"Clutch Skill" of 2013's Relievers and Bullpens

Kevin Gregg -- Clutch Master 2013 - Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Finding the "Clutch Skill" of 2013's best and worst bullpens and relievers.

Your favorite team is up 3-1, in the 8th inning, on a long Sunday afternoon. Your favorite starting pitcher has just been removed from the game due to a high pitch count, and the bullpen is unleashed to finish up the gem.

Now for fans of certain teams, this situation is the time you get up to go shower or grab a bite to eat -- you know for a prolonged 7th inning stretch. For this certain fan, they get back and the game is done, 3-1 with your favorite starter earning the win.

For other fans of certain unfortunate teams, you get up and come back and the game is 3-4 and the bases are loaded with no one out and before you know it the game is 3-7 and suddenly the TV is off.

Well the point is, in my opinion, there is nothing worse than a bad bullpen. At the same time there is nothing better than a lights out bullpen. When your favorite team, or any team, can make a 9 inning game a 7 inning game, it really takes the edge off over the course of a 162 game season and a prolonged postseason run.

A bad bullpen, just makes a 162 game season seem like a 324 game one, while the 7th, 8th and 9th innings are unbearable to watch and predictably horrible. But somehow, we still watch over and over, somehow thinking that something will change.

In other words a clutch bullpen is going to be lights out in those high leverage situations, leaving you without the slightest sweat.

But a bad bullpen in the clutch is going to predictably blow the lead most times, leaving you disappointed but unsurprised.

Well I am here to tell you that your favorite teams's bullpen may get better, or if it is already fantastic, that it may get real bad, real soon.

Or if you are lucky, your team may just have a bullpen that is performing right at its skill -- what you see may be what you get./

SOME CLUTCH AND NOT SO CLUTCH RELIEVERS

Following requirements: Min 10 IP, at least 5 IP in high leverage, no more than 20 IP in high leverage , at least 5 IP in low leverage, no more than 20 IP in low leverage , and less than 20 IP at medium leverage.

The relievers who have been the best in high-leverage situations (Top-25):

Name IP_HL wOBA_HL IP_LL wOBA_LL
Kevin Gregg 6.1 0.075 9 0.335
Darren O'Day 9.1 0.105 11 0.32
Tony Watson 6 0.113 13 0.362
Brandon Kintzler 5.1 0.121 13 0.331
Jason Grilli 9.1 0.126 7.1 0.279
Koji Uehara 8 0.131 10 0.31
Addison Reed 11.2 0.133 8.2 0.289
Edward Mujica 11 0.133 8.1 0.203
Josh Collmenter 8.1 0.146 19.1 0.268
Grant Balfour 12.1 0.146 9 0.412
Jesse Crain 12 0.149 5.2 0.272
Carter Capps 8 0.156 14 0.41
Glen Perkins 9 0.16 8.2 0.31
Travis Blackley 5.2 0.166 11.1 0.429
Aroldis Chapman 12 0.171 7 0.278
Joaquin Benoit 10 0.171 11.1 0.274
Joe Nathan 10.2 0.172 9 0.128
Joel Peralta 7.2 0.172 9.1 0.25
Kenley Jansen 13 0.175 9.2 0.271
Tyler Clippard 9.1 0.176 12.1 0.11
Justin Wilson 11.2 0.184 15.2 0.223
Francisco Liriano 5.1 0.196 14 0.274
David Robertson 11.1 0.197 6 0.335
Rex Brothers 11 0.201 10 0.312
Seth Maness 5.1 0.204 5.2 0.419

And now the relievers who have been the best in low leverage situations (Top-25):

Name IP_HL wOBA_HL IP_LL wOBA_LL
Sergio Romo 9.1 0.282 8 0.105
Tyler Clippard 9.1 0.176 12.1 0.11
Jim Henderson 6.1 0.206 8.1 0.126
Joe Nathan 10.2 0.172 9 0.128
Bobby Parnell 12.2 0.312 9 0.128
Tom Wilhelmsen 9.1 0.288 12 0.154
Paco Rodriguez 5 0.271 13.1 0.16
Brad Ziegler 8 0.207 14 0.162
David Hernandez 13 0.327 9.1 0.165
Jeremy Affeldt 6.1 0.422 9.1 0.167
Casey Fien 5 0.282 15 0.169
Rafael Betancourt 8 0.343 8 0.173
Yoervis Medina 5.1 0.295 14 0.183
Craig Kimbrel 11.2 0.272 6.2 0.184
James Russell 7.1 0.345 12.2 0.185
Matt Lindstrom 8 0.285 13.2 0.186
Edward Mujica 11 0.133 8.1 0.203
Luke Gregerson 9 0.29 8.1 0.209
Scott Downs 5.2 0.347 6 0.212
Aaron Crow 7.2 0.263 6.2 0.217
Jonathan Papelbon 7 0.206 12 0.219
Andrew Bailey 7.2 0.273 7.2 0.222
Justin Wilson 11.2 0.184 15.2 0.223
Sam LeCure 7.2 0.34 11.1 0.224

