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OnBaseMachine
02-18-2007, 04:29 PM
Plenty of possibilities
Closer-by-committee an option if no one claims job in camp
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- How many closers does it take to lock down a save opportunity?

Before the Reds break camp next month, they could determine it will take more than one.

The Cincinnati bullpen is bustling with veterans, brimming with lefties and sprinkled with some promising younger arms.

Yet, it's missing an anointed closer -- for now.

"Outside of not having a closer, our pitching is as good as it's been here in a while," Reds manager Jerry Narron said.

Eddie Guardado was re-signed earlier this month but is coming off ligament replacement surgery in his left elbow. Guardado, who was 8-for-10 in save situations before he was shut down in August, is targeting a late June return.

"We're waiting on Eddie to get healthy and then go from there," said reliever David Weathers, who led the club with 12 saves in 2006. "But it's pretty much how we started the year last year."

What the bullpen lacks in a dedicated closer, it compensates with several pitchers that have experience closing.

Weathers, Todd Coffey, Bill Bray, Rheal Cormier, free-agent acquisition Mike Stanton and recent non-roster addition Kerry Ligtenberg are all considered in the mix by Narron this spring.

Of that group, Weathers, Stanton and Ligtenberg have extensive ninth-inning experience. However, Weathers has been stronger in a setup role, and outside of eight saves he recorded for the Giants filling in as a closer in 2006, Stanton has been primarily a setup man for the past several years.

Ligtenberg had 30 saves for the Braves in 1998 and was once a promising closer. Then he missed all of 1999 with an elbow injury and never fully returned to prominence. He spent all of last season at Triple-A Iowa for the Cubs.

Indications are that the right-handed Weathers and the left-handed Stanton would, depending on the situation, share the ninth inning if the season opened today. Of course, that can always change.

"Whatever they want me to do, that's how I pitch," said Weathers, who had a 3.54 ERA in 67 games last season. "I enjoy that role. It's a little more pressure. I kind of like that."

"Would I like to be the closer? Sure," said Stanton, who had a career-high 27 saves in 1993 with the Braves. "The bottom line is I want to pitch. I come to camp and I go into the regular season with the idea that I'm coming into the ballpark pitching that day. That's always been my approach. That will always be my approach. I don't like to sit and watch games."

Among the younger pitchers, Coffey, 26, had eight saves last season. He excelled in a setup spot and led the Reds with 81 appearances. The right-hander already said over the winter he wanted another crack at the closing job.

At 23 years old, Bray is the youngest pitcher on the list of candidates. He had two saves for Cincinnati last season after coming over from Washington in a July trade.

"If the opportunity arose, I would definitely try to make the most of it," Bray said. "Right now, it's so far in the back of my mind. I'm just trying to prepare for the season and concentrate on breaking camp with the team."

Weathers emerged from an closer-by-committee system early last season before losing the job to Coffey, who struggled and lost the job when Guardado was acquired. Holding leads into the ninth inning often proved difficult for a Reds bullpen in constant flux, especially in the first half.

Cincinnati's bullpen ended up ranked 12th in the Natinonal League with 36 saves.

"If you are going to go with a bullpen-by-committee ... you need three or four guys in the bullpen that can close," Stanton said. "Do we have that? Yeah, we have experience down there. We'll have to see how it comes about. It might be that situation or somebody steps forward and takes the job.

"Back in Atlanta, when we had bullpen-by-committee for the most part, it can be successful. We went to the World Series a couple of times. I don't think the bullpen was one of the weaknesses of the team. It's not easy. You have to have multiple guys that can go out there on any given night."

Can one reliever emerge from the pack and take the ninth inning for himself until Guardado returns? We won't know until games start in March, but if no one claims the job, Narron knows he has options.

"One thing about it is they've all pitched in every situation possible out of the bullpen," Narron said. "We've got a couple of young guys in Coffey and Bray and veterans -- Stanton, Weathers and Cormier. You can't get a lot more experience than they've got."

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070218&content_id=1806077&vkey=spt2007news&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

OnBaseMachine
02-18-2007, 04:38 PM
I don't see anyone mentioning the name Brad Salmon when talking about the bullpen. Why not? I really, really hope the Reds give Salmon a fair chance to make the team out of spring training. This is a guy that has the durability and stuff to be an above average major league reliever, IMO. Check out his stats from AA and AAA last season: 81 innings, only 54 hits and three HR allowed, and a 43 BB/96 K rate. That is a 10.7 K/9 rate. That is what the Reds need - a power arm that can get you that strikeout when you need it. Coffey and Bray are the only two that even resemble a power pitcher in the Reds bullpen.

I hope the young guys (Coutlangus, Salmon, Medlock, and Belisle if he doesn't earn a spot in the rotation) are given fair shots at winning spots in the bullpen.

Candy Cummings
02-18-2007, 04:40 PM
I'm more interested in the ERA of the bullpen than who the closer is. Last year, our middle relievers were often responsible for eliminating save "opportunities"

Highlifeman21
02-18-2007, 06:43 PM
I'm a little concerned Bray doesn't think he's a lock to make the team.

Maybe it's good that he feels that he has to "audition", but honesty, I'd be surprised if the team broke camp and he wasn't heading to Cincinnati.

Joseph
02-18-2007, 09:08 PM
I'm a little concerned Bray doesn't think he's a lock to make the team.

