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Archive for the ‘Bullpen’ Category

Things I Like

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As a Pirates fan, I have to say I really like the Phillies’ bullpen for at least two reasons. Reason 1. Reason 2. (Note that I also really like the Pirates’ bullpen but for very different reasons.)

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 25, 2013 at 13:01

The Smell of Desperation on the North Side

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If you’ve ever wondered what desperation smelled like, just inhale deeply through your nose as you read this. When Kevin Gregg is your next-best “closer” option, well, you’ve got troubles enough to make you desperate. The Cubs have a healthy Carlos Marmol and an injured Kyuji Fujikawa, the guy who was supposed to make Marmol dispensable but so far hasn’t quite mastered the “craft” of closing out ballgames. Kevin Gregg (the BB/9 and/or BB% numbers may lead you to a preliminary conclusion that is not unprecedented).

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 14, 2013 at 12:00

More on Gardenhire’s Questionable Thought

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I already despaired over Gardehnire’s bullpen usage. Here, I despair over his thinking over lineup construction, specifically, who to put in the second spot in the batting order. He is such a victim of the “old school” conventional wisdom.

Aaron Gleeman, who writes a lot about the Twins, wrote a post about this in which he pointed out:

Gardenhire has used middle infielders in the second spot regardless of on-base skills and overall hitting ability, and not surprisingly the results haven’t been good. None of the seven players with at least 75 starts in the No. 2 spot had a .350 on-base percentage there and only Revere, Jason Bartlett, and Orlando Hudson were above .330. Cristian Guzman, who started most often in the No. 2 spot, had a terrible .283 OBP there, and Luis Rivas was even worse at .276.

The stupidity of Gardenhire’s approach lies in its acceptance of making outs at the top of the order. Sacrifice bunts, after all, are intended to trade outs for advancing a baserunner one base. In certain situations they are good plays, such as, say, in the late innings of a tight game in which one run can either tie the game or put your team ahead. But, as a general rule, unless you know one run is all you will need, playing for one run is not a great strategic decision.

However, the really, truly stupid part of his approach is his past reliance on low-on base percentage players as second-place-in-the-batting-order hitters. On-base percentage measures the proportion of times a hitter reaches base out of all his plate appearances. It is, in short, “not-make-an-out” percentage. After all, 1 – OBP=the percentage of times an out is made. Thus, putting low-OBP guys into the second spot of the batting order amounts to putting out-makers at the top of the lineup. Why, oh why, would one do that?!?

During the dead ball era, when extra-base hits were rare, errors were common, and run production was low, it made sense to put a guy who could “handle the bat” into that slot of the lineup, as advancing runners without basehits was a skill upon which managers put a premium. But the reason that skill was important was that it wasn’t easy to get a hit because baseballs just didn’t travel that far. They were kept in play until they were practically mush, discolored and all scuffed to hell. Now, however, when balls leave play after hitting the dirt, the batter always has a brand new baseball to hit.

The fact that lots of errors were made is important too, for if there is a decent chance the fielders will make an error, bunting does not amount to an automatic out. But as equipment and fielding skill has improved over time, sacrifice bunts almost always result in outs.

But, putting the bunting aside, the use of low-OBP middle infielders in the second spot is just plain perverse in a game where (a) making outs helps the team in the field, (b) teams have limited numbers of outs to work with in a game, (c) you only win by scoring runs and scoring runs requires producing baserunners.

Gardenhire just appears to be living in another century when it comes to thinking about the game of baseball. Sure, there were plenty of sacrifice bunts in the World Baseball Classic, but that doesn’t make it the smart play, particularly at the Major-League level.

Intentionally making outs should never be encouraged.

And it is nice to see Mauer in the 2-spot in the lineup, even nicer to think that the Twins’ resident stat-head may actually be getting through to Gardenhire. Now if he could just sell Gardy on optimal relief pitcher usage. Of course, Gardy is hardly alone in using his bullpen suboptimally, as Jim Leyland showed us this past week. Hell, the entire sport uses bullpens suboptimally.

