Last week we discussed shutdowns and meltdowns as better measures of a relief pitcher’s worth. Any time a reliever added or subtracted around 6% (.06 WPA) from their team’s probability of winning.

We saw many a meltdown and many a blowup over the first weekend of sweet, sweet baseball action. John Axford’s epic Opening Day implosion ranking as one of the worst (with plenty of help from his defense & umps, mind you), taking his team from a 91% chance of winning to, um, losing. That is indeed a meltdown.

Jays reliever Casey Janssen was praised for his ability to pitch out of a jam on Sunday, getting a strikeout, fly out, and ground out to snuff out a two-on, nobody out rally. Great job, Casey! Fireman! Except that the two runners were placed in that precarious situation by Casey Janssen himself. Not the same Casey, you get scorn, not credit.

A couple people asked me on Twitter if this situation was a shutdown as we described on Friday. As it turns out…it was not. Had Janssen entered the game with two on and nobody out in this game state, he’d had compiled a whopping .133 WPA, more than double the “shutdown” cutoff.

Unfortunately for Mr. Janssen’s not real stats, putting those men on base subtracted .092 WPA. This leaves Janssen’s total WPA for the day at ~.040. A.K.A not a shutdown. He entered a two-run game in the sixth inning. Far from a high leverage situation. Jason Frasor’s clean-as-a-whistle also fell just short of the shutdown threshold, though Jon Rauch’s wind-from-your-sails 8th inning is as melt-downy as they come.

The Twins got great relief work from Glen Perkins and Matt Capps en route to the reappearance of long-time closer Joe Nathan. Despite making a 31 pitch odessy out of a 2 run lead, Nathan did pick up both a shutdown and the save in his first work in over a year. Jays fans know what Twins watchers are in for – a whole lot of top-step saves as the old horse gets his bearings on the mound.

Comments (14)

  1. WPA obviously doesn’t distinguish between pitching a 1-2-3 inning and pitching a by-the-seat-of-your-pants, lucky-as-hell inning, so long as the starting and end points are the same. So how did Janssen actually pitch? Pretty damn well, I’d argue. The first hit was a looper hit with no authority off a pitch well out of the strike zone. A good pitch. The second hit was a genuine hit, well struck, but still a ground ball through the right side. A strikeout, weak fly ball and weak grounder completed the inning. Hardly dominant, but no line drives, and only one ball hit with authority.

  2. How did nathan get a shut down despite allowing a run, walking 2 and allowing 2 hits, 4 total batters reached base.

    Where as Janssen allowed 2 players on base but they didn’t score.

    • @DC – The increased leverage of the situation. Pitching the 9th >>>> pitching the 6th.

      @gabriel – fair point. It also doesn’t allow for the sequence of events. If the groundball comes first, many things are different.

  3. @dc: I could be wrong but when you think about it, if a pitcher finishes a game and his team wins, then it’s mathematically impossible for him to have a negative WPA.

  4. And further to that, if a pitcher enters a game in which his team has anything less than a 94% chance of winning, and he finishes that game without giving up the lead, then he’ll receive a “shutdown” no matter what happens in between… I think.

    • @Ty – to an extent, yes. But remember that a three run lead in the 9th inning may well be a 10 run lead.

      Take last night’s Orioles/Tigers game. Jason Berken pitches the 7 & 8th innings of a four run game, no shutdown. Koji comes in to pitch the 9th – no shutdown. As early as the 7th inning, the Orioles prop. of winning was already more than 95% in a four run game. Shutdowns don’t come cheap, in other words.

  5. Apropos of nothing in this thread, check out our favourite team’s manager’s name according to the 2011 Blue Jays’ team page at Baseball-Reference:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/TOR/2011.shtml

    Now check out where clicking on said name leads:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/farrejo01.shtml

    Yep, that’s right. Our team’s fearless leader, who died in 1893 at the age of 36, has led the Jays to a 2-1 record in their first three games of the 2011, at the ripe old age of 154. Congratulations on your first three games in the big leagues Joe Farrell, and who says re-incarnation is impossible? Our team’s manager is living proof that it can be done. Either that or he had the technological know how to construct a time machine before he died and transported himself here, where he can stamp out whatever vile 19th century illness took him at such a young age, and get a managing gig of an up and coming team in a league that didn’t exist when he allegedly died. I suppose the third possibility is that he’s some sort of zombie or vampire. Hmmm, the plot thickens. Who is this mystery man? Only the shadow knows… ;)

  6. @Tom that just shows the POWER of the ‘stache! Snider’s on to something you know…

  7. Playoffs!!! : {o

    (um, that’s a ‘Snides’, up there … that’s’ what I’m calling it anyway)

  8. The #shutdown hashtag is going to blow up on twitter this summer.

  9. Wouldn’t it be weird if she did work here? Btw, Casey’s parents are named Jack and Diane, like that damned Mellencamp (Cougar? Cougar Mellencamp?) song.

    Jamie Campbell pointed it out when Casey made his big league debut.

  10. My problem with shutdowns/meltdowns is thus: if by emphasizing DIPS we downplay and excuse the vagaries of BABIP with starting pitchers. WPA is inherently a results-based stat, placing it in the same general category of ERA. Why should we view relief pitchers so differently?

    This is a perfect case: balls in play went for hits. Janssen struck out the next batter, which is exactly what you need to do (and Casey ain’t a strikeout-heavy pitcher), and the next two balls in play went in his favour instead. Why should we say “he got himself in a jam” when we don’t fault a starter for seeing-eye squibblers?

    • @Raymond – I agree with your idea in principle but think there is room for results-based stats. What happened, happened. We can’t take it away, we can use the long form of DIPS-based numbers to see if it was a pattern or a fluke, but in terms of measuring the results, why not base it on the game state?

      In other words, I don’t think using these improved results-based numbers needs to be mutually exclusive to DIPS styled metrics. They work together to help paint a better picture of pitchers as they incorporate vital sequencing, something FIP cannot do on its own.

  11. @Drew – I gave SDs and MDs a spin on their own terms in my follow-up post:

    http://rantsabovereplacement.com/2011/04/08/breakdowns/

    TL;DR: I think they’re still misleading. (Also, Jason Frasor is confusing.)

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