Bullpen Usage

At the WGOM, ubelmann posited:

It would be interesting to chart something like winning percentage for home teams with an R run lead going into the 9th inning vs. season. I feel like I haven’t seen that anywhere? That would seem to be a strong indicator of whether or not modern bullpen usage is better than old-school bullpen usage.

That seemed like something I could jump on.

From 1977 to 2006, WE for th home team with a 1-run lead entering the 8th or 9th inning.

we-relieversNumbers from here.  Compare these numbers to this graph of bullpen usage to get an idea of when the philosophy changed concerning closers, and you get some surprising results.

1977 – 1989 (over 40% SV = 1+ IP)  –  9 of 14 seasons above average at preserving 1-run leads in the ninth. (2561 out of 2925 – 87.56% of leads preserved)

1990-2006 (over 40% SV = 1 IP)  –  4 of 16 seasons above average at preserving 1-run leads in the ninth. (3133 out of 3651 – 85.81% of leads preserved)

An artifact of a more offensive era, or a refutation of the current bullpen template of the closer as a “9th inning only” guy?

I lean toward the former, but it is pretty interesting that there’s a lack of a convincing argument for the modern bullpen.

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