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Relievers Are Inherently Fungible Newsbeat

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Assessing Reliever Value in a Shorter Season

Trying to predict how a reliever will perform from one season to the next can be a pretty frustrating exercise. Some amount of uncertainty surrounds all players, but being a pitcher makes things a little more difficult and being a pitcher who is often asked to throw with max effort with little to no rest complicates further still. And even after we move past those factors, we’re faced with a smaller sample of outcomes for bullpen arms. A 60-inning season is a complete season for a reliever, considerably fewer innings than a starter throws and many fewer batters faced than the number of times most starting position players come to the plate. Trying to predict reliever performance in half a season is even more difficult; attempting to put a value on relievers in a potentially condensed, shorter season becomes quite challenging.

Consider that last season, there were 158 qualified relievers with at least 48 innings pitched. Ken Giles produced 1.9 WAR, ranking 10th in baseball among his bullpen brethren. Brett Martin ranked 60th among relievers with a 0.8 WAR and Matt Albers ranked 130th as a replacement-level reliever. Now, let’s cut those seasons in half. Giles still ranks 10th with just under a win, but he’s now closer to Matt Albers in half a season than he was to Brett Martin in a full season. It is considerably harder to tell, in terms of results, the difference between a good and bad reliever under those constraints. This is further complicated by the fact that the smaller the sample size, the less likely that the results will match the actual performance.

I separated pitchers into three groups from last season: pitchers with at least 100 innings, qualified relievers, and pitchers with at least 20, but less than 40, innings on the season. Then I ran some correlations between WPA, which shows how the actual results on the field mattered to the team, and ERA, FIP, and WAR, to show some measures of performance.

With starting pitchers, we see a good relationship between all three metrics (i.e. the better or worse a pitcher pitched, the better or worse the result was for the team). When we drop the innings requirement down and look at relievers, the relationship gets weaker (i.e. the results vary more, with the pitcher’s performance showing a little more randomness). When we drop the innings requirement down further, we see the relationship grow even weaker. That last set is most representative of the number of innings we might see from relievers in a shortened season.

Once you’ve figured this out, can you teach me how to win big at roulette?

 

QLE Posted: April 09, 2020 at 01:53 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: relievers are inherently fungible, shortened season, statistics

Sunday, February 23, 2020

2020 Fantasy Baseball: The Save Game

Wins may be the most challenging part of fantasy baseball to figure out, but closers are the most frustrating. On draft day, I have a tough time using a high draft pick on a one-category player. I also hate chasing closers and closers in waiting around in the free-agent market. The last couple of years in the high stakes games, I’ve tried to cheat saves. At times it can work, but many times a weakness will cost me a bench spot, which hurts my team in other areas. If you cheat saves and you’re mistaken, you need to roster more inventory to increase your chances of finding the next closer to earn a job.

In the high stake’s market in 15-team leagues in most seasons, you need about 85 to 90 saves on the year (about 3.5 saves per week) in finish the top 20 percent. In 2019, saves were down across the board, which led to only 73 saves to rank at the 20 percentile. In 12-team leagues last year, a fantasy owner needed to secure 82 saves for the same ranking.

The best teams will use seven starters and two closers. If you fall behind in saves, you are forced to use a third closer to make up ground. It can work as long as you are in the right position in wins and strikeouts.

Closers can make an impact in multiple ways – saves, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. At times, they can be a difference-maker in wins. A great example of a five-category closer was Edwin Diaz. His 2018 season should be my goal when I’m looking for a number one closer. He saved 57 games (45 saves would be a reasonable target) with two wins, 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and 124 strikeouts. Ideally, it would be great to get a minimum of four wins from each of your top two closers to help in the win category.

For those wondering why so many people out there grossly overrate relief pitching…..

 

QLE Posted: February 23, 2020 at 12:43 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: fantasy baseball, relievers are inherently fungible, saves

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Josh Hader loses salary arbitration hearing

The Brewers defeated ace reliever Josh Hader in their salary arbitration hearing, according to multiple reports (including MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand). Hader will make $4.1 million instead of the $6.4 million figure he filed at. The case appears to continue the precedent that saves are what are heavily valued for relievers in salary arbitration.

That, of course, is heavily outdated thinking. Hader has been one of the most valuable relief pitchers in the game since he first stepped foot in the big leagues. Milwaukee deployed him as a sort of tactical nuke for his first two seasons, throwing him into high-leverage situations regardless of when they arose. He assumed regular closing duties in 2019 and racked up 37 saves, a second consecutive All-Star appearance, and a second NL Reliever of the Year award.

Alternatively, it could be an admission as for just how interchangable relief pitchers are in practical terms.

 

QLE Posted: February 15, 2020 at 12:52 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: arbitration, josh hader, relievers are inherently fungible

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cubs looking to unearth core relievers with low-cost, high-upside acquisitions

The Cubs bullpen is going to look a whole lot different this season.

Gone are the reliable Steve Cishek (signed with White Sox) and Brandon Kintzler (reportedly signed with Marlins). Pedro Strop remains a free agent, though a recent report said the race to sign him is down to the Marlins and Rangers.

Assuming Strop doesn’t return, the Cubs will have lost three of their four most frequently used relievers from 2019. Replacing the trio will be no small task, considering a bulk of their appearances came in late-inning, high-leverage spots.

Cishek and Kintzler didn’t sign back-breaking deals (one-year, $6 million; reported one-year, $3.25 million), but the luxury tax has been a factor in the Cubs offseason. They aren’t in a position to commit big money to top-of-the-market arms and have instead been stockpiling low-cost relievers with upside.

An imponderable for all of you: Why is it that, in an era so filled with advanced analysis, do baseball teams continue to heavily overrate relievers?

 

QLE Posted: January 29, 2020 at 01:04 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, relievers are inherently fungible

 

 

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