In this review article weíll use win probability to examine the performances of the Blue Jaysí bullpen. Part I looks at Brandon League, Matt Whiteside, Pete Walker and Miguel Batista. Part II will be up on Friday or the weekend and will examine Justin Speier, Jason Frasor, Vinnie Chulk and Scott Schoeneweis.
Earlier this week there was an interesting discussion in a game thread about the Blue Jays usage of Miguel Batista. The usage patterns of Octavio Dotel, Keith Foulke and Eric Gagne were mentioend, as it was pointed out that despite the talk about Batista assuming multi-inning duties as closer, that really hadnít happened over the past month. Discussion centered around which Jays relievers did appear to be used in high-leverage situations, and Iíd recommend you read the discussion if you havenít already. Besides looking at the actual contributions of Jays relievers in terms of their effects of victories and losses, another thing I hope to examine with this article is which relievers are appearing in the most important situations. Sorry for the belated nature of this, but better later than never is what they say.
First, weíll look at Brandon Leagueís contributions in the games he pitched in before his demotion.
Game Opponent Result BF* H ER BB K WPA Credit** April 5 Devil Rays W 6-3 9 2 2 1 2 -0.005 April 8 Red Sox L 6-5 11 5 2 1 0 -0.216 April 12 Athletics W 5-2 3 1 0 0 0 +0.032 April 15 Rangers L 4-2 11 2 1 0 3 +0.097 April 18 Red Sox L 12-6 13 3 2 2 3 -0.029
April WPA Total: -0.087
WPA has calculates a ďP ValueĒ on every at-bat, which can be used to determine each plate appearanceís importance. P Values were determined by Doug Drinen and it measures the importance of each situation based on the number of outs required to get out of the inning with no runs scoring and its relative importance to win probability. A P Value of over 0.2 detonates an important situation, and P Value of over 0.3 is absolutely critical. About 2% of relief appearances have a P Value of over 0.2 when the pitcher entered the game.
This is probably the best measure right now for determining how critical a certain situation is. Credit values are very useful and will give one an idea of exactly what the impact of a certain result is, but P Values tell one up front how important this point in the game is. I hope to use this as a measure of each relieverís innings and how important they are. Therefore, I will add up the P Value of each batter faced, and then will divide it by the number of batterís to get an average P Value.
April Average P Value: 0.039848
Best Outing: April 15 vs. Rangers, Jays lost 4-2; +0.097
In the second game of this four game set Ted Lilly went five full innings and left with the Jays trailing 3-2. League was summoned from the bullpen and struck out Kevin Mench and Chad Allen before surrendering a double to Rod Barajas and then retiring Mark DeRosa on a ground out. League had a perfect seventh before giving up an inside-the-park homer to Mark Teixeira to lead off the eight. League then got the next three batters, to finish a line of three innings with one earned run, keeping the Jays within striking distance of the Rangers. However, the Jays scattered six hits off Ryan Drese and could never get anything going offensively, so the effort was for naught.
Worst Outing: April 8 vs. Red Sox, Jays lost 6-5; -0.216
All the Bauxites who came down to the SkyDome for opening day happened to see Leagueís worst outing of the year. League had a win expectancy of -0.216, making him the player who contributed the most to the Jays lost. Coming in to start the sixth inning in relief of Bush, League loaded the bases in the sixth straight away. Ramirez was forced at home for the first out of the inning, but the Red Sox scored a run on Renteriaís fielderís choice before League got out of it. It was now 4-2, but League stayed in to start the seventh. With Damon on first and none out, Nixon hit one back to the Flying Hawaiian who spun to turn the double play but threw it into centre field. Because of this, Leagueís WPA includes a -0.041 for his fielding mistake on this play. A Ramirez single and an Ortiz double made the score 6-2 and then Chulk came in with one out and runners on second and third and held the Red Sox. The Jays almost came back in this game and this poor performance proved particularly costly. It was an exciting game and all relievers will have poor games during the season, but it was unfortunate that this one occurred in front of a sold-out crowd on Opening Day.
