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BCubb2003
07-10-2011, 07:47 PM
You can merge this into other threads if you want, but I wanted to take a more philosophical approach. I think there are several entrenched axioms in baseball that lead to a meltdown like we saw today. I wonder if we can break them down.

How do you judge a closer's decline? It's often hidden by the nature of the save, when a closer can let inherited runs score, fill the bases, and generally pitch poorly, but still get the save. The first warning sign is when people are saying about your closer, "He sure makes things interesting..." When you hear that, you should be on full alert. Too often, though, the response is, "But he gets out of it." Until he doesn't.

The second wind. A former top closer can usually make some adjustments, work harder, and regain some of his former performance. Instead of thinking the problem's over, you should be aware that he's entering a short-term phase of his career. Instead, the response is, "He's been great this year. He's back." *He's not back. Enjoy that he's pitching well, but understand that he's in a different place in his career, which requires still more scrutiny.

He's our closer. I can understand how a closer by committee could be become unwieldy -- you might lose track and burn up all your relievers in one key *inning -- but somebody else pointed out that the Reds once used a dual-closer arrangement effectively. And that bullpens are all about matchups until you get to the ninth, when somehow they no longer matter. Big-name closers and their agents may have too much clout to share the role, but hey, meltdowns aren't doing anybody any good.

The other second wind. A closer whose career is in a declining phase, who has pitched well lately but now is struggling, can often collect his wits and come up with a good game. It's easy to be misled that the struggles are an aberration, and he has turned it around again. Often, though, that reaching back for something extra means the decline will happen faster now.

You don't take the closer out. There's an assumption that the closer is your best reliever and if you take him out, you don't have anyone better. Of course, if you blow the save and go into extra innings, you start working your way back down the bullpen anyway. Managers need to be brave enough to play matchups and cut short the meltdown with their closers.

You can't just throw him away. Demoting a long-established closer is a huge move in an organization. You don't do it over a few bad games. Unless you understand the timeline.

A good closer must know how to forget. Perhaps, but the manager shouldn't. This axiom tends to prolong the damage. If you find yourself saying that a good closer must know how to forget, it's time to move up the guy you've grooming for the role since you first heard people say of the old one, "He sure makes things interesting..."

kaldaniels
07-10-2011, 07:49 PM
Here's my question that I've been meaning to ask.

Why not make your first reliever in the ballgame your best reliever that you have in the pen (assuming rested). Then just go down the line to the worst. Over time wouldn't that maximize effectiveness of your pitching core?

WMR
07-10-2011, 07:51 PM
Why is the bullpen not a meritocracy? This is one of the antiquated ideas from "The Book" that I sort of anticipate (hope) continues to change as the game evolves. Obviously it's not going to happen in Cincinnati as long as Dustinator is calling the shots. He WROTE the book. Well, he and Hank Aaron. :D

MikeThierry
07-10-2011, 08:00 PM
Here's my question that I've been meaning to ask.

Why not make your first reliever in the ballgame your best reliever that you have in the pen (assuming rested). Then just go down the line to the worst. Over time wouldn't that maximize effectiveness of your pitching core?

I don't know if it really works that way though. I know a lot of sabermatricians do not want to admit it but there is a clear difference between the last inning of a game and the other innings within the game. There is something that stats cannot back up or stats cannot measure. The pressure of that 9th inning is all too human and can get to even the best reliever. Human nature sets in during the 9th. I believe that it does take a certain mental makeup to be a closer or pitch in the 9th. Your best reliever might not work out in the 9th inning because he cannot handle the pressure of getting those last three outs.

You might be right in innings 6-8. Maybe it would be effective to pitch the best reliever first. However there still has to be a lock down closer in the 9th that can handle the human element of the game, in my opinion.

Brutus
07-10-2011, 08:03 PM
I don't know if it really works that way though. I know a lot of sabermatricians do not want to admit it but there is a clear difference between the last inning of a game and the other innings within the game. There is something that stats cannot back up or stats cannot measure. The pressure of that 9th inning is all too human and can get to even the best reliever. Human nature sets in during the 9th. I believe that it does take a certain mental makeup to be a closer or pitch in the 9th. Your best reliever might not work out in the 9th inning because he cannot handle the pressure of getting those last three outs.

