Stats & Info: Todd Coffey

Nationals bullpen stoking hot streak

June, 24, 2011
Jim Riggleman’s departure from the Washington Nationals this week was a huge story, especially considering how well Washington has been playing lately, bullpen included. The relief corps has a 2.89 ERA this season, third-best in baseball.

Drew Storen
The franchise hasn't had a season with a bullpen ERA below 3.00 since 1984 when they were the Montreal Expos. Who’s behind the success this season? Namely Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey and Drew Storen.

Storen’s .541 opponents' OPS leads the team and his 0.97 WHIP is third-lowest in the majors among first-and second-year pitchers (minimum 30 IP according to Baseball Reference). The Nationals closer has used a fastball and slider to great effect this season.

Storen throws his fastball more than 63 percent of the time, but with two strikes he goes a different route -- his slider becomes his putaway pitch.

With two strikes, he has a 52 percent strikeout rate with his slider, compared to just 30 percent with his heater.

Coffey has also been successful with offspeed pitches, throwing 67 percent strikes (league average is 61 percent). Clippard, meanwhile, has been making batters miss all year -- his miss rate of 37 percent is fifth-best among all relievers this season.

Easy Street
Huston Street, baseball’s saves leader this season, has looked very comfortable in Colorado. Since joining the Rockies in 2009 Street’s 77 saves are fifth-most in the National League, and he’s on pace to record over 45 this season.

That would easily set a career-high, surpassing his 37 saves from 2006.

Street has been especially clutch in big spots. Opposing hitters are batting .263 against him this season, but just .214 with RISP. In those situations he’s thrown 37 sliders and allowed just a .167 on-base percentage.

On a Roll
Sergio Santos of the Chicago White Sox was dominant this past week. In three appearances he collected two saves, struck out seven, walked none and allowed no hits. In that stretch he never even reached a three-ball count. It’s quite the turnaround from his previous three games, where he allowed eight earned runs in 2 ⅔ innings.

TMI Power Poll: Top 10 middle relievers

May, 11, 2010
This week on the TMI Power Poll we look at middle relievers. It was the most hotly contested Power Poll yet, with six different guys receiving at least one first-place vote.

Other notable courtesy of Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon:
Todd Coffey - Nobody in MLB sprints from bullpen faster

Also receiving votes: Neftali Feliz, Dan Wheeler, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Manny Corpas, Pedro Feliciano, Brad Ziegler, Darren Oliver, Mike Wuertz, Carlos Villanueva, Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Moylan, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Hideki Okajima, Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp, Nick Masset, Kris Medlan, Rafael Betancourt, Darren O'Day, Alfredo Aceves, Tim Byrdak, Todd Coffey, Sergio Santos, Takashi Saito, Ramon Troncoso

The case against ERA & introducing RPA

March, 31, 2010
Picture this: Top of the 9th inning, two out, men on second and third and the home team is up three. With the setup man unable to finish the game, the manager calls on the closer who he was trying to rest. The crowd goes wild as the bullpen doors open, but the noise quickly turns to silence as the closer gives up a two-run double. With the lead down to one run, the crowd rallies to the aid of the closer who induces a harmless ground ball. Game over.

Final stat line for the closer: (Save) 1/3 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, H, 0 BB, 0 K.

ERA: 0.00

Situations similar to this occur somewhat frequently in baseball. For years pitchers have been judged on ERA, wins, losses, saves and strikeouts. While this formula may work for starters, it leaves a lot to be desired for relievers. Relievers can’t be evaluated by ERA. ERA is based on 9 innings and most relievers rarely pitch more than an inning or two per game. Runs, and even more importantly, inherited runs scored are far more important in measuring a reliever’s success.

Now, you may be wondering how unearned runs can be counted against a reliever. It doesn’t seem fair does it? Well, the reality is relievers have one job to do: Come into the game, and get out of jams. Whether a reliever comes in with the bases loaded or no one on base, his job remains the same. That job, again, is to come into the game and leave the game with the score the same way as when they entered.

So, with this in mind I set out to create a stat that took into account the two most important stats for a reliever: runs allowed, and inherited runs scored. Rather than divide this number by innings, I chose to divide by appearances.

The result is the following formula that I dubbed “Runs Per Appearance” (RPA): Runs allowed plus inherited runs scored divided by pitching appearances.

The results are simple, like the formula. Good pitchers had solid RPA averages while pitchers who were helped by errors and inherited runs scoring and not their own, were exposed. Check out the results below.

Here's another way to illustrate it. While both Jamey Wright (4.33 ERA last season) and Manny Acosta (4.34 ERA) had similar ERAs, their RPAs (1.123 and .639 respectively) differed greatly. The league average among all relievers last season was .935. That takes into account all long relievers, closers, setup men, and specialists. So Wright had a below-average performance in terms of RPA while Acosta actually had an above-average season in terms of RPA. His .639 RPA is far from Mariano Rivera or Joe Nathan status, but it was most certainly above average for a reliever.

Is (R)uns (P)er (A)ppearance (RPA) a perfect stat? Absolutely not. However, RPA does tell a much more accurate story for relievers than ERA. If nothing else, this should be something interesting to track in 2010.