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Thursday Bantering: Gibbons and bullpen usage

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The series against the Mariners was great fun. Seeing all the Jays fans in Seattle made it so much better.

A sweep would have been nice.

Felix Hernandez didn’t seem to take the same joy in having the stadium overrun with Jays fans that I did:


FiveThirtyEight has an interesting post on how managers use their bullpens.The short of it is Gibby didn't come well in it. He got a 91 on a scale where 100 is average, placing him near the bottom of the list, which is likely fair.

The method they use is interesting. They "ranked the relievers on each team in every full season since 20003 from best to worst in deserved run average (DRA)." And then:

We then ranked those same pitchers by the average leverage index — essentially, the importance (and pressure) of the moment — at the point when they first entered the game. Finally, we checked how well each team's ranking of relievers by leverage index matched its ranking by DRA, a correlation we're calling a team's reliever management (RM) score. Effective bullpen managers use their best relievers (those with the lowest DRAs) in the most important moments (those with the highest leverage index), which pushes the RM score toward an ideal of -1.

Basically.....they figured who the team's best relievers were and then checked to see if the manager used the best pitchers in the highest leverage spots.

I kind of think this is a little unfair, because the manager has to judge who his best relievers are as the season goes on, while this method judges the relievers after the season ended.

So Gibby loses points for believing that Drew Storen would be as good as it was in the past. I don't see that it wasn't a good decision to put him in a setup role at the start of the year. Storen had a good track record. And last year it took him a month or so to find the guy he trusted to be closer (Roberto Osuna), after his first couple of choices failed in the role (Brett Cecil and Miguel Castro).

It does seem that, in each of the last two seasons, Gibby has needed a couple of months to figure out which relievers he can trust.

But this criticism is very fair:

Several of these guys (at the bottom of the list) are on the record as advocating innings-based roles, which are the bane of optimal relief management.

But then the manager at the top of the list, Joe Torre, ran his bullpen much the same. Torre had the advantage of having Mariano Rivera.

There are things I'd like Gibby to do, the main one is use Roberto Osuna in a 'traditional' closer role. He's used him for 4 out saves, I would like him to use Osuna for 2 inning saves. I don't see any reson why Roberto shouldn't be able to pitch us two good innings every now and then. But I'd like baseball to get off the idea that relievers can only throw one inning.

And I would love him to get out of the 'Grilli pitches the 8th' and 'Benoit pitches the 7th' thing.

The reason managers do this is to slow the game down. The game goes quicker in the dugout than it does on TV. It's harder to make well thought out decisions in the heat of the game, so if you have decisions made before you get there, it makes life easier. But it isn't the best way of doing things.

Anyway...the big question is 'what is the cost of bad bullpen management?' FiveThirtyEight says this:

Perhaps surprisingly, we found that bullpen management — good or bad — doesn't actually affect a team's overall performance all that much. Certainly it's not as important as, say, having good relievers to employ in the first place. A manager who's bad at managing a bullpen (for example, Manny Acta) might be expected to win about 0.5 fewer games per season as a result of his bullpen-management problems than an average manager with the same 'pen, while a good one (such as Joe Girardi) might win 0.5 games more than average over the course of a season. The total effect of this skill has a range of perhaps one win per year.

I'd imagine they are right. I would think that all the in-game decisions added together likely don't change standings much.

Anyway read the piece.

John Sickels, at Minor League Ball, talks about rookie pitchers who "came out of nowhere" and Joe Biagini makes the list. His excerpt from his pre-season prospect book looks spot on.

On the surface Biagini has the body and track record to be a workhorse rotation arm. However, I think he fits best in the bullpen unless he develops a better breaking ball. He could be quite good as a middle reliever. Grade C.

And Dan Robson, at Sportsnet has a great profile of best friend Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak. It is well worth the read.