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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Are Teams “Buying the Dip” in the Relief Market? | FanGraphs Baseball

Starters are pitching less innings so relievers are pitching more. It makes sense teams would shift money from starters to relievers. At the same time, though, individual relievers are also pitching less innings. What this should mean is, teams increase reliever salaries. Eventually top pays for reliever salaries stagnate (expect for the very, very best) as teams spread the money over more relievers.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 16, 2018 at 07:03 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: economics

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: January 16, 2018 at 08:08 PM (#5607718)
Mostly yes. The bit that may (or may not) be missing is that relievers pitch more effectively in their limited innings ... and possibly an individual reliever losing 10 innings or so increases that quality gap even more (or maybe not).

We've seen a pretty big jump over the last two years in reliever IP such that, last year, we were back to an average around 70 innings per relief slot with 8 slots.

I grabbed a spreadsheet off of b-r with all 2017 results for pure relievers (I don't remember if it was strictly 100% relief or maybe I went with 90-95%). It captures the vast majority of all relief innings and it seems that the missing innings have a fairly similar profile to these.

Based on that data, I've come up with a rough estimate that the average team had about 5 above-replacement relief slots (literally could be 0.1 WAR) and 3 replacement (or in many cases worse) slots. So that was about 335-350 innings overall. I know that not all high-leverage PAs come against relievers but probably the vast majority do ... and that would mean that about half (let's say 45%) of reliever BF are high leverage. Which means, if you're really good at pen usage, those are going to those 5 relief slots.

Anyway, end of the day, you're probably getting something like 200 high-leverage innings and another 150 low/med-leverage innings from those top 5 spots, probably at something like a 110 ERA+ (remember, most of the crappy relieving is (hopfeully) in the last 3 slots). A starter averaging about 180 innings of 110 ERA+ ball -- on the FA market that's your $18-22 M a year pitcher. That suggests a total bullpen spend around $40 M is reasonable (if they are all FAs). Still makes it tough to blow half of that on an elite closer, especially if top set-up guys are running $9 M now. But if you've got a couple of decent cheap kids for slots 4-5, that could still buy one elite closer and two elite set-up guys. Then hope everybody is healthy.
   2. Jim Furtado Posted: January 17, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5607850)
Good points, as always, Walt.
   3. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 17, 2018 at 09:22 AM (#5607853)
Starters are pitching less innings


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