View Full Version : Fighting Against the 9th Inning Mystique

07-10-2010, 02:23 AM
The closer has created a monster. No lead is seemingly safe going into the 9th inning anymore. It isn't just nights like tonight when 6 run ninth inning leads are blown, but all over MLB, the 9th inning has turned into a circus night after night all over America. There is now something mystical about the final inning, and the more I think about it, the more I see the 9th inning closer as feeding this monster.

The teams that have them supposedly have identified this reliever who "has done it before," he usually is a power pitcher. Other guys seem just as much, if not more qualified, but then when they are thrust into the last three outs guy, they cough up a few and are relegated to "freaking out when in the closer role." Once a guy becomes entrenched, he has to hit double digits ERA totals to get removed from the spot, which I am afraid where Cordero is right now. The manager would rather continue to get beat up in the abusive relationship rather than move on and try a different method, worrying about dissing someone who is "THE CLOSER."

Add to that making a big deal about getting the last three outs of a game, whether it be a complete game, which is a total non-event in the grand scheme of things. Or pull the starter who has been dealing all night in favor of "THE CLOSER" because the game is still 1-3 runs. All of this feeds the mystique and seemingly adds fuel to the full court press, late comeback efforts of the offense to mount a 9th inning barrage. Add to that positioning your fielders (outfielders deep, guarding the lines, baseball's equivalent of the prevent defense, and we know how that works in that sport) based on the score of the game instead of who is at the plate, and you have a recipe for disaster.

So, how do you start removing this mystique from the 9th inning? I've been questioning the whole idea of a 3 out, 9th inning guy for several years. Too many times, below average pitchers are asked to cover 2-3 innings of a ballgame as teams try to get to their "setup guy" and "closer." As we remember the 1990 WC, the Nasty Boys come to mind as an example of using your bullpen to fit the situation. While there were many nights of Charlton 7th, Dibble 8th, Meyers 9th, Dibble also had a number of saves that year as Lou did not automatically go to Meyers for the "save." This year, Dusty has a chance, with a little imagination, to use Cordero, Massett, and Rhodes to finish out games. When you use one guy continuously in the "save" situation, you are at the whim of his stuff on any given night. The opponent has a chance to set up their bench strategy to face the guy they know is coming in for the last three outs, who is going to be out there until the game is tied or is turned into a walkoff.

Of course, this is all in vain, because the major league manager has about as imagination as a toad. Dusty is doing the same things every other MLB manager is doing, much of which is based on entrenched ideas moreso than employing solid strategies.

Ok, rambling over. Losing sleep over the stupidity of tonight, which is probably stupider than the stupidity of that loss.

07-10-2010, 03:28 AM
Excellent post.

You'll find plenty of baseball fans who are in favor of the "ace reliever" instead of a specific closer. It's value has been verified time and time again, and yet even the most cutting-edge organizations seem resistant to trying it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't a decent amount of college baseball programs employ the ace reliever strategy?

07-10-2010, 09:05 AM
Good post, TR.

BTW, great to see you posting again, BC!


07-10-2010, 11:56 AM
AWESOME, I thought I was the only one who felt this way.

07-10-2010, 12:38 PM