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How do we fix this so called bullpen?

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Minnesota Simpsons Thread Contest

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Will the Save Stat Go Away?

If you follow me on Twitter or even if you’ve engaged me in conversation about bullpens, you know how deeply my hatred burns for modern-day bullpen usage.

For example, the practice of saving your closer for a save opportunity that he’s never going to get because you ran out a middle-reliever against the opponent's 3-4-5 hitters.

How about bringing in your second-best lefty reliever to face the opponent’s best left-handed hitter with two runners in scoring position in the seventh inning of a tied game?

Or how about warming your closer up to save a ball game, but then you score a run in the top of the ninth and since it’s not a save opportunity anymore, you quickly warm up a lesser reliever for to close out the game.

Dumb. Dumb. And more dumb.
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
On Monday, FiveThiryEight.com’s Nate Silver introduced a new stat. He called it the Goose Egg. At its simplest, it applies a stat to getting out of high-leverage situations. I’m not going to get into the whole down and dirty of it. If you care to, you can read all about it here.

What it boils down to is this (taken from the article):

A relief pitcher records a goose egg for each inning in which:
  • It’s the seventh inning or later;
  • At the time the pitcher faces his first batter of the inning:
    • His team leads by no more than two runs, or
    • The score is tied, or
    • The tying run is on base or at bat
  • No runs (earned or unearned) are charged to the pitcher in the inning and no inherited runners score while the pitcher is in the game; and
  • The pitcher either:
  • Records three outs (one inning pitched), or
  • Records at least one out, and the number of outs recorded plus the number of inherited runners totals at least three.
My immediate thoughts go to one place: The Twins bullpen.

The 2016 results are a little surprising. For this exercise, I chose to focus on three sets of data: The Goose Eggs, The Broken Eggs (think blown opportunities for the Goose Egg) and GWAR (which is WAR, for relievers, using the Goose Egg stat).


What isn’t surprising is that Kintzler, who led the Twins with 17 saves, also had 17 Goose Eggs. He did this in 23 chances. His 74% success rate is very close to league average (75%). His GWAR (which is explained in the article) is .11, very close to replacement-level. Again, not a huge surprise.

Ryan Pressly, on the other hand, was a giant surprise. He led the club with 19 Goose Eggs. He also led the club with 9 Broken Eggs (68%) and measured last in GWAR at -0.75.

The best of the lot was Taylor Rogers, who was a perfect 13/13 in Goose Egg opportunities and paced the bullpen with a 1.83 GWAR.

Michael Tonkin was also a surprise. He was successful in five of six opportunities and posted a positive GWAR (0.32).

Trevor May, who probably wasn’t used in enough high-leverage situations, converted nine of 11 Goose Egg opportunities. His GWAR was .51. I also found Ryan O’Rourke to be surprising. He was perfect in four chances and had the second-highest GWAR on the team at 0.56.

But that’s last year. Let’s look at 2017.

The Twins have gotten a much better-than-expected first few weeks out of their pitching staff and that’s especially true of the bullpen. Kintzler leads the team with three Goose Eggs in three attempts. All of Rogers, Duffey and Matt Belisle are two-for-three. Rogers and Duffey were perfect until the seventh inning on Thursday. Trailing the pack, again, is Ryan Pressly, who had two opportunities for Goose Eggs, but has been done in by the long ball.

The sample size, of course, is small. And the Fighting Mollies have seemingly tried to buck the traditional bullpen trend by using the reliever ho appears to have the best “stuff,” Ryan Pressly, at high-leverage times.

At the end of the day, it’s a curious new stat to learn about and interesting to see if it’s embraced.

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17 Comments

I agree. I've long thought that the save concept is flawed. I prefer to have my best RP pitching to the other team's best hitters rather than saving him for the last inning regardless of the batters.

Wonderful thought exercise.  I have been frustrated by the love of Pressly who demonstrated again today why I do not love him.  MPH is not the measure of a relief pitcher. I always thought that the relievers ERA should include the runs scored by any of the runners that they inherit.  They can be charged to the starter too, but the job of a reliever is to put out the fire and if all the runners score and then they get the batters out I am not counting that as a 0.00 era.  I am also amazed by the Hold stat.  Yikes is that perverted.  We have not gotten a good measure for relievers and, like you, I think the save is ridiculous.

    • Taildragger8791 and D.C Twins like this

 

 I always thought that the relievers ERA should include the runs scored by any of the runners that they inherit.  They can be charged to the starter too, but the job of a reliever is to put out the fire and if all the runners score and then they get the batters out I am not counting that as a 0.00 era.  

 

Inherited runner scores, and was inherited at:

 

1st base: 3/4 ER to current pitcher, 1/4 ER to previous pitcher

2nd base: 1/2 ER to current pitcher, 1/2 ER to previous pitcher

3rd base: 1/4 ER to current pitcher, 3/4 ER to previous pitcher

 

All would be fair.

 

    • hybridbear likes this
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Taildragger8791
Apr 20 2017 09:46 PM

Inherited runner scores, and was inherited at:
 
1st base: 3/4 ER to current pitcher, 1/4 ER to previous pitcher
2nd base: 1/2 ER to current pitcher, 1/2 ER to previous pitcher
3rd base: 1/4 ER to current pitcher, 3/4 ER to previous pitcher
 
All would be fair.


