Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Relief, Redux 

Yesterday I discussed the Diamondbacks' relief woes and how, based on some statistics from Baseball Prospectus' website, I thought that the woes could not be blamed on overuse. I wanted to take a quick look at NL relievers that have been used a lot to see how they compared.

How did I define overuse? I thought it would be hard to argue that being used less than 1 inning every other game constituted overuse, so I looked for relievers with 25 or more innings (assuming every team has pitched 50 games). Here's the list, with relievers, teams, games, innings pitched, and Reliever-Adjusted Runs Prevented (see yesterday's discussion):

Madson,R (PHI) 20 32.3 13.1
Benitez,A (FLA) 27 29.7 12.2
Linebrink,S (SDP) 27 30.3 12.1
Hawkins,L (CHC) 27 28.7 11.7
Cordero,C (MON) 24 30.3 11.4
Looper,B (NYM) 24 28.0 9.7
Otsuka,A (SDP) 25 25.3 8.2
Witasick,J (SDP) 20 28.7 7.7
Reitsma,C (ATL) 26 28.0 7.6
Rodriguez,F (SFG) 30 26.0 7.3
Mota,G (LA) 24 28.3 6.3
Brower,J (SFG) 30 33.7 6.0
Riedling,J (CIN) 25 28.0 5.8
Lidge,B (HOU) 27 30.7 5.8
Jones,T (CIN) 27 30.3 5.5
Meadows,B (PIT) 21 29.7 4.9
Worrell,T (PHI) 25 29.0 4.4
Dotel,O (HOU) 23 25.0 4.0
Miceli,D (HOU) 28 33.7 3.8
Stanton,M (NYM) 31 28.0 3.7
Boehringer,B (PIT) 21 25.3 2.9
Koplove,M (AZ) 30 29.7 2.4
Torres,S (PIT) 27 30.0 1.5
Bennett,J (MIL) 23 26.7 0.4
Graves,D (CIN) 31 31.0 -0.2
Wayne,J (FLA) 17 26.3 -0.6
Vizcaino,L (MIL) 26 25.0 -0.6
Cormier,R (PHI) 27 26.0 -1.0
Ayala,L (MON) 24 26.3 -1.2
Bump,N (FLA) 21 31.7 -1.4
Valverde,J (AZ) 24 25.3 -4.2
Herges,M (SFG) 29 26.7 -4.4
Nunez,V (COL) 21 25.7 -5.1

You'll note a lot of teams represented -- every team, in fact, except for the Cardinals (who, as we noted yesterday, just don't use their relief staff). Another four teams had 1 reliever meet or exceed the 25-inning bar. Arizona had 2, which put them right in the middle of the pack. Again, so much for the "overuse" argument for the D-Backs.

The important number here is the RARP number to the right. As a group, these 33 relievers combined for 139.7 RARP. So what? The total RARP for all NL bullpens combined was just 105.1.

In other words, the "overused" relievers prevented 140 runs for their teams, while all the other relievers cost their teams 35 runs.

I realize the inherent limitations in this methodology (e.g., small sample size, looking at innings pitched vs. pitches thrown). I also have made a note to look at these pitchers in September to see how they're doing then (though regression to the mean is always possible). Clearly, if these pitchers are effective as a group, the tendency to rely on them could increase even more.

We'll leave the pitch count discussions to Will Carroll.

There is a certain amount of reverse cause and effect here: effective relievers will tend to be used more often than ineffective ones, as you kinda hint. If a pitcher does well, he'll be left in.

I also note that the sum of our 'overused' relievers is also less than zero, which is only otherwise true (for obvious reasons) for the Rockies and their sole entry. Mind you, I suspect our 'underused' relievers are hardly any better!

Jim - But It's a DRY Heat...

I agree, as in "real life," managers will delegate more and more tasks to people they've shown can handle the responsibility.

It's a legitimate question in the D-Backs case (I know Robert raises it often) as to why certain relievers get picked over (see "Choate, Randy").
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