Third Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Kevin Millar (April 8 vs. Red Sox); P Value of 0.151709; WP Credit: -0.067
On Opening Day Millar came up with runners on first and second and none out in the top of the sixth. The Jays were losing 3-2. With the Red Sox threatening to blow Opening Day open League surrendered a single to Millar. Ramirez stopped at third base to load the bases for Edgar Renteria, increasing the Red Sox win probability by 67 points. For reference, if League had retired Millar without the runners advancing it would have resulted in the Jays increasing their WPA to .321, as opposed to it falling to .200 after the Millar single. This at-bat had the biggest WPA credit (positive or negative) assigned to League of all of his appearances. The second biggest at-bat would be David Ortizís in the seventh inning, where he doubled Manny to third and scored Damon, to increase the lead to 5-2. The only at-bat that topped this in terms of total credit was the Charles Thomas liner to left in the game against the Athletics, but I assigned a good percentage of the points to Reed Johnson for his catch, so Leagueís contribution was less significant.
Second Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Jason Varitek (April 8 vs. Red Sox); P Value of 0.157515; WP Credit: -0.015
Following Renteriaís at-bat, which will be detailed below, the Red Sox were still winning 3-2 with one out and the bases loaded. A second out here without a run scoring would have brought up Bill Mueller and given League a good chance to escape the inning unscathed. League induced a grounder from Varitek, but Toronto could not turn the double-play and had to be content forcing Renteria at second. This allowed Ortiz to score and double Bostonís lead, and kept runners at first and third with two outs for Mueller. Whether justified or not, Hudson wound up with 2 points of negative credit for his defensive role in the play.
Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Edgar Renteria (April 8 vs. Red Sox); P Value of 0.218544; WP Credit: +0.056
With the Red Sox threatening to blow Opening Day open League had to face Renteria with the bases loaded and none out. He managed to induce a grounder back to the mound and League threw home for the force. Manny was out by a good margin, and the bases remained loaded with the Red Sox now having one out. With that out the Jays increased their probability of winning by 62 points and League wound up with 56 for his pitching and 6 for his fielding. This was the most important at-bat of the month for League, and is in fact the only one that the P Value classifies at important. He managed to get the out in this situation, but as the credit values demonstrate, League pitched poorly in the game overall and faced several other relatively key situations where he failed to retire the batters and contributed significantly to the loss.
Whitesideís section is very short, as he only had one appearance in April. Understandably, Iím not going to recap his best and worst outing and the most crucial at-bats, as there is no point. Whitesideís appearance is in the chart below, but it was in a low-leverage situation and Whiteside didnít perform particularly well.
Game Opponent Result BF* H ER BB K WP Credit April 20 Yankees L 11-2 12 3 4 2 2 -0.018
April WPA Total: -0.018
April Average P Value: 0.001996
Game Opponent Result BF* H ER BB K WP Credit April 10 Red Sox W 4-3 8 1 0 0 3 +0.144 April 17 Rangers L 6-5 12 3 0 1 1 +0.038 April 20 Yankees L 11-2 12 3 1 4 2 -0.074 April 24 Orioles L 7-1 9 4 0 0 1 +0.004
April WPA Total: +0.112
April Average P Value: 0.016024
Best Outing: April 10 vs Red Sox, Jays won 4-3; +0.144
In this game against the Red Sox Walker entered a close game, which hasnít been that common for him this season. The Jays were up 3-1 and Walker came in after Ted Lilly had gone five strong, allowing a single run. This was Lillyís first start of the year and given that he didnít have a spring training the Jays were understandably cautious with his first start. Walker came into the game and proceeded to go 3-up, 3-down for both the sixth and seventh innings. He struck out Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis and induced three easy ground balls and a fly to right field. Walker came out for the eight inning and promptly struck out Edgar Renteria before surrendering a single to Manny Ramirez. This would have been Walkerís final hitter anyway, as Schoeneweis was warming for Ortiz.
I scored this entire game using win probability and included in a game report. If you noticed, the totals for Walker are quite different. I must admit I donít know why that would be, other than the fact I have been using an updated version of the spreadsheet for this project. Most of the at-bats have the same value, but two or three have radically different totals, and looking at the spreadsheet Iím pretty confident this one is more accurate. The numbers that are different coincide with the other totals, both from this game and other games, on the second attempt, while there are some totals that look radically out-of-place in the first effort. I know itís most likely irrelevant, but I thought it was pertinent to divulge.
