Monday, November 30, 2015


You may dimly remember a series of posts about an obscure stat that lives in the bowels of the data at Forman et fils--a statistical breakout for relief pitcher that they call "Non-save situations."

It appears at first (and quite possibly even second and third) glance to be a catch-all, garbage-like stat, capturing all of the performances by relievers when the game is either well under control (ahead  by four or more runs), or where the team is trailing--and also when the score is tied.

It also captures early inning usages of relievers (prior to the sixth inning) regardless of the game situation, but these are the rarest of the events that cluster into this odd "catch-all" area.

Oddly enough, however, these situations produce a .570 WPCT for the pitchers who get decisions in this "afterthought area." (That WPCT, by the way, is for one hundred and two seasons' worth of data: the won-loss totals for "non-save situation" decisions are 39671 (wins) and 29966 (losses),

When studying World Series teams, the question regarding these games in the context of the question in  our title is rather interesting with respect to assessing the meaning of this "outcome anomaly." Will it prove to be a random function--meaning that all teams, regardless of their overall won-loss record, win around 57% of the decisions that occur from these situations--or is it a function that is defined and controlled by team quality, where better teams have better WPCTs in their "non-save situations" decisions.

Now, if you read those blog posts, you'll already know the answer. It turns out that the function is indeed defined and controlled by team quality. Teams that have won the World Series have an aggregate WPCT of .656 in non-save situation decisions; teams that lost the World Series have an aggregate WPCT of .630 for this breakout.

So it's very likely that the thing that World Series winning teams have done best over the course of baseball history is to generate a significantly higher-than-average WPCT in games where the pitcher getting the decision is working in a non-save situation. Who woulda thunk?

Actually, with the number of decisions occurring in the non-save situation on the increase (due to the rise of reliever innings), it's becoming part of the strategic landscape--and a team with otherwise ordinary performance elsewhere can offset that with a top-flight performance in this obscure area. That was most definitely the case for the Royals in 2015 (24-11, .686 WPCT, 2.92 ERA) and the Giants in the previous season (30-7, .811 WCT, 2.80 ERA).

Thus a "garbage" stat, one apparently deserving the briefest of afterthoughts, is evolving into another key tool in winning games. And, as we noted in the earliest posts about it, it restores meaning in the won-loss stats...consider it another piece of moral relativism stuffed down the throats of those who probably aren't paying attention.