Checking the mileage on the bullpen

Pants-splitting splitter.

Any game where your bullpen coughs up a sizable lead or your manager gets burned while playing "Musical Pitchers" is going to prompt a lot of second-guesses. Any game featuring both is going to put some remotes through the plasma screen.

Last night, Dusty ripped through a bunch of relievers. But he still managed to put his best man into a very important late game situation. Mortal again, Aroldis Chapman blew the game. He allowed two earned runs, just like Jose Valverde - arguably the best reliever in the AL last season - has done several times a month since the beginning of the season.

I'm not sure what we learned last night - other than losing that way sucks - but I thought it might be a good time to look at whether Dusty's bullpen management is creating any distortions that could turn into problems as the season wears on.

As the Bullpen Log in game threads might suggest, there's something of an Upper and Lower House to the Reds' pen. Below are a bunch of indicators of how the team's seven bullpen arms have been used thus far, based on pitches, innings and game context.

First, the innings and pitches:

Pitcher IP IP/app Pitches Pitches/app On pace for:
Aroldis Chapman 31.0 1.19 522 20.0 85.1 IP
Sean Marshall 22.1 0.79 389 13.9 60.2
Logan Ondrusek 24.2 0.83 396 13.7 66.2
Jose Arredondo 28.1 1.00 463 16.5 77.2
Sam LeCure 23.1 1.44 394 17.1 63.2
Alfredo Simon 22.2 1.48 370 16.7 61.0
J.J. Hoover 15.2 1.09 257 16.9 41.6*

* With Hoover's minor league innings, it's 50.6. Still seems a little low.

It's hard to complain too much about Aroldis Chapman's usage, at least on an innings basis. He's the best and we're getting the most of him, but not too terribly much in any one game. He is on pace for his most innings as a pro while pitching strictly as a reliever, but he did throw over 100 his rookie season. I doubt we want Chapman's innings to match your average fastball velocity so we probably wouldn't want to see him go any higher than mid-80s.

As he shows some wear, he may need to either pitch a little less often or make better use of his slider and change. Even though he's had every indication until very recently that his fastball is un-hittable, the latter will be better for his long-term development.

More concerning would be Sean Marshall's usage. Since moving out of the closer role, he's been used about half the time in what resembles a LOOGy role. Regardless of what the ERAs say, Marshall is no worse than the second-best relief talent on staff. Using him situationally - combined with letting him wait for save situations when the Reds were sturggling earlier in the season - means using him too little.

Average rest

Maybe there will be more to be mad about in the rest time from relievers. Number of days is exclusive counting, so just the days in between outings:

Pitcher Average days of rest R=0 days R=1 R>4
Aroldis Chapman 1.58 days 5 games 7 games 0 games
Sean Marshall 1.76 8 6 0
Logan Ondrusek 1.24 6 13 0
Jose Arredondo 1.32 6 12 1
Sam LeCure 3.00 1 4 5
Alfredo Simon 2.93 1 2 3
J.J. Hoover 1.84 1 6 1

With Chapman's recent struggles - and his relative struggles in back-to-back games, I would love to see Dusty steer clear of him in consecutive games for a little while. He's never given up an earned run on three days rest in his career and has not given up so much as a hit on three or more days rest this season.

Jose Arredono, meanwhile, seems a little overworked for a pitcher with his injury history, but it's hard to gripe about the results.

Leverage and win probability

Pitcher pLI gmLI inLI HiLev% WPA
Aroldis Chapman 1.55 1.80 1.54 53.8% 1.52
Sean Marshall 1.36 1.11 0.96 42.8% -0.85
Logan Ondrusek 1.73 1.75 1.28 65.5% 1.21
Jose Arredondo 0.98 0.93 0.84 32.1% 0.73
Sam LeCure 0.75 0.72 0.76 25% 0.43
Alfredo Simon 0.53 0.48 0.48 13.3% -0.04
J.J. Hoover 0.74 0.81 0.55 14.2% -0.13

Marshall, in my opinion, is the Reds' most misused reliever so far. As closer or set-up man, he hasn't been used in enough important late-game situations - or for long enough. I'm pretty sure his WPA would look a lot better if he were.

Logan Ondrusek is a close second to Marshall in that category. He's getting the least rest of any Reds' reliever, while pitching in some leverage situations that should probably be divied-up between Marshall and maybe Simon.

One thing to remember about Arredondo is that his splitter is so hard for lefties to hit, that it may (and probably should) have an influence on when he enters a game. With a pitch that good, he should be getting into more important game situations, but he is walking hitters at a close to 5-per-nine. It's not a bad idea for him to enter in the tops of innings.

Also, I can't help but think this team has one too many mopper-uppers. Simon would be my pick to move up the chain.


Almost all praise to Fangraphs.

LI: Leverage index, created by Tom Tango to measure the importance of game situations.
Pitcher's average LI for all game events
A pitcher's average LI when he enters the game.
A pitcher's average LI at the start of each inning.
percentage of appearances with an average leverage index >1.0. Something I made up.

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