Let us look at the relievers who have performed much better in high leverage situations as opposed to low leverage situations (Top-25):

The high negative DIFF in wOBA signifies that the given reliever has pitched better in high leverage situations in comparison to their numbers in low leverage situations.


Name IP wOBA IP wOBA DIFF
Grant Balfour 12.1 0.146 9 0.412 -0.266
Travis Blackley 5.2 0.166 11.1 0.429 -0.263
Kevin Gregg 6.1 0.075 9 0.335 -0.26
Carter Capps 8 0.156 14 0.41 -0.254
Tony Watson 6 0.113 13 0.362 -0.249
Darren O'Day 9.1 0.105 11 0.32 -0.215
Drew Storen 8 0.252 11 0.467 -0.215
Seth Maness 5.1 0.204 5.2 0.419 -0.215
Brandon Kintzler 5.1 0.121 13 0.331 -0.21
Koji Uehara 8 0.131 10 0.31 -0.179
Ernesto Frieri 13.2 0.222 9 0.382 -0.16
Addison Reed 11.2 0.133 8.2 0.289 -0.156
Jason Grilli 9.1 0.126 7.1 0.279 -0.153
Glen Perkins 9 0.16 8.2 0.31 -0.15
Huston Street 6 0.273 7 0.42 -0.147
David Robertson 11.1 0.197 6 0.335 -0.138
Heath Bell 11.2 0.285 8 0.421 -0.136
Jesse Crain 12 0.149 5.2 0.272 -0.123
Josh Collmenter 8.1 0.146 19.1 0.268 -0.122
Rex Brothers 11 0.201 10 0.312 -0.111
Aroldis Chapman 12 0.171 7 0.278 -0.107
Joaquin Benoit 10 0.171 11.1 0.274 -0.103
Kenley Jansen 13 0.175 9.2 0.271 -0.096
Trevor Rosenthal 10 0.238 10.1 0.322 -0.084
Joel Peralta 7.2 0.172 9.1 0.25 -0.078

And the relievers who have fared better in low leverage situations, in comparison to their high leverage numbers (Top-25):

The high positive DIFF in wOBA signifies that the given reliever has pitched better in low leverage situations as opposed to high leverage situations.

Name IP_HL wOBA_HL IP_LL wOBA_LL DIFF(HL-LL)
Brandon Lyon 6 0.495 12.1 0.227 0.268
Ronald Belisario 7 0.559 15.2 0.303 0.256
Jeremy Affeldt 6.1 0.422 9.1 0.167 0.255
Antonio Bastardo 6 0.479 8.1 0.252 0.227
Scott Rice 5.2 0.433 15 0.226 0.207
Bobby Parnell 12.2 0.312 9 0.128 0.184
Sergio Romo 9.1 0.282 8 0.105 0.177
Chris Perez 7.1 0.437 5.2 0.26 0.177
Rafael Betancourt 8 0.343 8 0.173 0.17
David Hernandez 13 0.327 9.1 0.165 0.162
James Russell 7.1 0.345 12.2 0.185 0.16
Carlos Marmol 7 0.434 14.2 0.279 0.155
Scott Downs 5.2 0.347 6 0.212 0.135
Tom Wilhelmsen 9.1 0.288 12 0.154 0.134
Jake McGee 5 0.37 11 0.238 0.132
Phil Coke 7 0.385 8.2 0.258 0.127
Sam LeCure 7.2 0.34 11.1 0.224 0.116
Casey Fien 5 0.282 15 0.169 0.113
Yoervis Medina 5.1 0.295 14 0.183 0.112
Paco Rodriguez 5 0.271 13.1 0.16 0.111
Matt Lindstrom 8 0.285 13.2 0.186 0.099
Brandon League 8.1 0.397 10 0.306 0.091
Craig Kimbrel 11.2 0.272 6.2 0.184 0.088
Luke Gregerson 9 0.29 8.1 0.209 0.081
Jim Henderson 6.1 0.206 8.1 0.126 0.08

Now we will piece this all together, so that we can get the full picture on how clutch a reliever was in contrast to his performance in all other situations.

