Edwards: The real reliever problem in baseball

From Craig Edwards at FanGraphs on August 21, 2019:

With so many variables, isolating specific trends in baseball can be tricky. Relievers have been pitching more and more innings. Strikeouts keep going up. The ball has been juiced, de-juiced, and re-juiced, making home run totals hard to fathom and difficult to place in context, both for this year and for years past. One noticeable aspect of this season’s play, influenced by some or all of the factors just listed, is that relievers are actually performing worse than starters. Our starter/reliever splits go back to 1974, and that has never happened before. Here is how starter and relievers have performed since 2002.


A healthy gap between the two roles has existed for some time, but seems to have taken an abrupt turn this year. Ben Clemens looked at the talent level between starters and relievers earlier this season in a pair of posts that discussed how starters are preparing more like relievers, as well as the potential dilution of talent among relievers. The evidence seemed to point toward the latter theory, though exactly how that dilution has affected performance comes in a rather interesting package. Providing some evidence for the dilution effect is the number of innings handled by relievers in recent seasons. While the idea of starters pitching better than relievers is a new one statistically, the trend of increasing reliever innings likely made this year’s change possible. Below, see the share of reliever innings and reliever WAR since 2002.

Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-real-reliever-problem/

Originally published: August 21, 2019. Last Updated: August 21, 2019.