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  • Getting Geeky Part 3: Sharing the LI Wealth


    John Bonnes

    Last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the most critical innings, and the relievers’ Leverage Index (LI) shows that.

    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.

     

    Name

    gmLI

    MLB Rank

    Taylor Rogers

    1.69

    19

    Sergio Romo

    1.62

    24

    Tyler Duffey

    1.61

    25

    Trevor May

    1.36

    53

    Tyler Clippard

    1.24

    73

    Caleb Thielbar

    1.04

    100

    Jorge Alcala

    0.65

    146

     

    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.

     

    Name

    gmLI

    Ave MLB gmLI

    Taylor Rogers

    1.69

    1.70

    Sergio Romo

    1.62

    1.37

    Tyler Duffey

    1.61

    1.22

    Trevor May

    1.36

    1.03

    Tyler Clippard

    1.24

    0.86

    Caleb Thielbar

    1.04

    0.77

    Jorge Alcala

    0.65

    0.69

     

    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.

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    I believe that the management has learned from 2019 and prior of over using the relievers that were hot and burning them out. So happy they figured it out. I believe they know exactly what they are doing

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    Separating cause from effect is always a hidden snare when looking at stats. The leverage was spread around. Was this due to an organizational philosophy, or the manager's philosophy? Or did they envision a by-now traditional closer/setup arrangement, and the individuals slated for such duty disappointed often enough to cause a change in plans? Or maybe there is an additional explanation I didn't think of.

     

    I don't see how to tease this information out from the aggregate stats. Possibly some kind of game-by-game analysis from the game logs will reveal strong trends in the early season that became reversed midway through, or not, which I guess is what's coming next.

     

    Fortunately for discussion purposes, the concept of the leverage index apparently isn't unknown to at least one of the relievers on the staff. Perhaps the concept is even widely discussed among players and coaches, if in slightly different terms than hard-core analytics uses. Maybe someone with access at Ft Myers, hint hint :) , can mention these aggregate numbers to an insider and ask about their perception of the cause. Or maybe that is coming in Part 3.

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    Statistics, statistics. Oh how I hate statistics- especially when this old timer doesn't understand them. Actually, at one time when I realized I wasn't going to be a pro ballplayer and didn't wish to go through the long tenure of minor leagues to try to become an announcer, I wanted to go into sports statistics because I was great in math. 

    Anyway, relievers can change dramatically from year to year so I'm not sure I can buy into this article. A manager has to manage his bullpen so pitchers aren't worn out by August- especially the way the game is played today. However, I will never like it when a reliever comes in and has a 1-2-3 inning while throwing 15 pitches and then isn't allowed to throw a second inning. It makes no sense to me- especially when the next pitcher gets hit hard.

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