A new way to evaluate setup men

Earlier this year, our colleagues in Stats and Information took a crack at redefining the quality start. Our TMI colleague Tom Tango devised a means to evaluate all relievers based on their win probability contributions (shutdowns/meltdowns).

We have our own mission. It’s two pronged. First, we wanted to strictly evaluate setup men. Second, we wanted to separate the dominant ones from the ugly ones. And we wanted a method from which you could look at the newspaper box score and divine the quality of one’s work.

Let’s start by looking at the major league leaders in holds:

Luke Gregerson (16), Mike Adams (16), Scott Downs (16), Kevin Jepsen (15)

Holds is a fine stat, but we wanted to create one that would be a significant upgrade from that.

Behold, the "perfect hold".

About the "Perfect Hold"

This year's leader, Luke Gregerson has already surpassed his MLB-leading total from last season of 11... The single-season record is 16, set by Tom Gordon in 2004... Arthur Rhodes is the all-time leader with 67, 20 more than Scot Shields and Bob Howry.

Such a hold requires a pitcher to throw at least one inning, not yield a baserunner, and not commit a faux pas along the lines of a wild pitch or balk. This stat allows us to separate the truly dominant relievers from the rest of the pack.

Your 2010 leaders in perfect holds are: Luke Gregerson (12), Mike Adams (10), Daniel Bard (7) and Scott Downs (5)

In terms of pure results, you can't get any better than a perfect hold. But you can be more dominant. So our next mission was to identify the guys who can not only finish you off in the seventh or eighth, but embarrass you in the process.

About the "Vice-Grip Hold"

The major league record for a season is eight, shared by Arthur Rhodes (2001) and Jonathan Broxton (2007)... Gregerson had six in 2009 to lead the major leagues... Rhodes is the all-time leader with 39 and has a herculean edge on the next-closest pitcher, Mike Stanton with 25.

Essentially our next concoction is a perfect hold with a dominance factor. What do you call a hold in which someone or something grabs on and won’t let go? We call it a “vise grip.”

The vise grip hold meets the following criteria

  • The pitcher got at least two outs

  • The pitcher did not allow a baserunner, nor did he throw a wild pitch or commit a balk

  • The pitcher averaged at least 1.5 strikeouts per inning pitched

Here are your 2010 leaders in vise grips:

Luke Gregerson (4), Joba Chamberlain (4), Hong-Chih Kuo (3), Daniel Bard (3)

About the "Dead-Fish Hold"

Gregerson is the only pitcher among our vise grip leaders not to have a dead fish (Chamberlain and Kuo have two each)... The 2009 leader was John Grabow with eight, two shy of Mike Venafro’s single-season record, set in 2001... All-time leader Mike Stanton has 62, a whopping 20 more than Paul Quantrill and Buddy Groom.

But what about the opposite of the vise grip? That’s the guy who comes in, makes a mess, but still maintains a lead. That’s a weak grasp, is it not? We’ll call it the “dead fish.”

A dead fish meets the following criteria

  • The pitcher yielded at least 1.5 times as many baserunners as he got outs.

  • The pitcher didn’t strike anyone out.

Here are your 2010 leaders in dead fish holds:

David Robertson (5), Darren O’Day (4), 10 pitchers tied with 3