Maybe it's good that he feels that he has to "audition", but honesty, I'd be surprised if the team broke camp and he wasn't heading to Cincinnati.

I worry a numbers game will prevent him from making the team more than performance. He has options, simple as that. Narron's love for the vet and Krivsky's desire to add Hermanson [rumored] will really push the kid.

edabbs44
02-19-2007, 12:32 AM
I worry a numbers game will prevent him from making the team more than performance. He has options, simple as that. Narron's love for the vet and Krivsky's desire to add Hermanson [rumored] will really push the kid.

If that's true, then the FO doesn't have a care in the world about this season. And quite frankly, neither will I.

kaldaniels
02-19-2007, 12:49 AM
I'm a little concerned Bray doesn't think he's a lock to make the team.

Maybe it's good that he feels that he has to "audition", but honesty, I'd be surprised if the team broke camp and he wasn't heading to Cincinnati.

I think he's just saying the politically correct thing.

Strikes Out Looking
02-19-2007, 10:00 AM
I'm a little concerned Bray doesn't think he's a lock to make the team.

Maybe it's good that he feels that he has to "audition", but honesty, I'd be surprised if the team broke camp and he wasn't heading to Cincinnati.

While I believe Bray should be on the 25 man on opening day, I'm pretty sure he'll be in Cincy by April 15. Does anyone think Weathers, Stanton, Cormier, and others will all actually be healthy two weeks into the season. Even if Bray isn't on the roster on opening day, past experience leads me to believe someone will be on the dl before mid-April and he'll be on the team by that point.

Scrap Irony
02-19-2007, 12:13 PM
Look for one or two of the middle relief guys to be wearing different uniforms by the beginning of the season. Krivsky has shown a penchant for moves made during Spring Training. This year, his surplus is, IMO:
One OF (between Denorfia, Hopper, and Freel)
Three #5 starters (EZ Ramirez, Belisle, and Saarloos)
Three relievers (between Weathers, Salmon, Cormier, Bray, Coffey, Majewski, and the losers in the starter race-- Belisle or Saarloos)

Of these, only Bray and Salmon have options left, I think. (That may be wrong, as Coffey could; still, each has proven major league capability, so I'd think they'd stay that way.)

The bigger question, IMO, is what Krivsky is looking for. Could he find a closer for two middle relievers and an OF? If the Giants don't like Benitez much, that's a possibility. Too, Krivsky could be looking for a defensive CF, having not been sold on Denforfia last season. (Though I like him, as do many on this board.)

Others are a tossup. I supose we'll see.

Johnny Footstool
02-19-2007, 12:17 PM
"If you are going to go with a bullpen-by-committee ... you need three or four guys in the bullpen that can close," Stanton said.

One of my pet peeves. Rick Sutcliffe is one of the worst purveyors of that ridiculous term "bullpen by committee."

Every bullpen is a "bullpen by committee." The issue is having a "CLOSER by committee."

klw
02-19-2007, 12:46 PM
Didn't one of the articles on Josh Hamilton say he was able to hit 96 on the gun back when he was drafted? Make him the closer and it solves two issues: how to use him on the 25 man roster and who will be the closer.:beerme:

The move could be called a Reverse Ankiel or a Full Hoffman.

Spitball
02-19-2007, 08:44 PM
I think the "closer by committee" is an excellent concept. I don't really like the idea of the best reliever on the team sitting in the bullpen in the seventh inning while the opposition mounts a rally that costs the team a win. Why shouldn't the best relief pitcher be pitching when he is needed most? Doesn't it make sense to bring in the best reliever to stop inherited runners from scoring rather than saving him until the nineth inning when he might be facing the bottom of the order.

I've long felt the closer is a convenient way for the manager to avoid second guessing. The conventional use of the closer relieves him of some responsibility for his use. Shouldn't the manager have to actually decide when to employ his best reliever based on the game situation rather than a given belief that save situations are the most crucial time in the game?

edabbs44
02-19-2007, 09:16 PM
I think the "closer by committee" is an excellent concept. I don't really like the idea of the best reliever on the team sitting in the bullpen in the seventh inning while the opposition mounts a rally that costs the team a win. Why shouldn't the best relief pitcher be pitching when he is needed most? Doesn't it make sense to bring in the best reliever to stop inherited runners from scoring rather than saving him until the nineth inning when he might be facing the bottom of the order.

I've long felt the closer is a convenient way for the manager to avoid second guessing. The conventional use of the closer relieves him of some responsibility for his use. Shouldn't the manager have to actually decide when to employ his best reliever based on the game situation rather than a given belief that save situations are the most crucial time in the game?

I agree Spitball, but you have to remember who the Cincy manager is. Do you trust Narron in that situation?

The whole thing is a Catch-22...if you use your best reliever in the 7th and then lose in the 9th, you should have saved him because you had a chance to come back if you lost the lead in the 7th.

If you wait until the 9th to use him...you get the picture.

mth123
02-20-2007, 03:48 AM
I think the "closer by committee" is an excellent concept. I don't really like the idea of the best reliever on the team sitting in the bullpen in the seventh inning while the opposition mounts a rally that costs the team a win. Why shouldn't the best relief pitcher be pitching when he is needed most? Doesn't it make sense to bring in the best reliever to stop inherited runners from scoring rather than saving him until the nineth inning when he might be facing the bottom of the order.

