It is safe to say the Braves would not be where they are today without the excellent contributions from the bullpen. In particular, Kimbrel, Venters, and O'Flaherty have been part of a bullpen that leads the majors in WAR. Yet, we often worry whenever Fredi calls on someone else to take the mound (cue your fear of Proctor [and his -.4WAR]). It got me wondering if we have a dependency on our three headed monster. The results up to this point may surprise you.
I compared several teams with the Braves. I selected teams according to their relief pitching WAR totals, including the top 6 teams and the Phillies just for fun. I was looking to see how much each team relied on their top three relievers and thus looked to see what percentage of WAR each team's "top three" contributed. A higher percentage reveals a greater reliance on that team's top three.
Total WAR of All Relievers Leader 2nd man 3rd man % of Total WAR
from top three
Braves 5 2.0 1.4 .9 86%
Padres 3.4 1.2 .8 .8 82%
Yanks 3.4 1.4 1.2 .3 85%
Red Sox 3.4 1.1 1.0 .7 82%
Chi Sox 3.4 1.2 .8 .5 71%
Padres 3.3 1.1 .5 .5 67%
Phillies 1.1 .9 .7 .3 173%
What this tells us:
1. We are about in line with other top teams in terms of what we get out of our top 3 (at least proportionally). While we get substantially more WAR out of our relievers, we still do not have a particularly large WAR reliance on our top three.
2. If a bullpen rotation existed, the Braves would have the best bullpen rotation in baseball. The Braves have the best first, second, and third relief men in baseball according to WAR up to this point.
3. The Phillies can get a few decent bullpen arms and potentially greatly alter their position on this list in the future. It is true that Phillies starters may frequently go deep into games, but the wacky number above shows that there are several lower tier relief pitchers on the team who have had pulled the total relief WAR way down. I guess that is a trade off they made in collecting an excellent starting pitching core.
What this does not address:
1. Innings pitched has been a great concern for O'Ventrel. Pitching our bullpen in low leverage situations may be unnecessarily taxing on those primo arms. I'd venture a guess that our top three rate among the top of most relievers for most appearances.
2. Due to the massive IP count, is O'Ventbrel really being used efficiently? Sure the Braves have compiled gaudy relief WAR totals, but is that simply because they've pitched way more innings? We can all remember times that we've scolded Fredi for sending out one of them needlessly in a blowout game.
In terms of WAR, we rely on our top three about as much as the other top flight relief pitching teams.
In the future, I want to look at the efficiency of O'Ventrel. I'm thinking about calculating WAR / Innings Pitched to come up with an idea of WAR efficiency, that would compare O'Venbrel to other teams. I think this may be another way to look at our data from above. We may not rely on them heavily based on WAR totals, but I'm guessing IP will show that we use our top 3 VERY inefficiently. I encourage anyone with suggestions for the next portion.
Thanks for reading. All stats retrieved from FanGraphs. Also, sorry if the graph above has some goofy formatting.