06 June 2007

Looking Deeper

by Joshua Worley

I've been pondering the middling win-loss record of the San Diego bullpen a lot the last day, especially since the Padres won the first game of the series with the Dodgers. The Dodger 'pen gave up one run in two innings with a tie score and got the loss. Yes, the Dodger 'pen failed from the perspective that allowing even one run would doom the game, but it's not realistic to expect perfection every game from any 'pen. That the Dodger 'pen took the loss has more to do with how the offense played then how the 'pen pitched.

The Padre 'pen is 9-10 now, but how many of those losses were instances where the 'pen really, truly failed, and how many were results of a single run given up in a tie game?

Here's a summary of all ten Padre 'pen losses:

inherited score -- runs allowed -- innings pitched -- loser

tie -- 3 -- 5.0 -- Thompson
+2 -- 3 -- 1.2 -- Hoffman
+2 -- 4 -- 2.2 -- Hoffman
tie -- 1 -- 12.0 -- Hampson
+1 -- 2 -- 2.0 -- Linebrink
+1 -- 2 -- 2.0 -- Bell
+1 -- 2 -- 2.2 -- Meredith
tie -- 1 -- 4.0 -- Bell
tie -- 2 -- 2.0 -- Meredith
tie -- 1 -- 2.1 -- Meredith

The third and fourth 'pen losses were courtesy of the Dodgers. That fourth game was the 17 inning Dodger victory, and surely can't be called a 'pen failure for the Padres by any stretch. I would characterize only the 5 'pen losses when a lead was blown as a failure for the 'pen. And as it happens these are the only five games this year in which the Padre 'pen has given up a lead handed them by a starter. None of the 9 Padre 'pen wins have been "vultured", whereby the 'pen blows a lead and then gathers the win for themselves when the offense pulls the team back ahead. The Padre starters have handed 30 leads to the Padre 'pen, and the 'pen has blown just 5 of those leads.

I said in the last entry's title that the Padre 'pen was "sneaky bad", but that's just not true. I think they've just been a bit unlucky, and also the late-inning offense hasn't been so hot. The thing the Dodgers have to worry about is that if the Padres start getting a win-loss record from their 'pen more in line with how well it's pitched, then the Padres will easily pull far into first place, especially if the teams' current run differentials are an indicator of future play.

Here are the current run differentials:

team -- RS -- RA -- Diff
SD -- 246 -- 183 -- +63
LA -- 254 -- 228 -- +26

There's one thing about this, though. The Dodger pitching staff that allowed 228 runs in the first 58 games isn't the same staff that will be pitching in the next 58 games. Tomko and Hendrickson are out of the rotation, safely buried in mop-up roles in the 'pen. Schmidt is back and apparently healthy. I'm going to make an optimistic adjustment to the Dodger's runs allowed number to better reflect how they'll do going forward. Tomko, Hendrickson, and pre-injury Schmidt pitched 96.1 innings as starters and gave up 70 runs. I'm going to replace those innings with post-injury Schmidt and Kuo and optimistically assume a combined 3.5 ERA from them. Add in a few extra unearned runs, and you get just 40 runs allowed in the same 96.1 innings. Now those two should be pitching more than 96 innings over the next 60 games, but that will just replace a few back-end bullpen innings, which I'll call a wash. So by replacing the bad starters with good starters, the Dodgers might allow 30 fewer runs over the next 58 games.

Adjusted run differentials:

team -- RS -- RA -- Diff
SD -- 246 -- 183 -- +63
LA -- 254 -- 198 -- +56

So, there are a lot of caveats to this analysis. I called it optimistic for a reason. Kuo and Schmidt might not pitch as well as a 3.5 ERA. One or both might get hurt again. The other Dodger pitchers might do worse than they did in the last 58 games, especially Penny. The Padres may also improve on their run differential, something I haven't considered here.

However, barring injury there will be a real and important improvement to the Dodgers in the next 58 games and beyond. It might not be a 30 run improvement, but that's certianly not unrealistic. There's even a small chance the improvement could be by more than 30 runs over the next 58 games. In spite of this most recent frustrating loss and the Padres clear advantage in run differential, there is reason for hope.

Now if only Pierre could be replaced.

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