The Bullpen Lays an Egg

Well, it's been interesting so far, hasn't it? The offseason, as has been written about at length, failed to produce a marquee closer. "That's no trouble," the team insisted, "we have plenty of options to choose from to close the ninth." In spring training, Blake Treinen was hyped as having the best stuff they'd ever seen. And, being in spring training, his stuff was also almost certainly in the best shape of its life. There was Enny Romero and his incredible heat, if it could be controlled. There was Koda Glover, whose name, if you squint, kind of sounds like Kid Closer. And to back all that up, they brought in Joe "Nails" Blanton and gave Joe Nathan an invite. What could go wrong?

Everything, apparently.

The bullpen is on many a slugger's shortlist to toss to them for the home run derby, should they get an invite. Blake Treinen's stuff may in fact not be in the best shape of its life, and, while he may have been credited with a hold in the 3-1 victory last night, that was short for Hold on to your Butts, an image which I don't think I'm ever going to be able to retire from the game threads if I wanted to, and has a proud and deep history dating as far back as Rafael Soriano, but if I had found it sooner, it probably would have been in use earlier.

With all that in mind, I turned to a recent FiveThirtyEight article, The Save Ruined Relief Pitching. The Goose Egg Can Fix It. One of the common arguments behind not getting one of those fancy pants closers was that they've racked up a lot of saves, which is a useless statistic unless you're an agent, and in that case saves are cash-money. The save, and by extension its kid-brother the hold, are relatively useless statistics, perhaps marginally better than the pitcher win, but not much.

So they invented a new one. I like new statistics. I am especially fond of spurious statistics that only allow one to make bad decisions if used in a serious context, but I didn't get that lucky, this one actually purports to do something useful.

The new statistic, the Goose Egg, is in honor of hall of fame pitcher Rollie Fingers Goose Gossage, who by pure coincidence (I'm sure) is also the all-time leader in the statistic invented twenty-some years after his last pitch. The basic gist behind it is that it quantifies how good of a job a reliever does of not screwing his team's chances of winning when he comes in a game late and close. A goose egg is defined as following:

A relief pitcher is awarded a goose egg for each inning in which the following is true:

  1. It is the seventh inning or later;
  2. At the time the pitcher faces his first batter of that inning
    1. The score is tied;
    2. The pitcher's team has a lead of one or two runs; OR
    3. The tying run is on base
  3. No runs (earned or unearned) are charged to him in the inning and no inherited runners score while the pitcher is in the game; AND
  4. The pitcher number of outs recorded by the pitcher plus the number of inherited base runners is at least three.
This is a modification of several requirements of the save, it rewards a pitcher for keeping the game tied if he comes in that situation, it assumes that if a run scores, you haven't done the job you were called upon to do (even if you kept the lead), and that three run leads in a clean inning ought to be sufficiently safe for just about anyone in the bullpen, and multiple innings of work can qualify for multiple goose eggs.

There is a companion broken egg statistic, which is awarded under more lenient circumcises. A broken egg is awarded (or thrown?) when:
  1. A pitcher enters in a goose egg situtation (satisfies parts 1 & 2 of goose egg rule);
  2. An earned run is charged to the pitcher; AND
  3. The pitcher does not close out the win for the team.
To be honest with you, I'm not 100% in on the broken egg rule because of the Slaten exception (if a pitcher catches an inherited runner, for example by a sacrifice fly, that pitcher is not awarded a broken egg). I would prefer to strengthen it by changing (2) to be at least "an earned run is charged to the pitcher OR the trying or go-behind run scores while the pitcher is in the game." I can see not awarding a broken egg if you cash in an inherited runner to make it 2-1, I can't if you give up the lead. When going through the Nationals games thus far, I'll refer to outings that qualify only for my version as rotten eggs.

So, now that we know what they look like, how does the bullpen match up on the new stat? Fortunately, the season is still early, so it's not too much work to go through them:

Miami Marlins @ Washington Nationals
April 3-6, 2017

Nationals 4 - Marlins 2
Goose Eggs: Solis (8th), Treinen (9th)
Things started so smoothly for the bullpen this year, didn't they? Solis had a 3-2 lead to work with and Treinen a 4-2 lead and both had perfect 1-2-3 innings. Goose eggs for everyone!

