Ten Levels of Relief

April 22, 2014

                Suppose that you took all seasons by relief pitchers, ever, and sorted them into ten levels of contribution.   Aroldis Chapman in 2013, for example, had 38 saves, a 2.54 ERA, and struck out 112 batters in 63.2 innings.   That’s a "10" season—not that he was the best reliever in the majors, but that he was in the top 10%.

Neal Cotts of Texas had only 1 save and 11 holds—unimpressive numbers—but won 8 games, lost 3, and had a 65-18 strikeout to walk ratio and a 1.11 ERA.   That’s a  "9".

Dane de la Rosa of the Angels had only 2 saves but 20 holds, a 6-1 won-lost record, 65-28 strikeout to walk ratio and a 2.86 ERA.   That’s an "8".

Kevin Gregg of the Cubs had 33 saves, but the rest of his numbers were just fair—3.48 ERA, 2-6 won-lost record, 56-32 strikeout to walk ratio.   That’s a "7"; we’re not ignoring the Saves, but it’s not a super season, either.

Will Harris of the Diamondbacks had no saves and only four holds, but he was 4-1, 2.91 ERA, 53-15 strikeout to walk ratio.   That’s a "6".

Kelvin Herrera of the Royals struck out 74 batters in 58.1 innings (74-21) and had 20 holds, but his ERA was just 3.86, 5-7 won-lost record.   That’s a "5".

Nate Jones of the White Sox pitched 70 times, 89 strikeouts in 78 innings (89-26), and had 16 holds, but his ERA was over four (4.15).   That’s a "4".

Brandon League of the Dodgers had 14 saves and 6-4 won-lost record, but struck out only 28 hitters (28-15) and had an ugly 5.30 ERA.    That’s a "3".

His teammate Carlos Marmol, inventor of Marmolaide, had a better ERA, 4.41, but he had only 2 saves and 2 wins (2-4), and he walked 40 men in 49 innings (59-40).    That’s a "2".

Marmol’s first-half-of-the-season teammate, James Russell, had a yet-better ERA, 3.59, but had no saves, a 1-6 won-lost record, unimpressive strikeouts and walks (37-18), and gave up an OPS higher than 1.000 to right-handed hitters.   That’s a "1", a bottom-ten-percent season for a reliever.

And, I don’t know if you noticed, but I gave you those pitchers not only in order of performance, but also in alphabetical order—Chapman (10), Cotts (9), de la Rosa (8), Gregg (7), Harris (6), Herrera (5), Jones (4), League (3), Marmol (2) and Russell (1).

                I took all pitchers in baseball history who had 40 or more game appearances, and no more than 4 starts. . .basically, all relievers ever who got in something close to a full season’s work.  There were 5,207 such pitchers.   I sorted them into 10 levels—520 in the top group, the "10s", 520 in the bottom two groups, 521 in the each of the other 7 groups.

                The first pitcher who qualified, chronologically, was Lou North in 1921—40 games, no starts, 4-4 record, 3.56 ERA, 7 saves credited in the modern encyclopedias, although of course there was no such concept at the time.  That’s a "6" season, not a bad season, not really much of an impact.   This is a chronological scan of the 5,207 seasons:

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

12

32

56

143

420

545

709

1110

1516

664

 

                One can see from this how impossible it would be to address the question, "When does the modern bullpen really start?", because each decade is different from the one before, and the increases are steady and proportional, rather than having a sudden increase at any point in time which would allow us to draw a dividing line.

                The first reliever to have a "10" season was Garland Braxton in 1927.   Braxton, who was called "Gob" (presumably he had been in the Navy. . .sailors were called "Gobs") was a rail-thin, Gomer-Pyle-looking like guy who kept his hat pushed way back on his head, the bill standing straight up in the air.   In 1927 he made only 2 starts but pitched 156 innings with a 2.94 ERA, 10-9 record, 13 saves and a 96-33 strikeout to walk.    The strikeout to walk ratio is sensational for that era; in the American League in 1927 there were 600 more walks than strikeouts.   This is a chronological spectrum of the "10" seasons:

