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Friday, March 08, 2013

Politi: Replacing Mariano Rivera will be a challenge like few others in sports history

Guess you weren’t around for The Daily News replacing The Dick Young with Phil Pepe on Clubhouse Confidential.

But we should use that time to prepare for the next step, too, and remember to build up some patience and empathy for the unfortunate soul who takes his place. The pitcher who takes over as Yankees closer next season — be it David Robertson, the most likely candidate, or someone else in a trade or through free agency — will not be nearly as good.

No matter how much money the Yankees decide to pay him. No matter how much life he has in his arm. No matter how much potential he has shown in his career. He will not be Rivera.

Repeat: He. Will. Not. Be. Rivera.

...Few legends are actually replaced in the truest sense – no one, for example, had to step into Michael Jordan’s Nikes when he left the Bulls.

The burden of stardom is often passed from players in different positions in team sports, or not at all. Someone will replace Derek Jeter as Yankees shortstop eventually, but it is likely that someone else on the team – Robinson Cano, maybe? – will take over as the face of the Yankees.

The closer is different. It is a unique role on any baseball team and especially unique on this baseball team, which has thrived because of the best closer who has ever lived. The man who replaces Mariano Rivera will go on a short list in sports, along with the man who replaced Vince Lombardi.

The Yankees can only hope, for their sake and for the sake of the unfortunate soul who gets the job, that it’ll go a bit more smoothly.

Repoz Posted: March 08, 2013 at 06:13 AM | 197 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. OPS+ Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:27 AM (#4383812)
They showed last year that he can be replaced by a free agent relief pitcher. Soriano filled the role just fine. As long as the Yankees don't need to replace his "aura" or "mystique" this won't be a huge challenge.
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4383818)
Sure, now all they need to do is find 15 more Sorianos for the next 15 years, although it's true that this year he'd mostly be accumulating cobwebs in the bullpen while waiting for a save opportunity.
   3. Tippecanoe Posted: March 08, 2013 at 08:56 AM (#4383820)
If it is that important to them, the Yankees can just have Sabathia close. He is perfectly capable, as are many talented starters. See also Smoltz, John.

It would be crazy though, and everyone knows it.
   4. Lassus Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:07 AM (#4383825)
In a long history of happy, gleefull trolling, this has to be the trollingest trollery that Repoz has ever trolled. Well done, sir. Huzzah!
   5. Howie Menckel Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:14 AM (#4383829)

I'm going with the idea that this actually was written last March, before Soriano took over for a year and was, well - Nearly. As. Good.

   6. Blastin Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4383832)
The point is that he did it for 15 years.

   7. Tippecanoe Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:39 AM (#4383849)
#6 -- agree that this makes Rivera great. But he is not, for his sport, Michael Jordan. That's crazy talk.
   8. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:09 AM (#4383875)
@7: Rivera is obviously not Jordan, but I do wonder whether he's the best relative to position in baseball history? I.e. Is Mariano Rivera is better at being a closer than say, Honus Wagner was at being a shortstop (my hunch is no, but maybe?)
   9. Walt Davis Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:10 AM (#4383879)
Apparently I'm the only one disappointed that we didn't get a Scritti Politti intro (that I wouldn't have gotten).
   10. Walt Davis Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:12 AM (#4383880)
We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

This time around it will cost us $15 million per year though.
   11. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:17 AM (#4383884)
Rivera is obviously not Jordan, but I do wonder whether he's the best relative to position in baseball history? I.e. Is Mariano Rivera is better at being a closer than say, Honus Wagner was at being a shortstop (my hunch is no, but maybe?)


"Closer" isn't a position. His position is pitcher, or if you want to narrow it down just a bit, relief pitcher.

   12. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:26 AM (#4383894)
The Yankees have "thrived because of" Rivera? Idiotic.
   13. SG Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:56 AM (#4383916)
@7: Rivera is obviously not Jordan, but I do wonder whether he's the best relative to position in baseball history?


Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1901 to 2012, (requiring IP>=300 and earned_run_avg_plus>=150), sorted by greatest Adjusted ERA+

Mariano Rivera: 1219.2 IP, 206 ERA+
Jonathan Papelbon: 499.1 IP, 192 ERA+
Billy Wagner: 903 IP, 187 ERA+
Takashi Saito: 338 IP, 185 ERA+
Joakim Soria: 315.1 IP, 181 ERA+
Mike Adams: 363.2 IP, 177 ERA+
Brad Ziegler: 320.2 IP, 171 ERA+
Bryan Harvey: 387 IP, 162 ERA+
Francisco Rodriguez: 720.2 IP, 159 ERA+
Tom Henke: 789.2 IP, 157 ERA+
Pedro Martinez: 2827.1 IP, 154 ERA+
Rafael Soriano: 502 IP, 153 ERA+
Joe Nathan: 794 IP, 153 ERA+
   14. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 10:58 AM (#4383918)
"Closer" isn't a position. His position is pitcher, or if you want to narrow it down just a bit, relief pitcher.


