The Angels Sign Rodney’s 2009 Save Percentage

The Angels agreed to terms with relief pitcher Fernando Rodney today on a two-year, $11 million contract. This might mean that the rumor that the Phillies were interested in Rodney as well at up to $12 million for the two years was false. I hope not, because the notion that the Phillies could not afford Cliff Lee‘s $9 million salary and so trade him away and then go out and offer $6 million to the mediocre Rodney is hilarious.

Either way, Rodney’s an Angel now and there will be a certain set of fans that love this move. Most of them will love it because of Rodney’s save percentage. They’re wrong — saves are an awful way of measuring a pitcher’s value, probably even worse than using wins.

Anaheim gets Rodney’s age 33 and 34 seasons, but as a reliever and with the duration of the contract, his age is not too much of a concern. Rodney had fantastic strikeout numbers the last couple seasons but those took a dive in 2009. Whereas Rodney used to maintain a solid 11-12% swinging strike rate, it was just 9% in 2009, and at least partly because of that, his strikeout rate dropped from about one out of every four batters to less than one out of every five.

That’s a pretty big red flag for me, but not to overstate it, even without that drop in strikeouts, Rodney just isn’t a great pitcher. His walk rates have just been far too high to make the overall package consistently better than average, even at the old strikeout levels. We have Rodney worth about 0.5 WAR a year throughout his entire career and I see no compelling reason for him to better that going forward.

For that half-win, the Angels are paying over $5 million, an astonishingly poor return. And given that the Angels bullpen isn’t particularly weak, I wonder if Rodney is even an upgrade at all. Furthermore, Brian Fuentes has a $9 million option for 2011 that vests with 55 games finished this coming season, so I can see it a likely scenario that the Angels use Rodney to close to avoid that option and thus push high leverage innings further out of reach of Anaheim’s better pitchers.

At best, I think the Angels might be a couple runs better for this move. Most likely, they’re exactly the same and there’s a worrisome chance that Rodney continues his strikeout slide and gets worse.



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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


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vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 9 months ago

Since basically every team in the history of baseball has paid more for relievers than WAR says they should, can we please acknowledge that the problem might be with our evaluation of relievers?

njd.aitken
Member
njd.aitken
6 years 9 months ago

Probably not.

Just because (some) teams evaluate it wrong does not mean the system is wrong.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 9 months ago

Wrong is in the eyes of the beholder. When a couple of teams overpay for closers, like the Royals or Yankees, that doesn’t mean that the system is wrong. When basically every team in the game has overpaid for closers at some point (including the Rays this year, even though they have one of the most sabermetrically inclined front office and a very tight budget) that provides a heavy indictment against the system.

Just look at WPA. There are many more relievers with 2+ WPA than 2+ WAR. That implies that WAR doesn’t properly account for the impact of a relievers leverage.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 9 months ago

Well shoot. I just made 3 posts to say the same thing that you have already stated (WPA v. WAR).

As I mentioned, THT’s 2010 book has an article basically making the case for WPA to be the “stat for ace relievers”, instead of WAR … so I ma wondering why FG always uses WAR for relievers?

ThinkBlue
Member
6 years 8 months ago

Since vivaelpujols mentioned leverage, it should be noted that Rodney’s WPA/LI was -0.06.

OlSalty
Guest
OlSalty
6 years 9 months ago

I don’t think the problem is with our evaluation of relievers. Rather it is with teams being completely obsessed with the later innings of a game moreso than the beginnings for emotional reasons. It is completely crushing to lose a game you were expecting to win based on your starters performance. When it all comes down to it, the runs surrendered in the 8th or 9th are no more important than the runs surrendered in the 1st or 2nd, but you would have a hard time convincing some people of that given how brutal it is to have a win turn into a loss in the 9th.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 9 months ago

I agree, which is probably why teams value above-average late-inning relievers to such an extent. I think that is what VEP meant.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 9 months ago

I agree with vivaelpujols. The problem is with the evaluation of relievers. The market has shown over and over again that there is closer/late-inning reliever “premium” that none of the present analysis seems to capture.

If Fangraphs can dictate that the going rate for a “win” is in the $4 to $5 million range based on what the market dictates, then who is to say there can’t be another rate for late-inning relievers id that’s what teams do?

