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Kevin Goldstein on elite minor league pitching stats

Over at BP today, Kevin Goldstein has an item up discussing minor league pitching prospects and what stats he looks at in evaluating them.

Goldstein explains:

A great deal of the e-mails and chat questions that I receive concern pitching statistics, with most writers wanting to know what numbers they should look at when evaluating prospects, and which are more relevant than others. My answer usually begins with the caveat that you really have to have scouting reports, and that you can never judge minor leaguers at any level by numbers alone. While it's still baseball, the minor league game is very different than the major league version, and there are certain skill sets that can lead to great-looking numbers in the minors, with little or no promise of big-league success.

That said, there are numbers that I do look at, and they involve keeping the ball out of play (strikeouts), and keeping runners off base (hit and walk rates). Combining those things, I use a simplistic measurement I call MBN, or Missed Bat Number. The simple formula is K-H-BB, or strikeouts minus baserunners allowed. Divide that by innings pitched and one gets MBR or Missed Bats Ratio. On a basic level, any positive number (which would indicate more strikeouts than runners allowed) is outstanding, and the all-time major league record is +116 by Pedro Martinez in his ridiculous 1999 season that included 313 strikeouts against only 128 hits and 32 walks.

Goldstein goes on to explain that there were only 11 minor leaguers who had a positive number this year in at least 100 minor league innings, and offers a little write-up on each.

The Rangers had two of those eleven pitchers (only the Indians also had as many as two), Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland, and I particularly liked one line Goldstein has about Holland:

He's also my favorite kind of breakout player, because when you ask the Rangers themselves to explain the sudden increase, the answers basically amount to, "don't know, but I'm not complaining about it."

Of course, the Rangers' major league staff this year only had one pitcher who ever posted a positive number in a minor league season where he had at least 100 innings.  That guy did it twice, and still was rather underwhelming in 2008...