The Ensured Loss

Justin Speier

The Ensured Loss

This is a follow-up inspired by K-Man’s article on BJ Ryan and specifically the discussion about use of relief pitchers and the statistics used to measure their usefulness.

Relief pitcher’s appearances in games that their team is losing are treated marginally by statistics. The major categories to measure a reliever’s success are traditionally W/L, K, ERA SV% and the Games Held% and Inherited Runners Scored.

Now, relief pitchers do not take as many decisions as starters for obvious reasons. There is also a trend of current relievers not taking as many decisions as relievers in the 1960-1980s. This is a result of the use of a higher quantity of relief pitchers. I cannot say that all relief pitchers, on average, have more or less appearances but they do average less innings pitched. The below graphic shows that while, games and GF have remained as a very comparable ratio across the ages usually between 75-85%, IP and W+L have been diminishing in the last dozen years.

For sake of ease I chose the leading relief pitchers based on saves since 1960, we can see that how the trends in diminishing IP, W+L are present but we are not so interested in those players as we have saves to measure relievers by. However, the same trend is present in non-closing relief pitchers without the benefit of measuring a meaningful amount of GF, and Svs. Within the middle relievers we have no hard stat to measure their success.


                            Games  IP            W+L       GF          Svs


Hoffman              68           74           8              56           39

Rivera                   66           82           8              55           38

Franco                  68           76           10           47           25

Henke                   68           83           8              58           32

Reardon               68           87           10           53           28

Smith                    67           85           10           53           31

Quisenberry       68           105         8              55           24

Sutter                   68           107         13           52           30

Gossage               66           116         14           44           20

Campbell             67           118         13           43           12

Fingers                 65           117         15           49           23

Lyle                        68           105         12           47           18

Marshall               65           126         18           49           17

Face                       65           106         15           44           14


In the last decade we have seen Holds and Blown Saves introduced. However, this truly marginalizes the games that a relief pitcher does not come in with a lead. A middle reliever on a bad team will always get fewer save and hold opportunities than a good team.

Also, non-closers can receive quite a few BS as he is put in situations where it is a save opportunity by rule but not by intent by the manager. If someone saves the game he will get a hold. Any reliever put into the game after the fifth inning with his team leading is in a SVO, but if he loses the lead he is charged a BS.

Yes, the hold and blown hold is a good measure of a reliever’s ability to hold the lead. But what about games in which a reliever comes in with his team trailing? Are the results of his pitching of lesser value while his team is losing a game rather than winning? It seems so. With a reliever taking about 50% less decisions today than in the 1970s they have less a chance to win a game. However, their actions during an appearance in a losing situation should not be marginalized for the fact they cannot get a SV, or Hold. A good appearance from the bullpen in a losing cause is buried in averages, ERA, WHIP, IRS etc and is not available unless a nerd like me wants to go and look through game logs. For example, a pitcher who picks up the pieces when his starter gives up 5 early runs, goes 6 innings of scoreless 2-hit ball. If his offense does not tie or take the lead his efforts are buried in his ERA, WHIP etc.

This is why I want to investigate adding a stat called the Ensured Loss (EL) as a good reflection of middle-reliever’s ability to keep their team within striking distance.

How the EL would work is almost a reverse save or reverse hold.

1) An EL situation is when a reliever who is not the pitcher of decision in which his team is down 3 or less runs. When the pitcher gives up a run to put his team down by 4 runs he is given an EL.

2) This next situation is up for revision but in close games the pitcher who gives up the losing run in a game is awarded an EL. A random example, Joe Blownsave comes in the eighth inning with His Team down 2-1, he gives up 3 runs and His Team go down 5-1. In His Teams half of the inning they put up a 3-spot to go down 5-4 and the game ends with that result. In this case the starter would get the decision, an L, but the reliever did not hold the score to give his team a real chance to win. Hence, he ensured the loss.

Such a stat, coupled with a similar stat called a “Win Chance” in which a reliever holds a reachable lead would help statistically define middle relief pitchers where their averages and save ops and holds do not do the trick.

Jim Acker

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5 replies on “The Ensured Loss”
  1. says: Kman

    IE Justin Speier?? I don’t understand the Speier hate. Two seasons in a row ERA under 3.00. Now I used your EL system and went back through the game log and play-by-plays of Speier’s season.

    Jays record in games speiere pitches:

    39 – 18


    Grand total of ONE!!!! May 16th against the Angels. In the 6th inning when the Jays were trailing 4 – 2. ONE!

    So while you may like your statistic, choose someone else than Speier to use as your example(ie).

    By the way, just quickly looking at GOLDEN BOY brandon league he has at least 2 EL, sept 18 vs NYY & aug 3rd vs NYY. There may be more, as it was only a quick look. So is it possible that you could go back in and edit this story and sub League in the IE portion of the article? I like to keep statistical assertions correct, if at all possible.


  2. says: Early

    I edited it just for you and it is still nothing more than an example in no way is it or was it intended to be a statistical assertion. I should have used Accardo last night vs NYY but it still would have been just one example of one game. You need to look past the article and look at the content. I am trying to give an upfront account of players effectiveness. Someone can have an abominable outing and still get credited with a Hold or Save or my fav a blown save and then piggy backing for a win. While someone has a great outing in a losing cause and the results are not recognised in the canon of commonly kept stats. The result is buried in his ERA, WHIP.

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