Joe R
Guest
Joe R
6 years 9 months ago

Um

1) Here’s a few names: BJ Ryan, Brian Fuentes, Brad Lidge, Kerry Wood. 4 closers, all up there on the worst contracts in MLB list. I didn’t even mention K-Rod or Cordero in that group.

2) Here’s a list of the guys who have been around for years (or younger good ones) and their corresponding career FIP:

Hoffman, 2.99
Rivera, 2.78
Nathan, 3.43 (but below 3 every year from 2004 on)
Papelbon, 2.63
Wagner, 2.79

So there’s your stalwart list. What’s Rodney’s FIP? /checks. Oh, 4.15.

Fangraphs does well in valuing relievers. The only ones that stick around are ones with high K/BB rates. And when you’re walking over 4.6 guys per 9 in your career, you’re just not very good.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 9 months ago

The “um” thing is tired. You can make your points without resorting to it.

Anyway, there’s still a shortage of relievers who teams view as closers for whatever reason. Even Rivera gets paid more than he “should” based on his WAR values. It is apparent that teams are willing to pay more for late-inning relievers than the standard Fangraphs model would suggest.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 9 months ago

Why don’t you take a look at every reliever who was signed to be a closer over the past 5 years. Use a 3 year weighted regressed WAR from FanGraphs and see how much teams are paying per WAR for closers.

MarkSobba
Member
6 years 9 months ago

Here I thought the Angels were a pretty smart team. They seem to have made a few moves like this were no real gain was made by the move. Did something happen to the front office or to the evaluation/analysis side? Or have the Angels been very talented at developing talent but not at getting free agents?

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 9 months ago

I’m not a fan of the Angels’ free agent expenditures.

They’re one of the elites at developing good young talent and not blowing it by mortgaging the farm and retaining their good young players.

However, their FA history hasn’t been good at all. They have a few good signings (first Abreu signing and Vlad come to mind).

They have enough payroll resources so that a bad FA signing won’t cripple them, and their mistakes aren’t on the level of Zito/Hampton.

Their young talent has kept them floating for the last few years. Weaver, Saunders, Santana, Lackey, Figgins, Napoli, Kendrick, Aybar, Kotchman, Morales, Rodriguez, Bulger, etc. Now that the pipelines aren’t as awash with talent and guys like Lackey and Figgins sign elsewhere, the team isn’t really going forward.

bflaff
Guest
bflaff
6 years 9 months ago

It sounds like the Angels paid a lot (more than they should have) to get someone who carries a not inconsiderable risk of being just OK or worse, but isn’t there a bigger point in Rodney’s favor than the fact that his save percentage from 2009 was good? I guess this isn’t a full analysis of his pros and cons, so maybe I’m asking for more than this brief was intended to offer, but isn’t the plus side of his ledger built on more than sexy saves? Plus fastball, plus change, good groundball rates? That’s a skill set teams can at least work with, isn’t it?

Dirty Water
Guest
Dirty Water
6 years 9 months ago

I have to disagree here. With Fuentes as their LOOGY, and Rodney as their ROOGY, Shields, their 8th inning guy and Jepson closing, that’s a pretty damn good pen.

So what if they alone cost over $20 mil?

On a somewhat similar note; does anyone know why LAA has apparently conceded 2010?

Stuck
Guest
Stuck
6 years 9 months ago

So what if they alone cost over 20 mil?

Because it’s a tremendous waste of resources. The Yankees won the world series with all but 3 relievers making the league minimum.

Now mind you, Mariano is the highest paid reliever in baseball, and Marte made 3.75 million last year, so it’s not all bargain basement.

GSS
Guest
GSS
6 years 8 months ago

He was being sarcastic.

