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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Bullpens? More like blowpens as playoff relievers get rocked

Kyle Gibson kept hoping he’d someday pitch in October, take the mound in a big game when the whole sport was watching. Last week, he got that chance.

Summoned late at Yankee Stadium, the 31-year-old Minnesota right-hander entered the AL Division Series opener. The result — one inning, three runs on three walks, a hit and three stolen bases.

“First postseason opportunity, didn’t go how I thought it was going to go,” he said.

He’s not alone.

What are “Headlines I Would Never Have Expected The Associated Press To Run”, Art?

Right you are- select again!

 

QLE Posted: October 09, 2019 at 01:04 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bullpens, playoffs

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. The Duke Posted: October 09, 2019 at 09:04 AM (#5888194)
Bullpens get to face a lot of bad teams in the regular season. It shouldn’t be a surprise if the really good teams feast on the worst pitchers in the playoffs.
   2. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:31 AM (#5888212)
It has been interesting to me that with all the attention being placed on "openers" and using guys for one inning (or less) at a time that there are so few reliable bullpens in the post-season. All these changes to pitcher usage are happening during a time of increased offense and I know correlation =/= causation but I can't help but thinking that we haven't really got some of the answers on pitcher usage that we think we do.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:41 AM (#5888220)
I think that headline is just missing, Amirite?

   4. Itchy Row Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:49 AM (#5888224)
Pitchers? More like belly-itchers.
   5. Davo Posted: October 09, 2019 at 11:36 AM (#5888253)
I’m glad they’re letting me write headlines now.
   6. cookiedabookie Posted: October 09, 2019 at 11:37 AM (#5888254)
I believe this season was the first time in a while (ever?) that reliever ERA was higher than starter ERA. That suggests that we've gone too far with short starts and more bullpen innings. We should see teams start increasing starter innings in reaction to this, but it might take another few years.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: October 09, 2019 at 12:45 PM (#5888303)
it seems as if teams finally, finally noticed that starting pitchers usually weaken 'the third time through the batting order.'

'ooh, ooh, I know, let's take them out in the 4th or 5th inning, then!'

it makes perfect sense - as long as the weakened SP is not still better at that point than the crappy failed starter being brought in to replace him.

all part of a weird resistance to recognize that being a starting pitcher is REALLY difficult, compared to the much easier job of a reliever going one inning. so unless your failed starters are really effective in that one inning, generally, it means that they suck.

............

and all the headline was "Amitrite?" at the end of it.
or even, "What's up with that?"
   8. Karl from NY Posted: October 09, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5888329)
at a time that there are so few reliable bullpens in the post-season.

The more bullpens pitch, the less "reliable" they will be. Of course a bullpen that pitches innings 5 through 9 will lose more leads than a bullpen that pitches innings 8 through 9.
   9. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 09, 2019 at 03:22 PM (#5888352)
Even if reliever results are worse than starter results overall, that doesn't mean that reliever results overall are worse than starter results during their third time through the order. Check the splits: starters the third time through the order are less effective than relievers the first time through, by a lot.
   10. My name is RMc and I feel extremely affected Posted: October 09, 2019 at 05:25 PM (#5888380)
Well, you can't blame the Braves bullpen for today's debacle...
   11. Walt Davis Posted: October 09, 2019 at 06:06 PM (#5888425)
#9: But not all relievers are created equal. The guy you're bringing in the 5th or 6th inning is usually not a shut down reliever. (Trust me :-) Teams generally have 5 relievers they can kinda count on and the others are terrible. If you're covering over 600 innings a year and those 5 guys are only throwing about 250-300 of those, you hae a lot of innings covered by very bad pitchers. What we need for a proper comparison is the performance of relievers in the 5th and 6th innings, not overall reliever performance.

Of course given current usage, the 3rd-time through numbers of starters are also biased towards good pitchers since the top 2-3 starters are much more likely to be allowed to finish 6 innings. That effect may not be very big though mainly because the 100+ relief innings added the last few years have come as much at the expense of top starters and lesser starters. On the other hand, this is just one season's results, could just be a fluke and relieers will move ahead again next year. This year relief innings were up only 28 innings per team over last year although that too was pretty close in ERA and OPS terms.

