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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wilmoth: Dislike Current Closer Usage? Use Your Brain, Lemming

Wilmoth, taking it to Kovacevic.

Dejan Kovacevic doesn’t like it very much when I pick on him, and I know he thinks it’s unfair, but look—if any other well-known Pittsburgh media personality who I’m supposed to take seriously posted something this provocative and ridiculous, I’d be talking about that, too.

  Has the Moneyball crowd yet trademarked the term “Meh?” How about “ad hominem?” Or “straw man?” Look, I love advanced stats ... But the amount of groupthink that occurs within this group flies completely in the face of two other favorite terms, “objective” and “intellectual.” True objectivity—and I’m not claiming purity here—comes from, duh, an open mind. Maybe there’s a REASON closers pitch the ninth.

The last sentence is hilarious. I’m sure there are reasons why closers pitch (only) the ninth. But you’ll notice that Kovacevic isn’t going to tell you what they are. You’ll just have to trust him, and all the managers who continue the practice despite it flying in the face of all common sense and evidence. If you don’t, you’re a sheep. “Duh.”

...My guess is that, within a generation or so, teams will think about their closers differently than they do now. But it’s going to take a long time. There will have to be teams who are willing to experiment, and the current barriers to experimentation are pretty high. The first teams to experiment will probably be teams that don’t have much to lose, and those kinds of teams generally don’t have good bullpens. It will take awhile for things to change. But teams are currently leaving plenty of wins on the table.

Repoz Posted: August 11, 2012 at 07:44 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates, sabermetrics

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   1. bobm Posted: August 11, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4206071)
FTFA:
in this age of specialization, teams are probably using their bullpens better than they did 40 years ago.


TFA links here to:


Jul 28, 2008
THE STAT GUY
Wishing that baseball’s save statistic had never been invented
By BRADFORD DOOLITTLE
The Kansas City Star ...

There have undeniably been positive consequences from the shift in pitching staff alignments. Starting pitchers are enjoying longer careers. Also, the use of short relievers to preserve leads has made it more difficult for teams to come from behind.

Thirty years ago, AL teams posted an OPS in late-and-close situations that was 99.1 percent as good as the league OPS. Not much difference. These days, that number has dropped to 95.7 percent. So you can look at it like this: Relief specialization has rendered batters 3.4 percent less effective in clutch situations than they were in the old model of pitcher usage. ...

Pitchers through time
Year lgOPS L&C Ratio SV IP/R
1958 .705 .689 .977 34% 1.84
1968 .637 .631 .991 37% 1.57
1978 .711 .704 .990 34% 1.99
1988 .715 .683 .955 50% 1.56
1998 .771 .738 .957 52% 1.16
2008 .745 .713 .957 52% 1.11

Key: lgOPS — league OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage); L&C — league OPS in late-and-close situations; Ratio — L&C as a portion of lgOPS; SV — percentage of games with a save; IP/R — innings per relief appearance; all numbers AL only.


http://web.archive.org/web/20080729141935/http://www.kansascity.com/sports/story/724382.html
   2. DA Baracus Posted: August 11, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4206074)
Oh, it's Dejan Kovacevic, professional troll. Move along, nothing to see here.
   3. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 11, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4206084)
Thirty years ago, AL teams posted an OPS in late-and-close situations that was 99.1 percent as good as the league OPS. Not much difference. These days, that number has dropped to 95.7 percent. So you can look at it like this: Relief specialization has rendered batters 3.4 percent less effective in clutch situations than they were in the old model of pitcher usage. ...

How much of this is due to the emergence of the 5th starter, and the lesser usage of the team's best 3 starters? Wouldn't that lower the bar that the "late-and-close" OPS is being measured against? Shouldn't we look at something like % of "late-and-close" leads held, adjusted for run environment?
   4.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:34 PM (#4206149)
It's hysterical that someone who opposes the viewpoint that every member of MLB follows blindly is the "lemming." How cute
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4206169)
How much of this is due to the emergence of the 5th starter, and the lesser usage of the team's best 3 starters?