Jason
Guest
Jason
6 years 9 months ago

One thing to consider: The Angels would have to pay Fuentes $9 million in 2011 if he finishes 55 games in 2010. Thanks to this signing, that won’t happen.

tgaudette
Guest
tgaudette
6 years 9 months ago

If LAA were acting solely under the auspices of saving money they could have (and should for on-field reasons as well) move Jepsen to the closing role. They could avoid Fuentes’ 9 million vesting option and save 11 million from this signing altogether…20 million dollars for two relievers who could be replaced by a younger, cheaper, team controlled alternative seems to me to be a waste of 20 million dollars…

Jason
Guest
Jason
6 years 9 months ago

It’s nice to have multiple barriers to Fuentes getting that $9 million. Jepsen could get hurt, or he could struggle, and you have to have a semi-plausible baseball reason to keep Fuentes out of the ninth. With this signing, there’s well and truly no chance of that option vesting. I’m not saying this alone is worth $9 million, but if you have to put a price on it, maybe it’s worth $3 million…

No Homer
Member
No Homer
6 years 9 months ago

Well, considering Rodney costed $11M, that kind of evens out. I’ll take a year of Fuentes at $9M over two of Rodney for 11.
Or, like tgaudette said, they could use Jepsen to close and not spend money at all.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 9 months ago

Or they could use all three of them, given that the bullpen was shaky for much of the year.

Professor Chaos
Guest
Professor Chaos
6 years 9 months ago

Spend $11M to help avoid spending $9M later.

Sounds like good financial work to me.

tom s.
Guest
tom s.
6 years 9 months ago

my own thought is that to compete with texas and seattle this year, the angels need to improve more than just their bullpen.

even taking into account VEP’s point about relievers (which may be well-taken), that still doesn’t explain why a team willing to spend two years and eight digits on a reliever wouldn’t pony up the extra 3,4,5 million dollars to land an actually successful pitcher like valverde.

Matt S
Guest
Matt S
6 years 9 months ago

@ vivaelpujols, I don’t think that seeing the angels and many other teams overpay for closers is any real reason to believe that our evaluation of their value is flawed. There is more involved in these types of signings than the simple goal of improvement, even if that is all that should matter. The Angels had a very good team last year, but their “closer” (Fuentes) was a huge sore spot. The fans and even management is often left with a psychological scar from such situations. I can tell you this first hand after watching the Mets in 2008. The short sighted and limited role of the modern closer is more about the perception of security than true win value for most of the baseball world. The angels can turn to his save % (BS though it may be) and say to their fan base, “problem solved. Here is a guy we can give the ball to in the 9th” Even if they are smarter than others about his true value the less savy owners contribute to setting the market and there are only so many players to choose from in any given year. Teams like Boston, Oakland ans Seattle are proving that you can always find or develop cost effective relievers, but how do you think Sox fans will react if the Sox trade Papelbon or fail to sign him when he hits free agency (a real possiblity with the rise of Daniel Bard)? Even if this thinking is unenlightened or illogical it still has a huge influence this time of year.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
6 years 9 months ago

“how do you think Sox fans will react if the Sox trade Papelbon or fail to sign him when he hits free agency”

Well… a lot of them wanted him traded after this year’s postseason…

maximus218
Member
maximus218
6 years 9 months ago

I’m a Tigers fan and I’ve watched almost every game Rodney has pitched over his career. All I can say is…wow. I knew he’d be leaving Detroit, but had no idea someone would be foolish enough to give him $11 million. That’s shocking.

I’d like to introduce a new statistic for evaluating relievers called CWYPA (Curse Words Yelled Per Appearance). I’d say Rodney’s CWYPA was 3.2 over his Tiger career.

Good luck, Angels fans.

twinsfan
Guest
twinsfan
6 years 9 months ago

You need to scale your metric to ERA, in which case his CWYPA is probably closer to 5.2.

whateverfor
Guest
whateverfor
6 years 9 months ago

This signing makes 2/12 for Mike Gonzalez look like a great deal.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
6 years 9 months ago

And it almost makes the Lyon deal seem semi-decent.

stolenbases
Guest
stolenbases
6 years 9 months ago

Ugh. As an Angels fan I really hate this signing. It brings back memories of wasting money on the likes of Speier, Carrasco and more recently Fuentes. I just wish the FO would get out of the dark ages when it comes to spending on their bullpen.

Seattle and Texas fans must be loving this.

walther
Member
walther
6 years 9 months ago

What a foolish move. It hurts to be an Angel fan whenever they flounder into the free agent market.

