28 May 2009

Talking Through My Bullpen Angst: Game 48 Unfair Win Shares

The Dodgers yesterday completed a total sweep of the Rockies. This means that the Dodgers worst offensive game ( 7 runs ) beats the Rockies best offensive game ( 6 runs ) in the series. The Dodgers have one previous total sweep this year, of the Giants from April 13 to 15 at Dodger Stadium.

Of course, Broxton almost blew the total sweep, not to mention the regular sweep and the game. This is one of those things that is probably best to forget about, given that is was Coors Field, he hadn't pitched in a while, and he's been so great all year. Broxton isn't the guy in the 'pen who should worry Dodger fans, in any case.

Consider the following hypothetical --- and let me emphasize that, for purposes of jinx-warding, this is hypothetical, a thought experiment, if you will.

The Dodgers make it to the playoffs, and are playing the Brewers in the first round. They've split the first two games, and Kershaw is pitching game 3. He does well, allowing only one run through 5 innings, and the offense is clicking and scores 6 runs. It looks like an easy victory. The only problem is that Kershaw is making too many pitches, and he runs into trouble in the sixth inning and Torre calls to the bullpen before things get out of hand. Only, it turns out that things really get out of hand once the bullpen gets involved. No one from the 'pen has it. First Wade stumbles, allowing a couple of inherited runners to score, before Torre calls on Troncoso to stop the bleeding. 6-3 now. Then in the seventh inning Troncoso runs into trouble, and Ohman comes in, but he can't shut them down either, so then Torre turns to Belisario, who finally gets the last out, but now the score is 6-5 after seven. But Belisario isn't the answer either, because he allows a hit and a walk to lead off the eighth inning, and Torre is forced to turn to Broxton early. Maybe Broxton can perserve the lead, but it's going to be a tall order. What looked like an easy victory has turned into a nail-biting toss-up.

So, how is this hypothetical worry-fullfilment scenario challenged? There are at least seven points to make against it:

1. The Dodger relief pitchers, with the exception of Mota, have all had good outings where they helped the team win a game. All of them ( aside from Broxton ) worry me, but at the same time I must remember that they aren't bums.

2. Two months is way too short a time to form judgments on any but the best and worst relievers. Heck, a full year is usually too short with relievers, given the amount of year-to-year fluctuation you see in the stats of most relievers. We know Broxton is great, and we know Mota is awful. But the rest of them? Too soon to come to conclusions.

3. The relievers you start the year with usually aren't the same ones you finish a year with. I don't know where the new relievers will come from, but I do know that the Dodgers never have the same bullpen corps the entire year. Whether through promotion or trade some new faces will come in to replace the failed. At the very least I don't expect to see Mota last the year with the team.

4. The Dodgers might not make the playoffs. Then we wouldn't have to worry about the relievers blowing a game like that. I don't like this point. I call do-over on number four.

4. The offense might score some runs to give the 'pen a bigger cushion. Missing from my hypothetical was what the Dodger offense was doing. While a bullpen should be able to hold a 6-1 lead ( and the Dodgers 'pen usually will ) they might get even more of a cushion if the Dodgers keep scoring, as they did in the 16-6 game.

5. The Dodger 'pen ERA is 3.93, good for seventh in the National League. That's not great, but it's pretty good. The Dodgers starting pitching and offense are so good that the Dodgers don't need a great 'pen. They're three games above the beast ( above 0.666 ) even with the slightly above average 'pen performance so far.

6. The Dodger 'pen would probably have a better ERA if the starters went more innings. The Dodgers are giving a lot of innings ( relatively speaking ) to the eighth guy out of the 'pen ( most teams don't even have an eighth guy out of the 'pen! ). They'll probably be able to shorten up the bullpen if they make the playoffs, since there are more days off and the five inning end of rotation starters who tax the 'pen won't be starting anymore.

Now for the unfair shares. Kershaw is still walking too many, but he had a pretty good start considering it was Coors. I really want to give an unfair win share to Ethier for getting two hits and scoring twice, but the Little Engine That Could and Loney beat him out.

Unfair Win Shares ( Dodgers )

Kershaw -- 1
Loney -- 1
Pierre -- 1

Tulowitzki had another miserable game with lots of stranded runners, including a strikeout with the bases loaded in the ninth. He came this close to getting two unfair shares for the game. Jimenez seemed to be outpitching Kershaw up until he ran into big trouble in the seventh. And Hawpe gets a very cruel and unfair loss share for his pinch hit ground out with the winning run on first. He had the game on his bat right there and he failed: he has to get an unfair loss share for that. This is what unfair loss shares were made for.

Unfair Loss Shares ( Rockies )

Tulowitzki -- 1
Jimenez -- 1
Hawpe -- 1

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