Worst Outing: April 20 vs. Yankees, Jays lost 11-2; -0.074
This was Walkerís one bad outing of the month. He came into a game in the fourth inning where the Jays were losing 4-1 and the Yankees had two in scoring position with one out. Walkerís duty was to hold down the fort, but he would surrender three runs before the end of the inning. Walkerís negative contributions came not only from failing to prevent the inherited runners from scoring, but also from allowing one of his own runners to touch home plate. Walkerís control problems didnít help either, as most of these runners were solely his fault. He walked two in the fourth and two in the fifth, although he did prevent the Yanks from scoring in his second inning. Walkerís one bad outing was relatively meaningless, as the Blue Jays looked poor against Pavano at the plate that day and never looked like they were in the game.
Third Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Kevin Youkilis (April 10 vs. Red Sox); P Value: 0.068; WP Credit +0.039
Youkilis came up to bat with nobody on and nobody out in a game which the Red Sox were losing 3-1 to Toronto. The relative importance of this situation, as stated by P Value, demonstrates how important getting the first batter of the inning on base is. Keeping the lead runner off base, especially when up by 2 runs is huge. Not only does it keep the potential tying run in the on-deck circle, but it also makes it much more difficult for the Red Sox to turn it into a one-run game through getting the run across, which they can with one on and none out in any number of ways, even without playing small ball. Walker struck out Youkilis for 39 WP points, a significant number more than the 25 which were split up when Bellhorn was retired for the second out of the inning.
Second Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Edgar Renteria (April 10 vs. Red Sox); P Value: 0.071; WP Credit +0.043
This at-bat was a duplicate of the one above, except Renteria led off the eight inning. With the Red Sox only having six outs to play with when Renteria stepped to the plate, this at-bat had a higher degree of leverage than the Youkilis one. However, the result was no different as Walker struck out Renteria, in what was a fantastic relief appearance.
Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Derek Jeter (April 20 vs. Yankees); P Value: 0.075161; WP Credit -0.040
Jeter was the first batter Walker was summoned to face in this forgettable game. Lilly had given up four runs over 3.1 innings and there were runners on second and third. The Jays were losing 4-1 and it was Walkerís difficult duty to get them out of the inning while keeping the ballgame close. Jeter, whatever your opinions of him are, is not an easy hitter to face and Walker had to keep him in the infield or shallow outfield. Try as he might, Walker could not retire Jeter and a single made it 5-1 and gave the Yankees runners on first and third. As detailed above, this would be the one outing Walker struggled in during the month and before he got out of the inning it was 7-1 for the Yankees.
Game Opponent Result BF* H ER BB K WP Credit April 4 Devil Rays W 5-2 4 1 0 0 0 +0.105 April 5 Devil Rays W 6-3 4 0 0 0 1 +0.041 April 10 Red Sox W 4-3 8 3 2 1 0 -0.237 April 12 Athletics W 5-2 4 0 0 1 1 +0.040 April 16 Rangers W 8-0 6 2 0 1 1 +0.000 April 19 Red Sox W 4-3 5 2 0 0 0 +0.226 April 21 Yankees L 4-3 3 1 0 0 0 +0.037 April 23 Orioles L 4-1 8 3 1 0 0 -0.130 April 26 Devil Rays W 7-5 3 0 0 0 0 +0.080 April 28 Devil Rays W 7-4 2 1 0 0 0 +0.025
April WPA Total: +0.242
April Average P Value: 0.057377
Best Outing: April 19 vs Red Sox, Jays won 4-3; +0.226
This game contained the three most crucial at-bats of Batistaís month, so it will be intimately described below. Briefly, Batista entered a 4-3 game where the Jays had just completed an outstanding comeback and gave us all near-heart attacks before completing the save.