Not that much of it. Most of the late-and-close innings that are pitched by starters were pitched by the top 3 starters; the back-end guys have always been on a shorter leash. Until about 1985, front-end starters stayed in close games with a lead in the late innings; it wasn't really until the mid-90s that current bullpen usage took hold even when the aces were pitching.

Shouldn't we look at something like % of "late-and-close" leads held, adjusted for run environment?


I did, four or five years ago. Teams were blowing late-inning leads in both the eighth and ninth innings the mid-70s at about the rate you might expect given the run environment. By the mid-2000s, teams were blowing ninth-inning leads at about 90% of the rate you might expect given the run environment, and eighth-inning leads at about 95% of the rate you might expect.

-- MWE
   6. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4206170)
Just as a side note:

I think teams probably ARE using their bullpens better than they did 40 years ago - but mostly because they're putting better pitchers there earlier in their careers and using them at more regular intervals.

-- MWE
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4206202)
I do love the arguments that the mainstream is putting out to support continuing the save role, when it wasn't that long ago that they were bemoaning the rise of the save and saying that pitchers in the day used to come in to pitch multiple innings etc.

Assuming the logic is correct about the rise of the save stat from this article(which I think it is) then wouldn't the eventual solution be to come up and popularize a stat that does a better job of evaluating relievers? I know the hold stat never caught hold (which is a shame, it's a very useful stat, in the same way that saves is useful, even with it flaws) but that is because of a couple of design flaws in the stat itself. As it stands right now, if you mention saves and save percentages without accounting for holds, you are just being an idiot.

I know that some saber people have attempted to create a better stat, but they either use theoretical numbers (wpa, leverage, etc) as part of the formula, or just miss to much information. I keep saying that eventually someone will have to steal from the NFL and come up with the reliever rating(like a quarterback) rating that does a good job of rating relievers for their role and usage Not many people who look at quarterback rating knows how it's created (they do know it includes yards passing, completion percentage, touch downs in the formula but not exactly how it's created) and that 100+ is good but they don't know the nuts and bolts and are perfectly fine with using it, same with era, batting average etc. (a little simpler of course but still it's proof that the mainstream isn't afraid of a stat based upon a formula if they know and agree with the components)

Eventually I would like to see a reliever rating that is listed on a scale like the quarterback rating 100 being good, that incorporates inherited runners, hitting components allowed, runs allowed, saves+holds percentage, etc (and no theoretical pieces such as relative to average reliever, wpa, leverage index etc)


Teams are using their bullpens better now than even 10 years ago, I think that is pretty obvious. Heck it wouldn't surprise me at all if the top ten closers by saves this year have appeared in more tied games than they did just ten years ago. There is a slow shifting going on of managers expanding the roles of closers, but they are still beholden to the save stat to a large degree.
   8. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 11, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4206218)
It's hysterical that someone who opposes the viewpoint that every member of MLB follows blindly is the "lemming." How cute


Am I misreading this? I thought this was Wilmoth calling Kovacevic a lemming. Thats what turned me off to the piece right away. He's right but when you start out that rudely its hard for me to be supportive.
   9. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: August 11, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4206258)
Thirty years ago, AL teams posted an OPS in late-and-close situations that was 99.1 percent as good as the league OPS. Not much difference. These days, that number has dropped to 95.7 percent


How much of this is due to the emergence of the 5th starter, and the lesser usage of the team's best 3 starters? Wouldn't that lower the bar that the "late-and-close" OPS is being measured against?


Not that much of it. Most of the late-and-close innings that are pitched by starters were pitched by the top 3 starters; the back-end guys have always been on a shorter leash. Until about 1985, front-end starters stayed in close games with a lead in the late innings; it wasn't really until the mid-90s that current bullpen usage took hold even when the aces were pitching.