TheJoeFrom1993
Guest
TheJoeFrom1993
6 years 9 months ago

Profile of a cost effective bullpen:

The 2004 Angels (WAR/salary/how acquired)

Francisco Rodriguez: 4.0 / 375k / amateur free agent
Scot Shields: 2.4 / 375k / 38th round draft pick
Kevin Gregg: 1.5 / 301.5k / free agent
Brendan Donnelly: 0.8 / 375k / free agent

Total WAR: 8.7
Total cost: 1.427 million (rounded)

The Angels have dominated the AL West (winning the division five of the last six years). But if they wish to continue their successful run they need to stop overspending on the bullpen.

http://www.fangraphs.com/winss.aspx?team=Angels&pos=all&stats=pit&qual=0&type=6&season=2004&month=0

NEPP
Member
NEPP
6 years 9 months ago

HA! Thank you for saving Amaro from a terrible signing. Rodney is the definition of overrated. Why do MLB teams continue to vastly overvalue the “Save” statistic? Didn’t Bill James do a great article that basically stated that almost any pitcher will generally make most saves and that the entire concept of a Closer is a joke?

A socialist!
Guest
A socialist!
6 years 9 months ago

No one’s talking about Arredondo anymore? I mean, he had a horrific ’09 but that was mainly BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB driven. He showed some great stuff in ’08 (even after correcting for the luck factors that went starkly opposite ’09) and he’s only 26 years old.

Yet another reason that this signing is dumb.

BiketoBigA
Guest
BiketoBigA
6 years 9 months ago

Arredondo is having elbow reconstruction throughout 2010, had terrible numbers in 2009 and a bad attitude to boot. Good makeup is a priority in Anaheim.

BX
Guest
BX
6 years 9 months ago

He’s a non-factor in 2010 due to the surgery he’s having.

And he’s been nontendered, so he isn’t an Angel anymore.

BiketoBigA
Guest
BiketoBigA
6 years 9 months ago

All things considered, it’s not a bad move. Everybody, this is Plan B: it’s called instead of buying a starter, it’s buying time with a reliever. The Angels have 4 starters in Weaver, Saunders, Kazmir and Santana. This IS the Angels developing cheap internal talent, it’s just developing a 5th starter.

Now instead of overspending on an injury-prone Lackey or giving up their prospects for an ace like Hallladay or Lee, the Angels seem to be finding better market value by developing a 5th starter internally and beefing up the bullpen to handle related stress.

Think of all the stress on the bullpen: you have an inexperienced pitchers cometing for the 5th starter spot (Palmer? Loux? hot prospect Reckling?), you have Kazmir who’s usually thrown 100 pitches by the 5th or 6h inning, you have 40 year old Oliver departing for the Rangers (could his 2009 performance really be repeated??), and you have Fuentes on the decline with a horrible 2nd half. Something had to be done about the bullpen if nothing stable could be added to the starting rotation and the aces had already fled for other teams.

Sure, in a perfect world, Reagins would go out and fetch an equal amount of WAR with his money. But the starter market has tightened up, and whatever you think of the Angels not being aggressive enough in trading away prospects for long-term contracts for starters in a weak market for starters, Reagins went out there and did what he had to do to keep a winning team out there for 2010 and 2011. He’ll cut losses on Fuentes by not having his 2011 option vest, and will hold out till 2011 to get a great starter for cheaper. This ensures the Angels long-term success. I like the move, and shame on all of you for breaking out discrete statistics to show how clever you are without considering the context of the teams investments in talent.

Chris Mitchell
Member
Member
6 years 9 months ago

Why can’t they just use a replacement level reliever in the place of Rodney and use the money saved elsewhere? Is it really worth 5.5 mil to have the team win one more game (if that)? They could have spent that money on an outfielder, in the draft, or on amateur free agents and gotten a much better return.

David
Guest
David
6 years 9 months ago

because playoff-caliber teams would rather overspend than trot out replacement level players at key positions, and like it or not, closer is considered a key position. to take an extreme example, Mariano Rivera makes $15 million a year. let’s say his contract runs out this year, and you are forced to replace him with, uh, Danys Baez. sure, the difference in terms of wins only comes out to 2 or 3 (it’s probably actually larger if you use ERA rather than FIP, because Rivera has outperformed his FIP for virtually his entire career), which obviously would have made no difference in winning their division for example. but by virtue of the closer’s role, each and every one of those extra losses would come in the 8th or 9th inning, and considering it’s the New York Yankees, I’m sure Baez would be pretty much thrown out of the city – by management, the fans, whatever – if he posted a 4.00 ERA with 6 blown saves in 45 chances, or whatever.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
6 years 9 months ago

Nearly all relievers out-perform their FIP.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 9 months ago

But David, this (previously) playoff-caliber team is both overspending *and* trotting out a replacement level player in this instance, which is an egregious use of resources.