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s

1

1

4

17

55

91

108

87

110

46

 

                Some of you will remember that Wilcy Moore won 19 games, primarily as a reliever, for the 1927 Yankees, but that season doesn’t qualify because Moore made 12 starts.   I would like to have 10% of the best seasons by relievers be designated "10s" in each decade, but of course the only way you can make that happen is to overpower reality and force it to happen.    In the 1970s 17% of reliever seasons were "10s"; now, it is down to 7%.    Teams in 1970 typically had three-man and four-man bullpens; now, most teams have 7-man and 8-man bullpens.   When you have three pitchers doing the work of eight, you have more Big Seasons; there’s really no way of getting around it except to ignore it and pretend that pitching 70 innings now is the same as pitching 140 innings of relief in 1973.

                Some of you will insist on knowing how I sorted the seasons into levels, so I suppose I will have to explain that.   I started with the pitcher’s Season Score, which I have explained before several times.  To this, I added:

                1)  One point for each run that the pitcher saved compared to the league average in that season (since Season Scores are not otherwise era-adjusted), and

                2)  One-half of one point for each strikeout above (or below) the league strikeout average (since strikeout levels have changed so much over time), and

                3)  100 points to each season (so that I wouldn’t have to deal with negative numbers.)

                An average "10" reliever pitched in 66 games, 93 innings, with a 7-4 won-lost record, 81-30 strikeout to walk ratio, 2.25 ERA and 29 saves.    This chart summarizes the performance averages for each level of success:

  

Level

G

IP

W

L

WPct

H

R

ER

SO

BB

SV

ERA

10

66

93

7

4

.600

72

27

24

81

30

29

2.25

9

62

86

6

4

.582

72

29

26

69

30

17

2.67

8

60

80

6

4

.591

69

30

26

62

30

11

2.91

 

                     

 

7

60

76

5

4

.575

67

30

27

57

29

8

3.12

6

59

73

4

4

.557

66

30

27

55

28

6

3.28

5

57

69

4

4

.546

65

31

28

51

28

4

3.52

4

57

66

3

3

.514

64

31

28

48

27

4

3.80

 

                     

 

3

54

63

3

3

.486

63

32

29

45

27

3

4.08

2

54

60

2

4

.397

63

33

30

42

27

2

4.46

1

52

59

2

4

.313

67

39

36

39

28

3

5.54

 

                By doing this, I was able to create a simple "scan line" for every reliever.   These would be the top ten relievers of all time, giving them 10 points for a "10" season, etc.:

First

Last

EYOB

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

Mariano

Rivera

1970

     

10

10

10

10

10

10

8

10

10

10

Trevor

Hoffman

1968

   

5

9

9

10

10

10

10

10

9

9

 

Hoyt

Wilhelm

1923

           

10

9

10

6

4

3

 

John

Franco

1961

8

10

9

10

10

8

10

7

   

8

9

9

Lee

Smith

1958

3

 

10

10

10

10

9

9

9

10

10

9

9

Jeff

Reardon

1956

 

9

8

10

9

9

9

8

8

10

8

8

9

Jesse

Orosco

1957

   

7

10

10

9

10

4

7

8

5

4

5

Billy

Wagner

1972

   

9

10

10

 

10

10

10

9

10

10

10

Sparky

Lyle

1945

8

10

3

8

10

9

10

7

10

10

8

7

5

Rollie

Fingers

1947

   

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

6

10

10

10

 

 

First

Last

EYOB

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

Total

Mariano

Rivera

1970

10

9

10

10

10

10

 

10

       

167

Trevor

Hoffman

1968

10

9

10

9

7

10

1

         

147

Hoyt

Wilhelm

1923

   

10

9

10

10

10

9

10

9

9

8

136

John

Franco

1961

10

7

7

6

6

   

1

       

135

Lee

Smith

1958

8

8

4

                 

128

Jeff

Reardon

1956

9

3

                   

117

Jesse

Orosco

1957

6

2

5

6

7

7

1

   

2

1

 

116

Billy

Wagner

1972

8

 

10

                 

116

Sparky

Lyle

1945

4

2

                   

111

Rollie

Fingers

1947

   

1

                 

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                The "EYOB" or "Effective Year of Birth" is given so that you can relate the peaks and valleys of each pitcher’s career to calendar years.   Mariano was born in 1969 but in late 1969, so he is treated as 30 years old in 2000, so his Effective Year of Birth is 1970.   2000 is the year he was a "10".   It’s a joke.

