CSW+: The Next Step

Colin Charles introduces the newest member of the CSW family: CSW+. CSW+ is a league and team adjusted statistic to partner with CSW, to show pitcher's performance against different levels of competition.

On April 16th, Alex Fast released an excellent article on a new metric called CSW. If you are unfamiliar with that stat I highly recommend that you check out Alex’s article before continuing. The formula for CSW is very simple:

 

Called Strikes + Whiffs
Total Pitches

 

It takes into account called strikes, swinging strikes (including blocked ones), swinging pitchouts, and foul tips into the glove, while excluding foul balls, then dividing by the total pitches thrown in an outing. One of the most interesting aspects of CSW is that it correlates with SIERA better than other commonly used metrics like called strikes, whiffs, and swinging strikes. Again, please read Alex’s article if you haven’t already.

Since the release of that article, I’ve noticed that CSW is getting a lot more attention (as it should!) on Twitter, podcasts, and the like. Now even very early on, one of the most asked questions was: “Is this stat team or league adjusted?” and early on the answer was no. However, after some discussions with Nick and Alex and them having to bear with many of my ramblings through the Discord group, we came up with a complimentary statistic called CSW+.

 

CSW+: A Compliment to CSW

 

In my attempts to develop a league and team adjusted companion to CSW, I went straight to FanGraphs. That site is one of the most informative places on the internet for baseball information and statistics. One of the most valuable (and I suspect under-utilized corners of the site) is the glossary section, where they outline the methods behind many of their statistics. I initially went directly to the wRC+ page because I figured that would be a good place to start, but after a bit more digging I came across the ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- page and decided to model CSW+ after those statistics. The formula for CSW+ is as follows:

So yeah, if you are familiar with any of the pitching “minus” statistics, this should look very similar. The first thing to make clear here is that CSW+ is calculated per game pitched. That is due to the inclusion of the Team Factor, where the Team Factor is calculated as a team’s collective (batting) CSW divided by the league CSW (Note: The Team Factor is not league adjusted). There will be more examples and tables below, but as a quick example: As of May 15th, the Boston Red Sox batters had a CSW of 27.4% and the league average was 28.9%, so their Team Factor is calculated as follows: 27.4/28.9 = 0.948 (which can change slightly depending on how many decimal points you use).

 

CSW+: The Process

 

The thing I had the most difficulty with during this whole process is how to apply the Team Factor, since CSW will be dynamic with each game played and we don’t want to make it difficult to calculate. So initially here is how we will proceed:

  1. For our calculations of CSW+ we will use the daily updated CSW to calculate the Team Factor.
  2. We will update a community Team Factor and League adjustment on the 1st and 15th of each month going forward on the open source CSW sheet that Alex posts on Twitter each day.

Taking a closer look at each team’s batter’s CSW in the 2019 season, it seems as though the things may have stabilized already. So I’m guessing that updating the Team Factors twice per month should suffice for the time being.

 

 

Let’s also take a closer look at a single team, we’ll use the Toronto Blue Jays as an example here, to see how much variability there is we see in daily CSW. The CSW reported is a cumulative CSW (e.g. in the first game the Jays posted a 28.7% CSW, in the second game was 31.9%, but the average between the two was 30.48%). By the 25th game of the season, the daily CSW was changing by about 0.5%, and at this point in the season (about game 50), that has dropped to about 0.3%. I suspect that we have reached our stabilization point, but I don’t have any stats to back that up.

 

% Change in Daily CSW
Game NumberTeamGame DateCSW% Change
1TOR2019-03-2828.70370NA
2TOR2019-03-2930.487806.216
3TOR2019-03-3027.55906-9.606
4TOR2019-03-3129.230776.066
5TOR2019-04-0128.79257-1.499
23TOR2019-04-2130.84848-1.007
24TOR2019-04-2330.75581-0.300
25TOR2019-04-2430.844520.288
26TOR2019-04-2630.68427-0.520
27TOR2019-04-2730.50804-0.574
46TOR2019-05-1929.94195-0.308
47TOR2019-05-2030.052430.369
48TOR2019-05-2129.95176-0.335
49TOR2019-05-2229.980140.095
50TOR2019-05-2329.94987-0.101

 

Below is an extension of the table we just saw, except that it contains the daily change in CSW for each team.

 

 

CSW+: League and Team Factor

 

We are going to keep this section short and sweet. We see that the NL has a slightly higher CSW compared to the AL:

 

League CSW as of 15-May-2019
LeagueLeague CSW
AL28.4%
NL29.1%

 

And here are the Team Factors as of May 15th. We can see that teams like the Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres, and the Blue Jays post the highest CSW rates and the Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and Houston Astros are on the lower end. I want to reiterate that the Team Factor is calculated from a team’s hitters, not pitchers.

