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March 11, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Hot Spots: Relief Pitchers

by Lee Panas

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Chicago (NL) PECOTA 2007-09 OPS Short-Term SV%
Closer Age W Sv IP HR K BB ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% vs R vs L Primary Fallback
Carlos Marmol 26 4 33 65 6 80 42 3.38 1.39 11.8 5.5 0.6 36% .488 .618   95   N/A
John Grabow 30 3 4 60 6 48 29 3.92 1.43 7.2 4.3 0.9 47% .714 .609   5   70
Jeff Samardzija 24 4 0 90 12 63 41 4.88 1.56 6.6 4.3 1.0 49% .776 .865     15
Esmailin Caridad 23 3 2 65 9 48 26 4.64 1.49 7.9 1.4 0.0 44% .678 .555     10
Sean Marshall 26 3 0 55 6 45 21 4.19 1.40 6.8 3.2 1.1 51% .772 .708     5
Angel Guzman 27 7.4 3.2 1.0 49% .647 .700     0
  Overall in Rotation 4.43 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1 48% .749 .773 Figures by Heater
  Overall in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9 48% .704 .730 New upgrade
    New downgrade

Despite not being able to hit the side of a barn with his pitches, Carlos Marmol will enter the season as the Cubs closer.  Angel Guzman came into camp as the leading candidate to set up Marmol, but the brittle right-hander is now likely out for the season with a shoulder injury.   That combined with the trade of Aaron Heilman and the loss of Kevin Gregg to free agency has left the Cubs scrambling to find an eighth inning reliever.  One candidate is Esmailin Caridad, who impressed the Cubs with a 1.40 ERA and 17/3 K/BB ratio in a 19-inning stint late last season.  The twenty-six-year-old right-hander worked strictly as a starter at Triple-A Iowa posting a 4.02 SIERA.  With further development, Caridad has a good chance to outperform his 4.64 PECOTA ERA estimate in 2010.

One might guess from John Grabow’s platoon split – a .714 OPS versus right-handed batters and a .609 OPS versus left-handed batters since 2007 – that the southpaw would be best suited to a specialist role.  Instead, he has been used frequently against all kinds of batters amassing 148 innings over the past two years.  His 3.33 and 3.08 WXRLs in 2008 and 2009 respectively show that he has responded well to high leverage situations. 

Sean Marshall began the 2009 season as the Cubs fifth starter but posted a 5.24 ERA in nine starts and ended up in the bullpen.  For his career, the big left-hander has an ERA of 4.86 as a starter and 3.15 as a reliever.   Marshall’s best asset is his ability to keep the ball on the ground, as illustrated by his 51% GB% since 2007.  Given his past success as a reliever, Marshall could do better than his 4.19 PECOTA ERA if limited to a bullpen role.  After posting a career best 2.6 K/BB ratio as a starter in Triple-A in 2009, Jeff Samardzija is a long shot for a late inning role.  However, he will need to improve upon his major league career numbers, including a 1.5 K/BB and 4.3 BB/9, if he expects to beat his 4.88 PECOTA ERA.    

While he is far from dominant, Grabow’s experience and situational effectiveness make him the favorite to seize the bulk of the eighth inning opportunities for the Cubs this season.  He is also the most likely Cub reliever to get save chances if Carlos Marmol loses his grip on the closer role, a plausible scenario if Marmol fails to improve upon his 7.9 BB/9 in 2009.  Also keep an eye on Caridad who has drawn favorable reviews from manager Lou Piniella.  


