Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Shutdowns, Meltdowns and Free Agent Relievers

It's no secret that the Tigers are looking for a veteran reliever to pitch the seventh inning setting up Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.  They have been linked to Octavio Dotel and Luis Ayala over the last few days.  The list of free agent relievers is long though, so we can probably expect more names to show up in coming days.

In a recent post, I introduced the shutdown  (SD) and Meltdown (MD) statistics published at FanGraphs and used those to calculate Shutdown Percentage (SD%), Meltdown Percentage (MD%) and Shutdown/Meltdown Ratio (SD/MD).  SD/MD seems like a pretty good measure of reliever effectiveness, so I wanted to calculate it for the current crop of free agents. 

Before considering the free agents though, I'll look at the Tigers as a frame of reference.  Table 1 shows that the MLB median SD% was 28.6%.  Four Tigers relievers - Valverde (50.7), Benoit (43.9), Al Aburquerque (39.0) and Phil Coke (35.3) were above the median.  Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth fell below the median. 

Table 1: Shutdown Percentages for Tigers Relievers, 2011

Player
G
SD
SD%
Jose Valverde
75
38
50.7
Joaquin Benoit
66
29
43.9
Al Alburquerque
41
16
39.0
Phil Coke
34
12
35.3
MLB Median
--
--
28.6
Ryan Perry
36
9
25.0
Daniel Schlereth
49
7
14.3


Table 2 illustrates that Valverde (6.7 MD%) was the best a preventing meltdowns followed by Schlereth (10.2) and Alburquerque (12.2).  The reason for Schlereth finishing so high is probably partially a result of not being put into a lot of situations where he could hurt the team.  Still, his low meltdown rate could be viewed as a positive.  

Table 2: Meltdown Percentages for Tigers Relievers, 2011


Player
G
MD
MD%
Jose Valverde
75
5
6.7
Daniel Schlereth
49
5
10.2
Al Alburquerque
41
5
12.2
Joaquin Benoit
66
9
13.6
Ryan Perry
36
5
13.9
MLB Median
--
--
13.9
Phil Coke
34
8
23.5

Table 3 shows that MLB median SD/MD was 1.9.  Not surprisingly, Valverde, Benoit and Alburquerque were substantially above that.  Perry, Coke and Schlereth were all at or below the median.  This lines up pretty much how I would expect after watching the team all year.  I would have thought that Coke might be ahead of Perry, but the big gap between the top three and bottom three makes sense.  

Table 3: Shutdown/Meltdown Ratios for Tigers Relievers, 2011


Player
G
SD
MD
SD/MD
Jose Valverde
75
38
5
7.6
Joaquin Benoit
66
29
9
3.2
Al Alburquerque
41
16
5
3.2
MLB Median
--
--
--
1.9
Ryan Perry
36
9
5
1.8
Phil Coke
34
12
8
1.5
Daniel Schlereth
49
7
5
1.4


 Table 4 shows the SD/MD ratios for a 15 free agent relievers who the Tigers might consider.  Closers are omitted because the Tigers are not looking for a closer, nor do they want to invest a lot of money in a reliever.  Also excluded are injured pitchers and others who I don't think would interest the Tigers at all.

Based on the above data for Tigers relievers, it would be good to see them acquire another reliever that could perform above the league median. Dotel had an SD/MD ratio of 2.5 in 2011, so he qualifies.  Other free agent relievers above the median are LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito.  Nobody else is above the median including Ayala at 1.3.

Now, SD/MD is not the end all of reliever evaluation, nor is one year of data enough to remove a pitcher from consideration.  Still, this is not a very impressive crop of relievers and there is no guarantee a lot of them will perform better than coke, Perry and Schlereth in 2011.  Adding depth is not a bad idea if you can get it cheaply.  However, sometimes it's best to acquire middle relievers as needed during the season like the Cardinals and Rangers did last year.

Table 4: Shutdown/Meldown Ratios for Free Agent Relievers, 2011


Name
Team
     SD
 MD
SD/MD
LaTroy Hawkins
MIL
19
4
4.8
Takashi Saito
MIL
11
4
2.8
Octavio Dotel
TOR/MIL
15
6
2.5
Todd Coffey
WAS
13
7
1.9
Mike Gonzalez
BAL/TEX
11
6
1.8
Jamey Wright
SEA
18
11
1.6
Miguel Batista
STL/NYM
9
6
1.5
Shawn Camp
TOR
15
10
1.5
Juan Cruz
TB
10
7
1.4
Luis Ayala
NYY
8
6
1.3
Chad Qualls
SD
18
14
1.3
George Sherrill
ATL
11
9
1.2
Fernando Rodney
LAA
11
9
1.2
Chad Durbin
CLE
9
8
1.1
Scott Linebrink
ATL
12
12
1.0

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