27 August 2014

Adam Jones' Interesting 2014 Splits

Adam Jones is having another very solid season for the Orioles. Jones fWAR of 4.4 leads all Orioles and is ranked 18th among all qualified MLB batters, while his wRC+ of 119 ranks 3rd among all Orioles with 295 or more plate appearances. Jones' current fWAR of 4.4 is tied for the highest mark of his career and ZiPS projects Jones to finish with a fWAR of 5.3. Jones’ improved defensive numbers have played a large part in this, as his offensive production is pretty similar to his career production. However, what is noteworthy about Jones' offensive production is not his level of production but how he's producing. Vs. RHP Jones has been a below average hitter so far this season, but he is still having a productive offensive season because he is crushing LHP unlike he ever has before in his MLB career.

Throughout his career, Jones has hit RHP a bit better than he has hit LHP. Against RHP Jones has posted a career wOBA of .345 (112 wRC+), while vs. LHP he has a wOBA of .326 (100 wRC+). In 2014, Jones numbers are drastically different. Vs. RHP he has a wOBA of .303 (90 wRC+) but vs. LHP he has a wOBA of .467 (203 wRC+). Here’s a look, courtesy of Fangraphs, at Jones’ season-by-season wOBA that shows just how drastic the change in his splits have been this season. 

Adam Jones wOBA : Lefty-Righty Split Season Stats Graph
                
Here’s some of his batted ball numbers that may help to shed some light on Jones’ splits, this season versus his career.

Versus RHP

LD%
HR/FB
BABIP
Career
18.5%
16.2%
.314
2014
16.7%
13.7%
.283


Versus LHP


LD%
HR/FB
BABIP
Career
18.8%
12.8%
.317
2014
18.7%
25.8%
.404

                                                                               
On the RHP side of things, Jones’ LD% is down slightly and he also hasn’t been as fortunate when putting the ball in play. But vs. LHP, the differences are much more noticeable. While Jones hasn’t been hitting line drives anymore frequently, he has been much more fortunate vs. LHP this season relative to his career, with fly balls leaving the park over twice as often while he is hitting over .400 when putting balls in play. The splits could be exaggerated by Jones FB% (not shown in the charts above). Jones’ FB% vs. LHP this season is 4% below his career mark, perhaps helping him to sustain his HR/FB for a bit longer.
Vs. RHP


K%
BB%
Career
19.0%
3.6%
2014
19.5%
1.2%

Vs. LHP


K%
BB%
Career
20.2%
6.3%
2014
16.0%
7.6%

Jones already awful walk rate vs. RHP (and in general) has gotten even worse this season, possibly one of the reasons, albeit small, his production has dropped. Against LHP, Jones has been striking out less, an improvement noticeable enough to partially explain his drastic uptick in production this season. While a 7.6 BB% isn’t anything to get excited about, contrasting it to his 1.2 BB% vs. RHP helps to explain Jones’ splits this season.  

When talking about just a portion of a season, any conclusions about production must come with a sample-size warning. This sudden change in Jones’ splits may prove to be just a blip on the radar screen. Jones’ BABIP and HR/FB vs. LHP scream sample-size warning. Nothing jumped out at me when I looked at heatmaps or spray charts.

With Manny Machado now out for the year, the continued production of Jones becomes even more important for the Orioles. While I don't think Jones is an A.L. MVP candidate, he is definitely one of, if not the, most valuable Orioles players this season. This is not a surprise. What is a surprise is the way in which Jones has been productive at the plate so far this year, hitting LHP like never before. Jones’ current production vs. LHP, if sustained, could prove to be especially valuable to the Orioles in the playoffs, as many of their potential opponents have impressive LHP’s on their roster.

All stats from Fangraphs and current as of 8/25/14


26 August 2014

Steve Pearce, Masher of Lefties and Inside Pitches


If you were going to make a case for the most valuable Orioles player of 2014, you'd consider names like Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, and J.J. Hardy. Jones and Hardy shouldn't be surprises, and Cruz has demonstrated in previous seasons the ability to post impressive power numbers. But another name needs to be included in that group as well, and it's one that couldn't have been predicted: Steve Pearce.