I thought my meaning was clear. Let's use "reliever". It's very clearly a different position from starting pitcher.
   15. The District Attorney Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4383928)
It is a very strange point. Closer is a role, but shooting guard isn't? I mean, I guess it's true that I can't predict when a shooting guard will come into the game by looking at how a statistic is defined, but that's surely an argument against the significance of the closer role, not in favor of it...
   16. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4383966)
I'm confused, but I'm with 11.
   17. Blastin Posted: March 08, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4383967)
#6 -- agree that this makes Rivera great. But he is not, for his sport, Michael Jordan. That's crazy talk.


Agreed. Also: he is not a raging egomaniac (Jordan is pretty fascinating though; just turned 50, as it turns out).
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:02 PM (#4383971)
I thought my meaning was clear. Let's use "reliever". It's very clearly a different position from starting pitcher.

I don't think that's right. Pitching is pitching. It's clear that all starters are capable of relieving. And all relief pitchers are failed starters.

If you were to assemble a team of all-time greats, you'd select zero relief pitchers for your 10-11 man staff.
   19. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4383991)
from the way The Media talks about mo rivera, you'd think he was chipper jones or something

seems to be the yanks didn't have real too much trouble finding another reliever to close and do a good job. unless you are talking about the astros, finding a capable reliever is not that tough (now that ed wade is gone - it was the only thing he could do well)

why there is this obsession on having the same reliever close for 15 years i don't get. it's not like he's gagne 03 or lidge 08.
   20. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4384001)
Snapper: I generally agree with your point. The only issue I might have is you might be able to find relievers who were better on a per-inning basis than a lot of the best starters. And if you put 10 starters on your team capable of 250+ IP/year, you might be wasting innings (only about 1500 per season, whereas your proposed staff would be capable of pitching 2500+ innings per season) where you could get a low-inning flame thrower with better efficiency.

It may be, however, that the top 10-11 starters of all time are all more efficient per inning than the best relievers. In which case, the above point is invalid.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:31 PM (#4384010)
Snapper: I generally agree with your point. The only issue I might have is you might be able to find relievers who were better on a per-inning basis than a lot of the best starters. And if you put 10 starters on your team capable of 250+ IP/year, you might be wasting innings (only about 1500 per season, whereas your proposed staff would be capable of pitching 2500+ innings per season) where you could get a low-inning flame thrower with better efficiency.

It may be, however, that the top 10-11 starters of all time are all more efficient per inning than the best relievers. In which case, the above point is invalid.


Everything we've seen, from SP-RP conversions, to SP pitching in relief in post-season, suggests to me that top-SP would be excellent, excellent, RP.
   22. Tippecanoe Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:31 PM (#4384011)
And all relief pitchers are failed starters


Kimbrel isn't. Came into the minors as he turned 20 and has never started a game in pro ball.
   23. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4384012)
It's clear that all starters are capable of relieving. And all relief pitchers are failed starters.


The "all" should be removed from these sentences.
   24. jobu Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:35 PM (#4384013)
The "it's easy to replace Rivera, the Yankees did it with Soriano" talk is just crazy, revisionist history. The Yankees went out pre-2011 and signed literally the most successful closer in baseball the previous year--8th in Cy Young voting, 12th in MVP voting, 226 ERA+. 2 year contract, at $10.5MM/year. There was a lot of angst at the time about what the Yankees would do with Soriano, and why he would go there without the closer role. I presume that everyone who is talking about how easy this is to do was alive and reading at the time, unless there are some remarkable child prodigies posting.

So, yeah, by all means, the Yankees can try to buy last year's most successful closer every year, if he happens to be a free agent. Seems unlikely to be a winning succession plan.
   25. alilisd Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4384018)
Is Mariano Rivera is better at being a closer than say, Honus Wagner was at being a shortstop (my hunch is no, but maybe?)


If you mean is Rivera better than the second best relief pitcher by a greater margin than Wagner is better than the second best shortstop, I'd say absolutely.
   26. alilisd Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:49 PM (#4384021)
If you were to assemble a team of all-time greats, you'd select zero relief pitchers for your 10-11 man staff.


Twenty years ago I'd have agreed with this. Today I think you'd be foolish not to include Rivera on your staff. Why wouldn't you want to have him throw an inning or two at the end of a Koufax start?
   27. alilisd Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:50 PM (#4384022)
requiring IP>=300


Just 300? Seems a bit low.
   28. Rough Carrigan Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:53 PM (#4384024)
It's not easy to replace Rivera, but for any one season it's not some kind of herculean task. There have been relievers better than him for a few seasons in a row of his career, like Gagne, and guys who have been better than him for a year here or a year there. What he has over those guys is keeping going at his usually 3rd or something like that best reliever in the majors rate year after year. It's mildly annoying when New York media outlets pretend that he did this better than everyone else each year. He didn't. But he was near the top each year while other guys flamed out. There's great value in that but let's not pretend it's more than it is.
   29. jobu Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4384025)
Is Mariano Rivera is better at being a closer than say, Honus Wagner was at being a shortstop (my hunch is no, but maybe?)


