Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tigers Bullpen Among Best in League Over Past Month

The Tigers are continuing their battle to reach the .500 mark, but one facet of the team that seems to be improving is the bullpen.  Earlier in the season, they struggled a lot with closer Jose Valverde getting off to a poor start and too many innings being pitched by young hurlers not belonging in the majors.

Valverde still hasn't completely turned his season around, but the rest of the bullpen is shaping up well.  Setup man Joaquin Benoit has been excellent all season, Octavio Dotel has returned from an injury and the Tigers are getting great work from youngsters such as Duane Below and Brayan Villarreal.

Earlier in the year, I introduced the Batting Runs Above Average by the 24 Base/Out States (RE24) statistic for batters and pitchers.  This metric is useful for relievers because it takes into account situational pitching.  This is, of course, particularly important for relievers because they often enter games with runners on base.

The Tigers relievers have a combined RE24 of 11.2 for the season which means their bullpen has saved the team an estimated 11.2 runs compared to average pitchers in the same situations.  Keep in mind that average here is not "average reliever" but "average pitcher".  The average reliever typically has better statistics than the average starter because he usually only pitches about an inning at a time.  So, you would expect more relief staffs to have a positive numbers than a negative number here.  As it turns out, 11.2 is only ninth best in the league.

Table 1 below shows that Below is fourth in the league with 11.8 RE24 all by himself and Benoit is 11th at 10.3.  Based on that, you would guess that they have several pitchers with negative numbers for RE24.  Fortunately, most of those pitchers (e.g. Daniel Schlereth -8.1, Collin Balester 6.2) are no longer with the team.  The only current reliever with a negative RE24 is Valverde with -1.3.

Table 1: RE24 Leaders - AL Relievers, 2012

Pitcher
Team
RE24
Atchison
Bos
15.2
Ross
Tex
14.8
Strop
Bal
12.9
Below
Det
11.8
Johnson
Bal
11.8
Pestano
Cle
11.3
Rodney
TB
11.3
Cook
Oak
10.8
Duensing
Min
10.6
Nathan
Tex
10.6
Benoit
Det
10.3

Data Source: FanGraphs

In the the last 30 days, the Tigers bullpen has been one of the best in the league by any measure.  Specifically, their 17.1 RE24 is second in the AL to the Red Sox.  Table 2 below shows that Benoit (7.7) has been the best in the league and Below (5.7) ninth best during that span.  Villereal (4.0) has also been very good over the past month.

Table 2: RE24 Leaders - AL Relievers, Last 30 Days

Pitcher
Team
RE24
Benoit
Det
7.7
Villanueva
Tor
7.0
Wilhelmsen
Sea
6.7
Atchison
Bos
6.6
Furbush
Sea
6.4
Frieri
LA
6.4
Ross
Tex
5.7
Nathan
Tex
5.7
Below
Det
5.7
Balfour
Oak
5.6

Data Source: FanGraphs

So, the Tigers bullpen is looking good right now and there is no reason for it not to continue if everyone stays healthy.  Now, the just need to get their bats and gloves working!

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