Player
bWAR
fWAR
Steve Pearce
4.4
3.2
Adam Jones
3.4
4.4
Nelson Cruz
3.2
2.5
J.J. Hardy
2.8
3.0

Pearce has been an important piece for the Orioles, who boast a 73-55 record and a six-game lead in the American League East. His .380 wOBA (best on the Orioles) and competent defense have been vital to a team dealing with Chris Davis's floundering bat, Manny Machado's knee injuries, and Matt Wieters's season-ending Tommy John surgery. He's essentially been the O's version of a Swiss Army knife, filling in at first base, left field, and designated hitter, and instead of hitting like a mere utility player, he's been hitting nearly as well as more celebrated names like Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Adrian Beltre, Michael Brantley, and Anthony Rizzo. With only 295 plate appearances, Pearce hasn't played as much as those guys, but with Machado now lost for the season, Pearce is essentially a must-start for Buck Showalter for the rest of the season.

Imagining that the Orioles would need to rely so much on Pearce would have sounded ridiculous (and discouraging) in April, when he was designated for assignment, released, and claimed by Toronto, but he chose to stick around anyway. From mid-May to late July, Pearce knocked the cover off the ball, forcing Showalter to keep putting him in the lineup. He slowed down in August, barely playing for more than a week, but he's currently riding a seven-game hit streak during which he's homered three times.

Throughout his career, Pearce has excelled at hitting left-handed pitching. That's something we brought up before the season when discussing the wisdom of signing Delmon Young to a minor league deal. Of course, the Orioles have been able to find roles for both Pearce and Young (or, more accurately, they've been forced to find roles for them), who has been a useful DH and bench bat (.338 wOBA). Unfortunately, Young has started 11 games in left field for the Orioles, which is precisely 11 too many.

Young is a lefty masher himself, with a career wOBA of .345 vs. left-handed pitching (and .312 vs. right-handed pitching). This season, however, Young's splits look like this:

vs. RHP: 128 PA, .359 wOBA
vs. LHP: 71 PA, .300 wOBA

So, obviously note the sample size, along with Young's .361 BABIP (career .323). But Pearce is not only superior against lefties, but he's taken things to a whole other level this season. Here are his numbers against right- and left-handed pitching both for 2014 and his career:

Handedness
2014
Career
RHP
.344 wOBA
.296 wOBA
LHP
.462 wOBA
.372 wOBA

(Again, note the sample size: 2014 vs. RHP: 204 PA; vs. LHP: 91 PA. Career vs. RHP: 692 PA; vs. LHP: 450 PA.)

Pearce's numbers against left-handed pitching this season trail only five other major leaguers who have had at least 90 plate appearances vs. lefties. Those five hitters are Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, and the Orioles' own Adam Jones. That's not a bad collection of players to be grouped with.

Throughout his career, Pearce has been a hitter that pitchers can retire by keeping the ball low and on the corners both inside and outside and by throwing him pitches up and away. But pitching him inside-middle, let alone elevating those pitches, can be dangerous. Here are his career slugging percentage numbers for various pitch locations:


In 2014 against right-handed pitchers, he has maintained that skill-set, even on pitches inside that are not strikes.


Up-and-in pitches are still his bread and butter, but against lefties he's exceeded those numbers.


Not only has Pearce been outstanding against lefties on pitches up and in, but he's also been excellent on pitches in the middle and down. He appears to favor the ball there instead of pitches right down the middle of the plate. Overall, pitchers have also been trying to throw him fewer fastballs and more breaking pitches, which is a good plan considering that he hits fastballs better than both breaking and offspeed pitches. But Pearce has been so good at hitting fastballs in 2014 that it hasn't mattered. For instance, 12 of Pearce's 14 home runs have come against fastballs (and they've all been to left field or left-center).

-----

You'd be crazy to think that Steve Pearce will produce these same kinds of numbers in future seasons. He is likely putting together his best major league season, and he's doing so when the Orioles desperately need the production. But as a player who can play multiple positions and can at least wear out left-handed pitching, he's certainly useful, and at 31 years old still has one year of arbitration eligibility left before he can become a free agent in 2016. Expecting that Pearce will be this fantastic next season and beyond would be foolish, but having him around is a nice backup plan considering Davis's struggles and the decisions the Orioles have to make on Nick Markakis, Cruz, and Hardy.

Stats (as of August 25) via Brooks Baseball and FanGraphs. Photo via Keith Allison.