You might be right in innings 6-8. Maybe it would be effective to pitch the best reliever first. However there still has to be a lock down closer in the 9th that can handle the human element of the game, in my opinion.

Look at it this way though: what if you start with your best relievers, giving you a chance to increase your lead? If you let your best guys hold the lead, you might have a 3 or 4-run lead in the 9th instead of just a 1-run lead. Then the pressure is minimal by the time you get to that point.

MikeThierry
07-10-2011, 08:12 PM
Look at it this way though: what if you start with your best relievers, giving you a chance to increase your lead? If you let your best guys hold the lead, you might have a 3 or 4-run lead in the 9th instead of just a 1-run lead. Then the pressure is minimal by the time you get to that point.

Baseball is so unpredictable though. You might be theoretically right but often times theory does not lineup with the reality of the situation on the field. There are a lot of instances where your teams offense will be stymied and they will carry a one or two run lead into the 9th inning. There is no guarantee that the offense will build a lead as the game goes along. I still maintain as well that there will always be pressure in the 9th inning in many situations and that there really is no such thing as minimal pressure in that inning unless your team is up by 5 runs or so. I just do not believe that you can overlook the human/emotional aspect of it.

Brutus
07-10-2011, 08:22 PM
Baseball is so unpredictable though. You might be theoretically right but often times theory does not lineup with the reality of the situation on the field. There are a lot of instances where your teams offense will be stymied and they will carry a one or two run lead into the 9th inning. There is no guarantee that the offense will build a lead as the game goes along. I still maintain as well that there will always be pressure in the 9th inning in many situations and that there really is no such thing as minimal pressure in that inning unless your team is up by 5 runs or so. I just do not believe that you can overlook the human/emotional aspect of it.

Sure, it's unpredictable. But in that sense, isn't it unpredictable to save your best relievers for leads that may not even be there by the time you want to use them?

I'm not overlooking the human aspect, to be clear. On the contrary, I'm playing probabilities that more games might be won using your best relievers early, while other teams are using middle-relief guys, than by using other mediocre relievers and potentially trading runs.

It's unpredictable on a single-game basis, but over many games, there are statistical probabilities that might make a it a better approach.

MikeThierry
07-10-2011, 08:31 PM
Sure, it's unpredictable. But in that sense, isn't it unpredictable to save your best relievers for leads that may not even be there by the time you want to use them?

I'm not overlooking the human aspect, to be clear. On the contrary, I'm playing probabilities that more games might be won using your best relievers early, while other teams are using middle-relief guys, than by using other mediocre relievers and potentially trading runs.

It's unpredictable on a single-game basis, but over many games, there are statistical probabilities that might make a it a better approach.

True. I get what you are saying. Over a long season you might be right playing with the probabilities. What kind of leaves me dumbfounded at times is that many managers have a no holds bar "the closer must pitch in the 9th" mentality. There are situations such as in the 8th inning where the game is on the line and too many managers stick with the guy that is going to blow the game. It makes more sense to use a closer for situational use. It is much better to let the closer get a 4 or 5 out save if needed. Sometimes the old school approach of letting the closer have a two inning save will make the difference between a win and a loss.

Brutus
07-10-2011, 08:36 PM
True. I get what you are saying. Over a long season you might be right playing with the probabilities. What kind of leaves me dumbfounded at times is that many managers have a no holds bar "the closer must pitch in the 9th" mentality. There are situations such as in the 8th inning where the game is on the line and too many managers stick with the guy that is going to blow the game. It makes more sense to use a closer for situational use. It is much better to let the closer get a 4 or 5 out save if needed. Sometimes the old school approach of letting the closer have a two inning save will make the difference between a win and a loss.

I agree with that. And I think that kind of thinking doesn't do Baker or anyone else any favors over the long haul.

I'd just like to see someone make an honest go at using their best relievers early in the bullpen rotation. Try it for a whole year and see what kind of results they get. In theory, I think it would be worth at least a handful more wins.

MikeThierry
07-10-2011, 08:41 PM
I agree with that. And I think that kind of thinking doesn't do Baker or anyone else any favors over the long haul.

I'd just like to see someone make an honest go at using their best relievers early in the bullpen rotation. Try it for a whole year and see what kind of results they get. In theory, I think it would be worth at least a handful more wins.

