Handicapping Baseball Using Accurate Bullpen Indicators

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 12:20 PM GMT

This sports handicapper understands baseball stats inside and out, and is sharing his insight on OPS, batting average and more in order to most accurately predict the performance of the bullpen.

In May of 2015, I authored several articles for this website, in which I proved that the combined batting and pitching OPS was the clearest indicator of W/L percentage for MLB teams. This article was the basis for providing BUY and SELL signals, which I flashed in subsequent articles on this site on June 1st, as well as the July 15th All Star Break. Following those signals provided healthy profit in the weeks ahead.

Incorporating the bullpen into the handicap is a far trickier proposition, for unlike knowing the starting pitcher for each team, we are not afforded the given of how long the relievers will pitch, or who the relievers will be. And with the bullpen only working an average of 3 IP per game (sometimes more, sometimes less), it is hard to find a reliable bullpen component to use for the handicap. Armed with that gargantuan task, I dauntlessly searched for 5 indicators that would offer a clue to a team’s overall success. To do so, I examined the 30 MLB teams at the completion of games August 9, 2015. At this time, each team had played approximately 110 games in the regular season. I ranked these teams from 1-30 by W/L percentage. In subsequent columns of the chart below, I compared the W/L percentage of each team with their OPS rank, ERA rank, strand rank, save rank, and index rank (a combination of strand + save). I present the chart below for your edification.

 

For those unfamiliar with the abbreviations and terms used, I will briefly outline them. 

1.      OPS-combination of on base percentage and slugging average allowed by bullpen, average is .690

2.      ERA-combined earned run average of all relievers on team, average is 3.56

3.      Strand rate-percentage of numbers inherited by reliever who do not score, average is 71%

4.      Save percentage-percent of saves recorded by reliever according to save rules established by MLB, average is 70%

5.      Index-combined percentage of strand percentage and save percentage, an average of which is 141

 

Team

W/L

Record

OPS

OPS

Rank

ERA

ERA

Rank

Strand

%

Strand

% Rank

Save

%

Save

% Rank

Index

Index

% Rank

St Louis

71-40

.642

5

2.26

1

77%

3

79%

4

156

3

KC

66-44

.601

1

2.32

2

72%

12

72%

11

144

13

Pittsburgh

65-44

.677

11

2.78

3

86%

1

78%

6

164

1

Chi Cubs

62-48

.679

12

3.44

13

74%

6

68%

15

142

14

LAD

62-49

.710

20

4.19

26

68%

22

63%

25

131

24

NYY

61-49

.635

3

3.24

7

71%

13

81%

2

152

4

Houston

61-52

.607

2

2.78

4

76%

5

64%

23

140

16

Toronto

61-52

.635

4

3.25

9

69%

16

56%

29

125

28

LAA

59-51

.670

10

3.48

15

73%

9

68%

16

141

15

NY Mets

59-52

.646

6

3.01

6

73%

11

76%

8

149

8

SF

59-52

.682

15

3.35

10

81%

2

79%

5

160

2

Wash

57-53

.680

14

3.59

16

69%

17

70%

12

139

17

Baltimore

56-54

.653

7

2.79

5

71%

14

81%

3

152

5

TB

56-56

.687

17

3.76

19

73%

10

78%

7

151

6

Texas

55-55

.758

28

4.58

30

69%

18

70%

13

139

18

Minn

55-56

.727

23

4.17

25

63%

28

82%

1

145

10

Arizona

54-56

.679

13

3.41

12

70%

15

63%

24

133

23

Detroit

54-57

.771

30

4.31

27

69%

20

66%

20

135

22

CWS

51-58

.732

25

3.60

18

63%

29

69%

14

132

26

SD

52-60

.693

18

3.88

20

74%

8

76%

9

150

7

Seattle

52-60

.731

24

3.98

21

68%

23

68%

17

136

21

Cleveland

51-59

.694

19

3.24

8

69%

19

76%

10

145

9

Atlanta

51-61

.742

26

4.14

24

77%

4

67%

18

144

12

Oakland

51-62

.713

22

4.33

28

69%

21

54%

30

123

29

Cinci

49-60

.686

16

4.00

22

66%

26

66%

19

132

25

Boston

50-62

.771

29

4.02

23

68%

24

63%

26

131

27

Colorado

47-62

.758

27

4.49

29

74%

7

63%

27

137

20

Milw

48-65

.665

8

3.40

11

66%

25

79%

6

145

11

Philly

45-67

.712

21

3.45

14

63%

30

75%

10

138

19

Miami

44-68

.666

9

3.59

17

65%

27

58%

28

123

30

Top 10

 

 

7

 

7

 

5

 

4

 

4

Bott. 10

 

 

6

 

7

 

7

 

4

 

6

Combined

 

 

13

 

14

 

12

 

8

 

10

Top 15

 

 

12

 

11

 

11

 

9

 

10

 

At the conclusion of the 30 teams, I have listed 4 rows which show the Number of teams that rank in the Top 10, Bottom 10, Combined Top and Bottom 10 and Top 15.  As hypothesized when I began the article, you can see that the order in which they are listed in the table shows the greatest priority.  Though OPS and ERA are very close in their ability to isolate the top ranked bullpens, we have seen from our previous studies that the OPS batting and pitching are clear indicators of success.  

Should you wish to put together the work I have done in one formula when handicapping games, I would use the following strength of OPS Rankings to show the strength of one team vs. their opponent.

·         40% OPS batting

·         40% OPS starter

·         20% team OPS relievers

By using the .710 average OPS for batting and pitching, you can devise a simple equation which shows how far the combination of batting, starter and bullpen are from the norm.  A simple way to use this would be to look for the better OPS rating in an underdog situation.  Another way would be to use any positive OPS rated team vs. a negative OPS rated team. 

One further note to keep in mind when making your MLB picks, regarding the above chart:  we do not have to “throw out the baby with the bath water.”  We can use this chart for conclusions about specific teams.  Take, for example, the LA Dodgers who have the best combined hitting and pitching OPS rankings, but are ranked 20th or higher in bullpen rankings in each of the 5 columns.  Clearly, the Dodgers are going to have to shore up their relief corps if they wish to advance in post-season play beyond the arms of Kershaw and Greinke.