25 August 2014

An Update to the MASN Situation



The situation with MASN has been in the news a lot over the past month. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Eutaw Street Report for having an article included in the court record. Camden Chat has written a comprehensive series of posts that do a good job explaining the situation. Given everything already written about the situation I questioned whether it made sense to write yet another article discussing it. However, we do have access to many of the redacted documents on the court record and I thought there’s information in those documents that hasn't been discussed that explain aspects of the situation that haven't been discussed.

To understand the situation it is necessary to start from the beginning. The Orioles were promised by MLB in 2002 that the Expos would never be moved to Washington without the Orioles consent. So, the Orioles were very concerned to learn in 2004 that there were serious discussions about the Nationals moving to Washington. After all, 30% of the Orioles' fan base, sponsorships and revenues came from Washington DC and its suburbs. An analysis by Deloitte estimated at that time that the harm this would cause the Orioles should be valued at $40-50 million annually. Presumably that number would be considerably higher in 2014 dollars. MLB recognized the damage that moving a team to Washington would cause the Orioles and therefore proposed deals that would mitigate the Orioles’ losses. Eventually, the Orioles and MLB agreed that a team could be placed in Washington if the Orioles could have the majority control of a television network that had control of both teams’ television rights.

As a result of this deal, it was agreed that the Nationals would receive $20 million in 2005 and 2006, $25 million in 2007, $26 million in 2008, $27 million in 2009, $28 million in 2010 and $29 million in 2011 in media rights fees. The Orioles received slightly less in 2005 and 2006 as the deal indicated that the Nationals and Orioles would only receive the same amounts starting in 2007. The amount that the Nationals received ranked between tenth and fifteenth in baseball during each year of the 2005 to 2011 period.

The Nationals asserted numerous times in documents that their rights should have been worth a considerably larger amount but I haven’t seen any substantial supporting evidence. Perhaps the evidence is redacted. In response to these claims, Mark Wyche (the managing director of Bortz Media Group) stated that according to his methodology the Nationals rights over this period were worth approximately $119 million or $16 million less than the Nationals actually did receive. The Nationals were paid more than a fair amount for their rights according to the Bortz methodology. It is important to consider that MASN had to fight a number of legal battles with Comcast to become viable and this could have had an impact on the media rights fees that the Nationals could expect to receive.

The contract states in paragraph 2.I that after 2011 and for each successive five year period, the Orioles, Nationals and RSN shall negotiate in good faith using the most recent information available which is capable of verification to establish fair market value of the telecast rights licensed to the RSN for the following five year period. The contract states in paragraph 2.J.3 that if the parties are unable to agree on fair market value then the rights shall be determined by the RSDC.

MASN and the Nationals were unable to come to an agreement. Using the Bortz methodology MASN determined that the Nationals rights over this five year period were worth nearly $200 million dollars or roughly $39.5 million per year. The Nationals claimed that their rights over this five year period were worth AT LEAST a total of roughly $590 million dollars or $118 million dollars/year from 2012-2016. The Yankees TV contract pays them roughly $470 million dollars from 2012-2016 in media rights fees. The Nationals were claiming that their rights were worth at least about $24 million a year more than the Yankees. The Nationals further stated that whether MASN underpriced its programming by design or mismanagement is irrelevant as is whether MASN can afford the amount. They stated that fair market value is neither negated nor constrained by MASN's economics. Most of the Nationals’ argument is redacted testimony. All I know is that the Nationals were basing their request at least in part on what MLB considered to be fair market value for the Dodgers.

Dr. Hal Singer's affidavit stated that the RSDC ruled out the Nationals' valuation explaining that the contention that they would receive a rights fee of $109 million in an arm's length transaction with MASN cannot be accepted by the Committee because MASN would not agree to a rights fee that would potentially bankrupt the network. However, the RSDC also stated that they were unwilling to exclusively use the Bortz methodology to determine media rights fees. Instead, the RSDC decided that MASN has to pay each team about $300 million over the five year period. The Nationals have claimed that since the RSDCs decision is closer to the MASN' numbers than the Nationals' numbers shows the RSDC isn't biased.

