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04-07-2011 01:34 PM #1Plus Member Since 10/12 Major League Starter
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HHP: Shutdowns, Meltdowns, and the Orioles Bullpen: a Statistical Digression
I was reading this article on Fangraphs, and it reminded me of a pair of statistics I had really likes when they came up with them, but never paid that much attention to after. Since I had some free time after my tutoring appointment this morning, I thought I would do some Orioles-related analysis with Shutdowns and Meltdowns.
For those unfamiliar with the idea, I'll give a quick explanation. Fangraphs has a concept called Win Probability Added (WPA), which measures the change in how likely each team is to win the game after each play, then credits that change to the pitcher and hitter who caused it (in equal amounts). I don't want to go into a long explanation of WPA here; the general idea is that you get more credit for making a difference when the game is close or especially when it is close in the late innings. Here's a link to an article that explains WPA in detail; here's a link to a calculator that lets you find the WPA for any game situation. Note that all defense (including errors) is credited/blamed to the pitcher.
Shutdowns and Meltdowns are based on WPA. If a reliever improves his team's chance of winning the game by 6% or more (from 52% to 59%, for example), he gets one Shutdown. A closer who finished off a winning game for his team will often get about that much: entering the 9th with a 2-run lead, the home team wins 92.6% of the time; a closer who pitches that inning successfully gets (1.00-.926)=.074 WPA. Shutdown numbers are comparable to save numbers, but without the clunky 3-run limit, and they can be acquired by a middle-inning reliever who pitches well while the game is close, or who strands multiple runners. One can think of a Shutdown as a fixed Save.
Meltdowns are just the opposite. A reliever who decreases his team's chance of winning by 6% or more gets one Meltdown. There's no great analogy to a current baseball stat, but a reliever who enters when his team has the lead and allows the other team to tie it (or worse) will essentially always get a Meltdown.
Since they depend on the current leverage of the game, it's hard for a reliever to pick up a SD or MD in a blowout (whether a winning or losing blowout). So a reliever who usually pitches in garbage time is likely to have few of both. A reliever who is constantly used in high-leverage situations will have a lot of both; obviously, the quality of his pitching is measured by how many more SDs than MDs he has (almost all pitchers have more SDs than MDs).
Now that I've caused everyone without a statistics PhD to glaze over, let's use Shutdowns and Meltdowns to take a look at the current Orioles bullpen. I've taken the SD and MD numbers from Fangraphs, and calculated two additional numbers: the SD to MD ratio and the percentage of relief appearances (games minus games started) that resulted in a SD or MD. This last one is largely outside the pitchers' control, depending more on when the manager decides to put them in, but I thought it might be interesting anyway.
And now, the stats. Here's some historical context, with names that will be familiar to many of us (career totals):
SD MD RA SD/MD (SD+MD)/RA Mariano Rivera 507 105 972 4.83 63.0 Trevor Hoffman 518 138 1035 3.75 63.4 Goose Gossage 419 185 965 2.26 62.6 Armando Benitez 324 115 762 2.82 57.6 Arthur Rhodes 301 116 792 2.59 52.7 Jorge Julio 133 82 453 1.62 47.5 BJ Ryan 193 80 560 2.41 48.8 Chad Bradford 145 104 561 1.39 44.4 Jamie Walker 118 99 543 1.19 40.0 Danys Baez 164 93 481 1.76 53.4 Jesse Orosco 356 220 1248 1.62 46.2 John Smoltz 131 20 242 6.55 62.4 Francisco Rodriguez 266 63 533 4.22 61.7
Here's the current Orioles bullpen:
SD MD RA SD/MD (SD+MD)/RA Koji Uehara 23 4 45 5.75 60.0 Jim Johnson 60 30 147 2.00 61.2 Jeremy Accardo 66 34 205 1.94 48.8 Josh Rupe 23 11 82 2.09 41.5 Kevin Gregg 127 63 400 2.02 47.5 Jason Berken 11 8 43 1.38 44.2 Mike Gonzalez 118 50 333 2.36 50.5 ------------------------------------------- Totals 428 200 1255 2.14 50.0
SD MD RA SD/MD (SD+MD)/RA Matt Thornton 133 68 412 1.96 48.8 Chris Sale 9 3 25 3.00 48.0 Jesse Crain 100 71 378 1.41 45.2 Will Ohman 58 57 395 1.02 29.1 Sergio Santos 16 8 58 2.00 41.4 Tony Pena 90 49 295 1.84 47.1 Phil Humber 4 4 26 1.00 30.8 ------------------------------------------- Totals 410 260 1589 1.58 42.2
It jumps out at me that the better relievers, as measured by SD/MD, also tend to have a high (SD+MD)/RA - suggesting that managers are pretty good at putting their good relievers into the game at important times.
