Originally Posted by Hoosier Red
A crazy thought that I'd like the more statistically knowledgeable to weigh in on.
Is it possible for a closer to hang on to declining rate stats for longer than a starter if he is able to a)not walk people and b)not allow home runs.
The reason I ask is, because it's a small sample size, 1 inning per game, maybe 60 or 70 games per year, it seems as though even if Cordero allows more hits, that isn't something as likely to catch up to him because he has less of a window to navigate through in each game.
Because the closer almost always comes in with a clean frame, it is less important for him to strike people out, and more important that he not walk people and avoid giving up home runs. Obviously these two things are important for all pitchers.
The big things to look at are K:BB and HR rate. If you can keep your K:BB around 2 or higher and the HR rate at or below 1 per 9, you should be in pretty good shape. It should be noted, as you point out, that as the K and BB rates dip, the pitcher is going to have more balls in play, meaning more marginally more H/9 and HR/9.
With a guy like Cordero, who is used almost exclusively as a closer rather than a stopper (comes in with the bases empty and 3 or fewer outs needed), I agree with your supposition that strikeouts are less important than they might be otherwise. And for Cordero I don't think you have to worry too
much about the hit rate issue that comes from allowing more balls in play and inherited runners. The decreasing rates will lead to more hits and homers, but not dangerously so on a team with a good defense.
The big thing I worry about with Cordero is that in 2 of the last 3 years, he got very "lucky" -- with HR/FB in 2009 and BABIP last year. Those ERAs are deceptive and belie his true mediocrity. It seems that he reinvented himself by adding a curveball last year and "pitching to contact". The GB rate spike let this work for him -- hopefully that's a function of his new approach and not just a random fluctuation. His low BABIP last year is in part a credit to the Reds stellar defense, but expecting another .214 is crazy.
If Cordero returns as the closer and puts up comparable peripherals, I think we're going to see an ERA much closer to his 4.02 FIP -- probably in the upper 3s. As long as that's what the Reds pay for, I guess it's not a problem. From my perspective, I just want a "closer" who doesn't blow too many games and you don't need to be dominant to do that.