I’ve seen testimony suggesting that the RSDC determined the amount that MASN should pay based on two primary arguments. The first is that MASN has had low operating margins in the past and should be willing to accept low operating margins in the future to secure must-have rights especially given that MASN will be able to renegotiate its rates in 2016 and improve its operating margin. The second is that MASN shouldn’t expect to receive historical operating margins because of the robust demand for sports rights fees and because the Orioles and Nationals are paid the same amount per the Agreement.

Dr. Singer attacks these arguments in his affidavit. He notes that while it is true that MASN did have low operating margins in 2007 that was because they were struggling to come to agreements with all of their providers and from 2008-2011 they have had industry-standard margins. He further stated that while some RSNs have had low operating margins in order to secure must-have rights this isn’t the case for all RSNs. Likewise it is true that MASN can renegotiate their rates in 2016 but having a low operating margin will weaken MASNs bargaining position. MASN may need to go to court to receive fair rates from its cable providers. If MASN has only a limited amount of money in the bank then MASNs leverage is limited. Speaking for myself, I don’t understand why MASN being able to renegotiate its rates in 2016 should have anything to do with what MASN pays to the Nationals and Orioles from 2012-2016.

Dr. Singer notes that rights fees only increase as affiliate fees increase. In the absence of being able to raise affiliate fees (at least until 2016), it is unclear why rights fees should increase significantly. Given that the Nationals and Orioles share the same market, MASN would maintain its same markets if having the media rights for a second team resulted in a 42% increase in affiliate fees. He notes that MASN enjoyed a near doubling of affiliate rates upon the addition of Orioles’ rights in 2007 and that therefore MASN has received historical operating margins.  

The RSDC further tried to support its claim by looking at the media rights fees for four comparable markets. The Rangers were one of the four comparable markets and another comparable extended their contract in 2013. The Rangers extension doesn’t begin until 2015. The RSDC discounted the values of a contract extension beginning from 2015 backwards to 2012 while the Orioles used the prior contract for 2012 to 2014 and the new contract for 2015 to 2016. I would suspect that Orioles argument is more accurate as illustrated by the media contract that the Phillies signed and Comcast Philadelphia’s subsequent actions to significantly raise carriage fees in 2014 despite not having to pay increased media rights fees until 2016.  

The Orioles made their offer based on the Bortz methodology as well as promises made to them by MLB when they agreed that majority control of a media network would be acceptable compensation. The eighteenth report of the RSDC discusses how the Bortz methodology was applied for NESN in 2003. This document was written by the RSDC in January 2005 and states the following:

“In brief, the so-called “Bortz analysis” avoids the examination of “comparable” arm’s-length contracts and instead collects estimated or actual revenue and expense data from the related broadcasting entity, assumes a market-driven operating margin that should satisfy the broadcasting entity and then calculates back to a rights fee that should be available to the club.” It further states that since no two markets are truly comparable a better approach is using the Bortz analysis and that even if a market analysis were appropriate, the RSDC finds selection of “comparable” markets to be an inadequate and unpersuasive basis for determining an arm’s length rights fee. In the past, Bortz has used an assumed 20% operating margin for cable and an assumed 30% operating margin for over-the-air broadcasts. In the case of NESN, the RSDC recommended that an operating margin of 21.9% be used.

In case that wasn’t clear I’ll explain the methodology.

Part I: Determine total revenue.
Part II: Determine total expenses other than rights fees.
Part IIIa: Subtract expenses from revenue. This number is called disposable revenue.
Part IIIb: Determine “Bortz” Operating Margin. This percentage is determined by the RSDC and has never before been less than 20%.
Part IIIC: Multiply Disposable Revenue by Bortz Operating Margin. This is the amount of RSN Profit.
Part IIID: Subtract Disposable Revenue by RSN Profit. This is the net rights fee per contract.

The Bortz Methodology determines how much money a team should be able to keep as profit and requires the rest to be used for the rights fee. Mark Wyche notes that the Bortz methodology has been used in nineteen other cases but not in this case. In those other nineteen cases, the Bortz operating margin was no less than 20%. In this case it was 8%. Mark Wyche doesn’t understand the logic of this.

In addition the Orioles received promises from MLB. When MASN was first created an investment bank called Allen and Co was hired by MLB to analyze RSN market economics and options. MLB and Allen and Company presented a number of pro formas that showed EBITDA in the mid-30% range and that this was “industry-norm” and sufficient to provide “free cash flow” to fund Orioles’ compensation while providing both clubs with “attractive rights fees”. One of the main reasons why the Orioles agreed that control of MASN would be acceptable compensation for the Nationals moving to Washington is because they understood that if the network was successful they would receive a significant amount of profit.

