As Mariano Rivera leaves his 1,000th appearance behind, see how he stacks up according to Nate's standards.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Before Goose Gossage got into the Hall of Fame and Mariano Rivera reeled off another six superb seasons, Nate turned his statistical eye on the bullpen in the following article, which originally ran as a "Lies, Damned Lies" column on January 6, 2005.
The Rays' relief rebound ranks as the most profound pen improvement on record.
You wouldn't know it given the way that their bullpen pitched at times during the latter portion of the American League Championship Series, but the Rays likely wouldn't have reached this year's World Series without the remarkable turnaround achieved by that unit. By a couple of measures, the performance of the Tampa Bay bullpen qualifies as historically significant.
Shifts in the way that teams use the disabled list in the coming weeks give little clarity to the current injury roster.
Johnny Cueto (10 DXL)
The diagnosis for Cueto was initially reported as a strained triceps near his shoulder, but the Reds say today that he has a strain at the other end of the triceps in his elbow-likely the result of a hyperextension. If there's a "good news" part of that diagnosis, it's that this mechanism usually results from muscle fatigue, meaning that he's become tired before actually breaking down. It's likely that the tendonous insertion of the triceps is damaged, and while that's not good, it's certainly better than damage to the ligament itself. It will be a red flag going forward, especially given Cueto's slight frame and whipping arm action, but again, this has to be looked at relatively. For now Cueto is just going to miss one start, but if there are any further problems, I would think that the Reds will shut him down. It's important to remember that Cueto threw during the winter league season as well, causing additional fatigue that's ended up hurting him now. I doubt he'll be doing much more of that once he's established himself as one of the Reds' potential aces.
A quick return, some slow rehabs, and a date with some pizza while rapping with the writing crew.
Just a reminder about our upcoming Pizza Feed in New York (and making sure it's above the fold here), I'll be at Foley's Pub (check website for directions) at 8 p.m. on Monday, June 30. A bevy of BPers, a phalanx of Fantasy 411ers, and other illustrious guests will be talking baseball (and celebrating my birthday). No RSVP is needed, but space is limited. Foley's is an amazing place with a collection of great memorabilia and one of the most amazing urinals you'll ever see. (Seriously! Ask Sean for the Bobby Cox story on that!) I hope to see everyone there. Powered by the idea of Joe Sheehan singing "Go Will, it's your birthday", on to the injuries:
Progress in the pro game doesn't mean there isn't work to be done in the amateur ranks, plus hurts and healing around MLB.
Time flies, but sometimes the story remains the same. Four years ago, I wrote an article that detailed an exceptionally high pitch count game by an Indianapolis-area high school pitcher named Lance Lynn. Lynn came out of that game with a sore arm, missed some time, but went on to help his team win the state title and then went on to college. Nowadays, Lynn is expected to go in the first or sandwich round of next week's draft. Lynn is still racking up some high pitch counts at Ole Miss, but nothing like he did in high school. Boyd Nation, who watches pitch counts in college baseball as one of his many admirable areas of interest, has Lynn's single-game high this season at 121. Lynn is a couple of years older, hasn't had arm problems, and has seemingly earned that high slot. If I'm a scouting director watching him, I'd have to wonder a bit about the past usage (and his falling off to the first base side) before I risk such a high pick on him, but he's hardly alone, just an example. As you can see on Nation's list, starts with pitch counts in the 140s happen regularly in college baseball, and can go as high as the 170s. Not a week goes by that I don't get sent an article about some high school pitcher throwing over 150 pitches, and too often I get a note from a parent telling me about kids-12 or 13 years old-throwing insane workloads, such as both sides of a double-header. (Little League pitch counts haven't helped, you ask? Sure they have, but they've also driven many to the more cavalier travel teams.) Some make it through, like Lynn, and some don't, like another Indy-area pitcher, Garrett Berger. I wish Lance Lynn all the luck in the world as he finishes his college career and starts his professional one. I just hope I don't have to write this kind of article in another four years.
After a historically awful season, the Rays are about to turn the corner with this unit, as with several others.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays existed for 10 seasons-the club exorcised the Devil this past November-and have been plagued for most of that decade by an inability to put a decent bullpen together. Consider for a moment that in five out of 10 years, Tampa Bay's firemen combined for a negative Adjusted Runs Prevented (ARP) total.
What exactly is ARP, and why is it used here rather than another bullpen metric, such as WXRL? ARP is a pure context-free measure of pitcher effectiveness that doesn't take into account the leverage of the situation; a counting stat that compares a reliever's performance to how an average (not replacement-level) relief pitcher would have performed in the same situations. In other words, if you are looking simply for how many more runs a bullpen prevented or allowed than average, regardless of the timing of the relief work or how it impacted the game, then ARP is your stat. It boils away luck and any statistical advantage (or disadvantage) attained from pitching well (or poorly) in more important situations to get at the bare-bones underlying performance, which is what we want to evaluate in looking at past bullpen work. As Keith Woolner explained in a 2005 mailbag:
Charting a career course for the young Yankee could take him in a couple of different directions.
Joba Chamberlain is at a crossroads between two different career paths. On one side, there's the path the Yankees have publicly set for him--become a reliever to help the team reach the playoffs this year, and then return to pitching every fifth day. On the other side, there's the plan Chamberlain is creating for himself, by allowing one hit and striking out eight hitters in his first five innings. This path would involve preparing Joba to become their future closer, sort of like the Tigers with Joel Zumaya.
Goose Gossage's failure to make it into Cooperstown got Nate thinking, how do you decide which relievers are Hall of Famers?
Truth be told, as much as I like Jay's work, I also think there is something to be said for gut-feel. A metric like JAWS tells you a lot about a guy's value, but it doesn't tell you quite as much about the shape of his career. JAWS applies what I would call the sausage method for assessing player value: you mush everything together into a nice, cylindrical package, add appropriate seasoning, and come out with what is hoped to be a tasty product. JAWS is, indeed, a very tasty sausage, and it's a heck of a lot more worthwhile than the spoiled cold cuts that most of the press is munching on. But it's still a sausage.