March 1, 2021

We Provide Leverage: A Thought Experiment (FanGraphs)

Last week, when giving our playoff odds a quick once-over, I stumbled across something interesting. In translating from player statistics to our projections, we strip out the impact of reliever leverage. That seems intuitively weird, so I wanted to delve into the thinking behind it and see if I could find a workaround.

First, a quick recap of the issue. When we calculate WAR for relievers, we include the impact of leverage. This makes sense — the last reliever off the bench is mostly pitching in blowouts, so their contribution, good or bad, is less important than the closer’s. If you used a dominant reliever in a mop-up role, they’d be far less valuable than if they got to pitch in games where the outcome was uncertain.

How do we adjust for leverage? It’s reasonably straightforward. Take a reliever’s gmLI, which you can find in the Win Probability section. Kirby Yates, for example, had a gmLI of 2.16 last year. gmLI is the average leverage index when a pitcher enters the game. You can find a recap of leverage index here, but it’s essentially a measure of how important a given plate appearance is. A leverage index of 1 means that the situation is exactly as…

Read “We Provide Leverage: A Thought Experiment” at FanGraphs