Thursday, May 28, 2015

Homemade Analytics: The Seibu Lions Bullpen

When it comes to the world of Analytics, Tatsushi Masuda shines brightest so far in 2015.
With interleague play underway in the land of the Rising Sun, we've come to a point in the season where the Lions bullpen has amassed enough of a sample size for us to take a closer look at their individual performances to date.

If you haven't already, please read the post on the starters' analysis. In that post, I go over the calculations for the metric we're using to analyze pitcher performance (Fielding Independent Pitching) and I go into the process of crunching these numbers. And we then take a look at the Lions rotation and how they're holding up in the world of sabermetrics.

Now for the bullpen, only 7 Lions bullpen pitchers have enough of a sizable sample size to be included in this study. We'll be comparing their FIPs to their ERAs from this year as well as previous seasons. Looking at prior years is a big part of analyzing whether something is a trend or a cold hard fact.

We start with Esmerling Vasquez. The Lions new foreign import, who was just recently deactivated and is eligible to return this Sunday.


FIP: 3.52, ERA: 3.00 (18.0 IP in 16 games)

Early on, Esmerling Vasquez has shown signs of promise, while also flashing signs of head scratching. With all that said, these numbers show just how ridiculous the Lions management decision to deactivate Vasquez was. He's had issues with walks (his BB/9 is at 7.0) but he has a nasty repertoire which has yet to give up the long ball.

In my general opinion, relievers who don't give up the long ball are quite valuable because they rarely give up blow up innings. While pitchers who keep the ball in the part will have their ups and downs but the manager can limit them by recognizing when they're on their game or they're not. It's hard to tell whether or not these numbers will continue for Vasquez, but he'll need to keep his walks down when he returns.

Now onto the lefty reliever, Shota Takekuma.


FIP: 3.93, ERA: 4.83 (started 4 games, made 10 relief appearances in 31.2 IP total)


FIP: 6.45, ERA: 3.29 (started 2 games, made 7 relief appearances in 13.2 IP total)


FIP: 3.34, ERA: 3.70 (started 1 game, while making 46 relief appearances in 48.2 IP total)


FIP: 3.18, ERA: 3.63 (17.1 IP in relief)

Takekuma has really been up and down in his career. At the age of 25, it looks as though the lefty has found a place in the bullpen. He's nothing special, but he's respectable. He has plenty of control issues and that continues once again this year (BB/9 is 4.7 which is higher than his career BB/9 of 4.2). He strikes out a decent amount, but nothing to write home about. Once again, he shows an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and let his defense decide how he's going to be written up in the headlines the next morning.

Jury is still out on Takekuma long term without a definitive long term sample size, but if I were Norio Tanabe, I would use a combination of Vasquez and Takekuma to get through a sticky situation in the 6th and 7th inning. Tanabe has previously shown this with Takekuma getting more innings when leading. A combination of the two can be effective enough, especially considering the other guys who we've yet to evaluate.

Next up: Toshihiro Iwao


FIP: 6.62, ERA: 9.49 (12.1 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.94, ERA: 1.80 (20.0 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.31, ERA: 7.29 (21.0 IP in relief)

Another pitcher who was recently deactivated, Iwao is an interesting case study. He won't be eligible to return until June 6th, but I believe Iwao needs to stay there longer. The 27 year old has potential, his strikeout rate is tremendous (9.0 K/9 this year, 9.4 last year), but his control is atrocious (6.4 BB/9 this year).

His high strikeout rate, combined with his ability to keep the ball in the park has allowed him to receive more favorable FIP ratings than his ERA would indicate. There is no doubt that he has been a bit unlucky with BABIP but he needs to show better control to earn a move back to a place in the bullpen.