Scottwood
Member
Scottwood
6 years 9 months ago

Rodney does not outperform his FIP. He has a history of injuries and control problems and had the highest FIP of his career last season. This signing makes no sense.

Christian Seehausen
Guest
Christian Seehausen
6 years 9 months ago

Can we just admit right now that this is a worse reliever contract than Ed Wade’s Brandon Lyon signing?

Rodney is awful.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
6 years 9 months ago

Lyon is just as bad, and the Astros aren’t even contending. Also, although Rodney is a headcase and has horrible control, he DOES have extremely good stuff and a decent GB rate, maybe LA think they can magic up a solution to lower his BB rate slightly, which would make him almost worth the money, whereas Lyon is a middle-relief nibbler with decent control who doesn’t really have any upside beyond what he’s done so far in his career.

AND Lyon got a deal of comparable AAV for one more year. Lyon (and Wade) wins the “stupidest relief pitcher deal of the winter”, for me.

Christian Seehausen
Guest
Christian Seehausen
6 years 9 months ago

Um, no, Lyon is not as bad as Rodney. Especially the past two seasons. Are you just taking it on faith that Rodney will somehow be able to nail down his crippling control problems? Because that’s the only way he could be a better pitcher.

I don’t like the Lyon signing at all, but this one is even worse. Rodney is coming off a 1.49 K/BB ratio, for crying out loud. And 1.63 K/BB the year before that. It really doesn’t get much worse than that.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 9 months ago

No, it’s not worse than Lyon.

marshen
Guest
marshen
6 years 9 months ago

At this point in time, the signing of Fernando Rodney has not been confirmed by the Angels FO. Neither have the length and terms of his contract. The source of this report/rumor is from Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes in the Dominican Republic, not the Angels themselves. It is inaccurate to print, “The Angels have agreed to terms with relief pitcher Fernando Rodney.” He has not even been reported to have had a physical examination yet, a general indicator that a signing is imminent. I’m not saying it won’t happen, I am just saying it has’nt yet.

JoeyO
Guest
JoeyO
6 years 9 months ago

1.40 WHIP, 3.93 BB/9, 7.53 K/9, 1.92 K/BB, 0.98 HR/9, 7.7 HR/FB, .301 BAbip, 3.94 xFIP

That is the 2009 Fuentes line that the Angels didnt like

so they signed Rodney who has done this the last 3 seasons

1.45 WHIP, 4.97 BB/9, 8.86 K/9, 1.78 K/BB, 0.86 HR/9, 10.6 HR/FB, .305 BAbip, 4.17 xFIP

Correct me if I’m wrong, but – huh?

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 8 months ago

They will probably use both of them in 8th/9th inning roles. They probably weren’t wild about Fuentes, but they still used him in the playoffs.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 9 months ago

The analysis is predictable.

I know all of the analysis, based on WAR, says to just put a young hurler out there in the 9th and you’ll get 30 saves. The commentary suggests any replacement level guy can get it done. Yet when I watch the Jason Motte’s, Chris Perez’s, etc of the world … they don’t get it done.

Furthermore, most times, I see playoff teams with solid closers instead of replacement level players out there in the “money situations” (not all save situations are 2-run lead, no one on base).

There are arguments against Fernando Rodney, but attributing “thrilled with his save percentage” seems to be a wanting Strawman … as if teams just saw his save % and threw millions of dollars at him. I expect a little more from s ite of experts.

Certainly Rodney’s contract has to do with his “electric stuff”, size, etc. He’s got the “MLB Closer” repitoire, frame, scowl, etc. The problem, and the basis of the analysis (should be, IMO), he doesn’t throw enough strikes (walks too many) and get enough guys out.

Either there has to be more to it than what gets presented here, or teams really are missing the boat by NOT just having replacement level guys in the bullpen and getting it done by committee. Actually, the teams whose bullpens seem to struggle the most, often seem to be full of these “replacement level” guys. I wonder why that is?