 

TeamFactor as of 15-May-2019
TeamCSWTeamFactor
MIA31.2%1.081
SD30.6%1.060
TOR30.3%1.048
DET29.7%1.028
MIL29.7%1.027
TB29.7%1.026
COL29.6%1.024
TEX29.6%1.023
PHI29.5%1.022
ARI29.5%1.020
BAL29.2%1.012
KC29.2%1.012
SEA29.1%1.009
CWS29.1%1.006
WSH29.0%1.004
CHC28.9%1.001
SF28.9%1.001
OAK28.9%1.000
NYM28.8%0.996
NYY28.7%0.994
STL28.6%0.991
CLE28.4%0.984
CIN28.2%0.976
PIT28.1%0.971
LAD28.0%0.970
LAA28.0%0.970
BOS27.4%0.949
HOU27.4%0.947
ATL27.3%0.946
MIN26.3%0.912

 

CSW+ in Action

 

Enough with the theory and the calculations. We all know you’re here to see this sucker in action. Here are the results from May 23rd, 2019:

 

CSW & CSW+ from 23-May-2019
Batting TeamPitching TeamGame DatePitcherCSWCSW+
WSHNYM2019-05-23Steven Matz35.2%120
CHCPHI2019-05-23Aaron Nola34.4%117
NYYBAL2019-05-23Dylan Bundy34.1%120
COLPIT2019-05-23Jordan Lyles33%111
HOUCWS2019-05-23Lucas Giolito32.7%121
CLETB2019-05-23Ryan Yarbrough32.3%117
CWSHOU2019-05-23Corbin Martin31.8%109
SFATL2019-05-23Kevin Gausman31.8%108
ATLSF2019-05-23Madison Bumgarner31.4%112
BALNYY2019-05-23Masahiro Tanaka30.5%104
MIADET2019-05-23Matthew Boyd29.4%94
TORBOS2019-05-23Ryan Weber28%94
LAAMIN2019-05-23Martin Perez27.3%98
PHICHC2019-05-23Jon Lester26.2%88
DETMIA2019-05-23Trevor Richards25.3%86
TBCLE2019-05-23Adam Plutko24.1%82
NYMWSH2019-05-23Stephen Strasburg18.8%65
PITCOL2019-05-23Antonio Senzatela14.9%53

 

Now let’s highlight two pitchers from the table and go through the calculations:

 

Jordan Lyles

Game CSW: 33%

Team Factor (Opponent): 1.024 (Rockies)

NL CSW: 29.1%

CSW+ = ((33 + (33 – (33*1.024))) / 29.1) * 100 = 111

 

Lucas Giolito

Game CSW: 32.7%

Team Factor (Opponent): 0.947 (Astros)

AL CSW: 28.4%

CSW+ = ((32.7 + (32.7 – (32.7*0.947))) / 28.4) * 100 = 121

 

And here we go: an interesting result. Even though Lyles posted a higher CSW, his CSW+ is lower than that of Giolito. This is because Giolito did it against a much tougher opponent. The Colorado Rockies hitters have posted a higher than average CSW rate, while the Astros are well below league average. Also notice that Giolito had the best performance of the night when using CSW+ despite posting the fifth best CSW rate. Even with just this one example, we can see how CSW+ can inform us relative to opponent quality.

 

Conclusion

 

Almost immediately the community asked for a standardized CSW, and I really hope we delivered. As was the case with CSW, CSW+ should only be used on a micro level to see how pitchers performed over a single start. Future work will consist of the next steps with be to calculate a season long CSW+ for each pitcher. Perhaps that will be as simple as taking a mean of a pitcher’s CSW+ from each start. That is a problem for later, but in the meantime maybe someone out there will take it upon themselves to explore more of what the CSW family of metrics has to offer.

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Colin Charles

I am a data analyst for Pitcher List currently residing in Winnipeg, MB. I've been an R user for 9+ years and a baseball fan for much longer.

  • Avatar Jon says:

    Commenting only to say I love the work you guys do. Great job on CSW and CSW+

  • Avatar J says:

    This is great. I always have a hard time trying to remember what’s good for CSW, so that makes my life a lot easier. It would be cool if eventually you guys could make leaderboards.

  • Avatar Colin Charles says:

    There is an open source CSW that Alex Fast had been maintaining this year. I don’t know if a leaderboard is in the cards this year, but Nick has said that the next version of PL will be the year of stats. So maybe next March

  • Avatar Nick says:

    Awesome, thanks for this!
    The CSW and CSW+ formulas assume that called and swinging strikes have equal value. I wonder if this is true, and if the formula might be improved if a swinging strike was weighted a bit more than a called strike.

    • Avatar Colin Charles says:

      Thanks for the comment. Alex and I have had this conversation as well. Hopefully we can come up with a solution to properly weigh a called strike versus a whiff and release a wCSW in the future

  • Avatar Greg Burda says:

    This is awesome data, but it’s entirely possible to enhance the stat with the CSW rate for each player in a given lineup, not the Team avg CSW. For example, in Giolito’s performance vs. the Astros I believe Springer and Correa did not play (or something like that). If a pitcher’s individual performance is to be praised the actual lineup construction he faced should be accounted for.

    • Avatar Colin Charles says:

      That is a fantastic idea. Calculating the CSW for each batter would be fairly straightforward, and you’re right it would be more reflective on who the pitcher actually faced. I have a few other things on the go right now, but I will keep this in mind. Thanks for the comment.

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