I've long felt the closer is a convenient way for the manager to avoid second guessing. The conventional use of the closer relieves him of some responsibility for his use. Shouldn't the manager have to actually decide when to employ his best reliever based on the game situation rather than a given belief that save situations are the most crucial time in the game?

I agree with this from a strategic point of view. Unfortunately, baseball pays for saves. The best reliever will actually have his career stifled by use in this manner. Its just not a very fair system these days.

Johnny Footstool
02-20-2007, 09:58 AM
I think the "closer by committee" is an excellent concept. I don't really like the idea of the best reliever on the team sitting in the bullpen in the seventh inning while the opposition mounts a rally that costs the team a win. Why shouldn't the best relief pitcher be pitching when he is needed most? Doesn't it make sense to bring in the best reliever to stop inherited runners from scoring rather than saving him until the nineth inning when he might be facing the bottom of the order.

I've long felt the closer is a convenient way for the manager to avoid second guessing. The conventional use of the closer relieves him of some responsibility for his use. Shouldn't the manager have to actually decide when to employ his best reliever based on the game situation rather than a given belief that save situations are the most crucial time in the game?

What if you use your best reliever in the 7th and then your opponent rallies in the 9th?

I'm a fan of having a designated closer, if for no other reason than to allow the pitchers in the bullpen to know their roles.

luvdozer
02-20-2007, 11:06 AM
What if you use your best reliever in the 7th and then your opponent rallies in the 9th?

I'm a fan of having a designated closer, if for no other reason than to allow the pitchers in the bullpen to know their roles.


what if what if what if

what if a meteor comes down and destroys the stadium? who cares?

if you have a 2 run lead in the 7th inning, but your opponant has two runners on base with no one out and the 3,4,5 hitters up, you should bring in your best reliever right now to stop the rally.

It doesnt matter who the pitcher is: throwing one scoreless inning starting with the bases empty is a boatload easier than throwing one scoreless inning once you have baserunners in scoring position. The WPA stat certainly has its limitations, but it definitely demonstrates that the most critical situations of a ballgame dont always happen in the 9th inning.

Of course its possible that a team might rally in the 9th despite being shut down in the 7th or 8th. Lots of things are possible. I could win the Megabucks, but it isnt very likely. The later in the game that your team has a lead, the greater your team's chances are of winning the ballgame. What good is it to have a "closer" ready to pitch the 9th if your team gives up the lead in the 7th?

think about it the other way - if your team is behind in the 6th or 7th what do you usually think to yourself? I always think "lets get some baserunners NOW before we have to face their best reliever." I think this because I know MLB managers are too stupid to bring in their best reliever to shut down a rally in the 7th inning. This means that we actually have a better chance of getting the lead before the 9th than we do in the 9th. Once we have the lead, we can use OUR best reliever. How many times have you seen a team blow a rally in the 8th and you think to yourself "well that was their best chance" Once you get a player into scoring position, your chances of putting him across the plate are demonstrably better than your chances of scoring with the bases empty. if my lead is small, i will save my best relieve to pitch the 9th UNLESS the other team gets the tying runner into scoring position. Then i want my most dominating available pitcher to come in and shut them down right here and now before they can tie. I will worry about how to keep my lead in the 9th when that comes around.

flyer85
02-20-2007, 11:13 AM
what happens in camp doesn't matter much. Unless you are an established closer you are only a couple of bad outings away from losing your job. I see the role changing multiple times throughout the season, mainly because the Reds really don't have the kind of reliever who is likely up to the task.

Johnny Footstool
02-20-2007, 11:50 AM
what if what if what if

what if a meteor comes down and destroys the stadium? who cares?

if you have a 2 run lead in the 7th inning, but your opponant has two runners on base with no one out and the 3,4,5 hitters up, you should bring in your best reliever right now to stop the rally.

So you rail on me for producing a what-if scenario, then immediately turn around and produce one of your own tailor-made to support your argument? Nice.


It doesnt matter who the pitcher is: throwing one scoreless inning starting with the bases empty is a boatload easier than throwing one scoreless inning once you have baserunners in scoring position. The WPA stat certainly has its limitations, but it definitely demonstrates that the most critical situations of a ballgame dont always happen in the 9th inning.

True, but sometimes they do. It's a judgement call managers need to make. They also need to decide, "if we give up one run now, can my hitters score again?"

And regardless, you want to put your guys in a position to succeed. If you're jerking your best reliever around and putting him in in the 7th one night and the 9th the next, he's just not going to be as effective.


Of course its possible that a team might rally in the 9th despite being shut down in the 7th or 8th. Lots of things are possible. I could win the Megabucks, but it isnt very likely. The later in the game that your team has a lead, the greater your team's chances are of winning the ballgame.

I'd bet bullpen specialization probably has a lot to do with that.


What good is it to have a "closer" ready to pitch the 9th if your team gives up the lead in the 7th?

The flip side is just as valid -- what good is it to use your closer in the 7th if there's no one else capable of pitching the 9th?

It all depends on the situation. If the perfect storm you described comes around (bases loaded, no outs, heart of the opposing lineup due), then I could see using your best reliever to snuff the rally. The thing is, most good teams have at least one other guy who they can count on to do that -- a Scott Sheilds, Scott Linebrink, Justin Duchscherer, etc.

