It’s a post on everyone’s favorite topic: The Bullpen!
I’ve ranked our relievers by pLI — a player’s average leverage index for all game events — and I’ve included FIP as well. FIP stands for ‘Fielding Independent Pitching’ and it’s a measure that removes fielding — hence the Fielding Independent part of FIP — and only measures what the pitcher is responsible for. It’s useful in seeing how well a pitcher is pitching, regardless of what kind of defense is playing behind him. Just think of FIP as an ERA, because it’s scaled in the same way that ERA is.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of leverage, just think about it as what kind of game situation a reliever appears in. The tougher the situation — more men on base — the higher the leverage. BP has a nice definition of leverage which I’ll quote:
Leverage measures how important the situations a reliever has been used in are. A leverage of 1.00 is the same importance as the start of a game. Leverage values below one represent situations that are less important than the start of a game (such as mopup innings in a blowout). Leverage values above one represent situations with more importance (such as a closer protecting a one-run lead with bases loaded in the 9th inning).
So, coming into the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and no outs is a high leveraged situation. The idea seems simple: Use your best relievers in the highest leveraged situations and use your lesser relievers in lower leveraged and mop-up situations.
Let’s check out our numbers and see how the bullpen is getting used.
Note: Ignore the Lincecum numbers, they are from the appearance he made out of the bullpen earlier in the year in L.A.
Some thoughts on the numbers:
~ Brian Wilson has really worked in some hairy situations this year. He’s the Giants highest leveraged reliever by far, he’s the only reliever with a leverage index of 2.0 or greater. He also has the best FIP out of our bullpen members at 3.42. That’s good usage. I still wish Bochy would think “outside of the skull” sometimes and use Wilson in non-save situations when it’s called for, instead of just waiting around for the save. He’s our best reliever, use him accordingly.
~ Tyler Walker, who’s morphed into a human gas can lately, is our 2nd highest leveraged reliever at 1.74. The bulk of that leverage score he’s accumulated by working the 8th inning this year. Recently, he’s been working outside of the 8th inning but he’s still struggled. His FIP of 4.71 just isn’t very good and it’s definitely not the kind of guy you want in high leveraged situations. Walker’s FIP ranks 11th out or pitchers listed, but because we have Lincecum on the list and a couple of guys who’ve just thrown an inning or two out of relief this year — Correia, Misch, Threets, Chulk, and Hennessey — you could bump him up a few positions. Still, it’s been a hard year for Walker and he definitely should not be pitching in high leveraged situations.
~ Despite his control issues this year, Hinshaw ranks 2nd in FIP right behind Wilson. Yet, his leverage score of 0.71 indicates that Bochy has used him more in blow out or low leveraged situations. Maybe it’s time to move him up the bullpen ladder so to speak? His walks are a problem — BB% of 15.7% — but he’s neutralizing them to an extent with his high K% of 30%. I would be in favor of working him up the ladder gradually to see how he does. The control still needs work, but I love his arm.
~ Yabu might be our 3rd best reliever right now. His FIP of 4.11 ranks him behind Wilson and Hinshaw at number three. I’m fine with Yabu’s leverage score of 0.84. He’s been mostly used in long relief or mop-up situations.
~ Whether or not it’s part of Bochy’s bullpen philosophy or not, he’s really working in the young guys slowly. Hinshaw, Salder, Matos, and Espinelli are all working in very low leveraged situations. Hinshaw tops the list at 0.72 and most of the young relievers are are in the 60′s or lower. Espinelli — who’s struggled in a brief 11.2 innings — has a leverage score of 0.19.
~ The bullpen has largely struggled this year. Wilson has emerged as the top arm but with the disintegration of Tyler Walker, Brad Hennessey, Vinnie Chulk and the majority of the younger arms having their expected ups-and-downs, it hasn’t been a pretty sight. FIP isn’t thrilled with Taschner but he’s having a decent year, he might be pitching over his head right now to some extent. The Giants are last in the National League for bullpen ERA at 4.44.
Just some thoughts on the bullpen, but I wonder how Sabean will try to fix things. I’m a little afraid of what Dr. Sabes might try to do, I rarely like the idea of paying the FA market for relievers because they tend to be overpriced and I’m not convinced the value is there. F-Rod will be entering the market this offseason and could land the highest paid contract for a reliever ever. Our bullpen is in tatters. Hugely priced pitcher enters the FA market. Brian Sabean is drooling. Anyone else a little worried?
Comment Starter: Outside of Brain Wilson, who on the Giants do you like to be a successful contributing member to the ’09 bullpen? Should the Giants stand pat, or dip into the free agent pool for bullpen help?
PANIC UPDATE: Sound the alarms, call the police, is the Posey deal still gelling? Henry Schulman thinks so. On his blog, he posted an update that Posey isn’t a sure thing, yet.
Evans told me negotiations were “ongoing.” I pressed him and another source on whether this was all semantics. In other words, are the Giants using the fact that a potential contract is not signed to say a deal is “not done” even if the two sides have a verbal agreement? No, I was told. Very simply, as of 9:30 this evening, there is no deal. Doesn’t mean there won’t be.
C’mon, Buster, take the money! I’ve cursed us all by already ranking him in the Giants farm system.