Estimating "Clutch Skill" of Relievers

Like we found in the article above, we will use this formula to estimate the uncertainty of the wOBA total for each reliever:

σX=√(wOBA(1.1-wOBA)/(N)) -- via The Book

Then we use the weighted average between the high leverage wOBA and the low leverage-medium leverage wOBA, to find the actual "Clutch Skill" of these relievers.

For instance lets, walk through Rex Brothers together. His wOBA for high leverage is .201±.128 in 11.0 IP. For all other leverages his wOBA is 0.267±.111 in 18.2 IP. Thus, to find his skill we will find the weighted average of both wOBA totals (using the uncertainties as weights):

Rex Brother's wOBA Clutch Skill = (0.201/0.128^2+0.267/0.111^2) / (1/0.128^2+1/0.111^2) = 0.240

Keep in mind, the wOBA Clutch Skill will tell us how the reliever should pitch in the clutch by taking into account how the same player pitches in all leverages.

Now that we have that, lets check out the Top 25, in wOBA clutch skill:

Name IP_HL wOBA_HL IP(N/HL) wOBA(N/HL) SKILL
Kevin Gregg 6.1 0.075 14.1 0.182 0.130
Edward Mujica 11 0.133 18.2 0.218 0.178
Jonathan Papelbon 7 0.206 17.2 0.189 0.193
Jason Grilli 9.1 0.126 20.1 0.254 0.197
Glen Perkins 9 0.16 15.2 0.245 0.206
Grant Balfour 12.1 0.146 16.1 0.284 0.207
Jesse Crain 12 0.149 17.3 0.273 0.208
Darren O'Day 9.1 0.105 22 0.311 0.209
Addison Reed 11.2 0.133 18.4 0.305 0.213
Joe Nathan 10.2 0.172 15.2 0.257 0.216
Jim Henderson 6.1 0.206 15.1 0.224 0.219
Luke Gregerson 9 0.29 22.1 0.201 0.222
Tom Wilhelmsen 9.1 0.288 19.1 0.200 0.224
Koji Uehara 8 0.131 19 0.297 0.224
Joel Peralta 7.2 0.172 23.2 0.246 0.225
Phil Coke 7 0.385 12.2 0.173 0.226
Greg Holland 8.1 0.213 15.2 0.234 0.226
Aroldis Chapman 12 0.171 18 0.285 0.229
Ryan Cook 7.2 0.244 21.4 0.227 0.231
Mark Melancon 11.2 0.223 20.2 0.237 0.232
Brandon Kintzler 5.1 0.121 22 0.288 0.236
Jeremy Affeldt 6.1 0.422 16.1 0.194 0.237
Rex Brothers 11 0.201 18.2 0.267 0.239
Sergio Romo 9.1 0.282 15.2 0.220 0.241
Kenley Jansen 13 0.175 20.3 0.304 0.241

And the 25 worst relievers in terms of clutch skill:

Name IP_HL wOBA_HL IP(N/HL) wOBA(N/HL) SKILL
J.J. Hoover 7.2 0.32 19.3 0.514 0.454
Carlos Marmol 7 0.434 18.4 0.397 0.407
Brandon League 8.1 0.397 16.2 0.376 0.383
A.J. Ramos 6.1 0.291 26.2 0.407 0.382
John Axford 8 0.346 20.3 0.391 0.378
Yoervis Medina 5.1 0.295 16.1 0.404 0.374
Chris Perez 7.1 0.437 8.4 0.325 0.373
Heath Bell 11.2 0.285 15 0.427 0.359
Ronald Belisario 7 0.559 23.3 0.299 0.349
Hector Ambriz 7.1 0.345 19.3 0.350 0.349
Huston Street 6 0.273 14.1 0.385 0.347
Jose Valverde 7.2 0.292 10.2 0.370 0.335
Antonio Bastardo 6 0.479 16.2 0.292 0.334
Matt Lindstrom 8 0.285 19.2 0.357 0.334
Seth Maness 5.1 0.204 12.3 0.412 0.330
Mike Adams 5.2 0.308 17.2 0.329 0.324
Brandon Lyon 6 0.495 19.3 0.279 0.321
Jim Johnson 15.1 0.317 18 0.324 0.321
Fernando Rodney 10.2 0.346 17.2 0.306 0.320
Casey Fien 5 0.282 21.2 0.323 0.314
David Hernandez 13 0.327 16.3 0.294 0.308
Aaron Crow 7.2 0.263 11.4 0.337 0.306
Jonathan Broxton 8.2 0.302 18.1 0.307 0.305
Drew Storen 8 0.252 18.2 0.328 0.302
Nate Jones 6.2 0.321 25.3 0.297 0.301