If you don't have at least two decent relievers who can lock down the opposition, your team isn't going anywhere anyway, so you might as well do what you can to preserve the sure-thing victories and let your best reliever pitch the 9th.


think about it the other way - if your team is behind in the 6th or 7th what do you usually think to yourself? I always think "lets get some baserunners NOW before we have to face their best reliever." I think this because I know MLB managers are too stupid to bring in their best reliever to shut down a rally in the 7th inning. This means that we actually have a better chance of getting the lead before the 9th than we do in the 9th. Once we have the lead, we can use OUR best reliever. How many times have you seen a team blow a rally in the 8th and you think to yourself "well that was their best chance" Once you get a player into scoring position, your chances of putting him across the plate are demonstrably better than your chances of scoring with the bases empty. if my lead is small, i will save my best relieve to pitch the 9th UNLESS the other team gets the tying runner into scoring position. Then i want my most dominating available pitcher to come in and shut them down right here and now before they can tie. I will worry about how to keep my lead in the 9th when that comes around.

The best answer is to stockpile relievers who can dominate, then get a steady veteran to close. Look at how Cleveland puts their bullpen together. They have lockdown relievers like Betancourt and Carmona to pitch the 7th and 8th, then they have a steady guy with a closer's mentality (Borowski) to handle the 9th.

Your closer doesn't have to be your best reliever, but he needs to know his role and be able to handle the pressure.

Jr's Boy
02-20-2007, 11:56 AM
"If the opportunity arose, I would definitely try to make the most of it," Bray said. "Right now, it's so far in the back of my mind.



I wish he had the mindset thinking i'm going into ST and try to win that closers job.

flyer85
02-20-2007, 12:00 PM
I wouldn't mind if Narron would think outside the box in late-inning situations. The modern role of closer is in general a serious mis-allocation of resources.

Scrap Irony
02-20-2007, 01:19 PM
Agreed. The closer is the single most overrated position in baseball. By far. Nothing else comes close, in fact.

Many failed or average starters turned into exceptional closers. Eckersley, a fine starter in his day, was, at best, a #3 starter who morphed into possibly the best closer of his era. Ditto for Gossage. A quick glance at today's closers reveal at least 18 of them were, at one time, faield starters.

If I need my best reliever in the seventh inning, I don't want to hear about closing out the ninth. Each inning is independent of others, in terms of pitching. Sure, you can set up a hitter or learn to shade someone, but, by and large, pitching is about keeping the other team off the scoreboard no matter the inning.

I could care less about when relievers do it and in what order. (In fact, generally speaking, a closer by committee should even keep costs down.) All I want is to see it done.

Defined roles, IMO, is a cop-out. Who cares what you think you're role might be? It could change. Today's middle reliever can be tomorrow's closer. Today's failed starter is oftentimes tomorrow's closer. Youneverknow Juaquin Andujar was right on.

Johnny Footstool
02-20-2007, 03:16 PM
Agreed. The closer is the single most overrated position in baseball. By far. Nothing else comes close, in fact.

Many failed or average starters turned into exceptional closers. Eckersley, a fine starter in his day, was, at best, a #3 starter who morphed into possibly the best closer of his era. Ditto for Gossage. A quick glance at today's closers reveal at least 18 of them were, at one time, faield starters.

If I need my best reliever in the seventh inning, I don't want to hear about closing out the ninth. Each inning is independent of others, in terms of pitching. Sure, you can set up a hitter or learn to shade someone, but, by and large, pitching is about keeping the other team off the scoreboard no matter the inning.

I could care less about when relievers do it and in what order. (In fact, generally speaking, a closer by committee should even keep costs down.) All I want is to see it done.

Defined roles, IMO, is a cop-out. Who cares what you think you're role might be? It could change. Today's middle reliever can be tomorrow's closer. Today's failed starter is oftentimes tomorrow's closer. Youneverknow Juaquin Andujar was right on.

I believe you can maximize a player's performance by defining his role. It helps the player prepare mentally and physically for what he needs to do.

I'm not a big "intangibles" guy, but I think this is one case in which you've got to take the player into account.

Some guys could handle having their roles change from day to day, but for the most part, they'd do a lot better if they knew what was expected of them day in and day out.

As for "closer by committee" keeping costs down, yeah, I'm sure it would. Boston tried it in 2003, with guys like Mike Timlin, Chad Fox, and Brandon Lyon. It bombed so badly that they went out and traded for Byung Hyun Kim (who eventually became their main closer that season) and Scott Williamson. The next season, they went with a "proven closer" in Keith Foulke.

Using your "closer" in the 7th inning might work in theory, but in reality, players tend to be creatures of habit, and they work best when they know their roles.

Puffy
02-20-2007, 03:56 PM
The Red Sox have tried the closer by committee twice in the last 4 years and its failed miserably both times. How people can't see that - well, ask a Red Sox fan if closer by committee can work.

flyer85
02-20-2007, 04:12 PM
Agreed. The closer is the single most overrated position in baseball. By far. Nothing else comes close, in fact.
I don't think it's overrated, it more the role is improperly defined. Saving you best pitcher to pitch when you only have a lead is not always optimal allocation. I'd rather have my best pitcher out there in the 8th or 9th of a tie game then in the 9th of a game when you have a 3 run lead. Even very bad pitchers will protect that 3 run lead the large majority of the time.

