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March 3, 2011

BP Unfiltered

The Undecider

by Christina Kahrl

One of my many nerdy qualities is that I'm always fascinated with players who show up and hang around... but who don't always get documented as fully as some of their more famous teammates. Maybe it was my initial fascination with the Denver Nuggets in the early '80s, because you'd have Alex English and Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe bombing away all night long, and a series of point guards getting rotated in and out, trying to keep up, and then you'd have T.R. Dunn, accumulating... nothing. Not literally, of course, but he started, and he'd log his minutes, but he'd score six or seven points, pull down a half-dozen rebounds, a couple of steals... and that was it. He wasn't getting DNPs, mind you, but in the high-flying Nuggets attack, Dunn just seemed to be there.

It didn't take me that long to realize that what Dunn did was impact the other guy's shooters, and that his virtues, while not all that visible among those "back of the card" stats, were appreciable.

Which is the long way around saying that when I stumbled across the fact that Randy Flores had generated just 16 career decisions in today's TA, that felt significant, and in a way that made me feel for the lot of unloved LOOGY when it comes to the statistical shadows they cast. After all, no wins, no losses, few shots at a save... what's a guy supposed to tell his kids and show off? Holds? ARP? "I could nuke Ryan Church three times a week."

It also got me wondering about how significant Flores' decision tally was, so I did what I usually do in these situations--I pester a member of the Tech team, and this time around, Rob McQuown. Thanks to him, we can now bask in the irrelevance of the knowledge that not only is Flores' decision rate low, it's historic. Using 100 career games as our initial threshold, Rob came back with this:

Kevin Wickander 5 1 6 150 4.00%
Vince Horsman 4 2 6 141 4.26%
Mike Gallo 4 3 7 160 4.38%
Randy Flores 11 5 16 350 4.57%
Brian Shouse 13 10 23 467 4.93%
Jeff Wallace 3 3 6 119 5.04%
Tony Sipp 4 2 6 116 5.17%
Trever Miller 18 16 34 646 5.26%
Tom Martin 11 9 20 376 5.32%
Jose Mijares 3 4 7 128 5.47%

Golly, guess what all of these guys have in common? I admit, I had to check Jeff Wallace to be sure, having forgotten his brief existence on the Pirates' roster in 1999-2000 before finishing with the Rays. But c'mon, the guy had six decisions in a short career, surely you can forgive me? Grrrr. I hate forgetting about someone. Kevin Wickander was one of the Indians most affected by the 1993 spring training boating accident that claimed the lives of Tim Crews and Steve Olin; Olin had been his best man, and the loss affected him enough that the Tribe mercifully dealt him to Cincinnati to try and help him escape the loss. Horsman was the scruffy southpaw from Nova Scotia who Tony La Russa used to good effect in the early '90s, towards the end of his days with the A's.

And so on, but it's a bunch of lefties. The most undecided right-hander, as it were, isn't one guy, it's a virtual tie between soft-tosser Joe Nelson (5.73 percent) and Daniel Bard (5.74 percent), in that Bard's next game without a decision would put him ahead of Nelson.

So, how is it that Flores is historic? Well, raise your threshhold to a full season's worth of games, and he instantly becomes the all-time undecider--let's not hold my initial low standards against the guy. Of course, we can kick that can to even greater heights, and crown Shouse, or Miller. Take it all the way past a thousand career appearances, and you can congratulate Mike Stanton for his ability to show up, do a job, and cast a small shadow, with an 11.12 percent career rate. Naturally, in accepting his prize he'll be shaking from the left, but you knew that.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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

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David Laurila

Trever Miller is especially notable in that he holds the record with 121 consecutive appearances without a decision. Even more remarkably, he went an almost unfathomable 240 consecutive appearances without a loss.

Mar 03, 2011 14:17 PM
rating: 0

LOOGY's get no respect. You could make a pretty good case that Jesse Orosco was at least as good a relief pitcher as Rollie Fingers or Bruce Sutter having piled up similar average stats while exceeding both in counting stats, but by spending the last decade of his career piling up appearances in the middle of games getting out the best left handed hitter on the opposing team instead of recording the last out, nobody would even seriously consider voting for him. Maybe LOOGY's need their own stat. '% of dangerous left handed hitters retired'.

Mar 03, 2011 15:11 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff

That'll make for a fun debate, to see if we can get the Oroscos of the world taken seriously, or if the expectation that they're automatically disqualified because of their job description and usage pattern.

Mar 04, 2011 11:20 AM

Seems like an odd argument: The guy's great because his abilities were so limited his manager(s) never trusted him outside a limited set of cirucmstances.

Mar 04, 2011 13:35 PM
rating: 2
Dave Scott

Maybe something simple like the average OPS of batters faced so the LOOGY shows up against Morneau and the closer gets credit for punching out Plouffe.

Mar 05, 2011 10:28 AM
rating: 1

Orosoco is an interesting case because when he started out his career, he did get a fair number of saves. Then he was considered to be a 'middle reliever' and while he pitched effectively, he almost never got a save though he did get a fair number of wins, and in his 40's, he was pretty much a LOOGY. However, when you add it all up, his WARP wasn't all that different from Sutter. You could as easily say that closers are pitchers whose abilities are so limited that managers never trust them except to pitch one inning when nobody is on base. A LOOGY is a guy that you bring in because the outcome game is in doubt and you need to get Barry Bonds (or Ryan Howard, or Adrian Gonzales, or ...) out.

Mar 04, 2011 15:13 PM
rating: 0

I'm surprised Tony Fossas isn't high on this list.

Mar 11, 2011 20:04 PM
rating: 0
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Future Shock: Organiza... (03/02)
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