Shutdowns, Meltdowns and Making the Playoffs

Earlier this season, I brought up my dislike for the Saves statistic. Then, Tom Tango got the ball rolling (here and here) on creating a better way of measuring relief appearance success and, within a couple of days, the statistics Meltdowns and Shutdowns were available here at Fangraphs.

Shutdowns were supposed to mirror the total number of holds and saves in a season. As of yesterday, a total of 3403 number of shutdowns have occurred so far this season compared to a total of 3142 saves and holds. With only about 8% more shutdowns being recorded compared to saves and holds, the logic behind the values seem to be holding up fairly decent.

To see how teams stack up comparably, here is a look at the leaders and laggards in shutdowns across the league:


It seems the cream rises to the top as the top five teams have made the playoffs or are still in contention, while the bottom five teams are not going to make the postseason.

Along with shutdowns, meltdowns were created to measure the relief appearances that significantly hurt a team’s chances of winning. In comparision, here are leaders and laggards in the number of meltdowns:


All the teams with the most meltdowns won’t make the playoffs, except maybe Colorado. Three of the five teams with the least number of meltdowns will make the playoffs with the Mets and While Sox being the exceptions.

Finally, the best way to see how the pen has done as a whole is to get the ratio of the number of shutdowns compared to the number of meltdowns. So far this season the league average is 1.73 shutdowns for every meltdown. Again here is a list of the top and bottom teams in the league:


No real surprise here with five playoff or likely playoff teams making the top list and five non-playoff teams at the bottom. Besides the top-five teams, here are how the rest of the possible playoff teams rank:


Having a capable bullpen that keeps its team in games (compiling shutdowns) and doesn’t blowup (meltdowns) isn’t all that a team needs in order to make the playoffs, but all the teams making the playoffs have addressed it nicely during this season.

We hoped you liked reading Shutdowns, Meltdowns and Making the Playoffs by Jeff Zimmerman!

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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One factor in this, which in some cases may have nothing to do with the quality of the bullpen, is whether or not the bullpen inherits many high-leverage situations. I am a Mariners fan, and if you look at the shutdown/meltdown statistics, there are only two pitchers (Aardsma and League) who have much of either. But I think that’s because the Mariners are so often out of the game by the time the bullpen comes in. Good teams, by virtue of their offense and starting pitching, will keep more games close, and thus hand on higher leverage situations to their bullpens, and will thus accumulate more, not because of the bullpen’s quality, but just because of having more opportunities.