Instead most managers have bought in to the modern closer role and only rarely deviate out of the predefined usage pattern. Torre and his usage patterns(ties games, 1+ inning saves) with Rivera is one of the few managers willing to break out of the mold.

Spitball
02-20-2007, 04:48 PM
The Red Sox have tried the closer by committee twice in the last 4 years and its failed miserably both times. How people can't see that - well, ask a Red Sox fan if closer by committee can work.

I believe the 1999 Reds came pretty close to the closer by committee model. I believe six or seven pitchers had saves with Graves and Williamson both getting nineteen or more. Though starting pitchers like Parris and Villone meant over-taxing that pen, McKeon used it beautifully. If he needed someone for two innings early, it was Sullivan. If he needed a groundout, he brought in Graves. If he needed a strikeout, it was Williamson. He let the situation dictate the guy he needed and let whoever was available close the game.

dsmith421
02-20-2007, 05:15 PM
I believe the 1999 Reds came pretty close to the closer by committee model.

1999 Reds pen:

Danny Graves
Scott Williamson
Dennys Reyes
Gabe White
Scott Sullivan
Stan Belinda

With the exception of Belinda, there isn't a single pitcher in the current Reds pen I would take over any of those guys, and frankly I'd probably keep Belinda over any of them simply because his delivery kept hitters off balance.

If the 1999 Reds were truly doing closer-by-committee, and it's arguable they were, then the reason it worked was because they had a stable of outstanding relief men.

I'm not so sure that the 2007 Reds have a single reliever (maybe Coffey) that projects to be league average or better next season.

flyer85
02-20-2007, 05:20 PM
McKeon had pitchers get a number of 2 inning saves that year, which accounts for a numerous guys getting save opportunities.

Jack's usage pattern for his relief core was outside the box. BP did a writeup on McKeon and his unorthodox bullpen usage a few years back.

Puffy
02-20-2007, 05:27 PM
I believe the 1999 Reds came pretty close to the closer by committee model. I believe six or seven pitchers had saves with Graves and Williamson both getting nineteen or more. Though starting pitchers like Parris and Villone meant over-taxing that pen, McKeon used it beautifully. If he needed someone for two innings early, it was Sullivan. If he needed a groundout, he brought in Graves. If he needed a strikeout, it was Williamson. He let the situation dictate the guy he needed and let whoever was available close the game.

Multiple people getting saves is one thing - but in 99 Graves was the closer and Williamson was closer 1a.

Two guys can work a little and McKeon was a master. But having defined roles works because then people can know what to expect.

Its the same thing Boone used to do with lineups - people will still say his constant shuffling up and down a lineup didn't hurt, but his record suggests otherwise.

blumj
02-20-2007, 06:02 PM
The Red Sox have tried the closer by committee twice in the last 4 years and its failed miserably both times. How people can't see that - well, ask a Red Sox fan if closer by committee can work.
I think the problem is, teams try it because they have no dominant relievers, not because they have 2 or 3 or 4 dominant relievers. Because, if you have several dominant relievers, there's no good reason not to make one of them the closer, since that makes it easier for everyone. It's easier for the manager and pitching coach to have a designated closer, it's easier for the relievers to prepare, it's easier for management in PR terms, and it's easier for the fans to feel confident. Of course, there's no law that says the best pitcher in the pen has to be the designated closer. It often works out better when he's not. But when you have several dominant relievers, there's probably not much anyone can do to screw it up too badly, and when you have none, there's probably not much anyone can do to save it.

Spitball
02-20-2007, 07:03 PM
Though Jim Leyland didn't employ a closer by committee system last year, I liked the way he thought outside the box with his bullpen last year. He had two guys, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, who were arguably his best two relievers coming in as set-up men. Todd Jones, who lacks a dominant fastball, came in to close out games.

No one else has a Zumaya and Rodneys are rare, but Leyland did not employ a traditional bullpen practice. He used his two best to shut the game down early, and he took his chances with Jones. With his success, there will be others who will likely try to emulate his practice.

flyer85
02-20-2007, 07:16 PM
Though Jim Leyland didn't employ a closer by committee system last year, I liked the way he thought outside the box with his bullpen last year. He two guys, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, who were arguably his best two relievers coming in as set-up men. Todd Jones, who lacks a dominant fastball, came in to close out games.

No one else has a Zumaya and Rodneys are rare, but Leyland did not employ a traditional bullpen practice. He used his two best to shut the game down early, and he took his chances with Jones. With his success, there will be others who will likely try to emulate his practice.
few are fortunate enough to have one good setup man, much less two dominating ones, or like the Reds case, zero.

Johnny Footstool
02-20-2007, 09:13 PM
Though Jim Leyland didn't employ a closer by committee system last year, I liked the way he thought outside the box with his bullpen last year. He had two guys, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, who were arguably his best two relievers coming in as set-up men. Todd Jones, who lacks a dominant fastball, came in to close out games.

No one else has a Zumaya and Rodneys are rare, but Leyland did not employ a traditional bullpen practice. He used his two best to shut the game down early, and he took his chances with Jones. With his success, there will be others who will likely try to emulate his practice.

As I mentioned, the Indians are doing it this year with Borowski and their young power arms. The Angels did that with K-Rod and Troy Percival. The Padres are still doing it with Linebrink and Hoffman.