So, what does this mean for the O's? Well, Koji, Rupe, and Berken just don't have a long enough track record to get a good handle on their potential. Still, in their respective partial seasons, Koji was absurdly good and Berken was no better than mediocre. Johnson, Gregg, Accardo, and Gonzalez all have similar stats, and all are above-average, good but not great. So, that's one potentially great reliever, four above-average ones, and two with little data and some upside. Overall, looking at career totals and ignoring injury history and recent trends, the O's should have an above-average but unspectacular bullpen this year: it compares quite favorably to the White Sox, for sure.
Also clear from this data is that Koji is by far the guy we should trust in the 'pen, while JJ, Gregg, Accardo, and Gonzalez will save about twice as many games as they blow.
If people want (and if I have another chunk of time free at some point), I'll try to replicate this analysis to compare the O's bullpen to the other 'pens in the AL East.
04-07-2011 01:45 PM #2
Thanks for this. Very interesting!
04-07-2011 02:15 PM #3
Awesome post! We need more of this stuff.
04-07-2011 02:58 PM #4
This is really good stuff.
04-07-2011 03:16 PM #5
Outstanding post..Looks like a Hangout Highlight Post (HHP) to me!
04-07-2011 03:28 PM #6Hangout Blogger Hall of Fame
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What did these numbers look like for us in 2010? "Above average but unspectacular" is something I'd take in a heartbeat, compared to the bullpen performance last year and each of the last 5 years.
04-07-2011 03:32 PM #7Plus Member Since 10/12 Major League Starter
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04-07-2011 03:43 PM #8
Awesome stuff man! I like this leverage method of analyzing relievers, because frankly there is no good alternative way to analyze relievers. It certainly confirms what I think most of us intuitively know - Koji is by far our best option at closer.
04-07-2011 03:52 PM #9
I am of the view that the teams best relief pitcher is wasted if the manager follows the closer group mindthink.
04-07-2011 03:54 PM #10
04-07-2011 03:55 PM #11
Yea, this is great stuff. I saw the other day when Tom Tango linked to the Fangraphs piece introducing the shutdown/meltdown concept. I'd like to see some historical comps. I have a feeling that earlier eras saw more meltdowns and fewer shutdowns just because guys like Gossage or Marshall would often come into a game early enough that all kinds of things could change during their appearance. But that's just a feeling.
04-07-2011 04:04 PM #12
But I've kind of changed my thinking. That might work if you did it just right, and you had a rubber-armed reliever who could get warmed up really quick. But there is value in letting a guy warm up right, and knowing that he's always coming in at a specific time in the game. Especially when your best reliever has his arm attached with chewing gum and bailing wire.
A save situation is often the highest leverage part of a game. Or if it's not, it's often close. Look at Fangraphs, and almost all of the leaders in average leverage index were closers, used in the typical modern closer way. And if you look at the all time leaders in LI I don't see any advantage from the old 1970s style firemen. On average Jonathan Papelbon is brought into higher leverage situations than Rollie Fingers or Goose Gossage.
04-07-2011 04:13 PM #13
Does this work well for hitters? Could I compare Miguel Tejada's WPA with Nick's to see who is more clutch?
04-07-2011 04:26 PM #14
04-07-2011 04:29 PM #15