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Backing Bobby

2010/08/06

Thursday afternoon Bobby Jenks blew another save. That means it is time to scream, yell, make fat jokes and demand the big man’s job be given to a more deserving candidate. Who is that deserving candidate? Anyone but Jenks, right?

To figure out this mess, we’ll need some help. Help cometh via Sky Kalkman, who inspired by Tom Tango, has done some interesting research on what relievers deserve higher leveraged innings based on their FIP. Here’s a nifty graph Sky put together to give us some visualization in getting the answer to this question.

You can see this from the graph, but to explain a bit – deLI is Deserved Leverage Index. The typical closer pitches in an average of 1.8 LI. Somewhere between a 2.80-2.85 FIP is what you want to get out of your closer. 3.40 is about what you’d like to see out of your set-up reliever. A 3.75 FIP would be you’re guy who would be next in line behind you’re set-up man, 4.10 would be the guy who would pitch in average leverage situations, 4.50 would be your long relievers. You get the idea.

Now let’s head on over to FanGraphs and get our FIP info –

Name ERA FIP E-F xFIP
Bobby Jenks 5.13 2.82 2.32 2.56
J.J. Putz 1.79 2.12 -0.34 2.63
Matt Thornton 2.36 1.97 0.39 2.70
Sergio Santos 1.53 2.75 -1.22 3.94
Scott Linebrink 4.21 4.85 -0.64 4.26
Tony Pena 4.88 4.92 -0.04 4.73
Randy Williams 5.40 5.27 0.13 5.93

I sorted by xFIP instead of FIP because one day Sergio Santos will allow a homerun. Really, the bullpen on HR/FB lucky (0.73, the 4th best mark in baseball) considering their home ballpark.

Getting to the good stuff – First off, the Sox have one darn good bullpen. They have four deserving candidates judging by their FIP, including our problem child. I mentioned that Santos will eventually give up a HR. Going by xFIP, we’d take him out of the running for the closer job, but Putz, Thornton and wait for it — Jenks are all deserving of the job. Santos is good, but he’s been walking a few too many batters and his HR/FB rate will normalize eventually.

If Guillen wants to use recent performance or closer experience as the tie-breaker, I have no problem with that. Give Putz the job in that case. There’s nothing wrong with giving Thornton the job, either. Jenks is fine too, he’s just been the victim of some sort of hate crime from the baseball gods. Opponents have a ridiculous .386 BABIP against Jenks and as a result his strand rate is just 62.7%. His xFIP is the best it’s ever been over the course of his entire major league career. Read that last sentence again.

Take heart, Bobby Jenks. This too shall pass.

So you wanna use rest of season projections to sort this out? –

  • Jenks – 3.54 FIP
  • Thornton – 3.21
  • Putz – 2.93

Edge goes to Putz.

Leave Heavy B alone, lunatic fans.  He’ll be fine. Some call it the yips, I think I’ll call it bad luck. I don’t think it matters much who is in what role so long as these four very talented relievers keep getting the important innings late in the game.  Putz is his logical heir, but this isn’t worth all the fretting that’s happening.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. chw42 permalink
    2010/08/11 10:53 AM

    I’ve looked into Bobby’s case before. His .385 BABIP is more or less due to his heavy amount of line drives, which is at 23.6%. Due to that LD%, his xBABIP is .310. That .075 difference is pretty large, but with the way Bobby has left pitches over the plate this year, I’m not all that surprised.

    His tERA is 3.78, which I think is a more ideal way to evaluate him thus far. xFIP and FIP don’t see the fact that his current fly ball rate is unsustainable and his large amount of line drives are hurting him.

    I don’t think Bobby should get as much criticism as he has gotten from certain people I’ve talked to, but he also doesn’t deserve the numbers FIP and xFIP indicate.

    • 2010/08/14 10:24 PM

      You might be right about that, but I’m not that convinced that players have a ton of control over their line drive rate from year to year. I’ll look into this more perhaps for a future post.

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