Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — Orioles vs Rangers Comparison

Cody Bradford throwing a pitch. His Texas Rangers open the ALDS Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles, a matchup of teams near the bottom of the bullpen rankings.
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Reliever Roundup and Bullpen Bonanza — Orioles vs Rangers Comparison

Welcome to the Division Series! Here is the bullpen/reliever/relief corps comparison for the AL Division Series between the AL East Champion Baltimore Orioles and Wild Card Texas Rangers, based on recent form. For this edition, we’ve used stats from September 1 onward.

Statistics are for September and October only and exclude position pitchers.

Given how unfair ERA is to relievers, we use the Scoreless Outing Percentage (ScOtg%) to measure run prevention. (We use the variation that only counts earned runs.) For late-inning clutch, we use the Goose Egg and the ratio of Goose Eggs to Broken Eggs due to the major flaws in Saves and Holds. Click here for further explanation of these stats.

Texas Rangers

Relief pitching has been the Rangers’ kryptonite all season. For most of the year, middle relief was the biggest struggle. Initially, setup was, too, but the trade for Aroldis Chapman rectified that. Once Chapman arrived, he and Will Smith gave the Rangers a two-headed monster to lock down the eighth and ninth innings. As long as the Rangers got to them, they were fine. Protecting a lead while getting to them, however, got dicey far more often than the Rangers would have liked. But Chapman and Smith wore down as the season progressed, and in August, they started to break down. It continued the rest of the season. Ninth inning meltdowns ultimately played a large role in the Houston Astros snatching the AL West crown from the Rangers.

A pitcher’s chief job is keeping runs off the board. The Rangers were below the AL average (69.9%) in that department. And the relievers on the Division Series roster combined for 66.3%. On the positive side, Andrew Heaney and Cody Bradford went 5-for-6 in scoreless appearances (83.3%). Jose Leclerc, who has taken over as the closer, went 12-for-15 (80.0%), while Martin Perez went a respectable 7-for-9 (77.8%). The rest of the relief unit struggled mightily, as shown by the team scoreless percentage being as low as it is. One-time closer Will Smith, who did not even pitch in the Wild Card round, went 6-for-9 (66.7%). Chris Stratton was 7-for-11 (63.6%). Setup man-turned closer-returned to setup man Aroldis Chapman was 5-for-9 (55.6%). Josh Sborz, who missed much of September with injury, was 2-for-4 (50.0%). And Brock Burke? 4-for-10 (40.0%).

Struggling to Protect Late, Narrow Leads

Their woes in keeping runs off the board predictably translated into protecting narrow leads in late innings. It also translated into giving up the go-ahead run in a tie game. The historic average ratio (back to 1921) of Goose Eggs to Broken Eggs is around 3.0 (to 1). In September, the AL average was 2.5. The Rangers? (Gulp) 1.9.

Only Jose Leclerc (5.0) had a ratio of three or above. Aroldis Chapman had 2.5, and Andrew Heaney had 2.0. Will Smith (1.5) also had a disappointing ratio, as did Brock Burke (0.5).

Baserunners

Unsurprisingly, the Rangers had a high WHIP. After all, to score runs, a team must have baserunners. In September, the AL relief WHIP was 1.345. The Rangers relievers on the Division Series roster combined for 1.448. And this was despite the performances of Jose Leclerc (1.098), Martin Perez (0.842), and Cody Bradford (0.556). The rest of the Division Series roster was somewhere between disappointing and downright ugly. Andrew Heaney (1.500). Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith (1.750 each). Chris Stratton (1.909). Oh, it gets worse. Three had a WHIP over 2.000 — Brock Burke (2.211), Josh Sborz (2.308), and Dane Dunning (2.438, albeit in one relief appearance).

Baltimore Orioles

The Rangers came in 10th out of the 12 playoff teams in the team relief corps rankings. One of the two teams below them, however, was the Orioles. This came largely due to when they tended to give up runs — in late innings while protecting a narrow lead. When looking at the relievers on the Division Series roster, their scoreless percentage as a whole was not too shabby — 77.8%. Cionel Perez was terrific — 92.9%, or 13-for-14. DL Hall was 11-for-14 (78.6%), nearly 10 percentage points higher than the league average. Yennier Canopressed into the closer role after the season-ending injury to elite closer Felix Bautista — was 9-for-12 (75.0%), while Jacob Webb was 9-for-13 (69.2%). Danny Coulombe (8-for-12, 66.7%) was last among the relievers with double-digit appearances.

But, again, the problem wasn’t the number of times they gave up runs. It was when they gave up the runs. As a group, the Division Series roster had six Goose Eggs and five Broken Eggs — a 1.2 (to 1) ratio. DL Hall had the best ratio…at 2.0.

What to Expect from the Rangers and Orioles

The best bet for both teams is to have their own starter go deep in the game. This means, of course, that their best bet offensively is to give the opposing starter an early shower. That way they can feast on the mistakes of the opposing relief unit. In the Wild Card round against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rangers had success with this strategy. But the Orioles are rested up, so the question is whether they’ve recharged or developed rust. We shall find out soon, with first pitch at 1:03 pm Eastern.

Stat Explanation

For late-inning clutch, we use the Goose Egg and the ratio of Goose Eggs to Broken Eggs due to the major flaws in Saves and Holds. Full details about Goose Eggs are here. Otherwise, here’s the elevator speech.

A Goose Egg is like a save, except more restrictive. Here are the main points…

  • It’s done inning by inning, starting in the seventh.
  • Maximum of a two-run lead, not three, but it also includes tie games. Like the save, exceptions are made if the tying run is on base or at bat. (Not on deck, however.)
  • Run Breakdown:
    • No run of any kind — earned, unearned, or inherited — scores, it’s a goose egg (GE).
    • Earned run charged to the pitcher, it’s a broken egg (BE).
    • Any other run scores, it’s neither.
    • Earned run scores in an inning where he closes out the victory, it’s also neither.
    • Starts the inning and gives up no runs, but doesn’t finish the inning, it’s also neither.
  • He must finish the inning while recording the following number of outs:
    • No one on when he starts the inning — all three;
    • One on — at least two;
    • Two or three on — at least one.
  • Any time it’s “neither,” it’s called a “Meh,” as in “nothing special.” They’re like a stalemate in chess and count as nothing, so we don’t really talk about them.
  • Most important is the ratio of GE to BE (GE/BE). The historical average, dating to 1921, is 3.0, or 3-to-1.

Click here for the full database of these stats.

Back to the comparison.

Also See:

Playoff Rankings, Week 26 Rankings, Week 23 Rankings, Week 22 Rankings, Week 21 Rankings, Week 19 Rankings, Week 18 Rankings, Week 16 Rankings, Week 15/All-Star Break Rankings, Week 14 Rankings, Week 13 Rankings.

Week 26 Individual Rankings, Week 22 Individual Rankings, Week 21 Individual Rankings, Week 20 Individual Rankings.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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