                I can foresee one consequence of publishing this right away:  those people who are advocating for John Franco to be in the Hall of Fame will now start saying that "Bill James says that he was the 4th greatest reliever of all time."   I’m not really saying that; that is merely the conclusion you would reach by the use of his approach.   Maybe a "10" season is worth 20 times as much as a "1" season, rather than 10 times as much; I don’t know.

                Anyway, this is the "second ten", which has to be eleven because there is a tie:

First

Last

EYOB

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

Goose

Gossage

1952

   

10

 

10

10

 

10

 

10

10

10

10

5

Roberto

Hernandez

1964

           

10

10

4

8

10

10

6

10

Kent

Tekulve

1947

               

9

9

10

10

7

6

Don

McMahon

1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

1

8

9

2

10

Doug

Jones

1957

                 

8

10

10

10

 

Tug

McGraw

1945

     

10

7

10

10

8

3

9

9

9

8

3

Francisco

Rodriguez

1982

9

10

10

10

10

10

8

10

10

2

7

     

Dennis

Eckersley

1955

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

10

10

Dan

Plesac

1962

     

9

9

9

10

5

 

7

2

2

5

7

Roy

Face

1928

             

8

7

9

10

10

6

10

Todd

Jones

1968

         

8

9

6

9

4

8

9

5

2

 

First

Last

EYOB

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

Total

Goose

Gossage

1952

7

4

5

 

4

       

105

Roberto

Hernandez

1964

8

7

5

3

1

8

3

 

1

104

Kent

Tekulve

1947

10

10

6

4

9

8

3

   

101

Don

McMahon

1930

7

8

9

8

7

10

7

5

 

100

Doug

Jones

1957

10

5

9

2

7

10

5

7

6

99

Tug

McGraw

1945

10

               

96

Francisco

Rodriguez

1982

                 

96

Dennis

Eckersley

1955

10

10

10

8

6

5

7

7

3

95

Dan

Plesac

1962

4

5

1

6

5

3

5

   

94

Roy

Face

1928

4

2

 

9

9

6

4

   

94

Todd

Jones

1968

1

7

10

7

6

3

     

94

               

                And this would be the next ten:

First

Last

EYOB

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

Troy

Percival

1970

     

9

10

9

9

8

7

10

10

Joe

Nathan

1975

           

9

10

10

10

10

Dave

Smith

1947

                     

Gene

Garber

1948

 

 

 

 

6

8

10

10

10

2

5

Jeff

Montgomery

1962

       

7

10

10

10

10

10

7

Bruce

Sutter

1953

 

9

10

9

10

9

9

10

7

10

6

Mike

Timlin

1966

     

9

 

4

   

7

7

9

Tom

Henke

1958

 

 

 

 

 

 

10

10

9

10

10

Michael

Jackson

1965

 

8

7

3

8

6

7

 

7

6

7

Ron

Perranoski

1936

     

8

9

10

7

9

6

9

7

 

 

First

Last

EYOB

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

Total

Troy

Percival

1970

7

8

     

6

         

93

Joe

Nathan

1975

10

10

 

4

9

10

         

92

Dave

Smith

1947

10

8

5

6

8

10

9

10

8

8

9

91

Gene

Garber

1948

 

10

3

6

6

9

6

 

 

 

 

91

Jeff

Montgomery

1962

8

6

5

5

1

           

89

Bruce

Sutter

1953

                     

89

Mike

Timlin

1966

6

6

4

5

7

5

9

4

4

1

 

87

Tom

Henke

1958

9

9

10

 

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

87

Michael

Jackson

1965

10

8

 

4

3

 

2

       

86

Ron

Perranoski

1936

10

10

1

               

86

 

                Mike Timlin would be the #1 reliever of all time who never had a "10" season.    There has been at least one "10" reliever every season since 1949 except for 1994, when the strike and a couple of injuries kept the top shelf cabinet bare for a year.