I was thinking about something like this today too. To take it a step further you could account for outs in the inning as well. Guy on 3rd with no outs shouldn't count against the new pitcher because they can score even on a fly out or slow ground out. Things like that should be considered. But overall I like the idea of splitting the responsibility for the runners.

You worked your bullpen around pitchers who could get certain hitters out, made less complicated with the designated hitter rule, meaning you didn't have to worry about making a pitching change because the pitcher was going to hit.

 

You have the bases loaded in the 7th with one out, you bring in a ground ball pitcher or the strikeout king. Period.

 

Of course, how many teams have true closers? Do the Twins in 2017? Even part of alst year?

Photo
HitInAPinch
Apr 21 2017 01:57 AM

I've been promoting the move away from Saves for awhile now.  I like FanGraphs model:

Shutdowns (SD) and Meltdowns (MD).

 

"Shutdowns (SD) and Meltdowns (MD) were created as an alternative to Saves and Blown Saves in an effort to better represent a relief pitcher’s value. 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? If they improved their team’s chances of winning by a certain amount, they get a Shutdown. If they instead made their team more likely to lose by a certain amount, they get a Meltdown."

 

http://www.fangraphs...pitching/sd-md/

 

I'll read your stuff a little more closely when I get back from work.

Overslept, is an understatement  :-(  

    • hybridbear, Vanimal46 and Respy like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 21 2017 06:59 AM

I've been waiting for someone to create a good counting stat to rate relievers for 15 years and the Goose Egg is the best I've seen. I hope someone like Fangraphs picks it up and gives it traction.

    • MN_ExPat likes this

So much love for that article. so much good snark, great writing, and a good concept. The best part is near the end, when he shows how thinking this way would actually lead to better use of RPs. Right now, managers and players are incented to do silly things, because of the save stat. 

Three years ago, I opted to go with "saves + holds" for my fantasy baseball team and it's been a damn revelation.

 

Most saves are hardly saves. They're more like, "pitching the 9th inning of a relatively close game." Ignores high pressure situations in middle innings ... 

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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 21 2017 08:01 AM

 

So much love for that article. so much good snark, great writing, and a good concept. The best part is near the end, when he shows how thinking this way would actually lead to better use of RPs. Right now, managers and players are incented to do silly things, because of the save stat. 

The Goose Egg is almost exactly what I wanted to see but I never did the legwork myself to drill down into the situations where the stat should "activate". I'm glad someone finally did that in what appears to be a relatively simple but accurate way.

    • MN_ExPat likes this

Of course, there is a whole thread someone else started in teh MLB Baseball forum, that apparently no one that owns this site noticed....

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Brock Beauchamp
Apr 21 2017 08:06 AM

 

Of course, there is a whole thread someone else started in teh MLB Baseball forum, that apparently no one that owns this site noticed....

Oh hush. I commented in your thread. I know it exists.

 

Jeremy wanted to write a piece about it, obviously... Which is why this thread exists.

 

Lots of people only read the front page of Twins Daily. Others only read the forum.

    • Mike Sixel and MN_ExPat like this

It was a joke. See my sig.

 

And yes, he actually wrote something, I was lazy and pretty much just put it out there. I actually think Molitor appears to be acting this way this year, which if true, combined with less bunting, I'd not kill them for keeping him around. So much of what a manager actually does is hidden from us, that bullpen use and PH/PR use are about all we can really judge.

    • Brock Beauchamp likes this

I'd guess this stat is better than saves/holds, but it still feels pretty arbitrary and limited, and even more complex.

 

If we don't really care about calculating it in real-time, why not just use WPA or WPA/LI? Or even Fangraphs' Shutdowns and Meltdowns?

    • Oxtung likes this

Nate Silver's "Goose Egg" has incredibly good correlation with WPA...  If you think that WPA is an appropriate measure for measuring reliever performance, have at it.

 

Saves, as wins and losses are pretty meaningless.  Will it go away?  It won't, unless it does not matter in arbitration hearings...

 

I am thinking of S like I am thinking of RBI.  It is there and who cares...

They used to call ace relievers firemen, not closers. That made sense. Everyone understood that the time you needed your best reliever was when there were men on base, a dangerous hitter was up, and the next at bats could decide the game. I.e., high leverage situations. Rolaids even sponsored a
fireman of the year award. It made intuitive sense; they put out fires.

Anyone can lead off an inning with the bases empty. Big deal. And as many have pointed out above, if the ninth is the bottom of the order, it's even more irrelevant. This fetishising of the ninth is so mindless.

I know, I know, this has all been said before, sorry. But imagine you were a bartender or waiter who had to scramble like crazy during the busy time, and when it slowed down, someone came in during the quiet time just before closing, and got paid three times as much as you. Would it not drive you crazy?

The save probably won't go away but the importance of the save or closer needs to diminish. Perhaps someday... A guy like Betances will win his arbitration case. 

 

 

    • snepp likes this

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