At this point, I’m wondering just how much “critical analysis” it really takes to write an article that basically takes a player’s WAR divided by his yearly salary and exmaines whether the answer is equal to 4? Doesn’t seem too difficult to me.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 9 months ago

Just read Sean’s article on relievers, WAR, WPA, etc (2010 THT book). Seems that maybe WAR is not the ideal way to look at relievers, particularly closers.

I brought this situation up in another discussion, but in ’08 Ryan Franklin was essentially a “replacement level” pitcher, and was a major part of the Cardinal BP that both led the league in blown saves and BP losses.

In ’09 Franklin and crew were much better. But, Franklin’s increased performance was just worth 1 WAR.

I find that difficult to comprehend, because if Franklin duplicates his ’08 performance in ’09, StL certainly comes out much worse than just “1 win” in terms of difference. In terms of +WPA and -WPA, his 2 seasons are drastically different, but only 1 WAR in difference.

I think we’ve all “seen” replacement level pitchers destroy a team’s success in the BP, to the tune (either real or perceived) greater than what WAR would attribute to them.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 9 months ago

FWIW, Rodney’s WPA was 14th in the AL last year.

Unless, I am reading that information incorrectly, it states that he added significant “contributions” to situations leading to his team being successful in high leverage situations.

He’s 8th among relievers in that AL stat.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 9 months ago

The biggest problem with Rodney is NOT the BB/9 (since one walk usually doesn’t lose the game), but that his K/9 is down by 3 K/9 … meaning he isn’t “erasing his own mistakes (runners)” like he has previously.

While we’d like to see our closer’s K/9 stat to be closer to 9 than lower, both BJ and Fans project Rodney’s K/9 to be 8, and his BB/9 to be 4 … both moving in the direction of “better than 09”. Combine the BB/9 high in 09 with his high in HR/9, and it’s not hard to see why 09 was not a good year for him. But, both projections on this site (BJ and Fans) seem to think that even his HR/9 rate will decrease.

So, he *should* see a better ’10 season if the K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 rates improve, and people seem to think they will.

Despite the mess, his WPA was still decent. My guess is he had a few meltdowns (horrible games) that really made the overall stats look really bad. His 07 and 08 seasons were certainly better.

Scottwood
Member
Scottwood
6 years 9 months ago

WPA is not predictive and does not measures a player’s ability. If you’d rather use WPA instead of WAR to evaluate what a reliever did in the past then there is some merit to that. But, just b/c Rodney posted a good WPA last year in no way means he will do it again. And, if you want to look at WPA then look at his career WPA (-0.34) and his WPA the last 3 years (+2.75, -0.75, -0.22).

This is not a matter of simply looking at his WAR from 09 and saying this is a bad signing. This is a bad signing b/c Fernando Rodney is not a good reliever who got lucky with his save percentage for one season and has a history of injury concerns. There are a lot of Fernando Rodney’s around in the reliever pool and they don’t cost $5.5 million a year.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

WPA isn’t predictive, but it represents the ceiling for closers. Look at the leaders in WPA for relievers over the past few years. You’ll see that they are MUCH higher than the leaders for WAR. That implies that WAR undervalues relievers.

Scottwood
Member
Scottwood
6 years 8 months ago

And I said that using WPA instead of WAR to evaluate relievers has merit. But, that does not mean that this was a good signing. Rodney is not a good reliever.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
6 years 9 months ago

“Yet when I watch the Jason Motte’s, Chris Perez’s, etc of the world … they don’t get it done.”

Joe Borowski managed to save 45 games in 2007 with a 5 ERA and Brad Lidge saved 31 games while posting one of the worst years for any reliever in baseball history.

“Actually, the teams whose bullpens seem to struggle the most, often seem to be full of these “replacement level” guys. I wonder why that is?”

Which teams are you referring too?

Philadelphia’s 2009 reliever ERA was average even when factoring in Lidge’s horrendous performance. Who is in the bottom of the pack? The same guys who don’t have great pitching in general. When teams don’t have any money or pitching, they go with the bullpen by committee. I suspect they don’t perform as well because they just don’t have the talent. What I would like to see is a team with a respectable bullpen go with a committee and see if there is any significant difference. (Obviously, this is problematic since it would require a larger sample size) With the current system, all “good” bullpens have established closers.