                I note that relievers are acquiring a true history; more and more of the relievers now are from 30, 40 years ago.   A few years ago, when you did a list of the greatest relievers, it was dominated by active and recently retired pitchers.   Not so much now; Roy Face, Ron Perranoski, Hoyt Wilhelm and Don McMahon were a half-century ago, and many of the pitchers listed above were active or finished by 1984, 30 years ago—Garber, Sutter, Dave Smith, Tekulve, Gossage, Lee Smith, Reardon, Sparky Lyle, Tug McGraw, Rollie Fingers.   The position is beginning to develop historical depth and historical standards. 

 

                OK, turning now to the serious research.  I created these summary lines in order to improve my ability to generalize about relievers sustaining success levels.    Of pitchers who are "10s" in this study, the average next-season performance level is 6.58—6.29 before 1990, 6.93 since 1990.

                Prior to 1990, 53% of "10s" in this study were at the 8, 9 or 10 level the next season, and 44% were at the 8-9-10 level two years later.   Since 1990, those percentages are 63% and 51%.  It may be that something has changed since 1990 because:

                a)  Up until 1990, relievers who had outstanding seasons were sometimes moved to the bullpen,

                b)  Relievers in the 1970s and 1980s were worked much harder than they are today, leading to more injuries, or

                c)  Early relievers were often second-line talents with trick pitches, older guys and broken-down starters and failed starters.   Now front-line relievers are more likely to feature some serious fastballs. 

                From my standpoint, it doesn’t much matter WHY these numbers have changed; what really matters is the fact that they have, which means that I will have to be cautious in using data from before 1990 in studying anything else relevant to today.

                Restating, "10" relievers since 1990 have had an average next-season score of 6.93, 63% of them were still highly effective relievers one year later, and 51% were still effective relievers two years later, "highly effective"  being defined as "8-9-10" on this scale.    For the "9" relievers, since 1990, the average next-season score is 5.46, 40% are still in the group one year later, and 30% are still in the group two years later.

                For the "8" relievers since 1990, these numbers are 4.82, 26% and 19%.     Charting:

Level

Next Year Average

% Highly Effective One Year Later

% Highly Effective Two Years Later

10

6.93

63%

51%

9

5.46

40%

30%

8

4.82

26%

19%

7

3.96

18%

16%

6

3.18

9%

9%

 

   

 

5

3.14

10%

10%

4

2.55

7%

6%

3

1.99

5%

5%

2

1.98

6%

5%

1

1.44

4%

4%

 

                Generalizing, the chance that a mid-range reliever will become a highly effective reliever one or two years later is around 10%.    An ineffective reliever becoming a highly effective reliever, it’s a real long shot, although obviously is does happen.

 

                My next little study here deals only with pitchers in the top three levels of effectiveness, 8-9-10, and only since 1990, and obviously not including the 2012-2013 pitchers, since there is no "lookahead" data on them.    There are 686 relief pitchers in the data, all of whom had very good seasons. 

                Those 686 pitchers contain some who had amazing control—Dennis Eckersley, for example--and some who did not have amazing control, such as Mitch Williams and John Rocker.   483 of the pitchers had better-than-league walk rates, adjusting for Intentional Walks, but 203 did not.   Those who had better-than-league control were slightly more effective than those who had below-average control, but only slightly more.

                In subsequent seasons, would those who had good control be more likely to continue to be effective than those who issued more walks?   Remember John Axford, had a couple of good years as a closer but would walk people?   Remember David Aardsma, Don (Fullpack) Stanhouse, Ryne Duren?   It seems like that is kind of a transient thing, that sometimes a reliever is able to be highly effective for a year or two with a scattershot approach, but then it gets away from him.

                No.   I would have guessed the answer would be "yes", but it isn’t.   In the base year, the "good control—high effectiveness" group had an average grouping of 9.03, and an average next-season grouping of 5.70.   42% of them remained in the "highly effective" groups the next season, and 34% did so two seasons later.