I’ve seen nothing explaining why the Nationals believe they should receive $590 million over 5 years. I’ve seen one document potentially explaining their reasoning but most of the testimony was redacted.  

One of the arguments between MASN and MLB comes down to this. MASN believes that it was understood that an acceptable operating margin for MASN would be between 20 to 30%. That was the reason why the Orioles agreed to the creation of MASN as compensation for the damage caused by the Nationals moving into town. If MLB can force MASN to accept an operating margin of 8% then this will cause the Orioles to suffer hundreds of millions of dollars if not more than a billion dollars. This limits MLBs’ options to convince Peter Angelos to drop litigation.

MLB believes that MASN should be forced to pay an amount comparable to what other similar markets are receiving despite the fact that MASN is unable to renegotiate its rates until after 2016. They believe that other RSNs have accepted low rates for a period of time to receive must-have rights and there’s no reason why MASN shouldn’t do the same.

So far, the judge involved has granted and extended an injunction preventing MLB from forcing MASN from paying roughly $20 million to the Nationals and preventing the Nationals from pulling their games from MASN. He questioned whether the MLB panel was impartial and whether the Nationals’ threat should be considered blackmail and possible extortion as well as stating that his court was the proper forum for these concerns. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the judge ultimately agrees that MLBs proposed rates are unfair and should be vacated.

22 August 2014

Machado to Have Season-Ending Knee Surgery


When Manny Machado injured his knee last week, the immediate question for the Orioles was how they would cope without their star third baseman for a few weeks. Now, it appears they will be without Machado for much longer than that.

Earlier today, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that Machado would have season-ending surgery on his right knee. His report was confirmed by multiple sources. So obviously that's awful news for both Machado and the Orioles, who are currently 20 games above .500 and have a comfortable 8-game lead in the American League East. Those wins are already in the books, which is great.

Looking for another potentially positive angle? Here's more from Brown:
That "small abnormality" was also discovered in Machado's left knee. So maybe, just maybe, Machado will be done dealing with serious knee injuries. Still, the 22-year-old Machado will now be forced to overcome his second season-ending knee injury in as many years.

Losing Machado for the rest of the season probably won't be a huge hindrance when it comes to the O's making the playoffs. They have jumped out to a sizable lead, and they'd have to totally collapse to blow it at this point. FanGraphs' playoff odds have the O's chances of earning a playoff berth at 96%, and Baseball Prospectus has the O's at 98.2%. That may not be completely reassuring for fans until the Orioles officially lock up a spot -- no lead is insurmountable, etc. -- but it's tough to be pessimistic about what the Orioles have been able to do so far.

So what will the O's do without Machado? Likely what they've been doing the past week-plus. Chris Davis has seen the majority of work at third with Machado out, with a resurgent Steve Pearce mostly manning first base. Ryan Flaherty can also fill in at third, as can Cord Phelps. Pearce playing frequently at first base will mean more Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young in left field, which is unfortunate.

When rosters expand in September, the O's could bring up Steve Lombardozzi, Jimmy Paredes, and/or Jemile Weeks, but none of those moves would help much. Perhaps the O's would also consider promoting 23-year-old Christian Walker as a bench bat and occasional starter at first base, though that probably isn't the answer either. And then, as Roch Kubatko suggests, the Orioles could always decide to "intensify their efforts to acquire an infielder who's passed through waivers." But that may be a long shot.

There likely isn't a way for the O's to fill the void of Machado's absence. Before he got hurt, his bat was heating up, and he's one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. Considering much of the Orioles' success is due to their defense, playing without Machado will be challenging.

But it's not like everything has broken right for the Orioles in 2014. They've been playing without Matt Wieters since May. They started the season without Machado, who predictably got off to a slow start before heating up. Ubaldo Jimenez, recently banished to the bullpen, has been a disappointment. And Davis, who is batting .192/.294/.392, has been terrible after dominating the league last season.

If you want to write the Orioles off, that's certainly your right. But you'd be wrong to do so.

