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Monday, April 22, 2013

Miklasz: Solitary closer is not always best option

“Right or wrong
Weak or strong” (enough…Neiled out)

Teams did just fine back in the olden days when virtually every member of the bullpen was capable of preserving a ninth-inning lead.

No MLB reliever had a 30-save season until 1965, and there were no 40-save seasons until 1983.

Only 42 relievers had 40-save seasons over a six-year period from 1982 through 1988.

From 1989 through 2012, a span of 24 years, a total of 328 relievers had at least 40 saves in a season.

The designated closer is here to stay. I could better understand this practice if it translated into better results, but that isn’t the case.

Over decades of baseball played before 1989, MLB teams had a 75.3 save percentage.

Since 1989, the MLB-wide save percentage is only 67.9.

Teams have become more susceptible — not less — to squandering leads.

Repoz Posted: April 22, 2013 at 05:27 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. BDC Posted: April 22, 2013 at 08:35 AM (#4421947)
No MLB reliever had a 30-save season until 1965, and there were no 40-save seasons until 1983

Needless to say, this has something to do with using relievers in save situations at all. Since the mid-1980s, about half of all wins have been saved; that rate has remained almost invariable. But from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, only about 40% of wins were saved, and before that (mid-50s through mid-60s), about 30%, and so forth: fewer and fewer saves as you go back. (Of course for most of those decades the "save" was not in the scoring conventions, but it's figured retrospectively.)

That's a huge part of the explanation for closers starting to record higher save totals. There are many others: it was definitely common in the 1960s and 70s to have a couple of aces record longer-outing saves alternately, and one can argue whether that's better than the solitary single-inning closer doctrine.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: April 22, 2013 at 08:37 AM (#4421949)
Before 1989 the overall MLB save percentage was 75.3.

Since 1989, the MLB-wide save percentage is only 67.9.



I know everyone here knows this, but it can't be said enough...THIS IS NOT TRUE. not really. You can't compare save percentages from different eras because of the way the blown save stat is created and the changing nature of the bullpens. Blown saves also include blown holds in the stat, while holds are not included in the percentage. You cannot quote save percentage and ever be talking about anything of meaning, because the numbers are total bunk. If you want to talk about an individual pitcher who has spent his entire life from the pen as a closer, save percentage has some value. Beyond that, none.
   3. The elusive Robert Denby Posted: April 22, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4421953)
I'm surprised Bernie isn't campaigning to put Pete Kozma in the closer role, now that he's conquered the shortstop position, much to the consternation of the statheads.
   4. bobm Posted: April 22, 2013 at 08:51 AM (#4421958)
From baseball-reference.com:

"here are the team W-L% holding a lead of one run going into the 9th."
1940s 9 1  623 0.8604
1950s 9 1 2324 0.8515
1960s 9 1 3470 0.8559
1970s 9 1 4254 0.8618
1980s 9 1 4169 0.8638
1990s 9 1 4306 0.8511
2000s 9 1 4574 0.8566
2010s 9 1 1535 0.8612


http://www.sports-reference.com/blog/2013/04/spreadsheet-record-with-leads-of-x-going-into-inning-n-grouped-by-decade/
   5. Greg K Posted: April 22, 2013 at 08:55 AM (#4421962)
One of my friends who is new to baseball asked me the other day why managers so aggressively seek the platoon advantage with their bullpen at all times except save situations.
   6. BDC Posted: April 22, 2013 at 09:04 AM (#4421966)
One of my friends who is new to baseball asked me the other day why managers so aggressively seek the platoon advantage with their bullpen at all times except save situations

We've had analogous discussions here when somebody wonders aloud why there are virtually no left-handed closers. Someone else will explain that there are too many right-handed hitters for that to work, which begs the question of why there are any left-handed starters. Some of these doctrines simply have to be traced to superstition. Managers are fanatical about gaming the platoon situation – except with starters and closers and right-handed eighth-inning men; and no lefty inferior to Aroldis Chapman must ever be allowed on the mound in the ninth. Eye of newt, and toe of frog.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: April 22, 2013 at 09:18 AM (#4421979)
One of my friends who is new to baseball asked me the other day why managers so aggressively seek the platoon advantage with their bullpen at all times except save situations


The truth of the matter is that it's hard to get good pitchers, and the platoon advantage helps add a small edge, but when you are looking at closers, as a general rule, they are the "good pitchers" and to go with a lesser pitcher for a platoon advantage would still not make up for the quality difference between the two pitchers.

We've had analogous discussions here when somebody wonders aloud why there are virtually no left-handed closers. Someone else will explain that there are too many right-handed hitters for that to work, which begs the question of why there are any left-handed starters. Some of these doctrines simply have to be traced to superstition. Managers are fanatical about gaming the platoon situation – except with starters and closers and right-handed eighth-inning men; and no lefty inferior to Aroldis Chapman must ever be allowed on the mound in the ninth. Eye of newt, and toe of frog.


Population percentage of left handed batters is much higher than population percentage of left handed people. If you look at a random year (I'm going with 2012) you'll see that the number of plate appearances between left handed batter and right handed batter isn't that big of a gap. Out of the 184179 plate appearances in the majors last year, 103703(56.3%) were by right handed, and 80476(43.6%) were by lefties. Add in that the platoon advantage is a much more obvious factor when it comes to lefty on lefty than it is for righty on righty, and there is a legitimate reason for left handed starters.

Edit: To point to my platoon comment, again just using 2012.. pitching splits last year.
Split              G     PA    AB     H   2B  3B   HR   BB    SO SO/BB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS    TB
                                                                                                
vs RHB 
as RHP   4787  65603 59463 14916 2837 264 1757 4406 13414  3.04 .251 .308 .396 .704 23552
vs LHB 
as RHP   4743  63620 56460 14658 2952 403 1699 5903 12101  2.05 .260 .332 .416 .748 23513
vs RHB 
as LHP   3511  38100 34136  8971 1846 181 1123 3201  6986  2.18 .263 .328 .426 .754 14548
vs LHB 
as LHP   3611  16856 15192  3518  626  79  355 1199  3925  3.27 .232 .294 .353 .648  5367
vs RHB          8298 103703 93599 23887 4683 445 2880 7607 20400  2.68 .255 .315 .407 .722 38100
vs LHB          8354  80476 71652 18176 3578 482 2054 7102 16026  2.26 .254 .324 .403 .727 28880 

   8. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: April 22, 2013 at 10:14 AM (#4422029)
Some of these doctrines simply have to be traced to superstition.

Yep. If everybody does X, and you try Y, and fail, you're out the door. There are just so many jobs in baseball: if you follow the crowd and get a little lucky, you can have a decent career. If not, you gotta get a real job.
   9. TJ Posted: April 22, 2013 at 04:53 PM (#4422476)
"Managers are fanatical about gaming the platoon situation – except with starters and closers and right-handed eighth-inning men; and no lefty inferior to Aroldis Chapman must ever be allowed on the mound in the ninth. Eye of newt, and toe of frog."

This must be hanging on the wall of the Cubs manager, since I can see no other reason to trot out the gas cans they have been in the 9th instead of James Russell...

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