Nationals 6 - Marlins 4
Goose Eggs: Pérez (8th)
Enny Romero started the 7th and 8th ahead four. He surrendered a home run and a single. Joe Blanton entered with a three run lead and a man on, so the tying run was on deck. After Ozuna singled, Blanton was replaced by Pérez who came in with the tying run at the plate in Derek Dietrich. He got Dietrich to ground out for the goose egg. Treinen started the ninth with a three run lead, out of goose egg range.

Marlins 4 - Nationals 3
Goose Eggs: Glover (7th)
Broken Eggs: Kelley (8th), Solís (9th), Blanton (10th)
Rotten Eggs: Treinen (9th)
Glover entered the 7th with a 1-0 lead, which he held. Kelley entered the 8th with a two run lead, which he surrendered by allowing a game-tying 2 R HR to JT Realmuto. Solís entered the 9th with the 3-2 lead, but got into some trouble. After getting a double play that advanced Hechavarria to 3rd, he was lifted for Blake Treinen, who surrendered a run-scoring single to Tyler Moore. Since the earned run was charged to Solís, he gets the broken egg and Treinen would get away scot-free, but I'm hanging a rotten egg on him. He earned it. In the 10th, Joe Blanton surrendered the go-behind run for his first broken egg of the season.

Washington Nationals @ Philadelphia Phillies
April 7-9, 2017

Nationals 7 - Phillies 6
Goose Eggs: Glover (8th, 2)
Enny Romero allowed a single and walk to start the 8th, and Koda Glover came in with a three run lead and the tying run at the plate, inducing three straight outs without allowing a run.

Phillies 17 - Nationals 3
No eggs to award anyone. Let's just not talk about this game.

Phillies 4 - Nationals 3
Broken Eggs: Glover (9th)
The Nationals came back in the top of the ninth to tie it at three, but a walk and couple of singles off of Glover brought in the walk-off run for the Phillies.

St Louis Cardinals @ Washington Nationals
April 10-12

Nationals 14 - Cardinals 6
Goose Eggs: Albers (7th), Glover (8th, 3)
Before this one got out of hand, both Albers and Glover pitched shutout innings with a two run lead in the 7th and 8th, respectively.

Nationals 8 - Cardinals 3
Cardinals 6 - Nationals 1
No eggs or egg chances in either game.

Philadelphia Phillies @ Washington Nationals
April 14-16

Nationals 3 - Phillies 2
Goose Eggs: Glover (8th, 4), Treinen (9th, 2), Kelley (10th)
Each pitched a shutout inning in the 8th, 9th, and 10th before Murphy walked off driving Harper in.

Phillies 4 - Nationals 2
Broken Eggs: Blanton (8th, 2)
Unlike Glover, Treinen, and Kelley the day before, Blanton entered a 2-2 game and gave up a 2 R HR.

Nationals 6 - Phillies 4
Broken Eggs: Treinen (9th)
Rotten Eggs: Glover (8th)
Defensive misadventures provided the setup for Glover to cash in Daniel Nava, an unearned run charged to Gío to give up the lead. Not a broken egg, but still rotten. In the 9th, Treinen would give up the go-behind run before loading the bases and being replaced by Kelley. Kelley put out the fire, but without a lead or tie to protect, he was not egg-eligible here.

Washington Nationals @ Atlanta Braves
April 17-19, 2017

Nationals 3 - Braves 1
Goose Eggs: Kelley (9th, 2)
Entering the 9th with a three run lead, Treinen struggled, again allowing a run and loading the bases before being replaced by Kelley. Unlike the previous game, he had not surrendered the lead and when Kelley got the out, he got the egg as well. You're a good egg, Shawn. Because he entered with a three run lead, Treinen was assumed to be competent enough to not give it up and was not egg-eligible. Instead, he just gets a SMH.

And that brings us to today, here's the current table of goose eggs/broken eggs/rotten eggs, sorted by total chances:
Pitcher       GE  BE  RE
Glover        4   1   1
Treinen       2   1   1
Kelley        2   1   0
Solís         1   1   0
Blanton       0   2   0
Pérez         1   0   0
Albers        1   0   0
I'm not sure this is really intended to answer any questions about what the Nationals ought to do, but if you had caught the article and wondered how that statistic matched up to the games so far, it's an interesting look into it. I think these examples make a fair shake for why my rotten egg ought to be included in the broken egg as well, but I think the margins are worth debating.

All FanPosts on FBB consist of content created by site users without editorial oversight by Federal Baseball, and do not necessarily represent the views of the FBB editorial staff.