2012 in Review: The Bullpen (Chapman, Marshall, Broxton and more)

Jonathan Daniel

Pretty much everyone was good.

It seemed like pretty much every national broadcast of the Reds in 2012- and most of those on Fox Sports Ohio - contained one or both of the following: (1) an info-graphic showing how much better the Reds' relievers were than the rest of the league, (2) a statement about how Aroldis Chapman was having an insane year.

This post will be no different. The relief corps was very good in 2012. Better, at the very least, than any Reds' bullpen since the Graves-Williams-Sullivan in '99 - if not since the Nasty Boys themselves. And it featured the best season of relief by any Red in history, with the possible exception of Dibble in '90.

Certainly the most bombastic.

In the era of modern bullpens, here's how I'd rank the Top 5 by team:

  1. 1988 (Franco, Rijo, Dibble, Murphy)
  2. 2012 (Chapman, Marshall, Broxton)
  3. 1990 (Meyes, Dibble, Charlton)
  4. 1999 (Graves, Sullivan, Williamson)
  5. 1986 (Franco, Robinson, Power, Murphy)

And by reliever:

  1. Aroldis Chapman, 2012 (71.2 IP, 282 ERA+, 15.3 K/9, 23 OPS+ against)
  2. Rob Dibble, 1990 (98.0 IP, 229 ERA+, 12.5 K/9, 42 OPS+)
  3. Ted Abernathy, 1967 (106.1 IP, 299 ERA+, 7.45 K/9, 32 OPS+)
  4. Rob Dibble, 1989 (99 IP, 173 ERA+, 12.8 K/9,49 OPS+)
  5. (tie)Randy Meyers, 1990 (86.1 IP, 193 ERA+,10.1 K/9, 58 OPS+) / Scott Williamson, 1999 (93.1 IP, 194 ERA+, 10.1 K/9, 44 OPS+)

The average reliever in the NL this season had a 3.77 ERA and surrendered a .247/.323/.382 slash-line. The Reds' bullpen decided to do this instead:

IP BA OBP SLG ERA WHIP K/9
434.1 .219 .303 .336 2.65 1.220 9.9

The single most impressive stat is that, as a bullpen, they were just a shade below 10 K/9. They led the majors in raw ERA, park-adjusted ERA and K%. They allowed the lowest opponents' batting average in the NL and were second-lowest in their league in WHIP and HR/9.

And though Chapman will always be in a class of his own, there was also relative uniformity in the kick-assery, which allowed Dusty to avoid leaning on any one reliever too heavily. This was happening on top of longer outings from a horse-healthy starting rotation.

Chapman led the 'pen in innings pitched with a modest 71.2. The next five guys were clumped between 54 and 61 innings.

The biggest weak spot for the bullpen was control. Where they were elite in the other two true outcomes (Ks, HRs), they ranked fourth-highest in the majors in BB%. The biggest offenders were Jose Arredondo and Logan Ondrusek. They combined to pitch 27% of relief innings, while walking what amounted to almost a batter per outing. Things could get pretty choppy if either of them were brought into "dirty" innings.

How they were used

What I expected to happen now seems pretty ironic, since it was written before Madson's injury and Chapman's re-commitment to the bullpen ceremony. That it's a good irony may be the greatest gift of all.

Here's how it really happened. I left out anyone who pitched less than 10 innings and sorted this by average "leverage when entering the game":

Pitcher IP IP/G gmLI pLI Role(s)
Aroldis Chapman 71.2 1.0 1.86 1.76 Closer, set-up
Jonathan Broxton 22.1 1.0 1.69 1.62 Set-up (8th), back-up closer
Logan Ondrusek 54.2 1.0 1.49 1.41 Set-up (7th & 8th)
Sean Marshall 61 0.2 1.41 1.51 Set-up (7th & 8th), lefty specialist, closer
Sam LeCure 57.1 1.1 1.22 0.91 Middle relief, set-up
Jose Arredondo 61 1.0 0.93 0.88 Middle relief, 7th inning
J.J. Hoover 30.2 1.0 0.88 1.12 Middle relief, 8th inning
Alfredo Simon 61 1.2 0.63 0.65 Long relief, mop-up

Key:

gLI: "Game leverage index," indicator of average importance of the game situation when the pitcher entered

pLI: average leverage index for all game events

IP/G: Innings per game, rounded to nearest third of an inning

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