If you’re reading this, then you’re probably aware of how silly it is to analyze a reliever based on Saves and Blown Saves. Instead of being snarky about it, better men go out and try to develop ways to look at players that takes advantage of modern statistical advances. The boys at Fangraphs have put their fingerprints on something that they’ve named Shutdowns and Meltdowns. Here is their definition:
A Shutdown is when a reliever accumulates greater than or equal to 0.06 WPA in any individual game.
A Meltdown is when a reliever’s WPA is less than or equal to -0.06 in any individual game.
WPA stands for Win Probability Added and seeks to label the impact that an individual player makes on the final outcome. So a reliever that earns a Shutdown must contribute at least 6% in the positive for a team; meanwhile a Meltdown would go to a player that hurt his team’s chances to win by at least 6%. Don’t get too caught up in the math, I just wanted to give a bit of background before delving into the stats.
With that out of the way, I wanted to take a look at how the Rays have fared in this metric over the last couple of years. The impetus for taking a look at this is based on Dan Wheeler going over to the Boston Red Sox. I wanted to see just how much of an impact he’s had over his stint here and how that compares to his peers on the team. Keep in mind that these statistics should end up favoring guys that pitch in high-leverage situations. Someone like Mike Ekstrom that was mostly used for mop up is never really in a positions to alter a game by at least 6%. This means that guys pitching the ninth inning are usually going to be exposed to these situations more than most relievers. Here’s the Rays over the last few seasons:
Clearly, Rafael Soriano was in a class by himself during last season, easily besting Grant Balfour’s 2008 for best Shutdown to Meltdown ratio, but Balfour and Benoit were extremely strong last year matching each other stride for stride. This is pretty intuitive so shout out anything that you find interesting in the comments or @SandyKazmir. The biggest thing that I take away is just how good our TEAM bullpen was in 2008 and in 2010. 2009 had some nice performances, but not quite on the level as the other years.
In all his time here, Dan Wheeler accumulated 77 Shutdowns and 38 Meltdowns in 228 appearances for a Shutdown to Meltdown ratio of 0.67 and a 34% chance of any appearance resulting in a Shutdown. That’s a lot of really good games that he’s taking with him, but I’m a lot more concerned about the Aussie taking his cumulative totals of 67 Shutdowns (21 Meltdowns) in 181 appearances that saw him having a 0.76 Shutdown to Meltdown ratio and a 37% likelihood of throwing a Shutdown. I don’t pretend to know what Balfour thinks he’s worth, but I would think that he’s more likely to take an extra year at a lower rate than a marginally higher per-year salary for less years. With this in mind, I don’t think it would be a bad move to offer up something similar to what Dan Wheeler has been living off for the last 3 years.
Wheeler had a contract for 3 years at $10.5 million ($2.8, $3.2, $3.5) with an option for a fourth year at $4 million. Generally, I think the worst thing that you can do is offer multiple years to a reliever when we know them to be such volatile creatures. Additionally, the Rays would receive up to roughly $9 million in draft pick compensation if Balfour signs a Major League deal with another team. These rational points do nothing when my brain’s the burger and my heart is the charcoal. I’d love to see Balfour come back on a similar deal to what we’ve paid Thunder Dan over the last three years. Sure he could maybe do better than that deal in this crazy market, but he’s only made roughly $3.5 million over the last two years so those amounts might look pretty good, and if you add in incentive compensation add-ons there might be more common ground than one would think.