New York (NL) PECOTA 2007-09 OPS Short-Term SV%
Closer Age W Sv IP HR K BB ERA WHIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% vs R vs L Primary Fallback
Francisco Rodriguez 27 4 35 60 7 66 28 3.65 1.33 10.6 4.7 0.6 43% .658 .594   95   N/A
Ryota Igarashi 30 *8.0 *2.4 *0.6   5   55
Bobby Parnell 24 3 0 64 8 52 31 4.90 1.54 7.4 4.6 0.8 52% .766 .739     40
Kelvim Escobar 33 4 2 60 6 47 24 4.03 1.38 7.4 3.1 0.5 46% .628 .711     5
  Overall in Rotation 4.43 1.39 6.6 3.1 1.1 48% .749 .773 Figures by Heater
  Overall in Relief 3.94 1.36 7.7 3.8 0.9 48% .704 .730 New upgrade
    New downgrade

  *Japanese Central League statistics


With 46 saves per year since 2005, Francisco Rodriguez is locked in as the Met closer.  The set-up role, on the other hand, is up for grabs.  After failing to retain veteran reliever J.J. Putz, the Mets snatched a pair of potential late-inning relievers during the off-season – Ryota Igarashi from the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League and Kelvim Escobar from the Los Angeles Angels.

The right-handed Igarashi missed all of 2007 and part of 2008 after undergoing Tommy John surgery but is now completely recovered.  The thirty-one-year old fireballer posted a 2.87 ERA and 86/26 K/BB ratio in 97 innings in 2008-2009.  Escobar missed all of 2008 and most of 2009 after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum and is currently experiencing weakness in his shoulder.  In his last healthy season in 2007, Escobar posted a 3.40 ERA and 3.93 SIERA.  He has been used mostly as a starter since 2004 but has experience as a reliever and was the Toronto Blue Jays closer in 2002.

Bobby Parnell had a 5.30 ERA overall in 2009 but fared better as a reliever.  He compiled a 7.93 ERA in eight starts late in the year but had a 3.63 ERA coming out of the bullpen.  Parnell is one of the hardest throwers in baseball but needs to cut down his 4.6 BB/9 rate.   The young flame thrower is still refining his game and could perform significantly better than his 4.90 PECOTA ERA in 2010. 

There is no clear favorite to win the Met set-up role but Igarashi and Parnell seem to be the leading contenders.  Additionally, Escobar could move into the role later in the season if his health improves.  As long as Rodriguez stays healthy, neither candidate figures to get many save opportunities in 2010.

Related Content:  Sean Marshall,  Bobby Parnell

13 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Speaking of fantasy... I've noticed the PFM has seen a drastic drop in batting averages among the top players in the league. Last season, over 50 players hit .300 or better and the PFM has a total of 6 this season, with a league high totaling only .318. It seems like players with low averages moved up a bit and higher average players dropped, putting them all closer to the league average. Most seem very strange to me. I think the Rockies team average is gonna be in the 250's, with a team high average of .275 for Helton, followed by only .273 for Tulo. Anyone else think the numbers seem off??? It looks like the highest average player on every team will be lower than the highest average on that team in 2009. This doesn't seem to make sense to me.

Mar 11, 2010 11:07 AM
rating: 3

Yes, they do seem off. I just confirmed it: there's a huge difference in the batting averages from just two weeks ago.

Mar 11, 2010 11:43 AM
rating: 2
Michael Bodell

PFM and Pecota have done a number of questionable things with the rollout over the past month or so; however, this isn't one of them.

Regression to the mean is what this is all about. Of course you expect the players who had the highest averages last year to drop and those with the lowest averages to increase, that's just how predictions and regression and life work.

And just because only 6 players individually have a projected average of 300 that doesn't mean the system is guessing only 6 players will end the season over 300. There might be 50 players projected to be between .290 and .300 by the system. And that's the systems best guess. But that might mean 20 of those players hit over .300, 10 hit between .290 and .300 and 20 hit below .290. But knowing which 20 are which is beyond the system so it makes a best guess about each individual person and hopes we are smart enough to realize there are error bars on each projection.

You should look at the projects with the 75% and 25% line to get some idea of spread, and also double check with other projection engines like CHONE (most accurate last year) and ZIPs and even a simple model like Marcel (which basically just does what you are noticing of regressing players to the mean!).

Mar 11, 2010 17:48 PM
rating: 2

Okay. Why wouldn't that be true two weeks ago?