Yosuke Okamoto


FIP: 3.29, ERA: 3.84 (started 6 games, 26 relief appearances, 77.1 IP total)


FIP: 3.93, ERA: 4.06 (started 16 games, 6 relief appearances, 84.1 IP total)


FIP: 5.51, ERA: 6.60 (started 3 games, 7 relief appearances, 30.0 IP total)

The 29 year old former starter has completely lost his way at this level. His walk rate is alright at best (3.3 BB/9) but he's getting beyond tagged and is giving up 2.1 home runs per 9 innings. A ridiculous rate that has no place anywhere above farm.

There's no statistical data that gives any bright spots for this particular player, I'm not sure what the Lions management will do with him in the future. He's eligible to return on June 1st, but I highly doubt he will be back. What exactly is he good for?

Atsushi Okamoto


FIP: 3.57, ERA: 3.09 (43.2 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.16, ERA: 2.11 (55.1 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.57, ERA: 4.11 (57.0 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.46, ERA: 4.50 (18.0 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.58, ERA: 2.75 (39.1 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.79, ERA: 2.60 (17.1 IP in relief)

Here's a great example on how useful FIP can be, especially with lots of long term data. You can see from the elder Okamoto's numbers that his ERA's tend to fluctuate, while his FIP's stay pretty consistent. Fluctuating ERA's can suggest that he's been on the good and bad side of luck, and you have to expect Okamoto's FIP to return to the 3.57 area, his strikeouts are down which could be because of age, but his walk rate is looking very good.

He'll need to keep the home runs down to the level we're used to, but Okamoto looks to be another reliable option looking forward. Tanabe has mostly used him in medium leverage situations for 2015, or when trailing.

Setup Man: Tatsushi Masuda


FIP: 3.64, ERA: 3.76 (started 2 games, made 40 relief appearances in 52.2 IP total)


FIP: 2.51, ERA: 2.82 (44.2 IP in relief)


FIP: 1.40, ERA: 3.04 (23.2 IP in relief)

The 27 year old setup man is having a (current New York Yankees setup man) Dellin Betances type year for the Lions. He's striking everyone out and quite frankly, he's been unlucky to have not performed better in the ERA category. He's been the Lions best relief pitcher, and that's because of his ability to blow guys away, and avoid the long ball.

His walk rate is a tad over 2.5 which will do and is around his normal rate, while his strikeout rate has gone from 7.5 in 2013 to a whopping 10.1. I think Tanabe should consider using Masuda for multiple innings to shorten the bridge, but whether Masuda can pitch well after sitting down is something that has yet to be seen. He has only gone one notable game beyond one inning, which was in Hokkaido where he was asked to get four outs and barely escaped

Closer: Tomomi Takahashi


FIP: 2.91, ERA: 3.38 (18.2 IP in relief)


FIP: 1.70, ERA: 2.01 (62.2 IP in relief)


FIP: 3.24, ERA: 1.35 (20.0 IP in relief)

After a superhuman year in 2014 which was his first season as the closer, 2015 has so far been a solid year, but not nearly the kind of year the Lions closer has been used to having. His career strikeout rate of 10.9 has nearly been cut in half to 6.2 but even with that he still posts a solid 3.24 which any other pitcher would love to have.

All he has to do is just increase his strikeout rate just a little more and he'll be back to having those superhuman numbers. The 26 year old lefty is an impressive specimen and will only get more fascinating as his career goes on. The Lions are in good hands with him at the back end of their rotation for the next several years.

Overall, though the bullpen has been much maligned at times this season, the numbers show that this bullpen is something that is workable. As the season goes on, several strategies to get out of jams will need to be employed. I nominate the usage of pitching Masuda for multiple innings as the best out of all the solutions but in the meantime, using Takekuma and Vasquez in tandem should be a serviceable solution to creating a bridge to get to the back end of the Lions bullpen which is just tremendous. We will revisit these numbers later on in the season to provide further clarity on who these pitchers are as players.

As soon as the return date of Lions ace Takayuki Kishi is confirmed, I will craft up a post that analyzes Kishi in depth to give our fellow Lions fans and anyone else a key of what to expect from him going forward.

Until then, Ganbarre Raionzu 頑張れ /  ライオンズ!

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