One way of looking at this would say that you would have to restrict the time period for this question to the era during which the save has been an official statistic, because usage patterns shifted so dramatically thereafter. [In an alternative universe, if people cared about saves in the 1920s, it's fun to think about Babe Ruth trotting in from the outfield to close out some games]

On that basis, is the gap from #1 to #2 as great at any position post late-60s? I don't think WAR would back this up, but I would say Johnny Bench might be a contender for creating the greatest gap to #2.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:57 PM (#4384026)
Twenty years ago I'd have agreed with this. Today I think you'd be foolish not to include Rivera on your staff. Why wouldn't you want to have him throw an inning or two at the end of a Koufax start?

Because I can have Pedro Martinez throw that inning or two, and also be available to give me 6 IP if I need them.

Kimbrel isn't. Came into the minors as he turned 20 and has never started a game in pro ball.

The "all" should be removed from these sentences.

I disagree. If the Braves thought Kimbrel could throw 175 IP to a 100 ERA+ they would he made him a starter. And that's true of every RP. Kimbrel just failed earlier than most.

What evidence is there of SP who can't relieve?
   31. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:02 PM (#4384029)
If you mean is Rivera better than the second best relief pitcher by a greater margin than Wagner is better than the second best shortstop, I'd say absolutely.

That can't really be true at any meaningful level. The best SS of all time have put up strings of 8-10 WAR seasons. Rivera's peak is around 4 WAR.

Frankly, I don't even see how Rivera is any better than Hoyt Wilhelm. Wilhelm didn't make the majors until age 29, and the difference between them in WAR is all leverage.

Plus, Wilhem proved he could be an excellent SP, something Rivera never did.
   32. SG Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:03 PM (#4384031)
Just 300? Seems a bit low.


Yeah, I did that intentionally. The fact is, the list of relievers who were good enough to put up an ERA+ of 150 or better over any length of time is really short.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:08 PM (#4384038)
Yeah, I did that intentionally. The fact is, the list of relievers who were good enough to put up an ERA+ of 150 or better over any length of time is really short.

I think that's true. What Rivera did is incredibly unique. Unfortunately, that uniqueness is just not all thjat valuable, given the limitations of the "closer" role.

What's a guaranteed 175 ERA+ closer worth over a "replacement" closer? 1 or 2 wins p.a., right?
   34. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4384047)
snapper

if a pitcher was never a starter in the first place, you can hardly call him a "failed" starter. you can't fail at something you never did

see huston street and chad cordero, for example - neither one even started in college

unless you are insisting on going back to little league or something and all KINDS of kids had starts in little league
   35. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4384050)
snapper

if a pitcher was never a starter in the first place, you can hardly call him a "failed" starter. you can't fail at something you never did

see huston street and chad cordero, for example - neither one even started in college

unless you are insisting on going back to little league or something and all KINDS of kids had starts in little league


As you say, every pitcher starts at some point. If a guy is made a dedicated RP in college, it's only b/c he's demonstrated he can't remain effective and/or healthy pitching more innings.

Maybe there's a better word than "failed". But no coach or team chooses to give a good pitcher fewer IP unless they have to for some reason.
   36. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4384051)
It is a very strange point. Closer is a role, but shooting guard isn't? I mean, I guess it's true that I can't predict when a shooting guard will come into the game by looking at how a statistic is defined, but that's surely an argument against the significance of the closer role, not in favor of it...


To take the metaphor even further, if the Bulls got a really good power forward post-Jordan, they could design the offense around him and be back to winning a lot of games again, even with a replacement-level shooting guard.

The Yankees need to be able to find a very good closer, or "ninth-inning relief pitcher". If they throw a replacement-level guy into that role for some reason, they'll lose some games that they "shouldn't have".
   37. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:15 PM (#4384052)
by the way

it's not that i don't think that closers or relievers have significant value in the modern game because of course they do as this is not 1970

it's just the deification of mariano as THE reason behind the yankees success is something i don't get

or even the fact that it was only him for 15 years. would it be different if the yanks changed closers every year or 3 and they had the same success rate at a much lower ERA+
   38. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4384053)
But no coach or team chooses to give a good pitcher fewer IP unless they have to for some reason.


What? Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, etc etc etc etc

Even with Rivera, the Yankees chose to give him fewer IP after 1996. It may not be the right move, but teams do it all the time. You are almost implying that the best reliever would automatically be a worse starter than the worst pitcher who actually starts.
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4384054)
The Yankees need to be able to find a very good closer, or "ninth-inning relief pitcher". If they throw a replacement-level guy into that role for some reason, they'll lose some games that they "shouldn't have".

You're forgetting the "chaining" effect for RP.

No team (except the comically awful) ever have a replacement level closer. You always bump your next best RP up, and give the replacement level guys low leverage garbage time innings.

Given the relative lack of difficulty in relieving, and the volatility of RP, almost every team has 2 really good RP every year.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4384056)
What? Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, etc etc etc etc

They felt those guys wouldn't be effective or healthy as SP.

