Phillies Reliever Usage, Graphically

Much has been made about the sub-optimal usage of relievers by manager Charlie Manuel lately. The Phillies are 0-4 in extra-inning games and in each of those four games, their $50 million reliever Jonathan Papelbon was never used. The Phillies also lost in nine innings on April 8 in Pittsburgh when Papelbon could have — and some would argue should have — been used. How, exactly, have the relievers been applied, though?

I arranged each plate appearance for each Phillies reliever from the beginning of the season through last night and created bar graphs indicating the leverage index. (Last night’s data not included as this post was compiled prior to the game. Unfortunately.)

As you can see, Jonathan Papelbon has had yet to face a batter with a leverage index greater than 4.00. The only other relievers in that same group are Jose Contreras, Joe Savery, and Mike Stutes. In fact, Papelbon’s highest-leverage plate appearance (3.78 on April 12) is the 20th-highest among Phillies relievers. The 20 ahead of him have all come on the road, however, and due to Manuel’s insistence that closers cannot be used in tie games on the road, he has been left to rot in the bullpen while inferior relievers stood on the mound only for the Phillies to lose the game.

Pitcher Date Inning H/A bHWE aHWE bLI aLI
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.65 0.50 6.40 2.18
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.65 1.00 6.38 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.34 0.75 6.07 4.49
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.63 0.50 5.44 2.22
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.78 5.37 3.34
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.27 5.34 4.75
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.77 0.63 4.95 5.44
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.82 0.62 4.90 4.56
Bastardo 4/8/2012 8 A 0.27 0.59 4.75 3.46
Herndon 4/8/2012 9 A 0.62 1.00 4.56 0.00
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.75 0.87 4.49 0.42
Bastardo 4/18/2012 11 A 0.68 1.00 4.42 0.00
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.69 0.60 4.36 4.21
Schwimer 5/2/2012 8 A 0.21 0.34 4.32 6.07
Bastardo 4/7/2012 9 A 0.61 0.50 4.28 2.24
Schwimer 5/4/2012 11 A 0.60 0.65 4.26 6.38
Sanches 5/2/2012 9 A 0.60 0.65 4.21 6.40
Qualls 5/4/2012 8 A 0.38 0.34 4.08 3.58
Kendrick 4/8/2012 8 A 0.38 0.29 4.04 3.32
Papelbon 4/12/2012 9 H 0.85 1.00 3.78 0.00

Note: A lower-case b indicates the stat before the PA was started and a lower-case a indicates the stat after the PA was completed. LI stands for Leverage Index and HWE stands for the home team’s Win Expectancy.

The following chart shows the percentage of a reliever’s own total PA have come in each leverage bucket. Two out of every three (66%) of Jonathan Papelbon’s PA have come with the leverage index under 1.00. As the leverage goes up, Papelbon’s appearance percentage goes from 66% to 20% to 7% to 7%.

This chart shows each reliever’s share within each leverage bucket. Jonathan Papelbon has had 30% of the Phillies’ bullpen’s PA in the 0-0.99 and 1-1.99 buckets.

Papelbon has shown to be the Phillies’ best reliever so far, averaging more than a strikeout per inning and more than three strikeouts for every walk. Why one wouldn’t consistently use him in the most important of situations is mind-boggling.

Special thanks to David Appelman of FanGraphs for providing me the data to play with, and to Matt (@Slap_Bet) for Excel help.

Regarding last night’s debacle involving Papelbon, my only comment is a link to this Wikipedia entry.

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  1. JM

    May 08, 2012 09:52 AM

    I never agreed with the Qualls signing, pitching in SD is vastly different that CBP, and it is showing. One thing that is not mentioned here is that the bullpen is all out of whack because of injuries. With Stutes and Lee injured, that means KK and all the AAA replacements will throw more when it counts. Were Bastardo and Stutes being used regularly in the 7th & 8th, and KK in the 5th or 6th if needed, we would see a more settled bullpen with guys in comfortable roles. Mix in Savery, whom I really like, and Contreras as sutuational guys, and this is a great bullpen. With these guys in their places, Papelbon never has to be used unless it is a save situation, because you have 3 other guys who have closed with a good deal of success, and the $50 million man can be used the way Charlie wants…

  2. Frank

    May 08, 2012 08:48 PM

    Curious what manager utilizes his bullpen best? Thanks.

  3. Brenden Lowery

    May 08, 2012 11:07 PM

    Hey Bill,

    Brenden Lowery here from the Indians blog on ESPN Sweetspot, I just wanted to say that this post was extremely informative. The amount of research and number crunching you did was awesome. Keep up the good work, awesome job!

  4. George

    May 09, 2012 08:46 AM

    And, then when finally used Fri vs Mets (in 9th inning of tied game, but at home), Papelbon was rusty and gave up 3 run HR.

    But really, in-game strategy has never been Manuel’s strength? Everyone in Philly knows he’s hanging on by his fingernails and his 2008 WS Ring.

  5. BDF

    May 09, 2012 09:21 AM

    BB, if you invented this method of evaluating manager bullpen usage it should go at the very top of your resume. Truly outstanding.

  6. Alan Wright

    May 09, 2012 11:20 AM

    I know this is a Phillies Blog – but this would be awesome to see team by team.

    Such outstanding work, thank you for the time and effort!

  7. MattG

    May 09, 2012 11:30 AM

    This is awesome! I expect to see charts like these all over the place from here forward. I only hope you get the credit you deserve.

  8. EricK

    May 10, 2012 09:47 AM

    Very interesting post…especially considering the Rays-Yankees game last night. Rays were down 1-0 and Joe Maddon brought in his closer Fernando Rodney in the 8th! to keep the game close. Rays went on to rally in the ninth and Rodney finished out the 9th for the save.

    Maddon firmly believes in what you analyze here. “saves” aren’t necessarily about the 9th inning, but are about that moment in the game when the sitation is the most precarious. Sometimes a “save” takes place in the 7th or 8th…not only the 9th.

  9. nomoredevil

    May 10, 2012 10:35 AM

    Hi Bill,

    Found this post via a link on DRaysBay. Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed it. The layout especially is very good and user friendly. It’s informative, but also easy to follow for the less number-focused among us.

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