                In the "poor control—high effectiveness" group, the base year group average was 8.77.   But the next year, their average grouping was 5.71—the same as the control pitchers—and 42% of them remained in the "highly effective" groups, the same percentage as for the good control pitchers.    The percentage remaining effective two years later did drop slightly, to 31%, but that’s really nothing.

                If you focus on the extremes—the 50 pitchers with the BEST control and the 50 pitchers with the WORST control—then it does appear that there is some "persistence advantage" to the pitchers with good control (46%/36% versus 32%/24%).    But small groups become less reliable.

                Suppose that we sort the highly effective relievers by strikeout rates.   To begin with, 88% of the highly effective relievers (603 out of 686) had above-average strikeout rates, and those who had the highest strikeout rates were more effective than those whose strikeout rates were just moderately high.   They had a few more saves and a little bit better ERAs.

                But suppose we divide those pitchers into quadrants, by their strikeout rates (171-172-172-171).    Pay dirt:

 

Group

Base Year Average

Next Year Average

% Highly Effective One Year Later

% Highly Effective Two Years Later

Very High Strikeouts

9.25

6.84

61%

50%

Above Avg. Strikeouts

9.08

6.05

50%

40%

 

 

     

Below Avg. Strikeouts

8.81

5.16

33%

23%

Lowest Strikeouts

8.70

4.76

25%

18%

 

                The low strikeout pitchers who are highly effective are much less able to maintain their effectiveness, in future years, than the high strikeout pitchers.  (The "Below Avg. Strikeouts" group there is not really below the LEAGUE average.   They are merely below the midpoint of this group, although 100% of those pitchers are still above the league average.   Even about one-half of Quadrant 4, the Lowest Strikeout Group, is still above the league strikeout average.)  

                Anyway, that’s really useful to know:   Control rates (for effective relievers) are not a variable predicting the pitcher’s ability to remain effective, but strikeout rates ARE.     I would assume that batting average on balls in play is?

                Not really, no.

Group

Base Year Average

Next Year Average

% Highly Effective One Year Later

% Highly Effective Two Years Later

Very High BABIP

8.92

5.92

45%

33%

Above Avg. BABIP

8.86

5.92

42%

33%

 

 

     

Below Avg. BABIP

9.01

5.29

36%

30%

Very Low BABIP

9.06

5.67

46%

35%

 

                There is some survival advantage for the pitchers who have high batting averages on balls in play, but it is much smaller than I would have expected.   I don’t know how to interpret that.    Just trying to make sure everybody is keeping up. . .. .when a pitcher has a low batting average on balls in play (BABIP), we assume that he has been lucky, and has had the at’em ball working.   We thus assume that he is likely to be LESS lucky the next season, that he will be no more lucky or less lucky than anyone else, thus that he may lose effectiveness.    This is true in this group, but not profoundly true, not true enough that there would be any profit in focusing on it.

                The highest BABIP in this group was .365, against Roberto Hernandez with the 1995 White Sox.   Roberto Hernandez could throw 97, 98 MPH, pitch after pitch, when he was 37 years old, closing games for the Royals, and was still in the mid-90s when he was 40.   At one point we were thinking of making a trade offer for him, so we sent Bill Lajoie to scout him for several days.   Bill returned with the best ten-word scouting report I ever heard:  "I don’t know how they hit him," he said, "but they do."

                Carlos Marmol one year had an in-play average of .169.   Well, I think that’s about all I’ve got here that is worth saying.   I did this research, hoping to construct a way to look BACK at relievers, asking "Where did this good reliever come from?   Was he a minor league starter before he became an effective reliever, a major league starter, a minor league reliever, an ineffective major league reliever, a college pitcher?   What was he, before he became the guy we are trying to find?"

                I don’t know that I’ve found any answers to that one; perhaps I can continue to work on it.   When we publish this article I’ll post the file which reduces each reliever’s career to a single line of 1s through 10s, just in case that file (spreadsheet) is of any use to any of you; its name is Relievers Scaled 1 to 10.xls   Thanks for reading.

