September 26, 2012
A Closer Look at Relievers and Leverage
On April 29, Bud Black summoned Dale Thayer from the bullpen to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning against the Giants. The Padres trailed by three runs and were already 98 percent likely to lose. It was, for Thayer and the Padres and the Giants and Bud Black, a very low-leverage situation. Just three times in his big-league career had Thayer pitched in even an average leverage situation. Every other time, it has been something more like mop-up work. Thayer threw a bunch of strikes and had a perfect inning.
Now skip ahead to September, and here are the situations in which Thayer has been called on:
Thayer has roughly the 20th-highest average leverage index* among relievers this month, after having the third-lowest leverage index among relievers in April. His life has changed a great deal in four months. He is like the kid in The Wizard, who had been playing games but nobody cared, and then after a long journey across the country with Jenny Lewis he was playing games and people cared. Don’t rewatch The Wizard, everybody. It’s way worse than you remember.
Bullpens evolve throughout the season, and things like Thayer happen. Here are other things like Thayer that have happened. More specifically, here are the four relievers who pitched a bunch in April and pitched a bunch in September whose average leverage changed the most.
Sam LeCure: .52 average leverage index in April; 2.10 in September