Quality Relief in the NL Central


How do you measure the quality of a bullpen?  Saves record the ability of a closer to hold a 3 run lead usually in only one inning.  ERA gives a picture of a bullpens success but sometimes obscures strong performance behind an occasional catastrophic collapse.  Even wins and losses do not measure the specific performance of the individual pitcher.  When a manager sends a pitcher to the mound he has certain expectations.  He expects the player to allow his team to stay competitive in the game.  He expects rally’s to be curbed, and runs prevented and he expects outs.  To measure this expectation I created a series of statistics that gauge a relievers success…or failure.  Let’s look at the formulae:

RA   = Relief Appearances:  Total # of Relief Appearances

QRO = Quality Relief Outing:  # of Appearances where more outs are recorded than hits + walks and a 3.00 ERA is maintained for the relief appearance.

FRO  = Failed Relief Outing:  # of Appearances where earned runs are allowed, inherited runners score or no outs are recorded.  (See ERA allowance in the QRO description

ND =  No Decision.  Does not meet the criteria for a QRO or a FRO

QAR  = Quality Appearance Ratio:  QRO/RA

FAR   = Failed Appearance Ratio:  FRO/RA

So with this in mind, who has the best bullpen in the National League Central Division.  First, in gathering the data I came across a number of bits of statistical information that suggested certain common sense decisions.  Chief among these relates to the requirement of no earned runs in a relief outing.  While I maintain that this is a critical expectation when a manager calls the bullpen for a reliever, it does not take into account lengthier relief outings.  The solution for this is to allow each reliever to be rated according to the ERA they post per appearance.  This allows for an outing like the magnificent relief performance Carlos Fisher had last night in the marathon extra inning game in Philadelphia where he was called up from AAA that morning and immediately was called on for 5.2 innings where he ultimately allowed a run out of pure exhaustion.  With that here are the current rankings of the Central Division relief corps.

The picture this paints is not necessarily one you might expect.  As bad as the Cubs, are it is mostly a result of poor defense and weak starting pitching.  They not only have the highest Quality Appearance Ratio they have the lowest Failed Appearance Ratio by 5%.  By the same token, the Cardinals staff has been terrible.  Ultimately the Reds have reasonably good numbers but as time passes I intend to analyze the rest of the National League and expect to find relief staffs that perform above a 75% rate.  Philadelphia looks to be a perfect example of this but that is for another day.  In addition to these numbers I also found the individual leaders in both QAR and FAR so lets take a look at them.

The stat that jumps off of this table is the amazing success rate of Carlos Marmol.  He is far and away the most dependable reliever in the division though Joel Hanrahan has  very respectable numbers as well.  Leading the way with the most QROs are Bill Bray of the Reds and Mark Melancon of the Astros.  A more dubious distinction falls to Kameron Loe and the Reds Logan Ondrusek, we are only around 50 games into the season and these two players share the lead appearing in 27 games apiece.  This points more to the lack of success of starting pitching that requires more relief appearances.  This has been an especially tough week on the Reds staff as their total relief appearances have leaped forward due to the lack of success of the starting pitching.  I will also draw attention to the play of Sam LeCure, who does not have enough relief appearances to qualify in this category.  He sports an outstanding 8 QROs vs. 0 FROs.  No one else comes close to this level of pure success.

Lets shift gear and look at the players placing the most strain on their individual managers.

Reds fans are painfully aware of the struggle Nick Masset faced at the beginning of the season but he is gradually recovering from his early difficulties.  Aroldis Chapman never came close to this though his last 4 games were disastrous.  The greatest failure to this point has been the amazing meltdown of Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin.  No matter what the situation he has consitently failed and the Cardinals have paid for it primarily because he is still holding a roster spot yet Tony LaRussa rarely has the confidence to use him, appearing only once in the last 10 games.  Micheal Crotta is single handedly keeping the Pirates staff down even though he has been sent down to AAA to work on his mechanics and has not pitched for Pittsburgh in 13 games.  Without him, the Pirates staff would have a QAR of 68% placing them second in the division just one point behind the Cubs.  I will continue to maintain this database throughout the season and provide weekly updates.  Hopefully this provides a clearer picture of how the Reds relief corps stacks up.  At the end of this article I have attached the team individual statistics for the division.  Feel free to comment on ways to improve this analysis.  I am open to suggestions!

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Pittsburgh Pirates RelieversPitcherRAQROFRONDQARFARJose Ascanio522140%40%Joe Beimel17116065%35%Kevin Correia1100100%0%Michael Crotta15310220%67%Joel Hanrahan22183182%14%Jeff Karstens431075%25%Evan Meek1273258%25%Daniel McCutchen18143178%17%Danny Moskos540180%0%Garrett Olson413025%75%Chris Resop21138062%38%Jose Veras22156168%27%Pirates Staff Totals1469245963%31%Data through 5/25/2011

Last but never least: