Quantifying 2009 Bullpen Management

The early season mantra here on DRB was that the Rays did not have a designated closer and instead had a designated "chiller" in J.P. Howell who could be used in the highest leveraged situations. Indeed, this is what we wish would have happened. As the season progressed, Howell appeared in the 9th inning and occasionally in the 8th for a 4 out save. Meanwhile, we witnessed the Maddon March (tm Tommy Rancel) in earlier innings with the bases loaded where we attempted to play matchup relief with a seemingly low degree of success. We at DRB had a good chuckle about a road series at KC where we never saw Joakim Soria, but rallied from behind against the Royals bullpen in all 3 games.

How can we put our naked eye complaining and Tuesday Morning Quarterbacking aside and quantify bullpen management?

A few realities:

-The same pitcher should generally perform the same across all leveraged situations.

-If teams used their best relievers in the highest leveraged situations, the team should expect their pitching stats to improve in high leverage situations.

 

-The numbers used are derived from baseball-reference.com. To calculate a rough number for innings pitched I used (AB-H+CS+GIDP+SH+SF)/3.

-These numbers include starters as there was no way to separate the bullpen in leverage splits. This is important because Big Bossman Tommy Rancel has been very critical of Maddon sending starters out to begin an inning only to have a quick leash at the first sign of a base runner. The decision on when to pull a starter is a key element of bullpen management.

 

-We will look at all AL teams across low, medium, and high leverage situations in 5 categories: Slugging Percentage allowed, unintentional walks per 9 innings, strikeouts per 9 innings, home runs per 9 innings, and Fielding Independent Pitching which was calculated as:

(((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB)-(2*K))/IP)+3.2.  Onto the results:

The only defensive dependant stat I will look at is slugging percentage. This helps account for the severity of hits allowed by weighing each type.

 

 

SLGl

 

SLGm

SLGh

BAL

0.457

0.474

0.477

BOS

0.437

0.421

0.379

CHW

0.434

0.395

0.408

CLE

0.439

0.436

0.423

DET

0.433

0.415

0.399

KCR

0.415

0.424

0.44

LAA

0.46

0.435

 

0.406

MIN

0.42

0.446

0.433

NYY

0.437

0.396

0.39

OAK

0.414

0.425

0.431

SEA

0.413

0.392

0.378

TBR

0.413

0.421

0.433

TEX

0.415

0.427

0.388

TOR

0.418

 

0.432

0.465

TOT

0.429

0.424

0.416

 

 

As you would expect teams on average have the lowest slugging percentage allowed in the highest leveraged situations. The Rays allow a .433 SLG against in high leverage spots, the highest for them of any situation and the third highest in the league behind Toronto and Baltimore.

 

FIP

FIPl

FIPm

 

FIPh

BAL

4.67

5.09

5.00

BOS

3.92

4.31

4.07

CHW

4.29

4.41

3.83

CLE

4.86

4.66

4.37

DET

4.62

4.64

4.02

KCR

4.44

4.29

4.17

LAA

4.92

4.47

 

4.03

MIN

4.31

4.55

4.48

NYY

4.90

4.23

3.76

OAK

4.02

4.41

4.55

SEA

4.71

4.69

4.12

TBR

4.61

4.10

4.87

TEX

4.68

4.90

4.12

TOR

4.24

 

4.57

4.35

TOT

4.51

4.52

4.25

 

 

Again the league FIP in high leverage spots is 0.25 better than either low or medium leveraged spots. The Rays fail here too, with a 4.87 FIP in high spots, second worst in the league. More annoying is that the Rays have a league best 4.10 in medium spots. Perhaps, the Rays have had the most mismanaged bullpen in the American League?

 

K/9

K/9l

K/9m

 

K/9h

BAL

6.14

5.73

5.72

BOS

8.17

7.88

7.10

CHW

7.33

7.05

6.73

CLE

6.60

5.63

5.84

DET

7.06

6.95

7.07

KCR

7.62

7.12

6.90

LAA

6.78

6.42

 

6.80

MIN

6.91

6.12

6.33

NYY

8.23

7.20

7.88

OAK

7.40

6.25

6.76

SEA

6.43

6.42

6.70

TBR

6.86

6.83

7.19

TEX

6.44

5.87

6.55

TOR

7.43

7.58

 

7.22

TOT

7.10

6.65

6.78

 

