As a followup to the Happily Ever Axford post, I wanted to take a look at what happens to inherited runners (IR) and how often they score (IS). Axford is a great closer, but almost all the time he comes in it's in the top of the 9th inning with nobody out and the bases empty. This is a critical situation, but not necessarily more critical than innings just prior, with runners on base and a lead being threatened.
Again - I'm no pro analyst, I'm just running some numbers to satisfy my curiosity. Any and all comments are welcome.
I've noticed that in recent years Rolaids has dropped the word "fireman" from the title of their Relief Man Award. That's probably just as well, because a lot of times the last inning can be less climactic than the innings before it. The hardest part can especially be the point at which the starting pitcher, for all his gifts and effort, has run out of steam and got himself into a bad situation with runners on base. At that point you really need a stopper - a fireman - who can come in on a short warmup to douse the rally with cold water and preserve the ballgame.
My interest therefore was to take the same time period as the Axford article (since the start of 2010) and find out who had to deal with the most inherited runners, and see who did the best job of leaving them stranded. Since I figured this was probably going to be an above average leverage job, and that to be on this list would require a lot of appearances in tough situations, that I would see a lot of high-profile and familiar names. I was wrong.
First of all, a lot of the guys on this list don't get paid squat. They're not starters, and they're not closers, so they're the corn starch of the bullpen. They're filler. They're the connecting tissue between a Quality Start and a Save. Some of these guys floored me - like Joe Thatcher. He's appeared in over 100 games over the last three seasons, and inherited an average of 1.65 runners for every inning pitched. He's a lefty, but not a LOOGY, he gets equal time against righties and lefties. All he does is put out fires, and he's only let 18 of his 101 inherited runners score. He got a massive raise this season but somehow earns only $700,000, while his pre-2012 closer Heath Bell was being paid $7,500,000.
Time for some numbers. A list of all the relievers who dealt with at least 70 inherited runners since 2010, sorted by the percentage of runners who scored:
We're pretty familiar with some of these guys, like Miguel Batista, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo. Todd Coffey was one of ours and did a fairly decent job. We're a little too familiar with Jason Motte. But some of these guys I wouldn't be able to pick out of a lineup with three chances. Some of you are more familiar with players around the league than I am, but guys like Logan Ondrusek and Eric O'Flaherty are a mystery to me. How can they play such an important role, yet stay so anonymous?
The one thing I was able to pick out of this pretty easily is that if the game is on the line before the 9th and there's men on base, I want RRR to make the call to the bullpen for Jose Veras, not Kameron Loe.