I read the first statement as meaning that high leverage relievers were about 101% as good as the league overall. So I was asking isn't part of the reason for this that the league overall was "stronger" because the best pitchers pitched a higher percent of innings? IOW the high leverage relievers were being compared to the Top 4 Starters mostly in the past whereas they're being compared to the Top 5 Starters now. It wouldn't be that surprising to me if the same relievers were 101% as good as the Top 4 Starters and 106% as good as the Top 5 Starters.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4206280)
I read the first statement as meaning that high leverage relievers were about 101% as good as the league overall. So I was asking isn't part of the reason for this that the league overall was "stronger" because the best pitchers pitched a higher percent of innings? IOW the high leverage relievers were being compared to the Top 4 Starters mostly in the past whereas they're being compared to the Top 5 Starters now. It wouldn't be that surprising to me if the same relievers were 101% as good as the Top 4 Starters and 106% as good as the Top 5 Starters.


Most teams regularly used five starters starting around the 30's. Or more accurately 4 and a half starters. Leading the league in starts has been pretty much 35-36 starts, and that is at the upper end, more than half the teams on any given year is not going to get even one player with 35 starts meaning most teams still got 20+ starts out of the fifth starter. This myth of the set 4 man rotation averaging 40 starts of a season needs to go away. What has changed is that in the past teams used their pitchers as both starters and relievers (Dizzy Dean led the league in saves in a year where he had 28 complete games, 34 starts and 51 games)

Not that it matters in any way, when the comment was that bullpen usage has improved, it doesn't matter how it got there, it just matters what the result is, and the result is that bullpens of today do a better job of holding the lead than they did in the past.
   11. The District Attorney Posted: August 11, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4206303)
Am I misreading this? I thought this was Wilmoth calling Kovacevic a lemming.
No, the headline is caricaturing Kovacevic's response to the statheads.

You're of course right that "all you baseball people only believe in closers because the other baseball people do!" vs. "all you statheads only don't believe in closers because the other statheads don't!" is an argument unlikely to lead anywhere productive.
   12. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 11, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4206318)
But teams are currently leaving plenty of wins on the table.


As infuriating as certain aspects of modern bullpen usage can be, is the statement above really supported by actual evidence?
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 11, 2012 at 05:31 PM (#4206430)
Assuming the logic is correct about the rise of the save stat from this article(which I think it is) then wouldn't the eventual solution be to come up and popularize a stat that does a better job of evaluating relievers? I know the hold stat never caught hold (which is a shame, it's a very useful stat, in the same way that saves is useful, even with it flaws) but that is because of a couple of design flaws in the stat itself. As it stands right now, if you mention saves and save percentages without accounting for holds, you are just being an idiot.


I don't know why inherited runners stranded percentage isn't a bigger mainstream stat for middle relievers. Obviously it doesn't measure everything since it ignores situations where a reliever starts an inning, but it seems a lot better than Wins and Losses or even Holds.
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: August 11, 2012 at 05:59 PM (#4206447)
I don't know why inherited runners stranded percentage isn't a bigger mainstream stat for middle relievers. Obviously it doesn't measure everything since it ignores situations where a reliever starts an inning, but it seems a lot better than Wins and Losses or even Holds.


I think every time I've see a pitcher come in relief this year and last year that the broadcast has listed inherited runners and strand rate(or inherited runners scored)


It has the same weakness as the hold stat, in that someone could be ineffective and still get a positive out of it. Example, man on second and no outs a reliever comes in, walks a guy or two and leaves, but he would get credited for not allowing an inherited runner to score. The mainstream is now quick to pick on the weakness of a stat,(example the quality start is a much better stat than wins, it's not remotely close as to being equal stats, but because you can post a 4.50 era while going only 6 innings the quality start is disliked by the mainstream media, and broadcasters, while the win stat is still trumpeted even when allowing 6 runs over 5 innings)

Some of these stats are starting to grow on the broadcasters though, the hold seems to be getting a little traction, and I hear quality start mentioned all the time even if it's to denigrate it (Al Hrabosky refers to the quality start as an arbitration stat) I imagine that in about 10 years most broadcasts and broadcasters will be using ops, holds, etc.
   15. Ron J Posted: August 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM (#4206568)
#12 The best we can do here is with sims and that's just never going to be fully convincing.

