Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shutdowns and Meltdowns: Tigers Top Relievers Since 1974

Going back to my earlier Shutdown/Meltdown theme, I wanted to look at Tigers relievers historically.  Remember that a pitcher gets credit for a shutdown (SD) whenever he substantially enhances his teams chance of winning a game (sum of Win Probability Added for the game is 6% or better).  He is charged with a Meltdown (MD) if he significantly hampers his team's chance of winning  (sum of Win Probaility Added for the game is less than -6%).

Before I present the historical SD/MD leaders, there are a couple things to keep in mind.  First, Win Probability Added data are only available back to 1974.  So, anybody pitching prior to that year will be excluded.

Another issue is that relievers were used a lot differently back in the 1970s and even into the 1980s.  In contrast to today where closers typically enter games with nobody on base and pitch one inning, earlier top relievers would often come into games with runners on base and pitch multiple innings.  So, earlier relievers had more opportunities for Meltdowns than contemporary relievers and thus typically didn't do as well on the SD/MD statistic. 

Table 1 lists the Tigers SD/MD leaders since 1974.  1984 MVP winner Guillermo Hernandez tops the list with an amazing 10.2 (41/4) ratio.  The second best ratio belongs to Jose Valverde with a 7.6 (38/5) ratio in 2011.   

Table 1: Tigers Single-season SD/MD Leaders, 1974-2011


Pitcher
Year
SD
MD
SD/MD
Guillermo Hernandez
1984
41
4
10.2
Jose Valverde
2011
38
5
7.6
Todd Jones
2000
35
5
7.0
Mike Christopher
1995
12
2
6.0
Fernando Rodney
2009
35
7
5.0
Jose Valverde
2010
23
5
4.6
Todd Jones
1999
27
6
4.5
Aurelio Lopez
1979
34
8
4.2
Jerry Don Gleaton
1990
21
5
4.2
Todd Jones
2007
29
7
4.1
Todd Jones
1997
32
8
4.0
Joel Zumaya
2006
35
9
3.9
Todd Jones
1998
26
7
3.7
Mike Henneman
1991
29
8
3.6
Jose Lima
1996
14
4
3.5
Data from: FanGraphs.com

Todd Jones had five of the top 15 seasons - 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2007.  There are a couple of factors involved in Jones' success.  First, the Roller Coaster was not used in a lot of situations where he had chances for Meltdowns.  Just as importantly, he was very good at his role and therefore was able to get a good number of Shutdowns.

The biggest surprises on the list are Mike Christopher in 1995 and Jose Lima in 1996.  Neither was very good according to traditional statistics, but a look at their game logs shows that they pitched well in high leverage situations.  It's probably just a fluke that they pitched their best when they were needed the most, but their good SD/MD ratios indicate that they probably had more value to their teams than the more traditional measures indicate.

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