For many of our readers, it may seem as though my theories regarding combimetrics and Magnum Start Value (MSV) revolve entirely around pitching. However, nothing could be further than the truth, as offense is a key component to this whole equation. Hurlers can struggle with little run support, and unless they are rare talents such as Felix Hernandez, the pressure of having to carry the team to a victory sometimes overwhelms them.
How is this so? Well, if you look around you’ll notice that baseball pitchers usually win a significant amount of games when their teams light up the scoreboard. Mets starter Jacob deGrom is the antithesis of this, while White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito won 10 games with a 6.13 ERA. While I realize the purpose of MSV is to identify who can dominate regardless, there is another theory that is intended to make you think deeper about the insignificance of bullpens.
What is it called? Since a team needs more than just a dominant bullpen to win, I came up with the term “Magnum Octad Enumerate” or (MOE) for short to explain this exact scenario. The first word is Magnum (for Magnum Start-pitcher), while the second and third (Octad Enumerate) explain that the other eight players (or nine in the American League due to the designated hitter—Octad means eight) must be scoring runs. Enumerate means to count, and is something the United States government attempts to do to its people in census years. Those are a lot of individuals, and if you score a significant amount of runs it means your chances of winning goes through the roof.
Now this may sound a bit confusing, but I have alluded to the fact that you need either a dominant starting staff or productive offense to go along with your elite bullpen in order to win. Look at the Brewers from last season as an example. They may not scored a massive total (754—seventh in the National League), but the Brew Crew drove 218 balls out of the park and swiped 124 bags, good for second and first on the Senior Circuit. This combination makes it ideal for scoring any way you want—in other words, they had a versatile offense.
A pitcher who was aided by this elite bullpen and versatile offense was Gio Gonzalez. Prior to being traded to Milwaukee at the waiver deadline, Gonzalez was inconsistent but threw six Magnum Starts in his time with the Nationals. That was good for a below average Yearly Magnum Percentage (YMP) of 22.2%, even though it was only over a five-month span. On the down side Gonzalez had a 7-11 record and a 4.57 ERA in Washington, but in Milwaukee he went 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and an 0.95 WHIP without ever going seven innings once.
What could be the cause of this? Gonzalez was starting games, and letting the bullpen take over once the later innings came along. Here is another aspect that impacted his outings: offense. The Brewers scored four, seven, seven, twelve, and eleven runs in his five starts. In three of his five Magnum Starts the Nats scored three runs of less, not to mention they struggled offensively in many others.
My point is this. You simply can’t win games by expecting your role players to carry you to the playoffs. It doesn’t work that way. If the best relievers, starters, and position players were all available to be drafted for one season only, the pensman would be taken after the other two. Another example of this is the draft. While many high picks end up as relievers, that is after they fail to become starters, because no general manager in his right mind is going to waste a high draft pick on a future eighth inning man.
All in all, any team that wants to win should go the way of the past: dominant front line starters, great hitters, and just to sprinkle a little of today in, a great closer. The 2018 Red Sox are a great example of this, not to mention the Astros of the last couple of seasons, minus the closer. If you want to move to the National League the Dodgers would be an ideal candidate for this theory, as their starters and offense are good plus they have Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning. Will baseball be able to come back to sanity before it ruins itself? Let’s hope so, for the sake of its future.
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