Bill James' suggested use of an elite relief pitcher (tested in sims): (quoting now)

The very optimal usage pattern, I believe, would be to use the relief ace:

two innings a game when the game is tied
two innings a game when you have a one run lead, and
one inning at a time in other games when the game is close at the end and the relief ace hasn't been used for a game or two.

(end quote)

Overall this rates to produce a workload of about 69 games and 113 innings.

Now if the elite relief pitchers could survive this workload with the same effectiveness then you rate to win a few extra games. But there (generally) just aren't that many games at stake with bullpen use. "Plenty" strikes me as a likely overbid.
   16.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 11, 2012 at 10:38 PM (#4206585)
Am I misreading this? I thought this was Wilmoth calling Kovacevic a lemming.


He specifically called statheads victims of "groupthink."

The first person to whine about groupthink in an argument loses the argument.
   17. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 11, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4206588)
The first person to whine about groupthink in an argument loses the argument.

and everyone feels that way
   18. DanG Posted: August 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM (#4206639)
This myth of the set 4 man rotation averaging 40 starts of a season needs to go away.
Yes, a total myth. Only five times has a team had four pitchers with 34+ GS:

Rk   Year Lg                  Tm                                                             #Matching
1    1993 NL      Atlanta Braves         4       Steve Avery Tom Glavine Greg Maddux John Smoltz
2    1991 NL      Atlanta Braves         4 Steve Avery 
Tom Glavine Charlie Leibrandt John Smoltz
3    1984 AL   Toronto Blue Jays         4       Doyle Alexander 
Jim Clancy Luis Leal Dave Stieb
4    1972 AL   Baltimore Orioles         4       Mike Cuellar 
Pat Dobson Dave McNally Jim Palmer
5    1966 NL Los Angeles Dodgers         4    Don Drysdale 
Sandy Koufax Claude Osteen Don Sutton 

Only three teams (since 1893) have had three pitchers with 40 GS:

Rk   Year Lg                  Tm                                             #Matching
1    1972 AL   Chicago White Sox         3    Stan Bahnsen Tom Bradley Wilbur Wood
2    1969 NL Los Angeles Dodgers         3    Claude Osteen 
Bill Singer Don Sutton
3    1965 NL Los Angeles Dodgers         3 Don Drysdale 
Sandy Koufax Claude Osteen 
   19. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2012 at 12:38 AM (#4206640)

He specifically called statheads victims of "groupthink."

The first person to whine about groupthink in an argument loses the argument.


I AGREE
   20. McCoy Posted: August 12, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4206645)
I think with IR and rates for them scoring the stat should only count IR and those runners not scoring if you leave an inning by getting at least one out.
   21. DanG Posted: August 12, 2012 at 01:41 AM (#4206648)
Only two teams in the past hundred years got through the season using only five SP:

2003 Sea: Moyer 33, Garcia 33, Franklin 32, Pineiro 32, Meche 32
1966 LA: Koufax 41, Drysdale 40, Osteen 38, Sutton 35, Moeller 8

This season Cincinnati has used only five SP so far.
   22. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: August 12, 2012 at 01:43 AM (#4206649)
Fwiw, I thought Dejan did a really nice job when he was a pirates beat guy (as distinct from analysis, but whatever - not my point).
   23. Dale Sams Posted: August 12, 2012 at 02:40 AM (#4206656)
The first person to whine about groupthink in an argument loses the argument.


