Best and Worst Clutch Relievers in 2015

It was brought to my attention how baseball should count all  runs relievers give up not just  earned runs. Runs scored from players already on base count against the previous pitcher even though that pitcher didn’t actually throw the pitch to give up those runs. The reliever did. A relief pitcher can clear the bases without incurring a single earned run on his ERA. This could distort the purpose of ERA for relief.

We need a way to count these runs as they do not get counted in standard box scores. This model does RISP calculation which has been explained previously here.  RISP for batters counts runs a batter drives in with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP).  Because box scores do not keep track of this the only way to run a RISP calculation is by traversing event data which get published after a season is over, usually in December.

The algorithm that calculates RISP for batters can be used to calculate RISP for pitchers.  When a reliever comes in with Runners In Scoring Position any runs that get scored get counted against that reliever.  The algorithm does not count when there is only a runner on first but leaving that out should not influence the rankings at all.  Like WAA, because we use the same algorithm for both pitchers and batters we can rank them together if desired.  For now we’ll only do pitchers.  If a starting pitcher never pitched relief they will not show up on this list.

Below we will list the top of the league and the bottom of the league, the worst relievers in the clutch and the best. For now I do not have the entire league data available for search.

Top Ten Clutch Relievers.

Here are the top ten clutch relievers of 2015.

-19.4 0.118 Dellin_Betances_NYA
-12.2 0.146 Arodys_Vizcaino_ATL
-12.1 0.113 Wade_Davis_KCA
-10.3 0.183 Randall_Delgado_ARI
-10.2 0.162 Aroldis_Chapman_CIN
-9.9 0.192 Jared_Hughes_PIT
-9.6 0.270 Juan_Nicasio_LAN
-9.2 0.155 Antonio_Bastardo_PIT
-9.0 0.169 Jake_Petricka_CHA
-8.9 0.181 Shawn_Tolleson_TEX

The first column, RAA, is Runs Above Average, second column Batting Average. A batter in RISP situations want to have a very positive RAA, a pitcher wants the lowest possible and Betances led the league last year with -19.4 only allowing batters to get a hit at a 11.8% rate. Betances has an overall value rating for 2015 of:

+026+ 4.75 Dellin_Betances_NYA PITCH

He was ranked #26 in MLB both batters and pitchers by this data model which is very very good.

Bottom Ten Clutch Relievers

15.0 0.315 Dan_Otero_OAK
13.5 0.452 Neftali_Feliz_DET
12.6 0.292 J.R._Graham_MIN
12.2 0.625 Cory_Mazzoni_SDN
10.7 0.333 Spencer_Patton_TEX
10.4 0.318 Justin_De_Fratus_PHI
9.9 0.371 R.J._Alvarez_OAK
9.8 0.348 Ryan_Kelly_ATL
8.7 0.300 Scott_Atchison_CLE
8.3 0.314 Joe_Beimel_SEA

If these were hitters they would be fantastic. As pitchers they’re the worst. Here is Dan Otero’s 2015 WAA for reference.

-042- -3.02 Dan_Otero_OAK PITCH

Ranked 42nd in the bottom 200 is very bad. This indicates that value tracks  closely with failing in RISP situations.

Unfortunately box scores do not separate out these runs for counting which means that there is no way to make these calculations for 2016 until December when we get event data.

Update: It would be interesting to find a reliever with a  bad RISP and rather high WAA which would mean he gives up many more inherited runs than his own.  I suspect pitcher RISP tracks closely with their WAA, a pitcher’s actual value based on earned runs.  For hitters it tracks closely but there are interesting outliers.

Update2: I happened upon Dan Otero’s 2016 numbers so far and he’s quite improved over last season.

+070+ 1.70 Dan_Otero_CLE PITCH

He’s ranked #70 in MLB both batters and pitchers which is pretty good. How pitchers and batters go from good to bad and bad to good is topic for another discussion. The only thing we know for certain is statistics cannot predict this and anyone who says they can is either lying, misinformed,  or trying to sell something.