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Fun with Shutdowns and Meltdowns

Yesterday David introduced a couple of new stats, Shutdowns and Meltdowns, to the site.  It’s fashioned after saves/blown saves but is vastly superior, because it’s a metric that uses WPA as a substitute of the brainless, archaic save stat and the rules that guide it.

A team essentially has something like a 98% likelihood of winning the game with a three-run lead with no outs, yet a manager will trot out his ace reliever in that situation about 98% of the time for the sake of save. But when the game is on the line and it’s non-save situation, we often see managers make some of the most bizarre choices in their bullpen usage.

Take for instance Tuesday night’s Phillies–Cardinals game that ended in the 10th on a walk-off homer by Carlos Ruiz. While there’s no real “ace” in the Cardinal bullpen, the inexperienced Blake Hawksworth isn’t the guy you normally would want on the mound against the Phillies in such a high leverage situation, but it appears Tony La Russa held back his closer because it wasn’t a save situation.

Anyway, with any luck this catches on. Just to recap:

Shutdown is when a reliever accumulates greater than or equal to 0.06 WPA in any individual game.

Meltdown is when a reliever’s WPA is less than or equal to -0.06 in any individual game.

What I thought would be interesting is to look at the “Meltdowniest” pitchers of the past three seasons, as well as the ones who we could say have ice water in their veins. The pitchers with the most meltdowns are usually the ones fans want to ride out of town on a rail, along with their manager, while the pitchers with the smallest meltdown rate we tend to feel pretty comfortable with, even in the highest leverage situations.

These are the pitchers with the highest percentage of relief appearances that resulted in a Meltdown:

Name G SD MD Meltdown%
Aaron Heilman 229 55 52 22.7%
Luis Ayala 163 33 37 22.7%
Shawn Camp 149 36 33 22.1%
Brian Bass 93 18 20 21.5%
Juan Rincon 143 27 30 21.0%
Scott Linebrink 178 61 37 20.8%
Sean Green 215 52 43 20.0%
Mark Lowe 136 47 27 19.9%
Zach Miner 111 39 22 19.8%
Cla Meredith 217 45 43 19.8%

Aaron Heilman is our King of Catastrophe. Cub fans are glad to see him take his act elsewhere. That four-year, $19 million deal given to Scott Linebrink was given by the White Sox is looking like one the more awful contracts given to a middle reliever in recent memory.

So what pitchers have ice water in their veins, or in other words, the pitchers who have experienced the fewest rate of blowups per appearance? I excluded anyone who didn’t average at least an average pLI of 1.2.

Name G SD MD SD% Meltdown%
Joe Nathan 206 104 18 50.5% 8.7%
Jonathan Papelbon 192 85 17 44.3% 8.9%
Joakim Soria 172 86 16 50.0% 9.3%
Mariano Rivera 197 104 20 52.8% 10.2%
Takashi Saito 164 57 17 34.8% 10.4%
Jose Valverde 191 89 21 46.6% 11.0%
Francisco Cordero 206 101 23 49.0% 11.2%
David Aardsma 145 63 17 43.4% 11.7%
Rafael Soriano 162 63 19 38.9% 11.7%
Bobby Jenks 175 76 21 43.4% 12.0%

No major surprises here, especially the from the top four.

What about the highest Meltdown % by pitchers with 30 or more saves the past three seasons?

Name G SD MD SD% Meltdown%
Chad Qualls 207 88 36 42.5% 17.4%
David Weathers 210 73 36 34.8% 17.1%
Kevin Gregg 218 89 35 40.8% 16.1%
Brian Wilson 155 84 24 54.2% 15.5%
C.J. Wilson 190 74 29 38.9% 15.3%
Fernando Rodney 159 66 24 41.5% 15.1%
Matt Capps 182 75 26 41.2% 14.3%
Brad Lidge 205 83 29 40.5% 14.1%
Brandon Lyon 199 78 28 39.2% 14.1%
Trevor Hoffman 164 86 23 52.4% 14.0%

The unpopular trio of Chad Qualls, Kevin Gregg and David “Stormy” Weathers lead the list. We also see the Phillies favorite bipolar pitcher, Brad Lidge make this list. Interestingly enough, Brian Wilson had the highest percentage of his outings end in either a Shutdown or a Meltdown of any reliever.

Again, I hope this catches on. Shutdowns and Meltdowns are a more practical and intuitive way at evaluating reliever performance, and I think a more fun one, too.