Just like batting the pitcher 8th would probably lead to a slight increase in runs as well :)

signalhome
07-10-2011, 08:54 PM
Sure, it's unpredictable. But in that sense, isn't it unpredictable to save your best relievers for leads that may not even be there by the time you want to use them?

I'm not overlooking the human aspect, to be clear. On the contrary, I'm playing probabilities that more games might be won using your best relievers early, while other teams are using middle-relief guys, than by using other mediocre relievers and potentially trading runs.

It's unpredictable on a single-game basis, but over many games, there are statistical probabilities that might make a it a better approach.

Excellent point. There are two situations in particular where I feel closers should be utilized before the 9th inning:
a) Starter leaves the game with a couple men on. I want my best reliever in there to get the team out of a jam, regardless of inning; a run in the 7th is the same as run in the 9th. I guess theoretically, the same rule would apply if it were a reliever that had gotten into a tough jam. I'm just saying I want my best pitcher in there cleaning up the mess, without concern to whether it's the 6th or 9th inning.
b) Starter is out of the game and the meat of the order is coming up, even if it is only the 7th/8th inning. I feel much better with my best reliever facing the other team's best hitters, leaving my other middle relievers to tackle the bottom-of-the-order guys.

Brutus
07-10-2011, 08:57 PM
Just like batting the pitcher 8th would probably lead to a slight increase in runs as well :)

To be perfectly honest, as much as I despise La Russa, I think that experiment didn't work because he hasn't really had someone getting on base enough in the nine spot to make it worthwhile. The idea is obviously to get a second guy with a high OBP on in front of the best hitters. But when the guys you're using in the 9th spot have .320 OBP, it doesn't improve too much lol

Always Red
07-10-2011, 09:06 PM
I think that the problem is that there are 30 MLB teams, and maybe only 15-20 guys who really qualify as a "closer." Too many managers want to play by the "book" and employ a guy specifically to "close."

What baseball needs is another guy like Sparky Anderson who can think outside the box when it comes to the bullpen. Sparky was partly responsible for the roles we see in relieving today, but he approached the bullpen from a different perspective than most did back then. Someone needs to look at it and have enough gumption break the mold that all seem to have fallen into.

It would just take one manager to use his ace in the bullpen during the tightest spot in the game, and not at the end, and be successful doing so,in order for more to follow.

edabbs44
07-10-2011, 09:18 PM
I think that the problem is that there are 30 MLB teams, and maybe only 15-20 guys who really qualify as a "closer." Too many managers want to play by the "book" and employ a guy specifically to "close."

What baseball needs is another guy like Sparky Anderson who can think outside the box when it comes to the bullpen. Sparky was partly responsible for the roles we see in relieving today, but he approached the bullpen from a different perspective than most did back then. Someone needs to look at it and have enough gumption break the mold that all seem to have fallen into.

It would just take one manager to use his ace in the bullpen during the tightest spot in the game, and not at the end, and be successful doing so,in order for more to follow.

Wait...didn't Dusty use Aroldis to face 9-1-2-3-4-5 in the 7th and 8th?

dougdirt
07-10-2011, 09:27 PM
How do you judge a closers decline?

Start by watching his strikeout rate.

BCubb2003
07-10-2011, 09:33 PM
Some good points here. I suspect it was the Nasty Boys who created the modern bullpen of seventh-inning, setup and ninth-inning guys, but they had three or four closer-quality guys at a time.

Maybe there needs to be more media attention on the "fireman" role, the guy who gets you out of the toughest spot in the game, compared with Mr. One Inning With Nobody On and a Two-Run Lead.

The inherited run stat is a start toward bullpen sanity, but maybe there needs to be a degree of difficulty stat for relievers.

Big Klu
07-10-2011, 09:46 PM
Jeff Brantley (who was a pretty good closer) said that when he was a young major-leaguer he got some advice from Goose Gossage (who was an even better closer). He said that the Goose told him that there will be periods where you don't get any save opportunities, and then there will be periods where you have to pitch three, four, or even five days in a row in a save situation. As a closer, you have to be ready for that. Francisco Cordero has failed recently to do that very thing--something he is paid handsomely to do. And that part is on him.

