Perhaps it was matchups. Perhaps it was the depth of the bullpen. Or perhaps it was just coincidence. But last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the pressure inherent to holding close leads like almost no other Major League team, steering away from the closer-dominated hierarchy we talked about in Part 1. And you can see it using the sabrmetric stat Leverage Index (LI) that we detailed in Part 2.
Here are the Twins’ qualified relievers, the average Leverage Index they faced when entering a game, and where they ranked in LI in MLB overall.
What are you looking at? As we saw yesterday, any LI over one indicates a more-dangerous-than-average situation. Six of the Twins qualified relievers had an LI greater than one. No other team in MLB had that many. In fact, the Twins actually had eight relievers. Matt Wisler (1.11) and Cody Stashak (1.05) both also had LI over one, but just missed the “qualified” designation by a couple of innings.
Baldelli shared his high leverage situations throughout the bullpen, not relying on a couple of guys to carry the load, like other teams. Alternately, you can see that the Twins look like they mostly protected rookie Jorge Alcala from those situations.
Now look at how bunched together those top three relievers are, and how high up they rank compared to all MLB qualified relievers. There are 30 teams, but the Twins had three relievers in the top 25 in average LI? Yep. Toronto is the only other team that had three relievers in the top 35.
Toronto is also the only other team that had four pitchers in the top 55, like the Twins did. They’re also the only team to have five pitchers in the top 75, like the Twins did. The bunching of the Twins becomes more obvious when you look at the average LI each of the Twins top relievers faced, compared to the average LI the same pitcher faced on other teams.
Ave MLB gmLI
Rogers faced about average situations for the #1 ranked person in the bullpen compared to other teams. And Alcala faced about the same as the sixth ranked guy in the bullpen. But Romo, Duffey, May, Clippard and even Thielbar all were brought into games at significantly more crucial moments than their peers on other teams.
In short, Baldelli spread the wealth among the relievers in his bullpen. He is finding spots to use even the fourth and fifth best relievers that impact a game, and likely help them grow, and you can see that using LI.
You can also see that using LI if you take a look at individual pitchers’ game logs. So we’ll do that next.
Next: Using LI to see how Baldelli is trusting individual pitchers.