Around The Diamond: Saturday Links

Jonah Keri has some interesting thoughts on a fairly new statistic created by Fangraphs called shutdowns and meltdowns, or SD/MD. Here’s an excerpt explaining the statistic a little bit.

To figure that out, SD/MD leans on a concept called win expectancy — the likelihood (expressed in percentages) that your team wins a game. The Indians are up 4-1, ninth inning, bases empty, nobody out. What is their win expectancy at the time? (Answer: 96.8 percent — drag your mouse over that chart at the top of the page to find win expectancy by situation throughout the game.) Perez tosses two-thirds of an inning, yielding three hits, two walks, and three runs, before leaving with the score tied 4-4. What is the Indians’ win expectancy now? (Answer: 52.2 percent) Perez has dropped his team’s win expectancy by 44.6 percent. For that — or any pitching performance in which a reliever hurts his team’s win expectancy by 6 percent or more — you earn a meltdown. Raise your team’s win expectancy by 6 percent or more and you earn a shutdown.

This might sound a bit complicated, but it really isn’t. By using 6 percent as the cutoff, you get a stat that runs on a similar scale to saves and holds. Elite closers and setup men will rack up 35-40 (or more) shutdowns and very few meltdowns, just as a dominant closer can earn that many saves, while blowing very few. If you’ve ever watched poker on TV, you’ll see a player’s odds of winning a hand rise or fall by a certain percentage based on the cards the dealer flips over. Same easy-to-follow concept here: If you retire the side 1-2-3 in a big spot (say, two runners on, none out, and you enter with the game tied in the seventh), you get a shutdown, just as hitting your nut flush on the river will usually win you a hand. The only difference is the pitcher has more control over the outcome in this case, rather than it being left to random chance.

The key is that SD/MD puts closers and other members of your bullpen on even ground. That way you don’t end up overpaying for a pitcher who happens to record the final out of a ballgame.

It is a very interesting way to rate relief pitchers and makes much, much more sense than the save statistic. As Keri also goes on to point out SD/MD gives more weight to higher leverage situations, like bases loaded in the 8th with one out in a 3-2 game, compared to easy save situations like a 5-2 lead, no one on in the 9th. If more teams payed attention to this statistic the use of relievers could change. Instead of using your best pitcher, the closer, to start the 9th, teams could be more inclined to use them to end rallies earlier in the game.

Tom Verducci has some good thoughts this week concerning pitch counts and the size of Marlins Park. He has noticed that every big league team has adopted the 100 pitch mark as the gold standard for removing a pitcher from the game.

How is it possible that in 10 years all 30 teams agree on the same one-size-fits-all philosophy when it comes to pitching? How could Johnson, Garcia and Hernandez — all of whom compiled prolific careers — do in one day what the entire industry could not do in the subsequent decade? And how could every organization agree on the same philosophy while pitchers do not remain healthier and leads are not better protected under this bowing down to the pitch count? What does it say about advances in nutrition, biomechanics, medicine and other sciences that pitchers have become less productive?

He also discusses the recent trend of building large ballparks, and the effect it could be having on offense. If Marlins Park plays as big as it feels, that would mean that 5 of the last 7 ballparks built all play favorably towards pitcher. Only Citizens Bank in Philly and Yankee Stadium are hitter havens, both ranking in the top-10. With larger ballparks and mandatory steroid testing there has been a big drop-off in the number of runs scored over the past decade. This is something to keep an eye on.

-Also from SI.com, Joe Lemire discusses why he thinks the Joey Votto contract is good for the Reds and good for baseball. Interesting thoughts and some good quotes, particularly near the end when Votto discusses his disdain for the DH.

-Over at IIATMS, they discuss Joe Girardi’s bizarre decision to intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez for Carlos Pena with 2 outs in the 1st inning! It ended just like it should have, with Pena crushing a CC Sabathia offering to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. Girardi explained that didn’t care much for the matchup between Rodriguez and Sabathia, especially since Pena hasn’t hit CC well. Going into the at-bat, Pena was a .114 hitter, going 4-34 with 2 homers, but its still a poor decision to walk a shortstop to face a power hitting 1st baseman.

Rob Neyer discussed Mark Trumbo’s difficulties at 3rd base last night. Trumbo appears uncomfortable at 3rd and his struggles defensively will be worth keeping tabs on.

Big League Stew discusses the baseball that Yoenis Cespedes annihilated in his stateside debut last night. Cespedes hit an impressive 462 foot homer, and showboated a bit after, but good grief was that a blast.

Tim Brown has some notes discussing Albert Pujols debut for the Los Angels Angels. Pujols had an 0-fer with 1 walk, but LA was still able to win the game 5-0.

-Some fun numbers from Mop-Up Duty about the 16 inning Opening Day affair between Toronto and Cleveland.

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