The collection of arms Leyland has been blessed with would make any manager look like a genius.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 12:55 PM
[QUOTE=Johnny Footstool;1246184]

As for "closer by committee" keeping costs down, yeah, I'm sure it would. Boston tried it in 2003, with guys like Mike Timlin, Chad Fox, and Brandon Lyon. It bombed so badly that they went out and traded for Byung Hyun Kim (who eventually became their main closer that season) and Scott Williamson. The next season, they went with a "proven closer" in Keith Foulke.

QUOTE]

actually they didnt try it in 2003. You should read Feeding the Monster. Epstein wanted Grady Little to use those 3 relievers in leveraged situations that provided the most suitable matchups - thus giving each pitcher the best chance for success and giving the team the best chance to toss a scoreless inning each time out. The problem was the Grady Little didnt follow orders.

Chad Fox only managed to throw 17 innings through July 30 with an ERA and 4.50 and a whip of 2.00. Lyon was also injured that year and pitched poorly. Poor Timlin pitched so much his arm nearly fell off. The problem was with the idea of not having an identified closer, the problem was that Boston didnt have 3 highly effective and healthy relievers for most of the season.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 12:57 PM
If I need my best reliever in the seventh inning, I don't want to hear about closing out the ninth. Each inning is independent of others, in terms of pitching. Sure, you can set up a hitter or learn to shade someone, but, by and large, pitching is about keeping the other team off the scoreboard no matter the inning.


EXACTLY

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 01:07 PM
I believe you can maximize a player's performance by defining his role. It helps the player prepare mentally and physically for what he needs to do.

I'm not a big "intangibles" guy, but I think this is one case in which you've got to take the player into account.

Some guys could handle having their roles change from day to day, but for the most part, they'd do a lot better if they knew what was expected of them day in and day out.

As for "closer by committee" keeping costs down, yeah, I'm sure it would. Boston tried it in 2003, with guys like Mike Timlin, Chad Fox, and Brandon Lyon. It bombed so badly that they went out and traded for Byung Hyun Kim (who eventually became their main closer that season) and Scott Williamson. The next season, they went with a "proven closer" in Keith Foulke.

Using your "closer" in the 7th inning might work in theory, but in reality, players tend to be creatures of habit, and they work best when they know their roles.


This is Rick Sutcliffe reasoning. I have always done the job a certain way, therefore, that is the best way the job can be done. If you ask me to do my job in a different way, I cannot possibly be as effective.

I do not think that teams should change a players role without consulting them. I think that is a recipe for disaster. Good management (in baseball or in business) involves clear communication and getting people's buy in.

That being said, why cant a team ask 2 or 3 relievers to help the team out by trying to approach their roles differently this season. Hoffman & Linebrink and K-Rod and Sheilds do an excellent job the way they currently operate. However, who is to say that they couldnt be even more effective if they were used differently?

Obviously, as long as saves are a statistic that results in much higher contract offers than holds, all "closers" will be reluctant to alter their role in any that results in fewer save opportunities. however, that doesnt prevent a team from sitting down with the key members of their bullpen in the offseason and saying, "next year, we are going to try something different, we are committed to trying this and we want your committment too"

Johnny Footstool
02-21-2007, 01:10 PM
As for "closer by committee" keeping costs down, yeah, I'm sure it would. Boston tried it in 2003, with guys like Mike Timlin, Chad Fox, and Brandon Lyon. It bombed so badly that they went out and traded for Byung Hyun Kim (who eventually became their main closer that season) and Scott Williamson. The next season, they went with a "proven closer" in Keith Foulke.



actually they didnt try it in 2003. You should read Feeding the Monster. Epstein wanted Grady Little to use those 3 relievers in leveraged situations that provided the most suitable matchups - thus giving each pitcher the best chance for success and giving the team the best chance to toss a scoreless inning each time out. The problem was the Grady Little didnt follow orders.

Chad Fox only managed to throw 17 innings through July 30 with an ERA and 4.50 and a whip of 2.00. Lyon was also injured that year and pitched poorly. Poor Timlin pitched so much his arm nearly fell off. The problem was with the idea of not having an identified closer, the problem was that Boston didnt have 3 highly effective and healthy relievers for most of the season.

So they went out and got an identified closer for the rest of the season (B.Y. Kim), then they signed Keith Foulke to close in 2004.

Sounds like they realized that a closer-by-committee approach was way too much trouble.

It's a lot easier to optimize the rest of your bullpen if you know you've got a lockdown guy to pitch the 9th.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 01:14 PM
So you rail on me for producing a what-if scenario, then immediately turn around and produce one of your own tailor-made to support your argument? Nice.



you misread my post. I used an "if...then" statement not a "what if" statement. Grammatically speaking, my statement was declarative and yours was speculative. Your point is that the decision you make in the 7th is conditioned on an unknown event in the 9th. My point is that the decision i make in the 7th is utterly independant of any events that may or may not happen in the 9th.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 01:20 PM
So they went out and got an identified closer for the rest of the season (B.Y. Kim), then they signed Keith Foulke to close in 2004.

Sounds like they realized that a closer-by-committee approach was way too much trouble.

It's a lot easier to optimize the rest of your bullpen if you know you've got a lockdown guy to pitch the 9th.

