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April In The Minnesota Twins Bullpen

May is upon us. While the Minnesota Twins lost again on Sunday, May 1, I would certainly assume that they are ready to be done with April. An 0-9 start and an overall record of 7-17 is something that the Twins would like to move past.

The Twins’ bullpen wasn’t good in April. I think we can all agree with that, and the number of blown saves alone would illustrate it well. Obviously any time that a late-inning bullpen guy has a bad outing, it is likely to cost the team the game, or at least lessen the odds of the team winning.

But one thing I wanted to know going into the season, something I’ve been curious about for years, is how often can the manager call to a guy in the bullpen and that reliever got the job done. In other words, how reliable is the pitcher? If Paul Molitor calls on Ryan Pressly in the 7th or 8th inning how often did Pressly leave the game having done his job?
Image courtesy of Tommy Gilligan, USA Today
Every outing gets a “grade” of either Yes or No. Yes, he got the job done. No, he did not perform well for the situation he was called into. We have looked at this a couple of times already this month, so I thought a monthly recap would be important. It will also give us a basis for what happens in May, June and beyond.

Here are the overall success rates of the relievers in April:

Pitcher -- Yes-No (Success Rate)

Casey Fien -- 8-4 (66.7%)

Trevor May -- 7-5 (58.3%)

Fernando Abad -- 11-0 (100.0%)

Ryan Pressly -- 8-3 (72.7%)

Michael Tonkin -- 7-3 (70.0%)

Kevin Jepsen -- 5-5 (50.0%)

Ryan O’Rourke -- 5-2 (71.4%)

Glen Perkins - 0-2 (0.0%)

Taylor Rogers -- 1-0 (100.0%)

Alex Meyer -- 0-1 (0.0%)


So, in the season’s first month, Paul Molitor has gone to his bullpen 76 times. 52 of those times, or 68.4%, have been successful.

As I’ve acknowledged all along, this is subjective number based on my interpretation of what getting the job done is for a reliever. But it does give a good sense of where they are.

I’m certain it will be of no surprise to read that Kevin Jepsen has struggled, and since he’s been the closer, his non-successful outings have cost leads and in some cases games. Likewise, if you’ve watched, you’re likely not surprised to see that Fernando Abad has been perfect to this point.

In case you were wondering:
  • Fernando Abad - 11 G, 10.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 5 hits, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts.
  • Tony Sipp - 11 G, 8.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 10 hits, 3 walks, 9 strikeouts.
  • Antonio Bastardo - 9 G, 10.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9 hits, 3 walks, 16 strikeouts.
(Note - yes, I realize this is small sample size and could very well be flipped upside down in May which, of course, is the very nature of relief pitching.)

I won’t pretend know where these numbers will go, or if 68% success rate is good. What it does show is that four of the seven relievers used most often are within four percent of the average. Trevor May is about 10% below, and Kevin Jepsen is almost 20% below the average. Fernando Abad is 32% above the average. I would not be shocked if the average each month stays in the 67-75% range, and within each month, there will be a couple of outliers.
We shall find out. For good or ill.

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23 Comments

it's also how well you use the bullpen, proper matchups, maybe calling on someone too soon too often (like Pressly getting a week off for some reason).

 

And I don't think roles have been perfectly defined. Who are the long relief guys. Is everyone a situational,and how often is it a necessary fact to use them this way. 

 

The bullpen has been a mess.

 

Especially when you look at the rotation overall.

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bluechipper
May 01 2016 09:38 PM

It's probably not ideal when the opening day closer, set up man, and 7th inning guy have the three worst rates on the team.

    • PopRiveter and hybridbear like this

Didn't the Twins' bullpen win a MLB bullpen of the week award in the middle of this mess?

Yup. I wasn't dreaming, but it was like a dream.  Week 2 winners "Minnesota's BRS score was 13.5 points higher than the next closest team...."

 

http://m.twins.mlb.c...ticle/172982402

 

Jepsen is still fools gold. Forget about last years luck. It is foolish to continue to march him out there in save situations. He is not the future or even the present, and Perkins is history. The sooner the management realizes the future is the youth and lets them fail until they win, the better.

