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Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Dodgers’ weekend walk-off drama highlights baseball’s bullpen paradox – Orange County Register

How will bullpens fare in July and August?

Jim Furtado Posted: June 27, 2019 at 06:53 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: June 27, 2019 at 09:18 PM (#5856571)
The article went a somewhat different direction than I expected.

It notes that reliever ERA is higher than starter ERA. But the paradox is that leads have been safer this year than last; that walk-off wins (and HRs) have been less likely than last year. There have been a lot of "comeback" wins but apparently most of those comeback wins have occurred early.

It also notes that the reliever ERA thing is due to the O's and Nats both being on a pace to post the highest bullpen ERAs since 1953. Presumably they'll regress towards not historically awful and things will be closer to normal from here.

The lead-holding thing is some prime facie evidence of my speculation in the other thread that teams are more cavalier about the back end of bullpens (fungibility run rampant, more position player pitching). The guys employed to hold leads are mostly holding leads. But it's also conflated with the increase in blow-outs (documented in the article) meaning there are lots of leads that are easy to hold. Quick peek -- almost exactly half of wins this year included a save, basically the same as last year so maybe the blow-outs aren't changing things that much in terms of lead-holding.

One thing that's intrigued me since discovering that b-r tracks save "situations" (as opposed to "opportunities" which are also tracked) ... how well are teams leveraging? In a Red Sox thread, I noticed that the Red Sox (now) have 80 save situations (entering with a lead of 3 or less or tying run on-deck, after the 5th inning). 70% of those have gone to three relievers and just under 90% have gone to just 5 relievers. That's partly due to having a mostly healthy bullpen and some luck (not having enough close games/starter failures to tire out the good part of the pen). The various other relievers have 106 appearances and just 9 save situations. Which isn't to say there's not still plenty of innings-eating -- those 5 top relievers have 71 save situations in 175 GR.

But like I said, they've been pretty healthy. They have 6 relievers with over 30 GR each. The Cubs haven't been so lucky with just 4 and one of those is Brad Brach who's having a terrible season and was supposed to be something like our #7 reliever. For MLB as a whole, there have been 2178 save situations ... 97 relievers account for 67.3% of those appearances. If you go down to the top 150 relievers (in terms of save situations), you bring that up to just short of 85% ... and that just breaches 5 save situations which is pretty trivial in half a season. One suspects most of the residual are save situations occurring in the 6th inning or extra innings when they've run out of pitchers.

So as long as those top 3-5 relievers are holding their leads, teams probably don't care much what the other 3-4 slots are doing and maybe not even all that much how the top 3-5 are doing in non-save situations. If teams would now rather cycle three min salary AAA guys through a spot they used to spend $2 M for Brad Brach, it may not be surprising that reliever ERA creeps up (beyond the amount it was bound to creep up due to more innings).
   2. Sunday silence Posted: June 27, 2019 at 11:30 PM (#5856603)
what would be the difference between a team being "cavalier" about the back end, vs the simple fact that there isnt as much talent to go round. i would assume that the number of pitchers per team has increased in recent years wouldnt it stand to reason that there is going to be less talent at the back end when teams are going to 13 or 14 man pitching staffs and really effectively 25+ over a whole season?

perhaps you have something different in mind by the term "cavalier?"
   3. Bote Man Posted: June 28, 2019 at 12:13 AM (#5856606)
It also notes that the reliever ERA thing is due to the O's and Nats both being on a pace to post the highest bullpen ERAs since 1953.

I am not a data scientist, but good engineering practice (and common sense) dictate that you throw out the questionable outliers from your dataset to get a good read on what it is telling you. Or in this case, throw out the early season garbage numbers from the Nats bullpen at least. Unless those numbers tell us something useful to know??
   4. Walt Davis Posted: June 28, 2019 at 01:11 AM (#5856617)
Numbers is numbers. The outliers in this case aren't "questionable", they're clearly accurate data. But sure, if you want to give outliers less influence on results there are ways to incorporate that into your model but always based on "tuning" parameters.

"Cavalier" about the back end is potentially forgoing a more reliable veteran in place of rotating AAA crap ... or of course pushing your starters out farther to avoid those extra reliever innings to begin with. It's not increasing the use of position players as pitchers. It's not putting in crap pitchers when you're down 2-3 runs in the 6th because you know the probability of winning is only 2.5% (or whatever). But I'm just speculating.

I'm not even saying it's a bad strategy. The change in reliever usage hasn't been about the top 4-5 relievers -- those guys are (probably) doing the same job they did 5-10 years ago in the close games. It's shifting more lower-leverage (or maybe middle-leverage) innings onto relievers from starters.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 28, 2019 at 09:37 AM (#5856641)
Well, at least the Dodgers aren't going to hit any walk-off homers this weekend. But Wade Davis allowed another three-run bomb in the ninth last night.
   6. stanmvp48 Posted: June 28, 2019 at 10:18 AM (#5856653)
And is ERA is up to 6.00
   7. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: June 28, 2019 at 10:25 AM (#5856654)
I sort of suspect we're heading in a direction where the distinction between rotation and bullpen is nebulous, and other than a few real studs there are just going to be a huge mass of pitchers throwing 50-100 innings, either with most of them getting a smattering of starts or with the role of starter becoming nominal for all but the very best. Eventually that will mean that the ERA differential will all but disappear. In this case, my intuition is that starter ERA's are probably going down a little because fewer guys are exposed to a lineup three times in a game, and it may be the case that they can rely on their best pitches more / throw a little harder when they know they're not going to be expected to go more than five or six innings.

I could be wrong, of course, but that feels like where we're headed.

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