ isn't bad. But Norris is at the point where the Astros would be trading the name of the staff ace, not the stats of a staff ace.