    • blairpaul715 and Platoon like this

Interesting comparison of Abad to a couple of much sought after peers.  I've also noticed high profile relief acquisitions like Giles, Storen, and even Kimbrel to an extent have not had great numbers.  With the way the bullpen has gone, I'd kind of come around to the idea the Twins should have brought in some more established help, but when you look at how those guys have done versus the cost it took to get them, it seems like the Twins probably took the right gamble.  And crapped out anyway.

 

I saw a note on MLBTR that the Twins were way in on Justin Wilson.  (Another one said they were in on Arrieta back when he was available, too!)  So you get what you get, I guess.  Should be ecstatic, really, that Abad has been this good.

    • 70charger and HitInAPinch like this
Oddly given a choice, everyone would trot out May over Tonkin. Again SSS. Given this team, at this time, I would easily send Jepsen down the road before Tonkin.

 

 

Michael Tonkin -- 7-3 (70.0%)

 

Not sure how you are counting here.  Tonkin had 10 games.  

 

In 4 of those he had inherited runs (6 total.)  In all 4 games he let all 6 runs score.  So he did not do his job.

 

In other 2, he was scored upon, one of them a game loser.  So he did not do his job.

 

So for sure in 6 games he did not do what he was called to do.

 

and that becomes 4-6

 

In other game he gave a hit, a walk, and got two outs.  Did he do his job?  Maybe.

 

There is no way he did his job in 7 games though :)

 

 

Same with Abad.4/27 against Cleveland.A game the Twins lost 5-6.He inherited 2 runs and both of them scored, allowed an additional unearned run and got just one out.He did not do his job by any means.

 

So why that is a good game for him, I do not know.

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lukeduke1980
May 02 2016 07:35 AM

I enjoy this report.  I think a lot of the unsuccessful outings were critical and led directly to losses - May's spiked curveballs and Pressly's home run stand out to me beside Jepsen.

 

Oddly given a choice, everyone would trot out May over Tonkin. Again SSS. Given this team, at this time, I would easily send Jepsen down the road before Tonkin.

 

I woudln't say "Oddly" as I don't see this as being predictive, and it doesn't really factor in situation/leverage, etc. I would still put May or Jepsen or Pressly or probably any of them in before Tonkin. 

 

Not sure how you are counting here.  Tonkin had 10 games.  

 

In 4 of those he had inherited runs (6 total.)  In all 4 games he let all 6 runs score.  So he did not do his job.

 

In other 2, he was scored upon, one of them a game loser.  So he did not do his job.

 

So for sure in 6 games he did not do what he was called to do.

 

and that becomes 4-6

 

In other game he gave a hit, a walk, and got two outs.  Did he do his job?  Maybe.

 

There is no way he did his job in 7 games though :)

You're double-counting one game where Tonkin allowed an inherited runner and allowed a run of his own (the 16 inning one).

 

Also, the other game where Tonkin allowed a run of his own, it was in a 3 inning long relief appearance.  I think 1 run in 3 innings counts as doing his job, particularly under those circumstances.

 

It appears Seth is dinging Tonkin for his first 3 inherited runner games, but not the most recent one vs Cleveland.  He inherited a runner at second and only one out and let him score, but he otherwise got 5 outs that day without allowing another run (or leaving any inherited runners for others).

 

Same with Abad.4/27 against Cleveland.A game the Twins lost 5-6.He inherited 2 runs and both of them scored, allowed an additional unearned run and got just one out.He did not do his job by any means.

 

So why that is a good game for him, I do not know.

Abad inherited second and third with nobody out.  He allowed an RBI groundout, and then a sac fly to score both runners (then Rosario dropped the sac fly, which put another runner on base that Tonkin allowed to score).  Abad had to face two reasonably good, hard to K hitters too in Lindor and Brantley.

 

Might be a spot where a simple +/- system doesn't work -- maybe this should be, at best, a neutral performance from Abad?

