Friday, October 29, 2010

Meltdown

This is our fourth postseason in the How Youz Doin Baseball era, and it may have been back during the first when we brought up that you very rarely see teams with bad bullpens succeed once qualifying for the playoffs. This is, of course, because in the playoffs you only have four games to lose before you're out. If your bullpen is costing you one of those games, it's significant. If they're costing you more than one of your games, it's probably time to say goodbye.

We talked about the 2004 Red Sox, and one of their keys to victory was that their bullpen, even down to Curtis Leskanic at the right time, was solid and didn't cost them games. I'm pretty sure I argued against the success of the 2007 team because Eric Gagne was on the roster. But it's been a prevalent trend that if you have a solid bullpen, you're built to succeed in close games in the playoffs.

That's why this World Series is especially interesting. Both of these bullpens are not very good. Yes, the Rangers' bullpen is worse, and this fact is right in our face after they completely melted down last night, but they're both pretty poor. It might actually be the worst bullpen we've seen in the World Series since we started this thing - times two.

The closers on both squads are quite good. Neftali Feliz and Brian Wilson are both very solid. However, beyond that, look out. The Rangers' organizational philosophy is to stretch out their starters, and that's a good thing because it minimizes Darren time and lets the games go right from the starter to Feliz.

The Giants have two notably bad Red Sox castoffs in Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez. Ramirez has cost the Giants one game already this postseason and I'm pretty sure he got lit up on another occasion as well. JLo has been unscathed so far, but I think he might be the all-time league leader in coming in from the bullpen and walking his one batter on four pitches. A percentage, of course.

Pat believes that the Giants' bullpen is not that bad but, like the 2009 Yankees, is just not "namesy." No. Watch Game 1 and watch Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez.

The Rangers' bullpen has already famously imploded during Game 1 of the ALCS. It is overly generous that Darren Oliver has a job in baseball in the first place. Darren O'Day, while his overall season stats are okay, has been bad this postseason. I told Pat that over the course of the series, the answer is always going to be "over" when faced with an over-under on how many runs a Darren will let up in a World Series appearance.

Walking guys after sitting in the bullpen all day is enfuriating. Walking guys on four pitches is equally bad. Coming in from the bullpen and throwing 12 balls in 13 pitches is inexcusable, and Derek Holland did just that. By the way, why is this poor guy Mark Lowe (3 appearance, 12.00 ERA) on the roster?

Also notable was that the Rangers' bullpen kept the Giants out of reach in Game 1, preventing the Giants' bullpen's late-inning meltdown that made Brian Wilson necessary in the ninth inning. Either way, no lead is safe with either of these teams. Could make for some late nights.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

You're take on these bullpens is accurate, though I would like to point out that Derek Holland was a champ in Game 4 of the ALCS and was arguably the MVP of that game, coming in after Tommy Hunter had been largely ineffective and didn't even make it out of the fourth inning.

As for the rest of this series, the Rangers could still very well pull it out, wouldn't surprise me at all. But the Giants have absolutely dominated so far and it's tough to think that momentum will change dramatically back in Texas, especially considering that they don't have Cliff Lee right around the corner.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

I think we know who I consider to be the most valuable player of Game 4 of the ALCS. But that's very fair.

The fact that this 23-year-old kid, who also kicked around the minors for most of 2010, was the guy in with everything on the line, is indicative of the team's pitching depth problems in the first place. To his credit, he killed it in the minors this year, but this is beyond not having big names. This is perhaps the most patchwork bullpen we've seen in the World Series for a long time.

Patrick said...

in the interest of full disclosure, the giants had the second best bullpen era in baseball this year at 2.99 (second in the national league), and the rangers had the sixth best bullpen era in baseball at 3.38 (second in the american league). the giants had the best save percentage in all of baseball. the rangers were tied for 12th, so at least you have something there.

don't even bother giving me reason x, y, and z why these numbers might be misleading or don't tell the whole story. especially in the giants case, the numbers are just too dominant, their bullpen is awesome. the rangers' bullpen might not be quite as good as their bullpen era suggests, but they do pitching half their games in one of the biggest hitter's parks in the game, and the numbers are certainly better than "the most patchwork bullpen we've seen in the World Series for a long time." sure they've had two bad games in san fransisco, but what did they do against the yankees? after game 1 they barely budged, giving the yankees little chance to get back into games after the texas starter departed. which is something the yankees are very good at.

TimC said...

Reason X as to why PF's numbers don't tell the whole story: I'm curious as to how these numbers stack up historically against other World Series teams. Obviously, tough numbers to dig up and I'm not suggesting that anyone do so (except maybe FOX). But do the numbers show average WS bullpens or something else?

Reason Y: Not really a reason, but more an additional note. According to an ESPN article, the Rangers led the league in bullpen wins. It tells me two things. One, they can hold a lead over short stretches (since comebacks reduce the time spent holding a lead). Two, as bad as their pen might be, might, it is not as bad as the others they've encountered.

Reason Z: You all may recall I wrote a 25-page paper at Colby about pythagorean win % and how it varied from regular win %. One thing I found in that paper is that bullpen ERA and such rarely helped teams overachieve (in terms of 'expected' wins, i.e, the pythag) but save percentage did, in econometric terms, have a statistically significant effect on real wins above the expected (i.e., overachievement). So, when I see those numbers, my conclusion based on what I wrote about would be that the Rangers bullpen probably had little effect on their season while the Giants probably rode it. In other words, if the Rangers bullpen falters, no problem, as they are more or less used to it. They've been winning, essentially, with or without the bullpen's help. The Giants, on the other hand, would be in a very dangerous position should the 'pen collapse in Texas. Not that it should, though.