 

Bill James

 
 

COMMENTS (22 Comments, most recent shown first)

dbutler69
I had the same question as OldBackstop regarding blown saves. As near as I can tell, they are not accounted for. It seems like they should be, though, though I know that blown saves haven't been around as long as an official stat as saves have been.
10:13 AM Jun 24th
 
ventboys
I notice that all levels except the ones drop off the next season. I expected that with the top levels - plexiglass effect - but the fours dropped to 2.55, the threes to 1.99, and even the twos dropped to 1.98. Only the ones improved as a group. I guess this must mean that pitchers who didn't pitch the next season were given zeroes?
12:14 AM Apr 26th
 
garywmaloney
To add to jdrb -- you can also see the "Koufax phenomenon" of extremely brilliant and effective relievers, lasting for a shorter period. "Tiger, tiger, burning bright," as Blake wrote -- look at the spreadsheet for the runs of Eckersley, F. Rodriguez and Quisenberry -- lasting 5-7 seasons.

Rivera's run of excellence is perhaps matched only by Wagner, who has "just" 12 rated seasons -- but nine are grade 10, and the others 8 or 9. But Rivera did that for 17 rated seasons, not 12 . . .
2:20 PM Apr 25th
 
smbakeresq
There really is no way to get around the 110-130 seasons from a while ago to the 60-70 IP seasons now. I have been thinking about this for a while, I am not even sure WS captures it well. Growing up in BAL in the 70's, the NYY would come in and the games were great, and there was just nothing like seeing Goose come in for 6,7, 8 outs, or Don Stanhouse doing the same, stuff like that. Bruce Kern, who was as good as you could be for a few years. Ron Davis. But those guys just threw too many innings, so were not as consistent.


11:06 AM Apr 23rd
 
papahans5
Where's Quiz?
9:59 AM Apr 23rd
 
jdrb
Robinsong-- Bill regarding Franco and Hotstat are both saying about what I am, but I'm not sure this list is a good criteria for discussion of HoF careers. More than anything this list measures/predicts career consistency of relievers. In the first historical abstract, there was a distinction and separate lists between career excellence (Spahn) and peak brilliance (Koufax)-- this list of relievers does a good job identifying career excellence but not peak briliance. As Hotstat says, there's a number of 12's and 13's mixed in with the 10's.
9:50 AM Apr 23rd
 
jwilt
When you use season score as a metric for ranking players you end up heavily weighting others' decisions and contributions. Maybe that's what Bill was trying to do, accounting for what happened but not why or how. The Kevin Gregg/Nate Jones highlights this. Jones had a higher K rate, lower walk rate, allowed fewer homers per inning, pitched more innings, but Gregg was allowed to pitch 9th innings and had a lower BABIP so this system rates Gregg two notches higher. Essentially luck on balls in play and manager's choices are rated more highly than K/BB/HR rates.
9:24 AM Apr 23rd
 
SteveN
Not much to say except that I am surprised that there is no mention of Quisenberry.
9:03 AM Apr 23rd
 
trn6229
Hi Bill, Nice article. How about Dr. Mike Marshall? His career was somewhat up and down but he was great in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1979. In 1974, he pitched 208 innings out of the bullpen and pitched the Dodgers into the World Series.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
11:06 PM Apr 22nd
 
hotstatrat
The problem with using this to compare the best relievers against each other is that the variance in performance among the top 10% of seasons is far greater than in any of the other categories. (And it was not Bill's purpose to use this for that - I think his top 40 relievers was just for fun and does show how consistent the best relievers were.) In other words, many of those 10s are really 11s, 12s, 13s, and probably 14s. To count them all as 10s is a blunt way of measuring career greatness.
10:49 PM Apr 22nd
 
whc1999
This data confirms to me that Keith Foulke never got his due for his 3-day 77 pitch ALCS performance for the Red Sox. He had 10s in 5 of the 6 seasons leading up to that postseason.
Everyone remembers Schilling putting his career on the line but Foulke was never the same after that.
(As a Sox fan I believe both may the right decision to but their career on the line)
8:00 PM Apr 22nd
 
wovenstrap
I've always been a severe critic of Franco, he always seemed like a barely-better-than-average ace for most of his career, esp. the second half of his career. I never use the word "compiler" but he seemed a bit like that to me. Seeing this, I'm not about to advocate his election to the HOF but I probably have been a little hard on him. Lot of 10s there.
7:50 PM Apr 22nd
 
rgregory1956

Two pitchers had 10 or more seasons of 10 points, the incomparable Mariano Rivera with 15 such seasons, and the much maligned Rollie Fingers with 10. Wagner, by the way is the only one with 9. Gossage and Hoffman are the only ones with 8.


