A new way to evaluate setup men

June, 15, 2010
Earlier this year, our colleagues in Stats and Information took a crack at redefining the quality start. Our TMI colleague Tom Tango devised a means to evaluate all relievers based on their win probability contributions (shutdowns/meltdowns).

We have our own mission. It’s two pronged. First, we wanted to strictly evaluate setup men. Second, we wanted to separate the dominant ones from the ugly ones. And we wanted a method from which you could look at the newspaper box score and divine the quality of one’s work.

Let’s start by looking at the major league leaders in holds:

Luke Gregerson (16), Mike Adams (16), Scott Downs (16), Kevin Jepsen (15)

Holds is a fine stat, but we wanted to create one that would be a significant upgrade from that.

Behold, the "perfect hold".

Such a hold requires a pitcher to throw at least one inning, not yield a baserunner, and not commit a faux pas along the lines of a wild pitch or balk. This stat allows us to separate the truly dominant relievers from the rest of the pack.

Your 2010 leaders in perfect holds are: Luke Gregerson (12), Mike Adams (10), Daniel Bard (7) and Scott Downs (5)

In terms of pure results, you can't get any better than a perfect hold. But you can be more dominant. So our next mission was to identify the guys who can not only finish you off in the seventh or eighth, but embarrass you in the process.

Essentially our next concoction is a perfect hold with a dominance factor. What do you call a hold in which someone or something grabs on and won’t let go? We call it a “vise grip.”

The vise grip hold meets the following criteria
  • The pitcher got at least two outs
  • The pitcher did not allow a baserunner, nor did he throw a wild pitch or commit a balk
  • The pitcher averaged at least 1.5 strikeouts per inning pitched

Here are your 2010 leaders in vise grips:

Luke Gregerson (4), Joba Chamberlain (4), Hong-Chih Kuo (3), Daniel Bard (3)

But what about the opposite of the vise grip? That’s the guy who comes in, makes a mess, but still maintains a lead. That’s a weak grasp, is it not? We’ll call it the “dead fish.”

A dead fish meets the following criteria
  • The pitcher yielded at least 1.5 times as many baserunners as he got outs.
  • The pitcher didn’t strike anyone out.

Here are your 2010 leaders in dead fish holds:

David Robertson (5), Darren O’Day (4), 10 pitchers tied with 3



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