If that's not true, then they made stupid decisions.

You are almost implying that the best reliever would automatically be a worse starter than the worst pitcher who actually starts.

No, I'm implying that the best RP would be worse than league average starters. Most of these guys have 1.5 good pitches. They can't go through a lineup 3 times. Or, they physically can't handle 175 IP.
   41. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4384058)
snapper

some guys were relievers starting in high school and never started - the whole - joba chamberlain The All Important Bridge To Mariano - he should only pitch THAT inning - isn't restricted to the yanks

there are guys who, maybe, say, were sick or sore at the beginning of the year, so they were put in short relief, excelled and never given a chance to start. ESPECIALLY short rightys. well, short guys, period. people really believe that you can't be short and pitch more than an inning, don't ask me why
   42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4384059)
some guys were relievers starting in high school and never started - the whole - joba chamberlain The All Important Bridge To Mariano - he should only pitch THAT inning - isn't restricted to the yanks

MLB quality arms are being relegated to the pen in HS?!?! That's appalling.
   43. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4384060)
Politi: Replacing Mariano Rivera will be a challenge like few others in sports history


They replaced him last year with the guy sitting next to him in the pen. I'm not really seeing the "challenge" there.

----

Sure, now all they need to do is find 15 more Sorianos for the next 15 years,


Why? You don't build teams with an eye towards 15 years down the line. You don't hand 15 year contracts to players. They didn't give Rivera a contract for 15 years, or anything close to that.

----

"Closer" isn't a position. His position is pitcher


Exactly true. As the starters converting to relievers have shown, closing is the MLB equivalent of a punt, pass, and kick skills competition.

It is a skill for MLB pitchers to be able to start games, and that is where the significant value comes in. Rivera doesn't have that skill.
   44. The District Attorney Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4384061)
if the Bulls got a really good power forward post-Jordan, they could design the offense around him and be back to winning a lot of games again, even with a replacement-level shooting guard.

The Yankees need to be able to find a very good closer, or "ninth-inning relief pitcher". If they throw a replacement-level guy into that role for some reason, they'll lose some games that they "shouldn't have".
So a 7-foot dunker/rebounder could replace a ballhandling shooting guard, but a "closer" -- an entirely psychological designation -- can only be replaced by another "closer"? I mean, okay, I guess that's what this guy is saying, but it is insane.

What evidence is there of SP who can't relieve?
It seems plausible to me that the "give-up-singles-but-keep-'em-close" breed of starter (Glavine, Pettitte, Buehrle, Kirk Rueter, Terry Mulholland, Tommy John, etc.) would not be better as relievers, even per inning. It's highly hypothetical, since this apparently is also what front offices believe, and thus guys like this don't get made into relievers. (Any examples to the contrary?)

Does it really matter in terms of figuring out the value the guy actually provided? Is anyone seriously arguing, e.g., that WAR's replacement level for relievers should be recalculated?
   45. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4384062)
They felt those guys wouldn't be effective or healthy as SP.


No.

If that's not true, then they made stupid decisions.


Yes, teams over-rate the closer role ... which is why you can't assume every reliever is one because they are a failed starter.

No team (except the comically awful) ever have a replacement level closer. You always bump your next best RP up, and give the replacement level guys low leverage garbage time innings.


But teams don't always know until it is too late which of their relievers are going to have the best season. Furthermore, they are hampered by other things which infringe on the changing of relief roles. Every single season there are many teams for which the most effective reliever never gets the most important innings and/or never becomes the closer.
   46. Squash Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4384063)
Mariano Rivera: 1219.2 IP, 206 ERA+
Jonathan Papelbon: 499.1 IP, 192 ERA+
Billy Wagner: 903 IP, 187 ERA+
Takashi Saito: 338 IP, 185 ERA+
Joakim Soria: 315.1 IP, 181 ERA+
Mike Adams: 363.2 IP, 177 ERA+
Brad Ziegler: 320.2 IP, 171 ERA+
Bryan Harvey: 387 IP, 162 ERA+
Francisco Rodriguez: 720.2 IP, 159 ERA+
Tom Henke: 789.2 IP, 157 ERA+
Pedro Martinez: 2827.1 IP, 154 ERA+
Rafael Soriano: 502 IP, 153 ERA+
Joe Nathan: 794 IP, 153 ERA+


Wow, Pedro popping up on there as the lone starter. Of those guys, how many of them have been available for just money in even just the last five years? Besides Rivera, I'm seeing Papelbon, Wagner, Saito, Adams, FRod, Soriano, Nathan - and that's not even counting Soria or Ziegler who also have been active and available in trades. The Yankees will be fine.
   47. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4384064)
So, yeah, by all means, the Yankees can try to buy last year's most successful closer every year, if he happens to be a free agent. Seems unlikely to be a winning succession plan.


