Originally Posted by dougdirt
There is a lot in the article, but here is the real good stuff:
Winning percentages when team leads by three runs going into the ninth inning:
Winning percentages when team leads by two runs going into the ninth inning:
WInning percentages when team leads by one run going into the ninth inning:
I was getting ready to write a post about how these numbers only tell us that winning percentages overtime in these situations have not fluctuated much and that this article doesn't actually do anything to prove or disprove whether or not closers have had an impact. And then I figured first I should read the whole article and make sure Posnanski didn't cover additional analytics...
And sure enough he doesn't, but he actually points out how ridiculous his argument is. A direct quote
"Sure, yes, there are many variables here, and if you wanted to do an in-depth study of comebacks you would, as Tom Tango points out, take into consideration the run scoring environment. You would also consider ballparks and many other things. But I wasn't really interested in that. I was really interested in knowing if closers have made it more likely that teams will win games they lead going into the ninth. And the answer, I believe, is no."
He ignores all other variables! Being an analytic for a living this absolutely destroys my insides.
In the 60's runs per game were pretty low, and bullpens were rare. You have bad offense which is less likely to score runs to come back. Meaning the success rate of closing out a game is high.
In the 70's the same argument holds true. Runs were increasing from the lows of the 60's but still well behind current day levels. Success rate remains high.
In the 80's scoring starts to pick up, yet success rate of closing out games remains about the same, this is about the time when closers and bullpens really start to be used. Could this cancel out the increased scoring and level out the success rate?
In the 90's offense booms and every team has bonafide roided up closes to face those roided up sluggers. Perhaps the closers cancelled out the boom in offense and leveled out the success rate?
Run scoring in the 2000's slightly dropped and closer use is as prevalent as ever, and the results remain about the same.
But then one might add, "but also in the 60s pitchers went deep and finished a lot of games, likely being tired and uneffective at the end of games, leading to more runs." Which is a valid point as well, we just don't know based on this set of information.
So what does this information tell us? Nothing more than the probabilities of winning in certain scenarios has remained relatively unchanged. Much better and deep analysis needs to be done to prove anything regarding closers.
I also wonder how the following chart linked below would compare decade by decade. It does a good job of giving some theories on the ups and downs as well, but it does not have data to back it up. I am just adding it for some additional thought.