However, Dusty Baker has to share the blame as well. I have been supportive of Baker, and I will continue to be so. But I think he made a mistake today, and it may have made a difference between a win and a loss. In this situation, he should have saved Cordero from himself, and not sent him out there after being roughed up three times in the previous four days. After the pitch counts Cordero had logged on Friday and Saturday, he should have been right next to Ondrusek on the "unavailable" list. The Reds still would have had plenty of relievers available--Chapman (who had already been used), Masset, Arredondo, LeCure, and Bray, as well as Arroyo. However, Dusty probably was thinking that Cordero is his man, and you always go with your closer in a closing situation. Baker is not alone in the managerial fraternity when it comes to this way of thinking. This is why philosophically I have always preferred to have a tandem of closers--usually one LHP and one RHP, or if they throw with the same arm then one sinkerballer and one flamethrower--so that the manager can play the matchup game in the ninth inning, and if one guy is struggling, then you have another on whom to fall back. It's not a true "closer by committee", which can be haphazard and confusing in terms of relief roles. Instead it is a "tag team" that shares the load, sort of a 1A and 1B.

Always Red
07-10-2011, 09:47 PM
Wait...didn't Dusty use Aroldis to face 9-1-2-3-4-5 in the 7th and 8th?

so what's you point? That Chapman is our best pitcher out of the pen?

Maybe so right now- and if that's the idea, I'd have left him in there another inning, since he was pitching so well (ala Mike Marshall).

Cordero just finished up the busiest 3 days of his career, in terms of number of pitches. Last night was unnecessary, and led directly to today's defeat, IMO. Any number of guys could have been used to finish up last nights game, OR, Chapman, Masset or Bray could have been used in the 9th today. But not Cordero for both.

Coco's had a fine year up to now, and he has started to struggle a bit- that's not a good time to start pressing him to pitch when he's beat.

BCubb2003
07-10-2011, 09:53 PM
I have to give Cordero credit for his post-game comments. He didn't shirk from responsibility. But the manager has to manage in the macro and micro sense.

edabbs44
07-10-2011, 10:00 PM
so what's you point? That Chapman is our best pitcher out of the pen?

Maybe so right now- and if that's the idea, I'd have left him in there another inning, since he was pitching so well (ala Mike Marshall).

Cordero just finished up the busiest 3 days of his career, in terms of number of pitches. Last night was unnecessary, and led directly to today's defeat, IMO. Any number of guys could have been used to finish up last nights game, OR, Chapman, Masset or Bray could have been used in the 9th today. But not Cordero for both.

Coco's had a fine year up to now, and he has started to struggle a bit- that's not a good time to start pressing him to pitch when he's beat.

You are talking about having a manager using their best reliever to pitch in the tightest spot. Who are you referring to?

And was your "busiest 3 days of his career" reference a real reference? Because, from my count, it hasn't even been his busiest 3 days in the past year:

July 30-Aug 1 2010: 82 pitches
July 8-10 2011: 75 pitches

Aug 1 2010: Scoreless inning, getting the save in a 2-1 game vs Atlanta.

Ron Madden
07-10-2011, 10:09 PM
You are talking about having a manager using their best reliever to pitch in the tightest spot. Who are you referring to?

And was your "busiest 3 days of his career" reference a real reference? Because, from my count, it hasn't even been his busiest 3 days in the past year:

July 30-Aug 1 2010: 82 pitches
July 8-10 2011: 75 pitches

Any way you look at it that's way too many pitches for a Closer that usually just works one inning per game. Might be an indication that he's having a tough time getting the job done, don't you think?

edabbs44
07-10-2011, 10:17 PM
Any way you look at it that's way too many pitches for a Closer that usually just works one inning per game. Might be an indication that he's having a tough time getting the job done, don't you think?

Sure, but I think many closers have had back to back rough games.

Homer Bailey
07-12-2011, 11:14 AM
Coco has one strike out since June 15th. I wouldn't be upset if he were DFA'd, and I'm serious. Although I know that would never happen.

Redsfan320
07-12-2011, 11:19 AM
I have to give Cordero credit for his post-game comments. He didn't shirk from responsibility. But the manager has to manage in the macro and micro sense.

Yep. OTOH, all I've read from Dusty's post-game is something about fishing in Montana. :angry:

320