Again, i would encourage you to read Feeding the Monster. Epstein never rejected the idea of "closer by committee" (I am using your language for purpose of the discussion; it was never really the best label for what they were trying). They had numerous injuries in the bullpen and had to go out and get replacement arms. The fact that Kim was the primary closer near the end of the season was not a result of any decision by Epstein, but by Grady Little's refusal to operate differently than the traditional closer model. He was petrified of the Boston media second guessing him

You do correctly note that when they signed Foulke for 2004, they used him in the traditional role of a closer. I have no idea whether or not that subject came up in contract negotiations, but I confident that it did. Even so, Epstein and the rest of the Sox front office has always defended their 2003 experiment and said that it failed because of the personnel involved and injuries. They have often stated their desire to try again in the future. They have not rejected the idea.

blumj
02-21-2007, 02:13 PM
You do correctly note that when they signed Foulke for 2004, they used him in the traditional role of a closer.
Not exactly. Foulke pitched multiple innings and entered a lot of games mid-inning with runners on base, more than what most people think of as a traditional closer these days. And in the playoffs, in that ALCS, they rode Foulke in a way that is pretty unique, bringing him in down by a run with ROB in the 7th inning of game 4, throwing 50 pitches in 2.2 innings, coming back into game 5 24 hours later in mid-inning with runners on base and the game tied, throwing another 22 pitches in 1.1 innings, only to come into game 6 as a traditional closer 24 hours later to start the 9th with a 2 run lead, only to be squeezed by that masochist Joe West. To bring his total for those 48 hours to 100 pitches under the most intense pressure. He also had similar multi-inning appearances in tied games 3 of the ALDS and 1 of the WS, as well as pitching in all 4 WS games and making Jim Edmonds cry. It's not hard to see why his body fell apart after that season, if you're looking for a reason.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 03:27 PM
Not exactly. Foulke pitched multiple innings and entered a lot of games mid-inning with runners on base, more than what most people think of as a traditional closer these days. And in the playoffs, in that ALCS, they rode Foulke in a way that is pretty unique, bringing him in down by a run with ROB in the 7th inning of game 4, throwing 50 pitches in 2.2 innings, coming back into game 5 24 hours later in mid-inning with runners on base and the game tied, throwing another 22 pitches in 1.1 innings, only to come into game 6 as a traditional closer 24 hours later to start the 9th with a 2 run lead, only to be squeezed by that masochist Joe West. To bring his total for those 48 hours to 100 pitches under the most intense pressure. He also had similar multi-inning appearances in tied games 3 of the ALDS and 1 of the WS, as well as pitching in all 4 WS games and making Jim Edmonds cry. It's not hard to see why his body fell apart after that season, if you're looking for a reason.

yes that is correct. i was making reference to the fact that he finished games and the sox wouldnt bring in a reliever after him to pitch the 9th

Johnny Footstool
02-21-2007, 04:20 PM
This is Rick Sutcliffe reasoning. I have always done the job a certain way, therefore, that is the best way the job can be done. If you ask me to do my job in a different way, I cannot possibly be as effective.

That's how a lot of people function, though. You can't expect them to give up that kind of thinking very easily.


I do not think that teams should change a players role without consulting them. I think that is a recipe for disaster. Good management (in baseball or in business) involves clear communication and getting people's buy in.

Absolutely.


That being said, why cant a team ask 2 or 3 relievers to help the team out by trying to approach their roles differently this season. Hoffman & Linebrink and K-Rod and Sheilds do an excellent job the way they currently operate. However, who is to say that they couldnt be even more effective if they were used differently?

I'm sure there are reasons. Egos play a big part. K-Rod would probably go ape if he and Shields started splitting save ops. Plus, why make a change if the current setup is working so magnificently?


Obviously, as long as saves are a statistic that results in much higher contract offers than holds, all "closers" will be reluctant to alter their role in any that results in fewer save opportunities. however, that doesnt prevent a team from sitting down with the key members of their bullpen in the offseason and saying, "next year, we are going to try something different, we are committed to trying this and we want your committment too"

That would probably work with some players, but not with others. Egos again, and you'd have to get your manager to buy in as well.

A closer-by-committee requires the right personnel and near-perfect execution on the manager's part. That makes it impractical for most teams.

luvdozer
02-21-2007, 04:50 PM
A closer-by-committee requires the right personnel and near-perfect execution on the manager's part. That makes it impractical for most teams.


None of us really knows how difficult or easy it might be for a team with a good bullpen to use their 3 best relievers in a way that is different than the traditional closer model.

you keep using the phrase "closer by committee" but that more accurately refers to a team that wants to use the closer model, but does not have one reliever who is demonstrably better than the rest of the bullpen. As a result, the manager uses different relievers in 9th inning until one guy emerges as dominant. This is still the closer model of bullpen use. in virtually all cases - such as the actual use of the 2003 red sox bullpen - what we are really talking about is a bad bullpen. bad relief pitchers will likely pitch badly no matter how they are used.

on the other hand what i have been taking about is using my best reliever in the highest leverage situation so that my best guy is pitching in what is likely to be the most critical moment of the game. Doing this would certainly require the "right personnel" (but so does any use of an MLB bullpen) but i have no idea why you would think it would require near perfect execution by the manager - you might be right about that; you might be wrong. I dont think any of us have any evidence either way because i cant recall any manager doing that in my lifetime.