Mar 11, 2010 18:19 PM
rating: 0

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the PFM would be looking at the 50% line, which shouldn't have the top 30 players in AVG in 2009 all regressing. Surely a certain percentage would be expected to get better, while others worse. In any case, it seems much different than previous PFM forecasts and looks MUCH different than the other projection systems you mentioned.

Mar 11, 2010 19:14 PM
rating: 0

AVG leaders in 2009 compared to PFM 2010 AVG:

PLAYER 2009 PFM2010
Mauer .365 .310
Ichiro .352 .314
Hanley .342 .302
Jeter .334 .295
Sandoval.330 .301
Pujols .328 .318
Helton .325 .275
Miggy .324 .291
Votto .322 .283
Young .322 .287
Coghlan .321 .269
Cano .320 .298
Bartlett .320 .281
Braun .320 .292
Tejada .313 .288
Holiday .313 .292

And it goes on like this for a while… with virtually every player near the top in 2009 AVG seeing a drop (mostly pretty big) in AVG in 2010.

Mar 11, 2010 11:39 AM
rating: 1
John Collins

And you think it ought to be otherwise? As a rule, I'd say most of the top BA's are from players having, by their own standards, good years, and that some regression is expected.

Mar 11, 2010 15:30 PM
rating: 2

Some regression? Sure. But what are the odds that the top 30 (I stopped counting at that point) ALL regress??? I'm no stat expert, but that seems extremely unlikely.

Mar 11, 2010 19:09 PM
rating: -3
Michael Bodell

But that isn't what it is saying. It isn't saying that every one of the top 30 will regress. That is just foolish. It is saying that every one of the top 30, considered individually, is more likely to regress than not. You are hoping to see the projections choose one or more of the top 30 and say this guy we expect to hit an even higher average then last year, but that is just crazy.

To see the difference consider this. Rather than complaining about the top 30 as a group single out the individual players that you would bet on moving up. For each player if his average in 2010 is higher than his 2009 average you win! If his average is lower than his 2009 average you lose! Are there any players you'd bet on? Remember the projections are for the individual players, not for the group.

For a different explanation but with HR instead of AVG look at http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/forecasting_home_runs_in_2009/

Mar 11, 2010 23:42 PM
rating: 2

But my question is this, why would it expect all 30 players to regress? How is it possible that none of these players will be expected to actually improve upon their previous season's AVG? It's calling itself a Player Forecaster. In other words, what use is it, if one then must bet against the forecast to gain something from it? I'm confused as to why it is based on a 50% line, yet has everyone getting worse. The AVg predictions read like a 25% line across the board.

Mar 12, 2010 05:05 AM
rating: -1
Marc Normandin

PFM uses weighted means. These players all have 70-90 percentiles that will encompass these higher batting average seasons. It's taken into account by the system.

This is why you will see me disagreeing with weighted means in my player rankings, because there are times where I think a repeat of a high-percentile campaign is possible. Of course, it works the other way too, where I will think a 30th percentile makes more sense.

Mar 12, 2010 08:02 AM
rating: 0

Thanks for the response.

Does it make sense that the weighted mean would have every single player in the 2009 top 30 losing AVG in 2010? BTW, I noticed a new PFM update this morning, which seems to have made an upward adjustment on many of those players, so maybe there was a problem after all. I knew I wasn't crazy!

Mar 12, 2010 08:13 AM
rating: -3
BP staff member Michael Jong
BP staff


Due to regression to the mean, all players would be expected to regress down towards the league average in any mark if they were above the average, and similarly all players below the average would be expected to regress up to the average. The amount they regress is based on how much knowledge we have of the players, so certain guys that we're certain about are going to regress less than others. But as mbodell says, a player is more likely to be closer to the mean in some stat than he is to be further from the mean.

It doesn't mean that they all will do that. It means that the best guess given the known information is that they will. All projection systems would expect that.

Mar 12, 2010 08:17 AM
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