Ranking the Bullpen: LOB%

Also: beards - Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Certainly, even when the starters have been shaky this year, the bullpen has come through in a big way again. Led by Grant Balfour, Sean Doolittle, and Ryan Cook, they are turning in another impressive season of work.

One way to retrospectively look at how they've performed is to look at LOB%.  This isn't really culled from the boxscores though.  Here is how it is calculated:

LOB% = (H+BB+HBP-R)/(H+BB+HBP-(1.4*HR))

(Calculation taken from Fangraphs)

In other words, this is a ratio of a pitchers' baserunners allowed via walks, hits, hit-by-pitches, subtracted by a ratio of his runs allowed and homeruns allowed.  For comparison's sake, 72% is a good historical basis for the league average LOB%.  Since 2004, American League LOB% has hovered from between 71.1% to 75.5%.  This year, league average LOB% is at the high end at 74.7%.

This further shows the relative strength of, and importance of, a bullpen in today's game.  Here is how the A's stack up against the rest of the American League (note that I've italicized the contenders):

Team

LOB%

Yankees

81.7

Royals

81.3

Rangers

77.6

Red Sox

77.0

Orioles

76.9

Athletics

76.9

Twins

76.1

Blue Jays

75.5

Tigers

73.7

Indians

73.3

Rays

73.1

White Sox

70.8

Astros

70.0

Mariners

69.8

Angels

69.5

(I left out the Yankees and Royals as contenders as they are 6.5 back each from the wild card spots, but a couple hot streaks by them and some cold play by the A's and others could vault them right back in the race)

The A's are in the top tier with the Rangers, Red Sox, and Orioles as far as bullpen LOB% is concerned, with the Tigers, Indians, and Rays at a lower rung.  The differences intragroup are relatively insignificant, but intergroup are larger.  Strange how it fractures out into tiers like that, actually.

Here is how the A's relievers themselves break down individually:

Player

LOB%

Grant Balfour

91.1

Pat Neshek

80.2

Dan Otero

80.0

Ryan Cook

77.7

Jerry Blevins

76.0

Sean Doolittle

72.8

Chris Resop*

70.5

Evan Scribner*

67.3

Jesse Chavez

67.0

*Not on the 25-man roster right now

(Note that I also left off Sonny Gray, Hideki Okajima, and Brett Anderson, as they have thrown only 13.1 relief innings combined this year.)

As some would expect, Grant Balfour ranks high on this list (second in the AL after Koji Uehara, in case you were wondering).  That's to be expected, though, as high-K pitchers tend to be that way, since they have a higher percentage of strikeouts as their outs overall, and strikeouts almost never score anyone.  On the opposite end, also as expected, Jesse Chavez ranks relatively low.  That being said, he's also been a garbage time pitcher several times this year, and that definitely doesn't help as far as runs allowed are concerned.

This is simply an alternate way to look at how the A's bullpen stacks up against others.  Personally, while I like FIP as a measure of starters, relievers are much tougher bunch to measure effectively given that they may end up pitching in late-inning, high-leverage situations.  It's not perfect, but LOB% does measure how good a reliever might be at preventing those important runs from scoring.

Given the tidy 2:19 in which yesterday's game finished, the A's and Mariners will surely play a four-hour marathon tonight.  First pitch is again at 7:05, with Billy Frijoles as your gamethread host.

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