Everybody knows that the Nats Bullpen was awful this year, right? Well according to quite a few of the standard pitching metrics, they ranked pretty highly in all of MLB in quite a few of the categories. In comments on previous posts the idea of coming up with our own metric for relievers was briefly mentioned. That is a work in progress and there will be a post for that in the not too distant future (and apologies for the teaser).
While doing the research on some ideas for a new reliever metric, something hit me like a ton of bricks. The 2015 version of Drew Storen actually compares quite well with guys who are considered to be elite closers. While I am not ready to publish any new metrics, we can discuss how good/bad Storen was in 2015 using one of the standard reliever metrics: WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched). Here are some WHIP values from BaseballReference to consider:
- Papelbon: 1.026
- Kimbrel: 1.045
- Storen: 1.109
- Chapman: 1.146
Now to put these numbers in context, the difference between Kimbrel and Storen of .064 means Drew gives up 64 more hits/walks every 1000 innings. Put another way, he gives up 1 more hit/walk roughly every 15-16 innings.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a couple of pictures. Using the GameDay data that I have downloaded for 2015, I calculated the WHIP values for each game (disclaimer: the Game Day data had minor differences from Baseball Reference, but the differences were tiny) to create the charts below. The two charts are exactly the same data. The difference is the order of the bars. The one on the left is by Pitcher, and the one on the right is by WHIP.
Looking at these charts, other than fewer games in the .5-1 bucket (as highlighted in the graph on the right) there does not appear to be much difference between Drew and Papelbon/Kimbrel/Chapman. He also has more shut-down innings than either Kimbrel or Papelbon and the same number as Chapman! And looking at the chart on the left, the chart for Storen is almost identical to Chapman.
So what the [expletive deleted] is going on? Maybe:
- We really do need new/better reliever metrics.
- The eye test is biased by painful memories.
- We are biased based on how many times we saw Drew vs. the 2015 versions of Kimbrel and Chapman.
- The issue is the Cult of the Closer. Would we see a difference if closers were replaced just like any other pitcher?
- Maybe it is all Matt Williams fault (after all, isn’t everything else his fault?).
Storen will almost certainly be gone after 2016. But maybe it is in both the team’s and his interest for Storen to pitch for the Nats in 2016.
Let the debate begin!