The 10 Most Valuable Relief Pitchers of 2013

Kansas City Royals catcher Brayan Pena (27) and relief pitcher Greg Holland (56)== First of Two Pitching Lists ==

After ranking our Top 20 hitters of 2013 here and here, we’re back with two lists of pitchers.

Once again, this is just our “camera angle.”  We do not purport to have rendered all other baseball analysis obsolete, nor do we claim to “prove” that one player is better than another.  We are simply pointing out the interesting results that one gets when one examines the overlap of certain “non-random” results.

The philosophical background is here and here, and expounded upon here.

Relief pitchers are difficult to measure for a variety of reasons.  First, they don’t face a huge number of batters, so there isn’t as much data (some would call this “small sample size”; I don’t but that’s just me; I call it “small amount of data”).  Second, since the manager selects when they go into the game, they are more likely to pitch in situations that are favorable to their strengths.

So it’s not surprising that relief pitchers generally rank much higher than starters on our metrics, and these results don’t necessarily indicate that these pitchers would have the same level of success pitching as starters.

The minimum number of batters faced for ranking is 200.

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10. Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 30 MIN AL 2 0 2.30 61 0 53 0 0 36 62.2 43 16 16 5 15 77 177 0.926 6.2 0.7 2.2 11.1 5.13
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 164

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 146

Composite: 211

Thumbnail Commentary: Lefty Perkins was a first-round draft pick in 2004, and, in a two-year tryout as a starter, never managed more than 4.4 K/9.  Moving to the pen obviously unleashed the beast, since he’s been at 9.5, 10.0 and 11.1 the last three seasons.  

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9. Danny Farquhar, Seattle Mariners

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 26 SEA AL 0 3 4.20 46 0 27 0 0 16 55.2 44 29 26 2 22 79 88 1.186 7.1 0.3 3.6 12.8 3.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 157

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 161

Composite: 218

Thumbnail Commentary: Farquhar came a long way in a hurry after being considered a “warm body” obtained from the Yankee organization in the Ichiro trade.  If you isolate only the 89 batters faced in the 9th inning, his composite goes up to 231.

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8. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 28 PIT NL 3 2 1.39 72 0 24 0 0 16 71.0 60 15 11 1 8 70 254 0.958 7.6 0.1 1.0 8.9 8.75
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 182

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 150

Composite: 231

Thumbnail Commentary: Another one-time Yankee, Melancon spent time in Houston and Boston before finding a home in Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” bullpen.  And a fine home it was, although he struggled in the playoffs.

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7. Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 23 STL NL 2 4 2.63 74 0 15 0 0 3 75.1 63 25 22 4 20 108 139 1.102 7.5 0.5 2.4 12.9 5.40
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 175

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 158

Composite: 233

Thumbnail Commentary: No playoff letdown for Rosenthal, who struck out 9 of the 16 batters he faced in the World Series.  The Cards snagged Rosenthal in the 21st round of the 2009 draft, in which they also drafted Shelby Miller and Matt Carpenter.

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6. Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 36 PIT NL 0 2 2.70 54 0 41 0 0 33 50.0 40 15 15 4 13 74 131 1.060 7.2 0.7 2.3 13.3 5.69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 178

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 157

Composite: 235

Thumbnail Commentary:  Another journeyman who found the Shark Tank to his liking.  Grilli missed most of the second half, but returned for September and the playoff series.

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5. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 ATL NL 4 3 1.21 68 0 60 0 0 50 67.0 39 10 9 4 20 98 320 0.881 5.2 0.5 2.7 13.2 4.90
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 177

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 172

Composite: 249

Thumbnail Commentary: You can’t argue with Kimbrel, who’s been an absolute stud from the instant he stepped on an MLB mound in 2010.

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4. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 CIN NL 4 5 2.54 68 0 55 0 0 38 63.2 37 18 18 7 29 112 151 1.037 5.2 1.0 4.1 15.8 3.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 164

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 187

Composite: 251

Thumbnail Commentary: In the second category — the measure of “stuff” — Chapman led all major leaguers.  No surprise there.

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3. Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 25 LAD NL 4 3 1.88 75 0 45 0 0 28 76.2 48 16 16 6 18 111 190 0.861 5.6 0.7 2.1 13.0 6.17
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 186

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 168

Composite: 254

Thumbnail Commentary: The righty from Curacao has been quietly building a resume that can go toe-to-toe with Kimbrel and Chapman.

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2. Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 38 BOS AL 4 1 1.09 73 0 40 0 0 21 74.1 33 10 9 5 9 101 376 0.565 4.0 0.6 1.1 12.2 11.22
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 203

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 164

Composite: 266

Thumbnail Commentary: Uehara really just did what he’s been doing since he moved to the pen in 2010.  But the spotlight was a lot brighter.

===

1. Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2013 27 KCR AL 2 1 1.21 68 0 61 0 0 47 67.0 40 11 9 3 18 103 342 0.866 5.4 0.4 2.4 13.8 5.72
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/9/2014.
***

Obtaining non-random outs (PSA+): 191

Denying non-random offense (Conv+): 180

Composite: 271

Thumbnail Commentary: Holland cut his walk rate in half on his way to 47 saves.  He didn’t quite have Uehara’s command, but he was second only to Chapman in not letting hitters get good contact with the ball, as he only allowed six doubles and 11 total XBH..

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