Why Jake McGee should be the Rays’ closer


(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

It has been a week since Grant Balfour gave up five runs in the ninth against the Mariners, causing Joe Maddon to announce that the Tampa Bay Rays will go to closer-by-committee.

Since then, Juan Carlos Oviedo and Balfour have each been awarded a save while Jake McGee has one in two opportunities.

To be a successful closer you need to be able to strike batters out. Balfour has struck out 22 and walked 22 of the 118 batters he has faced over 26.1 innings of work, which is part of the reason he was removed from the closer’s role. McGee and Joel Peralta, on the other hand, have much better command of their pitches.

A successful closer also needs to prevent runners from scoring. McGee and Peralta have stranded 81.5 percent and 80.7 percent of runners on base, respectively.

So it appears to be a two horse race between McGee and Peralta, with the former entering the game in slightly more “clutch” situations (1.56 gmLI) than the latter (1.35 gmLI). But, McGee has helped the Rays minimize runs allowed, as evidenced by his RE24.

When the manager brings in the reliever with the bases loaded and two outs, the batting team was expected to score about 0.7 runs for the rest of the inning given an average offense and defense. However, the reliever then gives up a three-run double followed by the third out. At the end of the inning, the batting team obviously has a run expectancy of zero. Therefore, the run expectancy dropped from 0.7 to 0 from when the reliever entered the game, but three runs scored. The 0.7 run change in run expectancy minus the three runs scored means that the reliever’s RE24 for the inning was -2.3. In contrast to the official Runs Allowed, in which the reliever is assigned zero runs, RE24 assigns him almost all of the runs that scored, minus the runs that were expected to score when the starter left the game.

McGee’s RE24 is 12.39, fifth among relievers qualifying for the ERA title and the best in the Rays’ bullpen by a wide margin.

If you are in a fantasy baseball league looking for cheap saves or simply want to make an educated guess on who will emerge out of Tampa’s closer-by-committer with the job, look no further than Jake McGee.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg | June 17