Johnny Footstool
02-21-2007, 05:38 PM
None of us really knows how difficult or easy it might be for a team with a good bullpen to use their 3 best relievers in a way that is different than the traditional closer model.

you keep using the phrase "closer by committee" but that more accurately refers to a team that wants to use the closer model, but does not have one reliever who is demonstrably better than the rest of the bullpen. As a result, the manager uses different relievers in 9th inning until one guy emerges as dominant. This is still the closer model of bullpen use. in virtually all cases - such as the actual use of the 2003 red sox bullpen - what we are really talking about is a bad bullpen. bad relief pitchers will likely pitch badly no matter how they are used.

Calling it "closer by committee" is a term of convenience, but it does apply to the scenario you describe. Using your "best" reliever in a critical moment earlier in the game leaves you scrambling around to find someone to pitch the 9th, so you're still "closing" the game using a "committee" of whoever is available.

But you're right, we're actually discussing two different scenarios.


on the other hand what i have been taking about is using my best reliever in the highest leverage situation so that my best guy is pitching in what is likely to be the most critical moment of the game. Doing this would certainly require the "right personnel" (but so does any use of an MLB bullpen) but i have no idea why you would think it would require near perfect execution by the manager - you might be right about that; you might be wrong. I dont think any of us have any evidence either way because i cant recall any manager doing that in my lifetime.

The near-perfect execution I'm talking about refers to correctly recognizing the most critical moment of the game ("Is it now, with one-on, none out in the 7th, or do I wait to see what happens in the 8th?"), acting at that moment, and then properly managing the scraps of the bullpen when critical moments occur later in the game. It also requires the manager to balance egos and elicit optimal performances in non-optimal conditions. No easy task. If it was easy, we'd see a lot more people doing it.

It seems like if you have the right personnel in place (say, Justin Speier, Scott Shields, and K-Rod), it's simpler for everyone if you just say "Speier and Shields, you get the tough outs in the 7th and 8th. K-Rod, you've got the 9th."

That said, there should be an understanding that if Speier and Shields walk the bases loaded and allow the tying run to come to the plate in the 8th, K-Rod knows he'll be coming in early.

luvdozer
02-26-2007, 10:38 AM
The near-perfect execution I'm talking about refers to correctly recognizing the most critical moment of the game ("Is it now, with one-on, none out in the 7th, or do I wait to see what happens in the 8th?"), acting at that moment, and then properly managing the scraps of the bullpen when critical moments occur later in the game. It also requires the manager to balance egos and elicit optimal performances in non-optimal conditions. No easy task. If it was easy, we'd see a lot more people doing it.


I dont disagree that it wont necessarily be easy; but what the hell are managers getting paid for? I was always told that the manager has two areas of responsibility: managing the personnel on an ongoing basis and making in-game decisions. There are on 30 such jobs in all of North America, whereas there are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of baseball managers at the sub mlb level. Isnt it reasonable to assume that the 30 guys who have this job are among the best in the world at making in-game decisions?

ok stop laughing - im being serious

I know jerry narron and some of his peers only get paid a few hundred thousand a year. But Bobby Cox, Felipe Alou, Lou Pinella, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre get paid 2-3 million per year. Is it really unreasonable to expect a guy to be able to make difficult in-game decisions when you are paying him to be one the the ten best managers in the free world? If you asked me to pay you as if you were one of the ten best trial lawyers in the country, wouldnt i have a right to expect you to run circles around the prosecutor who is trying to put me in jail? If you asked me to pay you like you are one of the 10 best surgeons in the country, wouldnt i have a right to expect you to know some special techniques that no other surgeons know?

I believe that way too many managers make decisions based on the "thats the way its done" system of decision making rather than the "i can prove this gives me a better probability of winning" system. That's fine if he only gets paid 200K, but if he gets paid in the millions, I expect more.

Johnny Footstool
02-26-2007, 10:54 AM
I dont disagree that it wont necessarily be easy; but what the hell are managers getting paid for? I was always told that the manager has two areas of responsibility: managing the personnel on an ongoing basis and making in-game decisions. There are on 30 such jobs in all of North America, whereas there are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of baseball managers at the sub mlb level. Isnt it reasonable to assume that the 30 guys who have this job are among the best in the world at making in-game decisions?

ok stop laughing - im being serious

I know jerry narron and some of his peers only get paid a few hundred thousand a year. But Bobby Cox, Felipe Alou, Lou Pinella, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre get paid 2-3 million per year. Is it really unreasonable to expect a guy to be able to make difficult in-game decisions when you are paying him to be one the the ten best managers in the free world? If you asked me to pay you as if you were one of the ten best trial lawyers in the country, wouldnt i have a right to expect you to run circles around the prosecutor who is trying to put me in jail? If you asked me to pay you like you are one of the 10 best surgeons in the country, wouldnt i have a right to expect you to know some special techniques that no other surgeons know?

I believe that way too many managers make decisions based on the "thats the way its done" system of decision making rather than the "i can prove this gives me a better probability of winning" system. That's fine if he only gets paid 200K, but if he gets paid in the millions, I expect more.

Most baseball managers are former players or "baseball guys" who have connections within the baseball community and interview well. They don't get hired because of their uncanny analytical prowess. They get hired because someone likes their personality. Lloyd McClendon managed in the big leagues for several years. So did Dave Miley. That should tell you all you need to know.

BTW - the guys you named -- Cox, Alou, Pinella, LaRussa, Torre -- all tend to manage by-the-book in terms of using a closer.