One day, maybe, we will understand the method to Gabe Kapler’s madness and we will not find it to be mad at all. For now, however, we still must pick the brain of the Phillies’ rookie manager to determine why he likes some things that are not exactly steeped in baseball tradition and then we can decide if we like them, too.
And so we introduce to you the goose egg, a bullpen statistic that carries enough weight with Kapler that it was discussed with the Phillies relievers in spring training and is updated daily on a leader board posted just outside the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.
The statistic was created by Nate Silver, the writer and statistician known for analyzing baseball and political elections. To use a baseball analogy, he whiffed on the most recent presidential election, predicting Hillary Clinton to win in a landslide. Silver was not alone on that and many of his baseball ideas are good ones, including the goose egg, even if it could use some simplifying and a better public relations agent.
Here is Silver’s goose-egg definition as detailed in a lengthy article he wrote for his website, fivethirtyeight.com, in April 2017:
A relief pitcher records a goose egg for each inning in which:
- It’s the seventh inning or later.
- At the time the pitcher faces his first batter of the inning:
- His team leads by no more than two runs, or
- The score is tied, or
- The tying run is on base or at bat.
- No runs (earned or unearned) are charged to the pitcher in the inning and no inherited runners score while the pitcher is in the game. And
- The pitcher either:
- Records three outs (one inning pitched), or
- Records at least one out, and the number of outs recorded plus the number of inherited runners totals at least three.
You can also be charged with a broken egg if 1. You could have gotten a goose egg if you had recorded enough outs, or 2. The pitcher does not close out the win for his team.
That is a lot to remember and even too much for one guy whose name is on the Phillies’ goose-egg leader board.
“I don’t know enough about it,” reliever Adam Morgan said. “I don’t know what it means. In spring training it was mentioned that we were going to keep track of goose eggs. Then I thought I got one, but then they told me I didn’t do this, this, and this. I decided I wasn’t going to keep up with it. I’m just trying to get guys out.”
That, of course, is the simplest way for every pitcher to view his job and there’s nothing wrong with narrowing the focus.
It does not seem as if Tommy Hunter has embraced the goose-egg statistic either.
“Everybody keeps track of that now?” he asked.
No, they don’t. In fact, Silver’s pitch for the new statistic had a little steam when he published his story in 2017, but it quickly lost its legs. You can search for MLB’s 2018 goose-egg leaders if you’d like. Please let me know if you find them.
Hunter was amused just a little that his name is nowhere to be found on a leader board that still includes Yacksel Rios, who was recently optioned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.
“I love it,” Hunter said. “Let’s keep doing it and maybe I’ll find my name on the list somewhere. One of the guys on the list isn’t even here anymore … so maybe I need to clean my [stuff] up.”
Despite its apparent failure to captivate at least a couple of his relievers, Kapler remains a big proponent of Silver’s creation. He’s also extremely fond of his own bullpen, which entered Memorial Day weekend with a 3.56 ERA, which ranked ninth in baseball and sixth in the National League.
“I think what [goose egg] explains is how valuable teammate behavior is,” Kapler said. “The nuts and bolts of that stat is that you come in and you leave a teammate’s runs on base, which is the coolest thing ever, in my opinion.”
Maybe not as cool as 72-degree days in January or pizza and ice cream after a Little League game, but we all know Kapler sees the world through a little different prism.
In just eight games, rookie Seranthony Dominguez has taken the lead in the Phillies’ goose-egg competition. He already has five of them heading into the weekend with the most recent one coming when he stranded runners at second and third with two outs in the seventh inning of the Phillies’ 4-0 win over Atlanta on Wednesday night.
Hector Neris leads the team with eight goose eggs, but he also leads the team in broken eggs.
“It always has been something I’ve been thinking about, but I’m not the only one,” Kapler said when asked about a different way to evaluate the work of relievers. “There are a lot of people around here who appreciate that stat. It’s something we talked about in spring training. We talked about it in detail and we explained the definition.
“It’s not something that we need our relievers to be focused on. It’s just something that we think is cool and we’re excited about it for them. You know what it is, it’s a way to educate. It really is. This is an important part of being an effective pitcher.”
Kapler said he does not think the save should be discarded as a statistic because he acknowledges the significance of the ninth inning and the mental challenge of recording the final three outs of a tight game.
“I think there is something really interesting about the ninth inning and I’m still really trying to wrap my brain around it,” Kapler said.
But Kapler also believes the goose egg will gain traction as a statistic even if it’s off to a bit of a slow start.
“I think that’s going to be a stat that people will look to as a good way to evaluate a bullpen arm,” he said. “I’m fairly confident in that. It gives [more] people credit. I just value the contributions of all of our bullpen arms. I can’t tell you how much confidence I have in our bullpen. I love our bullpen. I love the personalities in our bullpen.”
He sounded like a man who would love to take his relievers out for a nice steak and some fine wine after a couple of them protect a narrow lead with some goose eggs.