But hasn't this essentially been the Yankees' plan for filling the closer role since Rivera hit free agency? They've been paying top dollar for the best reliever in baseball to be their closer for something like the past decade. The plan gets harder/worse going forward because the best reliever in baseball is likely to be worse than Rivera has been, but it's not going to suddenly get more expensive for the Yankees to go out and buy a closer.
   48. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4384070)
Does it really matter in terms of figuring out the value the guy actually provided? Is anyone seriously arguing, e.g., that WAR's replacement level for relievers should be recalculated?

There's a big argument over exactly that. I don't think there's any consensus over how much credit a closer should get for his leverage usage.
   49. Bug Selig Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4384071)
MLB quality arms are being relegated to the pen in HS?!?! That's appalling.


They most certainly are not.
   50. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4384073)
They most certainly are not.

Glad to hear it. I know nothing about HS baseball, just reacting to BBC's post.
   51. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:38 PM (#4384075)
But no coach or team chooses to give a good pitcher fewer IP unless they have to for some reason.

What? Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, etc etc etc etc

The Sox did try to have Papelbon start, and his shoulder couldn't take it. And the Yanks kept Rivera in the pen because he wasn't good enough to start. That's the point snapper is making.


You are almost implying that the best reliever would automatically be a worse starter than the worst pitcher who actually starts.

I think it is pretty clear the best reliever would be worse than the average starting pitcher. Are there any reliever to starter conversions that don't fail? Best case you get someone like Franklin Morales who can fill in for spot starts.

EDIT:
Coke to snapper. Should have refreshed.
   52. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:40 PM (#4384079)
Does it really matter in terms of figuring out the value the guy actually provided? Is anyone seriously arguing, e.g., that WAR's replacement level for relievers should be recalculated?


Yes. WAR is a mess for relievers, because of LI. The only reason Rivera is in the same ballpark for WAR as Saberhagen or Pettitte or Appier or Santana is because Rivera gets extra credit for the innings he pitches, because he is pitching the Magical Ninth.

And at that, a 52 WAR is nothing to go ga-ga over. But people get so distracted by the narrative of Rivera which ignores the elephant in the room that he was never able to start that they go ga-ga over him.
   53. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:42 PM (#4384081)
The Sox did try to have Papelbon start, and his shoulder couldn't take it.


No, he said he was much more comfortable being the closer after they spent part of spring training getting ready to convert him back to starter.

Are there any reliever to starter conversions that don't fail?


Lowe, CJ Wilson etc
   54. SG Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4384082)
It seems plausible to me that the "give-up-singles-but-keep-'em-close" breed of starter (Glavine, Pettitte, Buehrle, Kirk Rueter, Terry Mulholland, Tommy John, etc.) would not be better as relievers, even per inning. It's highly hypothetical, since this apparently is also what front offices believe, and thus guys like this don't get made into relievers. (Any examples to the contrary?)


Yeah, I was thinking about this some given the comparison of career WAR between Pettitte and Rivera. If I had to get three outs, I'd much rather have Rivera than Pettitte pitching. The question is at what level of starter does that change?
   55. dlf Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4384083)
It seems plausible to me that the "give-up-singles-but-keep-'em-close" breed of starter (Glavine, Pettitte, Buehrle, Kirk Rueter, Terry Mulholland, Tommy John, etc.) would not be better as relievers, even per inning. It's highly hypothetical, since this apparently is also what front offices believe, and thus guys like this don't get made into relievers. (Any examples to the contrary?)


Wouldn't someone like Trevor Hoffman -- a changeup specialist -- be similar to a Glavine-type? Before then, there were others from Wilhelm's knuckler through Quisenberry's sidearmed sinker, that were much more akin to the 'give-up-singles-but ...' than they were to the Billy Wagner, 'throw it 100mph and strike them all out' folks.
   56. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4384085)
I think it is pretty clear the best reliever would be worse than the average starting pitcher. Are there any reliever to starter conversions that don't fail? Best case you get someone like Franklin Morales who can fill in for spot starts.


Well, there are some. Pedro, for one. Derek Lowe. Though Pedro was originally a starter in the minors who broke in in relief. I don't know about Lowe.

The Bard experiment of last year failed miserably, turning into the Bard Experience.
   57. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:46 PM (#4384088)
They felt those guys wouldn't be effective or healthy as SP.

If that's not true, then they made stupid decisions.


The fact is, guys like Kimbrel, Street, Storen, and the like are coming out of the draft and spending their entire professional careers in relief. In the past, most closers WERE failed starters, but teams are now drafting and developing players to fill that role earlier in their careers.
   58. Spectral Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4384094)
They felt those guys wouldn't be effective or healthy as SP.

If that's not true, then they made stupid decisions.


Surely you don't think, "no one's ever done it, and if they did, they're stupid" to be a compelling argument to people that don't already buy it?
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:56 PM (#4384101)
Surely you don't think, "no one's ever done it, and if they did, they're stupid" to be a compelling argument to people that don't already buy it?

Do you think it's smart to take someone who could be good in 175-200 IP per season and limit them to 60 IP? The argument is compelling on its face.