Mathematically, what are the chances that a game is decided in the 9th inning? Why would the leverage be especially higher for that 1 inning? Are there other ways that run prevention would be worth more during that 1 inning?

I also don’t understand your point on a replacement level bullpen: The problem is about over evaluating the closer position — no one is advocating a replacement level substitution. The question is whether Rodney is worth the extra cash.

I don’t think it’s okay to just say he’ll improve in all his peripherals but you can make an argument for some areas.

I think his career FIP of 4.15 is a fair assessment what his 2010 season might look like.

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 8 months ago

If you are on the road and the guy gives up a lead in the ninth, you lose the game, period. That is one difference. If you are at home and he gives up the lead in the top of the ninth, you face the other team’s closer. There’s also the psychological effect of losing games in the ninth, which can be devastating to a team (and its fans!) if it happens regularly. Who is to say that different pitchers who are thrust into this role don’t handle it differently from one another sometimes?

I don’t see what’s wrong with a slight premium for closers. Rodney is not one of the elite closers, but regardless, he has shown he can handle it, even if his save percentage was lucky last year. Think of all the teams with bad/lousy/unreliable closers, and it seems clear why some teams are willing to overpay in order to get at least a semi-known quantity.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 8 months ago

“Joe Borowski managed to save 45 games in 2007 with a 5 ERA and Brad Lidge saved 31 games while posting one of the worst years for any reliever in baseball history. ”

[1] What is more important to me are the quality of save situations (1-run lead, runners on or 3-run lead, clean slate?). Borowskii also saved 30 games in 3 different seasons.

[2] Don’t use reliever ERA. Seriously. 8 scoreless innings and one grand slam give a closer a 4.00 ERA … hardly indicative of his performance. Furthermore, the most important runs a reliver gives up are often inherited runners, and some of their ERA includes runners they leave on base when they are pulled.

For relievers, I prefer K/9 and HR/9.

People at FG are constantly talking about replacement level relievers being able to duplicate the performance of the established relievers, so that’s where those comments came from.

Whether Rodney is worth the cash will be determined. But, you can’t just go to the “reliver tree” a pluck a guy that has Rodney’s “stuff”. You can likely find a guy that could duplicate his stats in a down year for Rodney, but the replacement would likely need a combo of career year + down year for Rodney.

My guess is LAA is thinking they can get FR back to his 10 K/9 days. The problem is that fatigue and injury often seem to decimate a reliver.

Scottwood
Member
Scottwood
6 years 8 months ago

A replacement level reliever is a terrible pitcher. No one at FanGraphs would suggest that you fill your entire bullpen with AAA relievers. That would give you the worst bullpen in MLB. They are just saying that closers and relievers in general are not worth many wins to a club and there is not much need to invest big money in a reliever unless he is a Rivera or Nathan, etc. Invest your money elsewhere and you should have guys in your organization or converted starters or cheap 1 year stop gaps in FA that can fill in admirably. I would hope every organization has relievers available in their system who would pitch above a replacement level.

CircleChange11
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CircleChange11
6 years 8 months ago

“A replacement level reliever is a terrible pitcher. No one at FanGraphs would suggest that you fill your entire bullpen with AAA relievers. That would give you the worst bullpen in MLB. They are just saying that closers and relievers in general are not worth many wins to a club and there is not much need to invest big money in a reliever unless he is a Rivera or Nathan, etc.”

Whether they realize it or not, they are complaining about the signing of 1 WAR relievers, stating essentially “anyone can do the job, so why pay for it?” … so if they are opossed to the signing of 1 WAR pitchers, then they are much closer to stating “replacement level pitchers” can get the job done almost as well than they are NOT saying it. What is “league average WAR” for a short reliever?

“Invest your money elsewhere and you should have guys in your organization or converted starters or cheap 1 year stop gaps in FA that can fill in admirably. I would hope every organization has relievers available in their system who would pitch above a replacement level.”

I think you under-estimate the mental makeup and quality stuff of an effective closer (without appealling to vast exceptions as if they were the rule). But, I understand no one is changing their opinion on that.

My primary disagreement is with using WAR for closers and late-inning relievers. It’s reekin’ fridiculous.