 

Here are the overall success rates of the relievers in April:
 

Pitcher -- Yes-No (Success Rate)

Casey Fien -- 8-4 (66.7%)

Trevor May -- 7-5 (58.3%)

Fernando Abad -- 11-0 (100.0%)

Ryan Pressly -- 8-3 (72.7%)

Michael Tonkin -- 7-3 (70.0%)

Kevin Jepsen -- 5-5 (50.0%)

Ryan O’Rourke -- 5-2 (71.4%)

Glen Perkins - 0-2 (0.0%)

Taylor Rogers -- 1-0 (100.0%)

Alex Meyer -- 0-1 (0.0%)

So, in the season’s first month, Paul Molitor has gone to his bullpen 76 times. 52 of those times, or 68.4%, have been successful.

 

 

Seth, since you yourself have questioned the meaning and usefulness of your measurement, may I suggest switching to something more quantitative?  So it is more easily tracked, understood, and compared across teams/years?

 

For example, I just scanned the Fangraphs game logs for WPA/LI and noted who had positive/negative marks for each appearance, and came up with the following results for April:

 

Pitcher, Positive-Negative

Fien 8-4

May 7-5

Abad 10-1

Pressly 8-3

Tonkin 5-5

Jepsen 5-5

O’Rourke 5-2

Perkins 1-1

Rogers 1-0

Meyer 0-1

 

As you can see, it's a pretty darn close match to your system.  The only differences are Perkins first outing (a scoreless mop-up inning for which you gave him a demerit), the one Abad appearance mentioned in my previous post, and two of Tonkin's appearances.  One of those he pitched 3 innings in relief of a starter's early exit -- maybe we have a special rule for such games?  And the other was allowing an inherited runner to score from second with one out, which could probably go either way.

 

In any case, it would be pretty easy to pull this WPA/LI info for every reliever/team, if you are interested. Might make this analysis more interesting going forward.

 

Strict WPA would be a pretty close match too, it would "forgive" Tonkin's 3 inning appearance but it would shift one appearance each on the ledgers of O'Rourke and Pressly, it appears.  Maybe an average of the two (WPA and WPA/LI) could effectively allow for half-credit (or half-demerit)?

I like this approach. It definitely allows for some subjectivity, but I think it tells a valuable part of the story. 

In this view, a sort-of-clunker appearance and a mega-clunker appearance are equals. 

Long-term, you'd have to establish rules for a successful/unsuccessful appearance and you'd, of course, have to be ready for all sorts of arguing about why the rules are wrong. 

subjective or not, i think this is a cool exercise...

...and I think we'd all be less concerned about this bullpen if the offense was doing its job. 3.4 runs per game has put the pitching staff in an impossible spot.

 

Seth, since you yourself have questioned the meaning and usefulness of your measurement, may I suggest switching to something more quantitative?  So it is more easily tracked, understood, and compared across teams/years?

 

For example, I just scanned the Fangraphs game logs for WPA/LI and noted who had positive/negative marks for each appearance, and came up with the following results for April:

 

Pitcher, Positive-Negative

Fien 8-4

May 7-5

Abad 10-1

Pressly 8-3

Tonkin 5-5

Jepsen 5-5

O’Rourke 5-2

Perkins 1-1

Rogers 1-0

Meyer 0-1

 

As you can see, it's a pretty darn close match to your system.  The only differences are Perkins first outing (a scoreless mop-up inning for which you gave him a demerit), the one Abad appearance mentioned in my previous post, and two of Tonkin's appearances.  One of those he pitched 3 innings in relief of a starter's early exit -- maybe we have a special rule for such games?  And the other was allowing an inherited runner to score from second with one out, which could probably go either way.

 

In any case, it would be pretty easy to pull this WPA/LI info for every reliever/team, if you are interested. Might make this analysis more interesting going forward.

 

Strict WPA would be a pretty close match too, it would "forgive" Tonkin's 3 inning appearance but it would shift one appearance each on the ledgers of O'Rourke and Pressly, it appears.  Maybe an average of the two (WPA and WPA/LI) could effectively allow for half-credit (or half-demerit)?

 

Looks like pretty much the same thing... 

Twins relief pitchers AL ranking:

strikeout rate: 4th (9.67/9)

WHIP: 15th (worst-1.44)

Wild Pitches: First (worst-11)

Innings: 2nd (85.2)

ERA: 8th (3.26)

 

All in all, I see a bp that is getting middle-of-the-pack results, despite heavy use. They are inducing a lot of strikeouts, but it is coming alongside more walks and hits than you want to see. 