You can get excellent relief pitching off the scrap heap. Why would you ever groom good arms for it, unless you thought they couldn't succeed as SP?
   60. SoSH U at work Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4384102)

Maybe there's a better word than "failed". But no coach or team chooses to give a good pitcher fewer IP unless they have to for some reason.


The Yankees did it with Righetti. It was stupid then, too.

   61. cmd600 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4384108)
but teams are now drafting and developing players to fill that role earlier in their careers


But this doesn't tell us more than that teams at least think they can identify who won't hold up as a starter. Kimbrel was moved because the Braves didn't expect him to hold up as a ML starter, and they got busy polishing him for a role where he could make the majors.
   62. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:00 PM (#4384109)
There's a big argument over exactly that. I don't think there's any consensus over how much credit a closer should get for his leverage usage.

The baseline should be something like a composite of the league's second-best relievers, since they're the real "replacement player" for the "closer."

It can be refined further, but a decent proxy would be aggregate 8th inning performance, which in the 2012 AL was a tOPS+ of 86 -- a high bar.
   63. Spectral Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4384110)
Do you think it's smart to take someone who could be good in 175-200 IP per season and limit them to 60 IP? The argument is compelling on its face.


No, I don't. I also don't think this means that I can conclude that anyone who disagrees with me is obviously just plain stupid. I also doubt that there's much marginal difference in value between 175 IP at 100 ERA+ and 60 innings at 250 ERA+ (or whatever crazy number Kimbrel has). That'd depend on what I had available in terms of both player resources and cash on hand.

You can get excellent relief pitching off the scrap heap. Why would you ever groom good arms for it, unless you thought they couldn't succeed as SP?


This ignores that certainty does matter. Sure, I could sign a bunch of middling talents, and there's a decent chance one will be pretty competent, but not knowing which one it'll be means I have to use roster spots on bad pitchers, give high leverage innings to bad pitchers, and so on until I sort that out. It's certainly preferable to be able to just plug in a guy that I'm reasonably sure is very, very good.
   64. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4384117)
You can get excellent relief pitching off the scrap heap. Why would you ever groom good arms for it, unless you thought they couldn't succeed as SP?


Maybe because of the volatility of relievers? Having one reliable guy in your 'pen gives you a little more room for error the rest of the way down.

EDIT: coke to Spectral
   65. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4384120)
double post sorry
   66. base ball chick Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:17 PM (#4384128)
42. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4384059)
some guys were relievers starting in high school and never started - the whole - joba chamberlain The All Important Bridge To Mariano - he should only pitch THAT inning - isn't restricted to the yanks

MLB quality arms are being relegated to the pen in HS?!?! That's appalling.


- amusement

don't be silly
nobody has a MLB quality arm in 9th or 10th grade
most high schools, at least down here, don't have baseball
you either have guys that do the travel team thingy or you have guys who play more than 1 sport or walk on

there are plenty of times when the team has its few starters and any guy who isn't already thought of as a starter, ESPECIALLY a short or small guy, gets put straight into the bullpen and is never developed as a starter. see huston street

this happens even more frequently when you have a kid that didn't play little league or on any travel team and starts out playing later on
   67. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4384129)
Why is it that 'closer' isn't a position, again?
   68. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4384138)
Two issues here. I agree that it will be impossible for the Yanks to get a 200 ERA+ out of their closer for the next 15 years. I don't think the difference between a 200 ERA+ and a 140 ERA+ over 70 innings is that big of a deal and it will likely not significantly effect the Yankees win totals.
   69. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:38 PM (#4384152)
Why is it that 'closer' isn't a position, again?


Is LOOGY a position?
   70. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:39 PM (#4384154)
Why is it that 'closer' isn't a position, again?


Because when they send the closer out to the field, he takes the same... position... as a starting pitcher or as any other pitcher. He does not pitch from center field.

On the other hand, when they send Jeter and Cano out to the field, they take... different positions. Jeter goes to the left of second base, and Cano goes to the right.

See how this works?

   71. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:48 PM (#4384162)
I'm not sure what the Rivera detractors here are up in arms about. He pitched 15 years at an elite level compared his peers (i.e. other closers), and has some gawdy post season numbers that you can't ignore.

This just seems as if people are being a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian.

   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:49 PM (#4384163)
Why is it that 'closer' isn't a position, again?

Because you don't need to have one?

A team could function perfectly well using their 6-7 RPs on a matchup/who's rested basis, and not have a designated "closer".
   73. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:50 PM (#4384165)
I'm not sure what the Rivera detractors here are up in arms about. He pitched 15 years at an elite level compared his peers (i.e. other closers), and has some gawdy post season numbers that you can't ignore.

This just seems as if people are being a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian.

   74. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4384167)
I'm not sure what the Rivera detractors here are up in arms about.

The idea that he's one of the greatest players ever (first ballot HoFer) and was the key to the Yankees success over the last 15-20 years.
   75. Dale Sams Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:58 PM (#4384175)
He should be a first ballot HOFer. Being so doesn't mean he's equal to Ruth et al.
   76. cmd600 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4384178)
I'm not sure what the Rivera detractors here are up in arms about.