By the way, relievers pulled slightly ahead of starters by season's end in both ERA and OPS terms but basically a draw. It makes sense to push this to the point of near-equilibrium at least as long as you're spending less on the pen than on the rotation, probably even though it costs you a roster spot. (And if they are moving to 26-man rosters next year, then you get the roster spot back.)

   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 09, 2019 at 06:26 PM (#5888440)
Well, you can't blame the Braves bullpen for today's debacle...
"Hold our beers." --Braves bullpen
   13. Omineca Greg Posted: October 09, 2019 at 08:32 PM (#5888517)
Bullpen, more like ballpeen, because they're getting hammered!

Bullpen, more like bell pun, because no matter how you arrange it, they're getting rung.

Bullpen, more like Bull Fathom Five, because these staffs ain't deep.

Bullpen, more like Died-in-the-Bull, along with their team's chance of winning.

Bullpen, more like not playing with a bull deck, amirite?

Bullpen, more like Steer Hall Putsch, because it's a colossal failure, and if they keep this up they're going to have a lot of time to work on their diaries.

   14. Omineca Greg Posted: October 09, 2019 at 08:36 PM (#5888522)
.
   15. Omineca Greg Posted: October 09, 2019 at 08:42 PM (#5888524)
Bullpen, more like Ba'al pen, a little bit because Ba'al was a shitty god, but mainly because now my post has Punic in it...and just like Dido, the Ba'al pen doesn't have the good sense to surrender...

I know I left too much mess and destruction
To come back again
And I caused nothing but trouble
I understand if you can't talk to me again

And if you live by the rules of "it's over"
Then I'm sure that that makes sense

I will go down with this ship
And I won't put my hands up and surrender
There will be no white flag above my door...

Dido

BBTF doesn't support Punic script...I wonder if this has ever come up before.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: October 09, 2019 at 08:59 PM (#5888536)
BBTF doesn't support Punic script...I wonder if this has ever come up before.


It's been bothering me since Asdrubal Cabrera and Annibal Sanchez debuted!
   17. Omineca Greg Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:14 PM (#5888559)
And just like that, the reign of #15 being the best Punic joke on the thread came to an end.

After a scant 17 minutes.

Long live post #16!

There once was a prisoner oh so Punic
He wore a big [STUPID ####### BOARD WON"T SUPPORT CHARACTER] on his damn hipster tunic
The tribunis laticlavius dicated
That he be quite promptly castrated
And now his style's even more eunuch 


I dunno. It's alright.
   18. Dr. Vaux Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:42 PM (#5888566)
This is a legendary thread!

Walt, that all occurred to me, too, while I was driving later. Third time numbers are going to be biased not only toward better starters, but better starters when they're having their better games (although I remember there were some studies a few years ago that seemed to indicate a surprising lack of tendency for one bad inning by a starter to lead to further bad innings in the same start). But it probably isn't enough to cancel out the fact that the relievers who get brought into the game earlier are usually worse relievers. The splits by inning also show some of the higher ERAs for single innings being the 6th and 7th, and then lower ERAs in the 8th and 9th, but that might just reiterate that it's a combination of flagging starters and not very good relievers. Probably the jury is still somewhat out on whether flagging starters are better or worse than bad relievers. I still think that for teams with deep bullpens, an average reliever is usually a better choice in the middle innings than all but the very best starters.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:51 PM (#5888569)
There once was a team quite exalted
But their progress was seen to be halted
By a 'pen known to blow
Amirite? Doncha know?
Beaten like their home field had been salted
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: October 09, 2019 at 10:58 PM (#5888571)
Walt, that all occurred to me, too, while I was driving later. Third time numbers are going to be biased not only toward better starters, but better starters when they're having their better games (although I remember there were some studies a few years ago that seemed to indicate a surprising lack of tendency for one bad inning by a starter to lead to further bad innings in the same start). But it probably isn't enough to cancel out the fact that the relievers who get brought into the game earlier are usually worse relievers. The splits by inning also show some of the higher ERAs for single innings being the 6th and 7th, and then lower ERAs in the 8th and 9th, but that might just reiterate that it's a combination of flagging starters and not very good relievers. Probably the jury is still somewhat out on whether flagging starters are better or worse than bad relievers. I still think that for teams with deep bullpens, an average reliever is usually a better choice in the middle innings than all but the very best starters.


