Nov 15, 2011

The "Theory" of Relievers

Today's topic is about baseball.

I plan to go to watch the film "Moneyball" this weekend. I enjoyed reading the original book "Moneyball", which was a non-fiction about Billy Beane, the general manager of Oakland Athletics.

Oakland Athletics aren't a rich team like New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, so they can't get well-paid super stars. Billy Beane made his team competitive without enough money using findings of sabermetrics (statistical analysis about baseball).

In the baseball world there were many unscientific "theories", which hadn't been proved by any objective evidences. For example the ability of batters is usually evaluated by AVG (batting average), HR (home runs), and RBI (run batted in) and you will find these data on sports pages of newspapers. But sabermetrics found that OBP (on base percentage), SLG (slugging percentage), and OPS (on base plus slugging) are more adequate indicators.

Billy Beane selects cheap players based on sabermetrics data. He doesn't like hit and run and bunt, because sabermetrics found these tactics weren't effective.

I have a question about a "theory" of relievers. The best reliever in a team usually is assigned a closer, who pitches the end of winning games. The second best reliever is assigned a set upper, who pitches before the closer. But I think that the critical points of games aren't often the end of games. The best reliever should pitch at the critical point of games, should he?

Now the Nippon series is being held, which are the playoffs of Japanese professional baseball. In the second game of the Nippon series Nagoya Dragons scored a run at 1-0 in the top of the seventh inning. In the bottom of the seventh inning Fukuoka Hawks got runners on second and third bases with one out. Dragons' manager Hiromitsu Ochiai changed the pitcher into the set upper, Takuya Asao.

I thought that this was the critical point of this game and that Dragons should send the best reliever. I'd like to know which pitcher should send at that time sabermetrics point out.

Interestingly, Dragons' set upper, Asao, is the best reliever in his team. Dragons' closer, Hitoki Iwase, is an old hand. He has a lot of experience, but already peaked out. Similarly, Hawks' closer Takahiro Mahara is also an old hand and their set upper Brian Falkenborg is in better shape than Mahara.

I don't know if Dragons' manager Ochiai intentionally used the best reliever Asao at the critical point in that game.

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