BULLPENS "CLUTCH SKILL"

Using the same methodology as above we will find the true "Clutch Skill" of Baseball's bullpens, thus far, descending in "Clutch Skill":

Team IP_HL wOBA_HL IP(N/HL) wOBA(N/HL) SKILL
Tigers 69 0.307 523.3 0.276 0.280
Giants 64.2 0.291 522.2 0.291 0.291
Pirates 79.1 0.221 520.4 0.306 0.292
Cardinals 62.1 0.31 541.3 0.290 0.292
Braves 52.2 0.326 542.2 0.289 0.292
Athletics 70.2 0.257 558.3 0.299 0.294
Rangers 71 0.251 534 0.305 0.298
Mariners 68.2 0.255 544.2 0.306 0.300
Reds 86 0.257 537.2 0.308 0.301
White Sox 75 0.261 499.4 0.308 0.301
Cubs 61.1 0.358 520.2 0.295 0.301
Rays 59 0.332 540.1 0.302 0.305
Nationals 61.2 0.314 522.1 0.306 0.307
Royals 52.1 0.257 523.1 0.315 0.309
Diamondbacks 86.1 0.296 527.1 0.312 0.310
Brewers 58.1 0.34 531.3 0.307 0.310
Rockies 63.1 0.309 553 0.311 0.310
Dodgers 75.2 0.359 509.3 0.304 0.311
Marlins 71.2 0.315 528.3 0.312 0.313
Mets 66.2 0.342 499.3 0.309 0.313
Red Sox 61 0.263 555.1 0.319 0.313
Yankees 60.1 0.315 540.3 0.315 0.315
Padres 66.1 0.295 537.1 0.320 0.317
Angels 75.1 0.307 530.2 0.319 0.318
Indians 51 0.324 528.2 0.319 0.320
Twins 70 0.303 502.2 0.328 0.325
Phillies 57 0.319 539.1 0.327 0.326
Blue Jays 71 0.301 535.1 0.340 0.335
Orioles 68.2 0.309 540.3 0.339 0.336
Astros 68 0.31 534.1 0.362 0.355

So, now let us look at the Top 5 bullpens with the best luck, meaning that so far they have a large negative differential between their skill and their wOBA in high leverage -- these teams, in theory, are due for some regression towards their skill number:

GOOD LUCK BULLPENS:

Team IP_HL wOBA_HL IP(N/HL) wOBA(N/HL) SKILL DIFF
Pirates 79.1 0.221 520.4 0.306 0.292 -0.071
Royals 52.1 0.257 523.1 0.315 0.309 -0.052
Red Sox 61 0.263 555.1 0.319 0.313 -0.05
Rangers 71 0.251 534 0.305 0.298 -0.047
Mariners 68.2 0.255 544.2 0.306 0.3 -0.045

The Pirates clutch bullpen has been one of the best in the game this year, ranking first in WPA, and in high leverage situations, ranking first in wOBA against. However, their performance in all other leverages suggests that perhaps the Pirates relief pitchers are due for some regression in the clutch.

Inversely, the following bullpens have experienced "bad luck" in high leverage situations. As a result, these bullpens are characterized with a high positive differential, meaning that in the future we expect them to improve the wOBA in high leverage to mirror their overall skill:

BAD LUCK BULLPENS:

Team IP_HL wOBA_HL IP(N/HL) wOBA(N/HL) SKILL DIFF
Cubs 61.1 0.358 520.2 0.295 0.301 0.057
Dodgers 75.2 0.359 509.3 0.304 0.311 0.048
Braves 52.2 0.326 542.2 0.289 0.292 0.034
Brewers 58.1 0.34 531.3 0.307 0.31 0.03
Mets 66.2 0.342 499.3 0.309 0.313 0.029

Some hope for Cubs and Dodger fans here. Despite their terrible performance in the clutch, the bullpens have been rather effective in lower leverage situations. Either way, these teams could probably see immediate improvement by forgetting both Marmol and League existed (both who are 2nd and 3rd worst in wOBA clutch skill).

Next we will look at starting pitchers who perform well under the pressure, and quantify their skill in doing so.

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All stats via Fangraphs.

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