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Toughness Quantified!

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This man is tough. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
This man is tough. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
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Over the past few years, advanced statistics have infiltrated baseball. Front offices are filled with Ivy League economists making decisions based on esoteric numbers, some fans think they’re smarter than players, and anyone brave enough to talk about intangibles gets mercilessly mocked on "blogs." What these nerds just don’t understand is that you can’t measure heart, scrappyness, grit, or toughness. Until now.

I’ve just invented a new metric that I think will accurately measure toughness in pitchers. It’s called Batters Retired On Broken Leg per Nine Innings, or BROBL/9. Currently, our very own Jeff Niemann leads the league this year with a BROBL/9 of .526. The league average, weighted by innings pitched is .002, and our sample has a standard deviation of .024. This means that Niemann is more than a full 21 standard deviations above average in BROBL/9.

And while the Rays pitching staff as a group sports a BROBL/9 significantly below Niemann, their .056 mark still leads the league. This is a testament to the Rays training staff, strength and conditioning staff, and Maddon’s motivational abilities.

But how do we know if we can trust BROBL/9? Do we have a large enough sample size yet this season? To answer this question, I ran a split half reliability test similar to Pizza Cutter’s iconic study. I put all PAs this season into alternating buckets, with the hope that I’d be neutralizing park and weather affects. Astonishingly, the two buckets matched completely with an r of 1! It seems that BROBL/9 stabilizes almost as soon as the season begins.

So what can we learn from our new tool? Jeff Niemann is a tough guy, as are the Rays as a whole. The Red Sox are much less tough, which goes a long way toward explaining last year’s historic collapse.

As always, I invite you to examine my data. The BROBL/9 numbers are my own, IP is from Fangraphs. If you have suggestions for how to objectively quantify other intangibles as well, I’d love to hear them.