If you use WAR then [1] pretty much every veteran closer/late-inning reliever will be overpaid, and [2] it will appear as if a 0 WAR (replacement level?) guy could do pretty much the same but for much less money.

Now, if your closer is trash, like Isringhausen … then yes, Chris Perez and Jason Motte can be just as bad for a fraction of the cost. I agree whole-heartedly.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
6 years 8 months ago

I do think you can put just about any decent reliever at the closer role and get ~30 saves. But at what cost?

Guys like Leo Nunez (26 of 35 sv opp), Kevin Gregg (23 of 30), etc show that it can be done, just not very efficienty as compared to ‘real’ closers like the aforementioned Fuentes (48 of 55), Broxton 36 of 42), Nathan (47 of 52), etc.

Guys like Brian Wilson (38 of 45), and Ryan Franklin (38 of 43) are IMO examples of guys that had good ‘stop gap’ seasons, but might not be reliable bets to duplicate the feat.

For example, making Zavada a closer (as an alternative to Qualls) instead of a 7th/8th inning guy could likely result in a 30 SV season … but how many more blown saves than an established closer?

IMO, that’s where the 1 WAR difference between guys is a tremendous undervalue, because when a closer blows a game, it’s a real loss, right then and there … and the difference over a full season could be between 5-10 “shoulda been wins” that are now losses or ‘tie games’ (that require additional bullpen usage).

So, in threads like these, it is helpful (IMHO) to list such guys that could close pretty much as effectively as an established closer. I think most decent relievers could close 70% of the games successfully, but each 5% over 70 comes at a higher value, and when guys can save ~90% of games, that’s a critical difference due to the finality of many blown saves.

Relievers as a whole just seem to be unpredictable bunch, and seem to be as popular as non-elite QBs. When they’re successful they’re just “doing what they’re supposed to do”, but when they’re not it’s the guillotine for them (from view of the fan).

Scottwood
Member
Scottwood
6 years 8 months ago

The difference between a great and average reliever in the modern day closer role is this: .02 wins with a 3 run lead in the ninth, .04 wins with a 2 run lead and .06 wins with a 1 run lead. Per “The Book.”

Xavier
Guest
Xavier
6 years 8 months ago

CircleChange:

Not to be annoyingly reductivist

Wait, to be annoyingly reductivist, did you just argue against the premise of this post by citing a few relievers with good 2009 save percentages?

PhD Brian
Guest
PhD Brian
6 years 8 months ago

UZR treats all wins and losses as the same, but casual fans and baseball executives do not. Expenditures on relief pitching are telling us this. Teams value late inning wins an losses (comebacks) more than early wins and losses. In other words, losing 1-0 by a first inning run is less painful than losing 1-0 to a 9th inning homer off your closer.

This is very similar to prospect theory in behavioral finance which tells us that someone who triples their money then loses half will be unhappy even though they are up 50% while simply gaining 50% over the same time period makes you happy. results are the same, but the path is different. Its the path that determines the happiness. The path of the win or loss is the same thing.

If you think about it, what games do you tend to remember? The dramatic late inning wins and losses are what I remember more than the typical game. it is human nature. Executives are paying to have less memorable losses and more memorable wins. This is not rational if you gain a few losses to do this by overpaying, but it is human nature.

PhD Brian
Guest
PhD Brian
6 years 8 months ago

not UZR but WAR. my mistake sorry

WY
Guest
WY
6 years 8 months ago

Well put. Humans aren’t always “rational,” and they aren’t always wrong for being “irrational,” as any Tversky & Kahneman fan could attest.

ThinkBlue
Member
6 years 8 months ago

Here’s something I just noticed. Rodney’s career WPA is -0.34 and he’s posted a positive WPA only twice in his career. His career GB% is 47.7 and he’s only posted a GB% >50 twice in his career. The years in which he posted positive WPA’s are the same years in which he posted GB rates of >50%. Maybe the Angels think they can get him to induce more groundballs?

ineedanap
Guest
ineedanap
6 years 8 months ago

Well, they signed Brian Fuentes 2008 tRA and FIP last year, and look what happend.

JoeR43
Member
JoeR43
6 years 8 months ago

“Well, they signed Brian Fuentes 2008 flukey career year that was way better than any year he had ever posted since he broke into MLB in 2001 last year, and look what happend.”

Best sentence you and I ever co-wrote.

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