MLB Bullpens To Target Or Avoid In Week 14 (2022)

Hey RotoBallers, another Monday is upon us and it’s time to make some decisions on who you’re going to start this week on your fantasy baseball teams once again. We’re only a week away from the All-Star break, and if you’re the type of manager who looks at as much data as possible to try and get an edge, then hopefully there’s something here. for you in my new series – the paddock report!

Perhaps you are more interested in DFS or betting (this is the area many of you probably know me from) and looking for another angle when doing your daily lineups and bets? I look at bullpen data every day when making these decisions and I think you should too!

I started tweeting some graphs I created with team bullpen stats and got such a reception from the public that I thought “this could be an article!” And after crunching a bunch of numbers late in the evening, I think I found some information you might be interested in! I’m going to explain my mindset to you in this article and explain what I think the importance of this data could be for fantasy baseball players, DFS grinders, and everyday MLB bettors. Let’s get straight to the point!

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Why is Bullpen data important?

It took me a while personally to come to the conclusion that team bullpen data was important and at the same time I realized that there was very little analysis available on this. I mean, that’s why I wanted to write this article, to try and shed light on some data that is little or not taken into account by baseball fans, a group of people who are usually addicted to statistics of all types.

Most bullpen-related content focuses on which relievers to target for saves, catches, and strikeouts. But this article is going to focus on the enclosures as a whole, not the individual pitchers. This idea originated when I started creating a number of different custom charts on Fangraphs that I used daily as inputs for DFS and betting projections. But I really think there’s something for everyone, including the seasonal fantasy baseball peeks here.

The reason is simple. In today’s game, starting pitchers are pitching fewer and fewer innings each season. Long gone are the days of guys like Curt Schilling pitching 300 innings and 15 full games. Pitch counts matter more than ever, and teams often manage their starters’ innings to ensure they can last an entire season (or playoffs). Beginners throw with maximum effort on nearly every pitch (think guys hitting 98 MPH in the sixth inning or breaking 20+ insanely sharp sliders). And each team has 7-8 other guys sitting in the bullpen waiting to come in and throw their best pitches with maximum effort.

So when we consider hitting matches, we always consider the opposing starting pitcher. I do everything from analyzing the batter and pitcher’s platoon splits to breaking down the starter’s pitch mix and how opposing hitters are hitting those pitches. The thing is, we have data (lots of data) for all of these matchups, but we’re doing all this work for two, maybe three bats. It is entirely possible for each batter to face a reliever for 1-3 extra at bats each night. And while we can’t predict which specific relievers they’ll see, we can still analyze these macro trends to see which teams are going to present them with better games more often.

The big picture

Here is the latest version of what I posted on Twitter. I’ve got my five favorite reliever stats and season and last 30-day numbers for each. Remember that color coding is from the perspective of the opposing team, so green means go (for batters) and is a bad metric for the bullpen. Red represents a good bullpen that is a bad game for opposing hitters.

I’m using xFIP as an ERA indicator here, but I think SIERA is pretty good too, if you prefer. Either way, I want a stat that we can use as an overall indicator of bullpen performance. WHIP does something similar and tells us which bullpen allows the most baserunners. If you’re chasing home runs, then HR/9 is better than total home runs allowed, because those relievers have all seen a lot of action in terms of innings pitched. This brings me to a new wrinkle!

Last 14 days

So far I’ve mostly been watching the full season and a rolling sample of the last 30 days. I wanted to zoom in a bit more and also consider the performance of each paddock over the past two weeks. The season numbers don’t move much one way or the other even with a good or bad week and a recent 30 day sample is not likely to capture when a paddock really starts to rise or fall compared to their baseline performance.

What really interested me here was the total number of innings pitched. My working theory was that relievers who had to throw more innings would be more likely to experience fatigue and therefore be more hittable. I tested this by finding the correlation coefficient between innings pitched and xFIP for the last 14 and 30 day samples. The results were a positive, although relatively weak relationship with an average correlation of 0.27 between the two data sets. Remember with correlation coefficients that a zero would mean no relationship and one would be the strongest. There is some statistical significance here in my opinion.

Look forward

This is the reward for fantastic baseball nerds throughout the season and where you are rewarded for going this far in the article. I’ve pulled every MLB team’s schedule and ranked their games for the coming week.

Again, green means GO for hitters and lower ranks are better. Each bullpen was ranked from 1 to 30 with a ranking of 1 representing the best possible game for opposing hitters.

  1. Fatigue Ranking – this is simply calculated using the total number of innings pitched by a bullpen over the most recent 14 day sample.
  2. Last 30 days xFIP – each team is ranked from 1 to 30 based on their xFIP in the last month.
  3. Overall xFIP – each team is ranked from 1 to 30 based on their xFIP for the entire season.

Some takeaways here…

  1. The Yankees really stand out here with an elite game with Cincinnati and an above average game with Boston. Not only have the Reds’ relievers been overworked lately, they’ve also been pretty bad over the past month and all season.
  2. The Tigers hitters could be sneaky this week. Their offense has shown some glimpses of life lately, and the Kansas City bullpen was one of the majors’ worst all year, while the Guardians allowed the most HR/9s to the over the past two weeks.
  3. Not that you want to use angel hitters not named Trout or Ohtani, but this next stretch is brutal because they’ll see both the Astros and Dodgers. Not only do these teams have elite starting rotations, but they’ve also rested top-notch bullpens.

Well, that’s all I think I want to say about bullpen today. If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them and hope this information can help you in some way, whatever baseball betting format is right for you!

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Neal T. Doss