Saturday, July 13, 2013

Smyly and Benoit Settling Into More Appropriate Roles

Earlier in the year, I used some advanced statistics to show what many fans were all thinking about the Tigers bullpen - that it was not being used optimally.  At the time, Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly were among the the league leaders in RE24, which said that they were very successful in the various situations in which they were being used.  However, Smyly had a low Leverage Index which means he was not but was not being used in important situations.  Benoit had a higher index, but was being used in lower leverage opportunities than Phil Coke and Jose Valverde, who were not pitching so effectively. 

As a reminder, RE24 estimates the number of runs a pitcher saves or costs his team based on the numbers of walks singles, doubles and all other events allowed including outs.  It also considers the situations in which the events happen. For example, if Smyly enters a game with two men on base and nobody out and retires the side he will get more credit than if he comes in with the bases empty.

Table 1 below shows that Smyly currently leads the American League with a RE24 of 17.1.  This means that he has saved the Tigers an estimated 17 runs compared to an average pitcher with the same number of outs. Benoit is third with a 13.5 RE24.

Table 1: AL RE24 Leaders Among Relievers

Pitcher
Team
IP
RE24
Smyly
Det
55 1/3
17.1
Hunter
Bal
51 2/3
14.5
Benoit
Det
37 2/3
13.5
Fien
Min
37 2/3
13.4
Torres
TB
26 1/3
13.2
Cecil
Tor
45 1/3
13.0
Scheppers
Tex
44
12.7
Nathan
Tex
39 2/3
11.5
Ross
Tex
41 2/3
11.3
Robertson
NY
39 1/3
10.3
 Data source: FanGraphs.com


The numbers for Tigers relievers are listed in Table 2.  You can see that Smyly and Benoit  are the only Tigers relievers having a positive impact in terms of runs saved.  This probably does not come as a big surprise to Tigers fans who have seen the inconsistency of the rest of the bullpen throughout the first half. 


Table 2: RE24 for Tigers Relievers 

Pitcher
IP
RE24
Smyly
55 1/3
17.1
Benoit
37 2/3
13.5
Putkonen
20
-1.4
Valverde
19 1/3
-1.9
Downs
33
-2.1
Alburquerque
23 1/3
-3.1
Coke
27 2/3
-7.1
 
Data source: FanGraphs.com


Leverage Index measures how critical a given plate appearance is in determining the final result of the game by looking at the difference in win probability between the best and worst case scenarios.  For example, suppose Smyly enters a game in which the Tigers have a nine-run lead with nobody on base in the ninth inning.  In that situation, there is little difference between giving up a home run and getting the batter out on the probability of winning the game.  This is an example of a low-leverage situation.

However, if Smyly comes into a game with two on and nobody out and a one-run lead in the ninth inning, then allowing a home run will be much more damaging than getting the batter out.  This is a high-leverage situation.    

A value of one is assigned to an average game situation.  Higher-leverage scenarios have values of more than one and lower-leverage scenarios have values less than one.  These numbers are averaged together to get a pitcher's index for the season.  The indexes for the Tigers relievers for the season can be seen in Table 3.  It shows that Valverde (1.6) and Coke (1.3) have gotten too many higher leverage opportunities and Smyly (1.0) not enough. 


Table 3: Leverage Index for Tigers Relievers

Pitcher
GmLI
Valverde
1.6
Benoit
1.4
Coke
1.3
Downs
1.1
Alburquerque
1.0
Smyly
1.0
Putkonen
0.6
 
Data source: FanGraphs.com

The good news is that Valverde is now in Toledo (although some consider it bad news that he is still in the organization at all) and Coke is no longer being used in key spots.  Since Valverde's last game on June 19, Benoit has led the team in Leverage index at 1.4 followed by Smyly at 1.2.  Meanwhile, Coke is down to 0.7.

So, the Tigers bullpen is being used much more efficiently since Valverde's departure.  The next order of business is to add some depth, whether that be Bruce Rondon breaking through, another young reliever becoming more dependable or help from outside the organization.

2 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 13, 2013

    Well, yeah...except last night we saw both Smyly and Benoit with a five run lead. Here we go again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did not have a big problem with how they were used last night. The Rangers have a dangerous team and both were coming off a game where they did not pitch. Still, they could sure use another solid reliever that they could trust in those situations.

    ReplyDelete

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