Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: What a Relief

I'm sorry. I take full responsibility for Adrian Beltre's injury. The power of the Spotlight is a difficult one to control, and I am only beginning to learn to harness it's power.

Today, I'd like to switch things up a bit. The Spotlight will feature three individuals, and you're about to find out why. Today, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Birds of a feather

The Orioles bullpen hasn't been a stable source of saves in a long time. The last 4 Orioles to earn 30+ saves in a season are guys by the name of George Sherrill (31 in 2008), Chris Ray (33 in 2006), B.J. Ryan (36 in 2005) and Jorge Julio (36 in 2003). Not exactly names that would strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters.

Take a look at the below table. One pitcher is obviously having a better year, but isn't closing, so what gives?

Oriole #1 is obviously the ever-stressful Kevin Gregg, but who is behind door #2? That would be none other than Koji Uehara, who is quietly having one of the best seasons of any reliever in the league.

I like to think that I would make a better manager than most of the managers currently out there, but seriously, the stats speak for themselves. The fact that Uehara isn't closing for this team is ridiculous. Not only are all of his numbers miles better than Gregg's, but his peripherals back it up. Uehara has the best xFIP (shown to have the highest correlation with future performance of all the pitching metrics) of any Orioles pitcher, and it's not even close. Uehara's xFIP of 2.35 is more than half that of Gregg's at 4.81. I'm a big Buck Showalter fan, but come on, enough is enough.

Of pitchers with more than 30 IP, Uehara has the second highest LOB% (Left-on-base%) at a whipping 97.4%. That's only second to Nationals All-Star Tyler Clippard, who was very close to making this article.

Uehara's excellent ERA and WHIP, as well as mouth-watering strikeout rate (11.8 K/9), could make him one of the elite closers in the league, if only he were given the chance. It's been rumored that Gregg is on the trading block, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him dealt. With minimal return, the Orioles can dump some salary and become a better team by moving Uehara into his well-earned closing role.

Most fantasy owners are starting to catch on, and he's probably owned in deeper leagues already, but I honestly feel, regardless of trade rumors, that he's worth a look in all formats.

Bullpen Mafia?

The Tribe has affectionately named their surprisingly good bullpen the Bullpen Mafia. I'm not sure if that's an attempt to make the bullpen appear more intimidating, but I will admit it's a catchy nickname.

Much like the Orioles above, the Indians bullpen hasn't been threatening in quite some time. The last 3 Tribe to toss 25+ saves were Joe Borowski (45 in 2007) and Bob Wickman (45 in 2005) and Danys Baez (25 in 2003). Not exactly a who's who of lights out closers.

The Indians are in nearly the same situation the Orioles are in, shown by the table below. It's obvious that Chris Perez is Indian #1, but you might be surprised at who is #2.

Are you stumped? I know that my fellow COSFBA contributor JCPronkFan48 probably has the answer, but can you figure out who it is?

Perhaps the most deserving to be the "don" is Vinnie Pestano, who makes a surprising appearance as out Indian #2. Look at the K's he had compared to the innings pitched, and try not to drool.

Much like the Orioles pen, Pestano is hands down having a better year than the closer that backs him up. Perhaps it's inexperience, but I'm really unsure as to why Pestano isn't given a chance to close the game more often, especially with how shaky Perez is at times.

One fact you might find interesting is that Pestano's xFIP of 2.26 is the 3rd lowest in the league, among qualifying relief pitchers. Who are the two in front of him? Sergio Romo and Craig Kimbrel. That's pretty good company to have if you ask me. Pestano's current xFIP is the lowest since baseball researchers started keeping track of xFIP. It's amazing that he's only owned in 1% of ESPN leagues.

The Tiger goes "Meow"

Finally rounding out today's article is the Tigers bullpen. Jose Valverde has been a great pickup for the Tigers, excelling in the closers role. But in 2011, there is another Tiger, who is having a far more impressive year...and also happens to have one of the coolest names ever. One last time, take a look at the below table.

Jose Valverde is Tiger #1, the current closer. Definitely not a bad season, but not as good a one might hope. So who is Tiger #2, having a stellar season himself, with no love in regards to getting save opportunities?

That's right, Al Alburquerque is our mystery contestant #2. Following suit with Uehara and Pestano, his strike-out rate makes me salivate.

Alburquerque has a team low 2.75 xFIP, lower than fellow Tiger and All-Star Justin Verlander, to go along with his K/9, and strong ERA and WHIP. He can help you in 3 categories right off the bat, and might get some save chances down the road.

One word of caution, Alburquerque is only 25 years old, and has never pitched more than 41 innings at any level, so the Tigers will likely tread lightly with him. However, with the Tigers in the think of a division race, they might lean on him more than they would otherwise.

Do you have a comment about the article? Do you have a suggestion for the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Hit me up on twitter @SillyLittleGame or leave a comment below!

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