What?? You guys all believe this? I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS HERE!!
   24.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 12, 2012 at 02:49 AM (#4206657)
Fewest starters used in a season, since 1910:

Team Year # Pitchers Pitchers Games
LAN 1966 5 Claude Osteen,Joe Moeller,Don Sutton,Sandy Koufax,Don Drysdale 162
SEA 2003 5 Joel Pineiro,Ryan Franklin,Gil Meche,Freddy Garcia,Jamie Moyer 162
WS1 1917 6 Doc Ayers,Walter Johnson,Jim Shaw,George Dumont,Harry Harper,Bert Gallia 157
NYA 1922 6 Bob Shawkey,Joe Bush,Carl Mays,Waite Hoyt,Sam Jones,George Murray 154
CIN 1942 6 Ray Starr,Paul Derringer,Junior Thompson,Bucky Walters,Johnny Vander Meer,Elmer Riddle 154
CIN 1951 6 Willie Ramsdell,Howie Fox,Harry Perkowski,Ken Raffensberger,Herm Wehmeier,Ewell Blackwell 155
NYA 1963 6 Al Downing,Stan Williams,Whitey Ford,Bill Stafford,Jim Bouton,Ralph Terry 161
BAL 1970 6 Mike Cuellar,Dave McNally,Marcelino Lopez,Jim Hardin,Jim Palmer,Tom Phoebus 162
LAN 1970 6 Claude Osteen,Don Sutton,Sandy Vance,Joe Moeller,Bill Singer,Alan Foster 161
BAL 1972 6 Mike Cuellar,Dave McNally,Roric Harrison,Jim Palmer,Pat Dobson,Doyle Alexander 154
MIN 1972 6 Bert Blyleven,Dave Goltz,Dick Woodson,Ray Corbin,Jim Kaat,Jim Perry 154
MON 1972 6 Mike Torrez,Balor Moore,Ernie McAnally,Carl Morton,Steve Renko,Bill Stoneman 156
LAN 1974 6 Al Downing,Don Sutton,Tommy John,Doug Rau,Andy Messersmith,Geoff Zahn 162
BAL 1977 6 Rudy May,Jim Palmer,Scott McGregor,Mike Flanagan,Ross Grimsley,Dennis Martinez 161
LAN 1978 6 Don Sutton,Burt Hooton,Doug Rau,Bob Welch,Rick Rhoden,Tommy John 162
ATL 1980 6 Doyle Alexander,Preston Hanna,Larry McWilliams,Rick Matula,Phil Niekro,Tommy Boggs 161
ML4 1981 6 Pete Vuckovich,Randy Lerch,Moose Haas,Jim Slaton,Jerry Augustine,Mike Caldwell 109
BAL 1982 6 Mike Flanagan,Dennis Martinez,Storm Davis,Jim Palmer,Sammy Stewart,Scott McGregor 163
ATL 1993 6 Kent Mercker,Tom Glavine,Steve Avery,John Smoltz,Greg Maddux,Pete Smith 162
LAN 1993 6 Kevin Gross,Pedro Martinez,Ramon Martinez,Tom Candiotti,Pedro Astacio,Orel Hershiser 162
CHA 1994 6 Alex Fernandez,Wilson Alvarez,Scott Sanderson,Scott Ruffcorn,Jack McDowell,Jason Bere 113
HOU 1994 6 Doug Drabek,Darryl Kile,Brian Williams,Greg Swindell,Shane Reynolds,Pete Harnisch 115
LAN 1994 6 Ismael Valdez,Pedro Astacio,Orel Hershiser,Kevin Gross,Ramon Martinez,Tom Candiotti 114
LAN 1996 6 Ismael Valdez,Pedro Astacio,Chan Ho Park,Ramon Martinez,Hideo Nomo,Tom Candiotti 162
SFN 1998 6 Orel Hershiser,Kirk Rueter,Mark Gardner,Danny Darwin,Shawn Estes,Russ Ortiz 163
ARI 1999 6 Armando Reynoso,Omar Daal,Brian Anderson,Todd Stottlemyre,Randy Johnson,Andy Benes 162
ATL 2000 6 Andy Ashby,Greg Maddux,Terry Mulholland,Kevin Millwood,Tom Glavine,John Burkett 162
SLN 2000 6 Garrett Stephenson,Darryl Kile,Pat Hentgen,Britt Reames,Andy Benes,Rick Ankiel 162
OAK 2001 6 Barry Zito,Gil Heredia,Mark Mulder,Tim Hudson,Cory Lidle,Erik Hiljus 162
SFN 2002 6 Jason Schmidt,Kirk Rueter,Livan Hernandez,Ryan Jensen,Kurt Ainsworth,Russ Ortiz 162
ANA 2004 6 Jarrod Washburn,Kelvim Escobar,Aaron Sele,John Lackey,Bartolo Colon,Ramon Ortiz 162
OAK 2004 6 Mark Mulder,Kirk Saarloos,Tim Hudson,Mark Redman,Rich Harden,Barry Zito 162
CHA 2005 6 Mark Buehrle,Orlando Hernandez,Freddy Garcia,Jon Garland,Jose Contreras,Brandon McCarthy 162
CLE 2005 6 C.C. Sabathia,Kevin Millwood,Scott Elarton,Cliff Lee,Jason Davis,Jake Westbrook 162
MIL 2011 6 Randy Wolf,Marco Estrada,Chris Narveson,Yovani Gallardo,Zack Greinke,Shaun Marcum 162