 Photo via Keith Allison

21 August 2014

Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus issued his ALS Challenge to me today. He was kind enough to include his support to NIH in his chilly presentation. As you know, I am an anti-ribbon kind of guy, so taking part in this goes against my character. That said, I think it is a great platform to make people aware of our science funding crisis.

Due to budget issues, we have reduced funding at the National Institute of Health by 1.05 billion. If you are specifically concerned about ALS, the cut has been around 20 MM per year. The Ice Bucket challenge has resulted in a bump of 14 MM for this year alone. Who knows what kind of episodic push there is next year for ALS or the many other diseases we need cures and therapies.  NIH has asked for 30.5 B in funding this year, which is a reflection more of the budget climate than the organization's true needs.  We should be demanding something north of 32 B.

I will be answering Nick's call for donations, but I want to change the concept moving forward. I want you to write to both of your senators and your representative in the House. This tool might help you find yours: http://whoismyrepresentative.com/

Anyway, drench yourself with ice water if you wish, but the best way to fight these diseases is a long-term commitment.

I challenged two good friends of mine, researcher Eli Moore and Chesapeake Fisherman Pete Ide.  To keep this in the baseball family, I also challenge Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley.

I offer this as a sample letter for you to edit as you see fit. I edited mine to reflect my own personal experiences with family suffering from ALS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer:

As a constituent, I urge your strong and unwavering support for scientific research in medicine, biology and related areas that is best served through federal funds directed to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I ask that you support funding of at least $32 billion for NIH's research into diseases that affect millions of Americans, including ALS. It is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as maintain our international leadership in biomedical research.

NIH serves first and foremost as a vehicle to save and improve the lives of millions of Americans, including tremendous breakthroughs in areas such as heart disease, stroke, and childhood leukemia. Yet, satisfactory solutions are still being sought for some of our most challenging diseases, including ALS, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. For millions of individuals and families living with ALS and other chronic, progressive diseases, NIH research offers great promise for better treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

The private sector is important in developing treatments but they depend on discoveries emerging from long-term, basic research supported by the federal government. Basic research generates the ideas required to develop new processes, new products, new industries and new jobs. Without consistent and stable funding for the NIH, talented scientists have no choice but to stop doing research, research that potentially could have been the breakthroughs for tomorrow's treatments and cures.

Now is the time to strengthen the nation's biomedical research. America needs more investment in medical research, not less. I urge you to support the best possible funding outcome for biomedical research and for the nation.

-----

Thank you guys. Please make me proud.

If you wish to post your challenges and writing in the comments, please do.

Why Fans Should Be Excited About the 2014 Orioles Bullpen



Last week, Matt Kremnitzer wrote an article about the Orioles bullpen in which he compared the 2012 bullpen to the 2014 bullpen. In this article he included a chart comparing certain statistics of the 2012 and 2014 bullpen and noted the results have been reasonably similar even if the 2012 bullpen has been better. 

I was thinking about this article and how it measured bullpen performance. Bullpen performance is typically measured by taking the results for each reliever and weighting them by the number of innings pitched by that reliever. Two relievers that each threw sixty innings would have the same amount of weight when determining reliever performance. A reliever that throws sixty innings would have twice the weight as one that threw thirty innings.

The problem with this method is that it presumes that all relievers in the bullpen should be treated equally. I'm not sure I would do that because it’s only logical that the performance of a closer is more important than the performance of a long man. The closer usually comes into games in the ninth inning when the game is close while the long man comes into the game considerably earlier when the game isn’t close. If the long man gives up a run then little harm is done but if the closer allows a run then it could lead to a blown save and a loss. Teams would rather have a closer with a 0 ERA than a long man with a 0 ERA and it only makes sense to reflect that in bullpen performance. All relievers aren’t equal and it’s necessary to find some method of ensuring that the most important relievers have the most value in these calculations.

Tom Tango developed a statistic called leverage index (LI). This statistic measures how important a particular situation is in a baseball game depending on the inning, score, outs, and number of players on base. It is possible to use this statistic to determine which relievers have been used in the most important situations and therefore which relievers are most valuable. This allows us to quantify the difference between a closer and a long man. The leverage index most commonly used is one that measures a player’s average LI for all game events known as pLI. In fact, Fangraphs uses this leverage index when determining pitching WAR. Another leverage index is called gmLI. This index measures a pitchers average LI when he enters the game. I personally believe that gmLI is a better metric than pLI and will therefore use gmLI in this article. 