 

This unit is actually outperforming my expectations, but their failings are so stark and obvious when paired with the stagnant offense. That's the part I didn't see coming.

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HitInAPinch
May 02 2016 09:05 AM

I'm looking at Fan Graphs SD / MD ratings for the Twins.FanGraphs' prem is this:

 

"While the Save rule is odd and complicated, Shutdowns and Meltdowns strip away these complications and answer a simple question: did a relief pitcher help or hinder his team’s chances of winning a game?"

 

The Twins:

 

http://www.fangraphs...ers=0&sort=15,d

 

The formula:

 

http://cdn.fangraphs...42282525119.png

 

The scale:

 

Rating                SD   MD
Excellent             40   2
Great                   35   4
Above Average   25   6
Average             20   8
Below Average   15   10
Poor                    10   12
Awful                    5   15

In fairness of the comparisons with Bastardo and Sipp, most were pushing for Bastardo to be signed, in addition to at least one other good reliever via sign or trade.This wasn't really an either or, Bastardo/Sipp or Abad.

 

The Twins were operating under several premises that were a stretch:

 

1 - We had a decent, deep pen to begin with

 

2 - Perkins and Jepsen could be relied upon at the back of the pen

 

3 - We have 4-5 guys ready to step up from the minors.BTW, Chargois is the only guy pushing to be promoted right now and he is still in AA

    • spycake likes this

 

I'm looking at Fan Graphs SD / MD ratings for the Twins.

You can even look at it by month, for an even comparison to Seth's numbers:

 

 

http://www.fangraphs...ers=0&sort=15,d

 

But as you can see, only 37 of our 77 relief appearances even met the threshold for SD/MD designation.  Maybe there should be a "neutral" number in between?

 

Looks like pretty much the same thing... 

Let me know if you want to switch, I could run these numbers for every player/team/year/month/etc. which would give this analysis a lot more context.

Photo
HitInAPinch
May 02 2016 09:35 AM

 

You can even look at it by month, for an even comparison to Seth's numbers:

 

 

http://www.fangraphs...ers=0&sort=15,d

 

But as you can see, only 37 of our 77 relief appearances even met the threshold for SD/MD designation.  Maybe there should be a "neutral" number in between?

 

To be honest, I don't know if FanGraphs is still in the developmental stage.But I agree, something else is probably needed.

 

Let me know if you want to switch, I could run these numbers for every player/team/year/month/etc. which would give this analysis a lot more context.

 

I think you should blog it. 

Abad inherited second and third with nobody out. He allowed an RBI groundout, and then a sac fly to score both runners (then Rosario dropped the sac fly, which put another runner on base that Tonkin allowed to score). Abad had to face two reasonably good, hard to K hitters too in Lindor and Brantley.

Might be a spot where a simple +/- system doesn't work -- maybe this should be, at best, a neutral performance from Abad?


I would agree with Thrylos on that appearance.
A relievers job isn't always fair but that's the life of a reliever.

Going off on my WPA/LI correlation noted upthread...

 

For 2016 so far, the Twins have 64.5% of relief appearances resulting in positive (or more accurately, non-negative) WPA/LI. MLB as a whole is at 67.1%. The Twins rank 14th out of 15 AL teams (ahead of only Toronto), and 23rd out of 30 MLB teams.All four of our division mates are in the top 11.
Attached Image: 2016-updated.png

 

Also, here are the results for 2015, where the Twins ranked 19th, and 6 of the top 7 teams made the playoffs:

Attached Image: 2015.png

 

I don't know if it's worth diving in any deeper, but at least this gives Seth's numbers some context.

 

Also, how does this measurement compare to, say, reliever WAR?  Here are the Twins recent MLB ranks in "doing their job" by WPA/LI, followed by their ranks in reliever RA9-WAR at Fangraphs:

2010: 15th in "doing their job" / 7th in RA9-WAR
2011: 27th / 28th
2012: 9th / 17th
2013: 13th / 8th
2014: 27th / 22nd
2015: 19th / 13th
2016: 21st / 24th

Actually, it appears RA9-WAR should be combined with LOB-Wins to account for runners stranded...


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