Those are the only teams with 5 or 6.

Since 1910, A total of 725 teams have gotten through a season using fewer than 10 starters. They break down as follows:

1910-1919: 47/160 teams, 29%
1920-1929: 47/160, 29%
1930-1939: 45/160, 28%
1940-1949: 38/160, 24%
1950-1959: 21/160, 13%
1960-1969: 73/198, 36%
1970-1979: 112/246, 46%
1980-1989: 108/260, 42%
1990-1999: 104/278, 37%
2000-2009: 101/300, 34%
2010-2011: 29/60, 48%
   25. Downtown Bookie Posted: August 12, 2012 at 03:26 AM (#4206662)
Re: Post #24 & others - So the increase in the number of pitchers in the starting rotation has led to a decrease in the number of starting pitchers needed during the season.

Is that a correct conclusion? If so, that's quite fascinating (at least, in my humble opinion).

DB
   26. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2012 at 04:36 AM (#4206665)
Re: Post #24 & others - So the increase in the number of pitchers in the starting rotation has led to a decrease in the number of starting pitchers needed during the season.

Is that a correct conclusion? If so, that's quite fascinating (at least, in my humble opinion).


I think we'd need to know more to come to that conclusion. There was less value placed in having specific roles for pitchers, and managers would often have a few guys who went back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen in the 1950's and before than they do now. They'd often do this based on match-ups with the other team. You also had the guys who made just a few starts a year, mostly during scheduled double-headers. Relievers made fewer appearances and pitched more innings per appearance than they do now, so all of this was easier to arrange.

If what the 5 man rotation were saying was that teams stopped having to replace pitchers in the rotation, whether they were doing so due to either injuries or ineffectiveness, then it would be a strong point in favor of the 5 man rotation. I think there are too many other factors to say that without a lot of investigation.
   27. salvomania Posted: August 12, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4206769)
The 100-win 2005 Cardinals came close to only using 5 starters: They got 160 starts out of Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis.

In the midst of a 36-games-in-37-days stretch in July/August, LaRussa started Cal Eldred once in a "bullpen game" and the Birds called up Anthony Reyes for a single spot start (his major-league debut).
   28. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 12, 2012 at 06:06 PM (#4206909)
Fwiw, I thought Dejan did a really nice job when he was a pirates beat guy (as distinct from analysis, but whatever - not my point).


He did. That's why his current turn as trolling ####-stirrer is so disappointing - he's shown that he's capable of much better.

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