 

The Rays do have a higher K/9 in high leverage, but interestingly enough, this is the stat the league average is least affected by leverage.

uBB/9

uBB/9l

uBB/9m

uBB/9h

BAL

3.05

 

3.18

2.88

BOS

2.95

3.18

3.21

CHW

2.95

3.24

2.43

CLE

3.64

3.14

3.82

DET

3.38

3.48

3.31

KCR

3.41

3.58

 

2.84

LAA

3.09

3.06

3.21

MIN

2.87

2.58

2.70

NYY

3.35

3.64

2.70

OAK

2.97

3.12

3.50

SEA

3.19

3.38

3.14

TBR

2.99

2.73

3.92

TEX

3.47

3.48

 

2.63

TOR

3.20

3.60

2.70

TOT

3.18

3.25

3.07

 

 

Ouch. The Rays allowed almost a full unintentional walk higher per 9 innings in high leverage spots, and the highest in the league.

 

HR/9l

HR/9m

HR/9h

BAL

1.18

1.40

 

1.38

BOS

0.98

1.16

 

0.82

CHW

1.14

1.11

0.84

CLE

1.25

1.09

 

0.78

DET

1.26

1.19

0.86

KCR

1.17

0.96

0.97

LAA

1.44

1.06

0.77

MIN

1.09

1.20

1.16

NYY

1.54

0.89

0.89

OAK

0.96

1.04

1.14

SEA

1.23

1.16

0.88

 

TBR

1.28

0.97

1.31

TEX

1.09

1.20

0.95

TOR

1.04

1.19

1.23

TOT

1.19

1.12

0.99

 

Lastly, home runs per 9.

 

HR/9l

HR/9m

HR/9h

BAL

1.18

1.40

1.38

BOS

0.98

1.16

0.82

CHW

1.14

1.11

 

0.84

CLE

1.25

1.09

0.78

DET

1.26

1.19

0.86

KCR

1.17

0.96

0.97

LAA

1.44

1.06

0.77

MIN

1.09

1.20

1.16

NYY

1.54

0.89

0.89

OAK

0.96

1.04

1.14

 

SEA

1.23

1.16

0.88

TBR

1.28

0.97

1.31

 

TEX

1.09

1.20

0.95

TOR

1.04

1.19

1.23

TOT

1.19

1.12

0.99

 

 

Again, the Rays fared the worst in high leveraged spots where the trend is as one would expect, the best pitchers outperforming in high spots.

 

One last note, I mentioned the starting pitchers were included. The starters' seasonal FIP is 4.46 while the bullpen's is 4.24. This serves as further evidence that the Rays should outperform in high spots.

The bullpen has had ups and downs, but when things were good everyone was on and Joe could do no wrong. Given the severe difference between the team's seasonal FIP and high spot FIP, it is safe to say the bullpen decisions did not work out in 2009. I suppose you could argue the decisions were correct but the results were not. However if you are to honestly assess the pen, and the DRB belief that a traditional 9th inning closer is silly, you should not be able to look in the mirror and say the decisions were correct.

Lastly, to prevent this from becoming a skewering of JP by the you-know-whos, here is the breakdown of FIP by pitcher in High Leverage situations along with his % of the team's 220 high leverage innings prior to the double header.

 

% of High Lev Spots FIP
Wade Davis  0.3% -0.80
Dan Wheeler  6.4% 3.14
J.P. Howell  14.2% 3.23
Matt Garza  14.3% 3.45
David Price  7.5% 4.02
Scott Kazmir  6.4% 3.84
Lance Cormier  3.3% 5.63
Grant Balfour  8.1% 5.64
Jeff Niemann  8.9% 4.61
James Shields  11.1% 5.84
Chad Bradford  1.4% 1.49
Brian Shouse  2.5% 1.20
Troy Percival  2.5% 7.91
Randy Choate  2.3% 8.80
Joe Nelson  4.2% 8.20
Andy Sonnanstine  4.5% 11.63
Russ Springer  1.4% 19.06
Jason Isringhausen  0.4% #DIV/0!
Jeff Bennett  0.1% #DIV/0!

 

While there are plenty of small sample sizes, the fact remains if Maddon's toys had not been used in high leverage spots in favor of the Iceman's 3.23 High Leverage FIP, they Rays might have more than a handful of additional wins.

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