Many of that was discussed in the MGL thread where he accused TLR of making the worst manager decision in history by sticking with Carpenter in the playoffs against Halladay. (1-0 game that Carpenter won) there was a lot of points like you pointed out mentioned in the multiple threads that happened from that discussion. (which is why it's great to have these type of discussions)

Mind you, most of that discussion was on the other side of the equation, comparing great pitchers who are kept in, than focusing on the relievers, but a lot of the variables were discussed....
   21. Walt Davis Posted: October 10, 2019 at 12:57 AM (#5888702)
I was in that MGL thread (god that was a long time ago). But there was another, deeper issue there -- relevant in the playoffs generally but particularly relevant to that particular situation. The choice was not just Carpenter vs. Motte; the choice was just the clearly better (in an absolute sense) pitcher Carpenter vs. Motte; it was Carpenter the better pitcher throwing possibly the last inning of the season when he could just give it everything he got without worrying about the next inning or the next game or (guaranteed contract) even the next season vs. Motte (who basically always pitched like that since it was his job).

It was really one of MGL's worst performances as I recall. By the end, I recall he conceded such an enormous number of caveats that he had no leg to stand on. Another rather non-MGL mistake he made (as I recall) is that he basically pretended that 2011 Motte was the real Motte. First, we only had 188 innings of ML data over 3+ seasons on the guy -- he'd never put any faith in a SP projection based on so few innings. His ERA+ over those innings was 134 which is real nice but hardly OMG reliever territory. Carpenter threw more innings that season than Motte had his career to that point.

Which isn't to say that TLR's decision was necessarily the right one, just that it was a very close decision and obviously not the worst decision in history. I'd have stuck with Carpenter (who had the lower HR rate by the way).

One difference from today is that it's hard to imagine a starter getting through 8 innings of a postseason game on just 102 pitches (he needed only another 8 in the 9th). Even when these guys are getting pulled early, they're often being pulled after 75-80 pitches so the manager would be lucky to get one more inning out of them anyway. And of course back in 2011, nobody was removing starters in the 5th inning.

The splits by inning also show some of the higher ERAs for single innings being the 6th and 7th

I did a very quick and dirty guesstimate based on an assumption that nearly all 8th, 9th and extra innings are thrown by relievers -- some will be thrown by SPs but probably not enough to make a difference -- then took those IP and ER away from overall reliever (well, approximately) and guesstimated an "early reliever" ERA of about 4.60 and the overal ERA across 5th-7th is about 4.60 so this might well be the equilibrium point.

I still think that for teams with deep bullpens, an average reliever is usually a better choice in the middle innings than all but the very best starters.

This is probably true but we still have to wonder about the uncertainty around "deep bullpens." It seems pretty clear to me that the Cubs have tried to do this the last couple of years. They aren't always great relievers but the Cubs have started the season with 8 previously "successful" "veteran" relievers. And at the last two deadlines, they've restocked with another 2-3 of them. But nobody seems to have a good handle on who is a "true" good reliever or not, plus injury plus the AAAA shuttle. So even if you try to build a deep bullpen, you might still be lucky to ID 5 good, reliable guys of which often at least 1 will be injured.

The playoffs are also interesting. Early on, it's probably worthwhile to be aggressive with the pen. But as time goes no either you're trotting out David Phelps or you're trotting out Steve Cishek for his 18th inning in the last month which is not a usage he's used to (and batters will have seen him more than usual over the past two weeks). Many disagree but I thought Cleveland's usage in the 2016 postseason was about right given how decimated their rotation was at season's end but it's still true that Andrew Miller threw 18.2 innings that postseason (bringing his season total to 93). Maybe if they had spread a bit more of the load to Shaw (10.1 postseason IP) and Otero (6.2), they'd have gotten a better outcome. It's not a shock that at some point, Miller might give up some runs.

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