I'm not sure what the Rivera fanboys here are up in arms about. Decades of data show us that relievers are less talented, and more plentiful, than starters, and that sometimes we have trouble properly weighing playoff performance when it comes to evaluating overall ability.

This seems like people are running with the narrative for the sake of just wanting a good story.
   77. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:00 PM (#4384180)
I find it weird that a lot of the guys felating Rivera (talking about the mainstream writers, not people here) are also guys who have a very high bar for DH's in the HOF. They are very similar positions - entirely a creation of the modern era with a much higher performance bar in order to be considered great.
   78. Dale Sams Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4384187)
That's a great point #77. Even worse, DH is a real position.
   79. cmd600 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:09 PM (#4384189)
I find it weird that a lot of the guys felating Rivera (talking about the mainstream writers, not people here) are also guys who have a very high bar for DH's in the HOF.


I don't. If there's anything that we've learned from reading the Heymans of the world explain their votes, its that they made up their mind first, and found points to back up their view second, see the recent stat about Morris going 8+ innings however many times. That number isn't important for anyone else before or since Morris, and it only came out when it seemed that Morris was going to be a few votes short.

Rivera is a HoF because he just is, and look, here's something shiny that says so.

Edgar isn't a HoF because I (speaking for a sportswriter who didn't vote for him) just didn't think he was, now here's some excuse so it doesn't look like I'm just making it up as I go along.
   80. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:15 PM (#4384197)
Dale - I agree completely. He was consistently among the best player among his peers for about 15 years. Don't see how he's not a HOFer.

Snapper: Are you completely discounting his post season numbers? Those are pretty impressive. Yes, they are subject to the fact that he had those opportunities and his teammates put him in the position to succeed, but he did succeed much more often than not.

   81. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4384205)
I'm not sure what the Rivera fanboys here are up in arms about. Decades of data show us that relievers are less talented, and more plentiful, than starters, and that sometimes we have trouble properly weighing playoff performance when it comes to evaluating overall ability.

This seems like people are running with the narrative for the sake of just wanting a good story.


He should be judged against his peers (other relievers). He was among the best for 15 years and succeeded quite a bit in the post season. It's an impressive feat and arguably worthy of the HoF.
   82. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:22 PM (#4384210)
Posted twice.
   83. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:22 PM (#4384211)
He should be a first ballot HOFer. Being so doesn't mean he's equal to Ruth et al.

Only because they already screwed up by inducting RP.
   84. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:23 PM (#4384212)
Are you completely discounting his post season numbers? Those are pretty impressive. Yes, they are subject to the fact that he had those opportunities and his teammates put him in the position to succeed, but he did succeed much more often than not.


Rivera has about 45 career WAR depending on the source. 120 innings of sub 1 ERA in high leverage situations adds what, 5 WAR? He's still borderline on career worth.

Rivera's numbers have the WOW factor but that's because his innings were limited and he only had to throw 15-30 pitches a game and face the order one time through. The replacement level is much higher for a closer than for a starter so the numbers have to be adjusted as such. I see Rivera's postseason performance as roughly equal to Schillings, and it didn't make Schilling a first ballot HOF (even though he should have been, easily IMO once you include postseason which adds another 8 WAR to his total).

The only way you get Rivera as a clear first ballot HOF is if you consider a closer an essential and separate role and have a mandate that some closers be in the hall. I'm not sure either of those adjectives are completely justifiable.

But Goose Gossage got in with like 90 percent of the vote and Rivera's a lot better than him, so I think he gets in easily.
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:26 PM (#4384216)
Snapper: Are you completely discounting his post season numbers? Those are pretty impressive. Yes, they are subject to the fact that he had those opportunities and his teammates put him in the position to succeed, but he did succeed much more often than not.

I'm not discounting them, I'm just saying they're not enough to make me think he's an all-time great player.

I think his post-season stats pale before Gibson or Koufax's. Even Curt Schilling's post-season stats impress me more.

Rivera excelled at a very easy role, and doesn't deserve to be ranked with the all-time greats. That's the sum of my position.

Basically, to me, no RP (with the possible exception of Wilhelm) deserves to be ranked anywhere above the HoVG.

Edit: partial Coke to viva!
   86. MikeTorrez Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:32 PM (#4384227)
Ah well thanks for the clarification.

I tend to lean towards measuring players against their peers at their respective positions, which is why I would also vote Edgar in.
   87. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:34 PM (#4384232)
Ah well thanks for the clarification.

I tend to lean towards measuring players against their peers at their respective positions, which is why I would also vote Edgar in.


I also favor a much harsher DH penalty (treat them like very bad defensive 1B), so at least I'm consistent :-)
   88. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4384233)

What? Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, etc etc etc etc


I'd just like to point out that Chapman so thoroughly dominated as a closer last year that the Reds decided to put him in the rotation. So they clearly think he'd be more valuable there.
   89. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4384234)
I tend to lean towards measuring players against their peers at their respective positions, which is why I would also vote Edgar in.


