Hey, how about some good, old fashioned statistical baseball chatter? The Hot Stove is still simmering, but with the Wade Davis trade still fresh in our collective consciousness, why not look at some Royals bullpen numbers, courtesy of the Bill James Handbook and Baseball Reference?
Davis is credited with 39 “clean” outings in 45 appearances. The Handbook defines a “clean” appearance as one where the pitcher didn’t allow a run or an inherited run to score. Seems fair. As you probably know, I like to look at something like that as a percentage for a better perspective. So in other words, Davis had a “clean” outing 87 percent of the time.
For comparison sake, Joakim Soria had 46 “clean” appearances. Yay, that’s better than Davis! Except Soria pitched in 70 games. Oh. That’s not so good. That’s a “clean” rate of 66 percent. That’s actually kind of awful.
The Royals had 10 relievers make more than 20 appearances last year. Here they are ranked by percentage of “clean” outings.
There’s not much to really glean from the table. It’s just kind of a fun exercise. But the names do tend to fall in an order you would expect. Davis was amazing and Kelvin Herrera was awesome in his own right. Luke Hochevar and Matt Strahm ranking three and four, respectively, is impressive because of how Ned Yost used them as firemen. Hochevar inherited 30 runners and allowed only four to score. Strahm, who picked up the role after Hochevar hit the DL, inherited 18 and allowed only two to touch the plate.
The bottom five is about what you would expect. Chien-Ming Wang’s average Leverage Index was 0.5, so it’s not exactly a huge deal he made a mess of things when he was on the mound. The game was pretty much out of hand by the time he stood up in the bullpen to get warm. Wang appeared in three tie games – all were in extra innings – and pitched with a lead four times. In those seven outings, he never gave up the game. Hey! Think positive!
Meanwhile, the disturbing name is, indeed, Soria. Despite mounting evidence, Yost kept running him out in high leverage situations. His Leverage Index of 1.6 was second in the bullpen, behind only Davis at a 2.0 LI. A high Leverage Index plus a low rate of Clean outings…yeah. You get the picture.
Davis dominated in so many ways and absolutely deserves to be in the conversation with the top closers in the game. Sure, there may have been questions about his medicals and relief pitching is notoriously finicky business, but the Cubs got great value in this trade. This isn’t to say the Royals didn’t get value in return. It’s just the Royals built their championship teams on the back of an extraordinairly strong bullpen. Yeah, yeah…their relievers rolled off 41 consecutive scoreless innings at one point last year with Davis not in the bullpen, but if you think that’s reason not to be worried about the next edition of the Royals pen, I don’t know what to tell you. Davis will be missed.
The Royals were great when Davis and his relief cohorts were great. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was a large one. Now the task begins to rebuild the pen. Good luck finding another cyborg.