Fangraphs provides the gmLI for each reliever. It is possible to use this statistic to weight bullpen performance by the importance of each pitcher as well as by innings thrown which should result in a more accurate measure of bullpen performance than considering each pitcher to be of equal performance regardless of role. We can use this statistic to see how the Orioles 2014 bullpen compares to other teams bullpens. In addition, I’m only using relievers on an active roster because Orioles’ fans are excited about their current relievers. Orioles’ and other teams’ fans couldn’t care less about guys like Evan Meek.  

This table shows the number of pitchers used by each bullpen, the bullpen’s ERA without using leverage, the bullpen’s ERA using leverage and the difference between the two.


Team
Pitchers
Non-Leveraged ERA
Leverage ERA
Difference
Rays
10
3.12
3.14
-0.02
Mets
11
3.01
3.02
-0.01
Mariners
11
2.49
2.49
0.00
Tigers
18
4.28
4.24
0.04
Marlins
14
3.07
3.02
0.05
Giants
10
2.65
2.60
0.05
Twins
11
3.33
3.25
0.07
Blue Jays
16
3.75
3.66
0.09
Orioles
12
3.07
2.99
0.09
Rockies
15
4.84
4.74
0.10
Athletics
12
2.72
2.62
0.10
Indians
14
2.84
2.72
0.12
Astros
16
4.85
4.73
0.12
Nationals
12
2.81
2.69
0.13
Yankees
16
3.33
3.19
0.13
Braves
14
3.19
3.06
0.14
White Sox
16
4.28
4.14
0.14
Diamondbacks
15
3.75
3.60
0.15
Padres
12
2.39
2.22
0.18
Rangers
23
3.96
3.76
0.20
Cardinals
14
3.68
3.48
0.20
Cubs
15
3.45
3.24
0.21
Brewers
15
3.56
3.31
0.24
Angels
20
2.96
2.70
0.26
Pirates
14
3.40
3.10
0.29
Reds
12
3.96
3.58
0.38
Red Sox
14
3.27
2.82
0.45
Dodgers
13
3.75
3.27
0.48
Phillies
14
3.67
3.19
0.48
Royals
15
3.18
2.38
0.79



Using this method shows the strength of the Royals bullpen. The Royals have only three relievers that have pitched over ten innings with a gmLI over 1.1. All three of those relievers have an ERA under 2. The backend of the Royals bullpen has been dominant and as a result their bullpen ERA using leverage is considerably lower than their bullpen ERA not considering leverage. Likewise, the Phillies have had Papelbon and Adams pitch most of their high leverage innings and both of them have low ERAs. This method makes them look better than they would otherwise.

This does little to explain why people should excited about the Orioles bullpen. While our leveraged ERA is 2.99 this is only good for tenth in the majors. The difference between our leveraged bullpen ERA and non-leveraged bullpen ERA is miniscule and one of the lowest in the majors. In addition, the 2012 bullpen is still better then the 2014 bullpen even when considering leverage.

Fortunately, this next table may answer this question. This table consists of the team name and the average leverage of the bullpen and shows that the Orioles bullpen has the second highest game leverage.


Team
Average Leverage
Rangers
0.997
Blue Jays
1.010
Dodgers
1.019
Padres
1.023
Giants
1.050
Nationals
1.071
Twins
1.077
Astros
1.087
Royals
1.090
Athletics
1.106
Brewers
1.115
Tigers
1.117
Indians
1.120
Rockies
1.121
Cubs
1.156
Mets
1.165
Diamondbacks
1.181
Pirates
1.184
Mariners
1.191
Phillies
1.193
Angels
1.194
Reds
1.224
Marlins
1.229
Rays
1.231
Cardinals
1.252
White Sox
1.270
Red Sox
1.286
Braves
1.312
Orioles
1.340
Yankees
1.387

Orioles fans are excited about their bullpen because it has done well in high pressure situations. As I write this post, O'Day has just struck out Abreu and Garcia with runners at first and second to maintain a one run lead while Britton had a one-two-three ninth to pick up his 27th save despite having little margin for error with just a one run lead. The Orioles have needed their bullpen to come through in the clutch this season and it has met the challenge. As a result, the Orioles are in excellent position to clinch the division and fans are showing their bullpen the love.