Worst Outing: April 10 vs Red Sox, Jays won 4-3; -0.237
In this game Batista entered with two outs in the eight inning and a runner on first. Kevin Millar stepped up to bat as the game-tying run and where Octavio Dotel would fail (not quite the same, I know) a month later, Batista succeeded. He induced a groundout to Hillenbrand at third and the Jays maintained their lead. With a large SkyDome crowd ready to witness the new-look Jays take their opening home series from the defending World Series Champions, Batista came out to save the game in the ninth. Varitek singled and then consecutive fly balls to center from Nixon and Mueller brought the crowd to its feet. Batista couldnít harness the energy in the stadium however, as he walked the patient Mark Bellhorn. Damon then pounded a pitch into the dirt and it hung in the air forever, and by the time Adams fielded it the sacks were drunk. With Renteria up and the stadium roaring, Batista allowed a two-run single to tie the game, before retiring Ramirez on a third fly to Wells.
Everything turned out okay in the end as the Jays won it on an Orlando Hudson hit in the bottom of the ninth. This was an incredibly exciting game, and I think was one of the best games of the season. Besides the last-gasp win at Fenway (on the 19th, no less) and the Doc vs. Big Unit matchup, I canít think of another game that beats it. There are several others which were quite good, including Halladay vs. Greinke on $2 Tuesday and Towers vs. Cabrera last week, but I canít think of anything that brought us right down like that, before giving Blue Jays fans a lift in the end. Itís much better when they turn out like this then when they turn out like todayís Oakland game did for Aís fans, where they saw a ninth-inning comeback thwarted by a second consecutive blown save for Octavio Dotel.
Third Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: David Ortiz (April 19 vs. Red Sox); P Value: 0.194; WP Credit +0.093
Ortiz led off the bottom of the ninth of the one-run game. The importance of the leadoff batter in the ninth inning of a one-run game can hardly be overstated. Additionally, the fact it is the Cookie Monster himself means that any mistake, or even any number of good pitches, could result in a tie ballgame itself. Ortiz got under the pitch however, and could do little more than loft a flyball into the hands of Reed Johnson in left. Batista was now two outs away from preserving an important victory, as it would be such a letdown to lose that game.
Second Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Ramon Vazquez (April 19 vs. Red Sox); P Value: 0.2095; WP Credit +0.198
The penultimate at-bat of this game would match Ramon Vazquez against Batista, which already had many Blue Jays sighing with relief. There was probably not another batter on the 25-man roster of the Red Sox that I would have rather had up then and I was quite thankful Boston had already inserted Jay Payton and David McCarty into the game. Mirabelli was not an option, as he was the backup catcher, and I canít remember who the other player(s) were, but likely they were at least at Vazquezís offensive ability.
However, nothing is certain in baseball, which is part of what makes it so great. Especially with runners on first and third it was easy to conceive of scenarios where the Red Sox could tie the game or even win it. I had visions of a ball rattling around in deep center or of an infield single between the pitcher and first base. However, Batista would retire Vazquez on a flyball to Wells and the Jays would hold on for the victory.
Most Crucial At-Bat of Month: Edgar Renteria (April 19 vs. Red Sox); P Value: 0.2225; WP Credit +0.114
Renteria came up in this inning of bitten nails between Ortiz and Vazquez. McCarty had just beaten out a grounder to short and was sitting at first with one out. With a single Renteria could get McCarty to third for the weak-hitting Vazquez, making a sacrifice fly possible and forcing the Jays to be aware of the suicide squeeze. He didnít and his fly out left McCarty on first with two out. Jason Varitekís single would bring everybody watching the game to the edge of their seats (if they hadnít already been perched there for the last two innings), but then the sight of Ramon Vazquez would let loose a litany of curses across the Northeast.
I hope you enjoyed this and found it illuminating. Many of you probably donít have a frame of reference for these numbers, and I donít have a great one either. However, I hope to gain that by the end of the year and use this as some sort of tool for measuring both the contributions and usage patterns of the Jays bullpen. Feel free to comment on the four above or leave suggestions for how to improve this feature. I will be back shortly to conclude with Frasor, Speier, Chulk and Schoeneweis, and at that point I can hopefully begin to engage in some comparison between the eight pitchers. Comments, as always, are more than welcome.