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 7, 2013 at 16:41

Tiger Bullpen

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Remember what I was saying about the back end of the Tiger bullpen? Well, from a perspective of defined roles in the bullpen, let’s call that the “mainstream” perspective, things have gotten even more unsettled and thus unsettling for Tigers fans.

That the whole “defined closer” thing represents reification on a grand scale–the baseball world’s worship of a concept of bullpen usage* that is merely a convention, not a natural law–is beyond question, but it is not the point at hand.

No, the point at hand is that the Tigers bullpen depth, already questionable, degrades still further with this move. Regardless of who gets “save opportunities,” the person who gets them also becomes unavailable to use in earlier, higher-leverage situations, those whose resolution has a relative higher affect on the outcome of the game.

This means Rick Porcello better be for real, and he better be able to worth six solid innings before Leyland turns to his bullpen. One wonders whether Leyland retains the flexibility to use a bullpen without defined roles well. He talks like it, but we’ll see. If he fails to retain that flexibility, well, the results may be scary.

To conclude, nothing has changed about the status of the back end of the Tigers bullpen: it is still shaky.

*An alternative to the defined role convention of usage appears here, though I am neutral with regard to its efficacy.

**UPDATE: The Detroit News is all over this, the headline declaring the closer job “up for grabs.”

Written by jjvedamuthu

March 28, 2013 at 23:18

Evaluating Teams (or something similar)

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Excellent piece at Bill Simmons’ new website Grantland (named for Grantland Rice, I imagine) on the “new” Moneyball approach.

Article author Bill Barnwell does a nice job refuting the notion that Moneyball was just about OPS (getting on base and bashing the ball). Instead, the real focus of the book was on exploiting market inefficiencies.

Fielding has indeed been the latest exploitable market inefficiency. See Jonah Keri’s excellent The Extra 2% about the Tampa Bay Rays and their quantitative analysis.

They (the Rays) obviously know something about bullpens, too: the guys they let walk after 2010 made most baseball “analysts” wave their hands about how the Rays would suck, but of that group–Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, and Randy Choate–only Balfour and Choate have been decent, and Choate is hurt. But the Rays’ ‘pen has been pretty okay (note the 3.44 bullpen ERA, good for 3rd in the American League, and tied for 11th in Major League Baseball; the Rays also sport  1.211 bullpen WHIP–4th in MLB–and a .635bullpen OPS allowed, which is 5th in MLB…pretty okay, indeed).

Michael Lewis is/was no dummy, and to flatten out his perspective the way “baseball traditionalists” did to bash sabermetrics is just freakin’ stupid. (Joe Morgan, for example, is a bitter old man…great second baseman in his day, but bitter old jerk as an announcer…hey, Joe, Billy Beane didn’t write Moneyball!).

UPDATE–Rafael Soriano’s troubles got more troubling. Rays bullpen is now much better than the Yanks, except, of course, at the very back end, since Mariano Rivera is the Terminator in relief pitcher form.

Written by jjvedamuthu

June 14, 2011 at 15:24

Twins Trifecta of Doom: Hardball Talk All Over It

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Three depressing stories about the terrible Twins. I knew about the first one–the 5-run lead blown in the eighth last night–but the other two just compounded my dismay over the first. Twins’ pitching staff is in a bad, bad way. Here’s the prose to prove it. Baker (pictured below), though, pitched very well (no BB and look at the WPA!…stupid bullpen).

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 28, 2011 at 12:47

Fuentes Opens Up

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This can’t end well.

Fuentes is weird: he’s either pretty sharp and missing bats or he’s got no command a quite a flammable substance. Relief pitchers continue to baffle.

I really like Calcaterra’s last comment:

Um, Brian, you do know that Geren was the best man at Billy Beane’s wedding, right? You think you’re going to win this one?

This next post makes it better: Fuentes is on a pace to break the relief losses record. *Sigh*

The Eck piles on!

Good Times in Oakland, like the old Mustache Gang days….

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 24, 2011 at 14:28