Edgar also has ~65 career WAR, so he's worthy even if you don't adjust for position. But that's the whole point is it? Is a closer a position or a role? It's probably somewhere in between, but I'm not gonna give anywhere to close to the catcher discount to a closer.
   90. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4384238)
I think his post-season stats pale before Gibson or Koufax's. Even Curt Schilling's post-season stats impress me more.


Well it's the GS stat specifically, right?
   91. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4384239)
I also favor a much harsher DH penalty (treat them like very bad defensive 1B), so at least I'm consistent :-)


Doesn't WAR do this? It assumes the DH is a -10 run first baseman, but then gives back 5 runs because of the effect DH has on offense.
   92. Spectral Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4384240)
That still seems weird to me to go back someone's HoF worthiness being nothing more than a best estimate of WAR. Here's the text of the HoF vote instructions again, just for clarity:

Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.


Obviously there's a lot open to interpretation there, but to me, I'm inclined to say that "playing ability" is an area by which Rivera scores exceptionally, well above what's measured by a simple check of WAR.

That aside, I think WAR is an awful measurement of HoF worthiness; if we're going to use a single number, I'm more inclined to stand by WAA. I prefer rewarding excellence to sustained decency.
   93. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:39 PM (#4384241)
Well it's the GS stat specifically, right?

No. It's the fact that they limited run scoring so well while throwing 100+ pitches, going through the lineup 3 or 4 times.
   94. vivaelpujols Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:41 PM (#4384244)
if we're going to use a single number, I'm more inclined to stand by WAA. I prefer rewarding excellence to sustained decency.


That's going to hurt Rivera more ;)

I think WAR is a very good proxy for "playing ability". bWAR boils down to performance (RA) measured against the performance of a shitty player in the same context. That Rivera's WAR is lower than you think it should be means that his context was easier than you think it was.
   95. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:43 PM (#4384246)
Doesn't WAR do this? It assumes the DH is a -10 run first baseman, but then gives back 5 runs because of the effect DH has on offense.

The gap is 5 runs in positional adjustment (-15 for DH, -10 for 1B).

A really bad 1B is -15 or worse, to my mind. I'd make the DH -25 positional adj.

The hitting penalty is, I think, mostly an artifact of injured guys getting DHed rather than DL'd.
   96. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:43 PM (#4384248)
I find it weird that a lot of the guys felating Rivera (talking about the mainstream writers, not people here) are also guys who have a very high bar for DH's in the HOF.


The writers thought he was so valuable that they never gave him an MVP award. His highest finish was 9th (twice), and he grades out at #428 in MVP shares.

He does better on Cy Youngs, with five top-5 finishes, including a #2, and 52nd in Cy Young shares. But only a bridesmaid; never a bride.

But the lack of shares of MVP awards is something I just noticed, and actually found pretty stunning given the felating that does go on.
   97. Nasty Nate Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:45 PM (#4384250)

No. It's the fact that they limited run scoring so well while throwing 100+ pitches, going through the lineup 3 or 4 times.


I'm just quibbling, but those aren't their stats. I understand thinking that Rivera's postseasons aren't as impressive as Koufax' and Gibson's because of difficulty and context etc, but that doesn't mean that his "postseason stats" pale in comparison.
   98. cmd600 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:54 PM (#4384262)
He should be judged against his peers (other relievers)


Ben Zobrist wants you to only compare him to other utility players when his name shows up on the ballot. When talent can heavily overlap two "positions" like SP and RP, and we have a very good grasp on how perceived talent changes when moved from one "position" to the other, we should use that information.
   99. Spectral Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4384263)
That's going to hurt Rivera more ;)

I'm not sure if that's true, I haven't looked, but if it does I'm fine with it. My goal isn't to seek out some metric that fits what I'd like to believe about the world, it's to have some sort of consistent, objective measurement.
I think WAR is a very good proxy for "playing ability". bWAR boils down to performance (RA) measured against the performance of a shitty player in the same context.

I think WAR's very good for many purposes, particularly when analyzing roster moves, since average players aren't freely available at all. I don't think it's good for the Hall of Fame, because I wouldn't consider a player that played 30 years at an average level to be a Hall of Famer, even though they'd compile a crapton of WAR. This is subjective, but I'd prefer a burst of excellence to an extended period of averageness.
That Rivera's WAR is lower than you think it should be means that his context was easier than you think it was.

I don't know if this is intended to reply to something I said, but I've never suggested that his WAR "should" be higher.
   100. Dale Sams Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:59 PM (#4384268)
The writers thought he was so valuable that they never gave him an MVP award. His highest finish was 9th (twice), and he grades out at #428 in MVP shares.

He does better on Cy Youngs, with five top-5 finishes, including a #2, and 52nd in Cy Young shares. But only a bridesmaid; never a bride.

But the lack of shares of MVP awards is something I just noticed, and actually found pretty stunning given the felating that does go on.


He makes up for it in AS appearances.
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