7:26 PM Apr 22nd
 
taosjohn
Robinsong, Sutter IS in the notation, at number 27. His failing to reach higher was a matter more of shortness of career than quality...
5:08 PM Apr 22nd
 
tkoegel
Bill,

I presume there is a typo in this line:

a) Up until 1990, relievers who had outstanding seasons were sometimes moved to the bullpen.

Moved to the rotation?

Tom
2:36 PM Apr 22nd
 
Robinsong
The top ten relievers had 70 of the "10" seasons. This was 45% of their rated seasons and 13.4% of the all-time "10" seasons, even though they had only 3% of the rated seasons. The top ten were amazingly consistent as well, though most pitched before 1990. Their average rating the season after a "10" was 8.37. Even two years after a "10", an astonishing 79% of their seasons qualified as highly effective. These ten had a noticeable impact on the averages; other relievers were 5% less likely that the quoted average to repeat as higly effective and a full 37% below these stars.

While Franco is interesting, I think Billy Wagner's career was the biggest surprise in Bill's succinct notation. The biggest lesson was the glaring absence of Sutter from even the top 20. Work like this article is needed to improve writers' understanding and evaluation of reliever's careers. Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman (and of course Rivera) belong in the HOF, Sutter was a serious error and Gossage and Fingers were marginal. Thanks Bill (and can you give Sutter's career in your notation and where he ranks?)!
2:23 PM Apr 22nd
 
sroney
Am I correct in assuming that players that were "still in the group" two years later, were not necessarily in the group one year later? (For example, Sparkly Lyle had a 10-7-10 sequence from ages 29-31, so was out of the 8-10 group at age 30, but back in at 31)
1:47 PM Apr 22nd
 
OldBackstop
Very interesting. I would not have thought there was much fodder before Joe Page here (do you know that BR has his nickname listed as "The Gay Reliever?). At any rate, I searched here on the word "blown" just to make sure I didn't miss it, but were they factored in? By way of example, Chapman had four BLs in 2013.
11:03 AM Apr 22nd
 
sansho1
What jumps out at me from the percentile chart is that the number of hits and walks stays roughly the same for each group, and the number of runs allowed is fairly stable as well. What changes are the number of innings pitched and the strikeouts. The separation between each group can be roughly described as an additional three perfect innings with a strikeout per inning. Neat.
10:51 AM Apr 22nd
 
tangotiger
With regards to how much is a "10" worth compared to the others. That would depend on where you set the replacement level.

For example, setting the replacement level at the "1" line, then one "10" season (or 10+1) is equivalent to 5+6.

If you set the replacement level at the "2" line, then one "10" (or 10+2) is 7+7.

If you set the replacement level at the "3" line, then one "10" (or 10+3) is 7+8.
10:22 AM Apr 22nd
 
bjames
I do a lot of work that I can't publish, yes. I don't really know what the percentages are, but there are several rules that I follow to know what belongs to the Sox and what can be public. If it is general research that applies to all teams, that generally can be public, whereas research on questions targeted to the Red Sox is obviously not public. But if I find something of general interest while working on a Red Sox problem, that would still be Red Sox property, and anything that involves a significant and immediate competitive advantage, obviously I owe it to the Red Sox to report that to them first.
10:03 AM Apr 22nd
 
Rcrout
Hey Bill, thanks for the article. I really enjoy reading about your work. Question: I assume that there is a substantial amount of work you can not publish because it is essentially proprietary to the Sawx. What percentage, would you say? Thanks.
9:57 AM Apr 22nd
 
 
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