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Thread: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/201...r-you-get.html

    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:

    1960s: .974
    1970s: .977
    1980s: .975
    1990s: .963
    2000s: .976

    Winning percentages when team leads by two runs going into the ninth inning:

    1960s: .930
    1970s: .925
    1980s: .941
    1990s: .936
    2000s: .931

    WInning percentages when team leads by one run going into the ninth inning:

    1960s: .844
    1970s: .850
    1980s: .852
    1990s: .846
    2000s: .848

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    I'm not sure this shows that closers don't matter. This just shows average winning percentage for teams with leads of 1-3 runs. Presumably, teams with good closers have winning percentages above the league average and teams with bad closers have winning percentages below league average; when the team leads by 1-3 runs in the 9th. That difference in winning percentage would add up to quite a few games over a 162 game season.

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Pony Boy View Post
    I'm not sure this shows that closers don't matter. This just shows average winning percentage for teams with leads of 1-3 runs. Presumably, teams with good closers have winning percentages above the league average and teams with bad closers have winning percentages below league average; when the team leads by 1-3 runs in the 9th. That difference in winning percentage would add up to quite a few games over a 162 game season.
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    This is what I took from it, but if you have one of those rare elite closers, I think they can still make a big difference. The only problem is that those guys are few and far between. For every Mariano Rivera, there are several Derek Turnbows, which is why I think you don't spend too much on a closer.
    That's why I'm firmly on the Chapman to the rotation bandwagon. He has a lot more value there even if he pitches at the level of a #2 starter.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    They used them, they just pitched earlier and longer, what they didn't use was "Loogys" and set up men for each side of the plate

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    Wasn't overall pitching better before the 80's though? I don't know if it's fair to compare the winning percentage of teams from the 60's in one run leads when that was arguably the best decade of pitching in the history of baseball. It's unknown is if there weren't closers, the stats would be close to the same. I personally feel comfortable with a flame thrower with a known role pitching the 9th.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeThierry View Post
    Wasn't overall pitching better before the 80's though? I don't know if it's fair to compare the winning percentage of teams from the 60's in one run leads when that was arguably the best decade of pitching in the history of baseball. It's unknown is if there weren't closers, the stats would be close to the same. I personally feel comfortable with a flame thrower with a known role pitching the 9th.
    Not necessarily, the environment for pitching was at a peak from 1962 to 1993 or so, especially 62-68, then the 70's had multi purpose stadiums, with plastic grass, 15 foot walls and symmetric outfields

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou View Post
    Not necessarily, the environment for pitching was at a peak from 1962 to 1993 or so, especially 62-68, then the 70's had multi purpose stadiums, with plastic grass, 15 foot walls and symmetric outfields
    Yes but I think Mike's point still stands. Considering the infrequency of scoring, you'd think small leads would stand up better in the 60's than the Aughts. The development of the closer then might be a Red Queen proposition in an offensive environment.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    I'm not sure that proves the closers don't matter point necessarily. Looking at league wide averages in different eras won't show you the difference between teams with a good closer and teams without once it became a more dominant role.

    What "could" prove it more conclusively is to measure the win % after 8 innings for a team that used the closer and the league average. Maybe the win % of the 89-92 A's who used Eckersley in the manner of the current closer before it was widespread league wide.


    I think it's an important point too that while pretty much the league averages .97%, if a good closer means you're at 98% and a poor closer means you're at 96%, then isn't a good closer worth roughly 3 wins?
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    I'm not sure that proves the closers don't matter point necessarily. Looking at league wide averages in different eras won't show you the difference between teams with a good closer and teams without once it became a more dominant role.

    What "could" prove it more conclusively is to measure the win % after 8 innings for a team that used the closer and the league average. Maybe the win % of the 89-92 A's who used Eckersley in the manner of the current closer before it was widespread league wide.


    I think it's an important point too that while pretty much the league averages .97%, if a good closer means you're at 98% and a poor closer means you're at 96%, then isn't a good closer worth roughly 3 wins?
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    I think it's an important point too that while pretty much the league averages .97%, if a good closer means you're at 98% and a poor closer means you're at 96%, then isn't a good closer worth roughly 3 wins?
    No, it doesn't mean that at all.

    Assume a closer gets 50 save chances in a season. 2% is 1 blown save. And you may not even lose that game.

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    I'm not sure that proves the closers don't matter point necessarily. Looking at league wide averages in different eras won't show you the difference between teams with a good closer and teams without once it became a more dominant role.
    I agree with this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    What "could" prove it more conclusively is to measure the win % after 8 innings for a team that used the closer and the league average. Maybe the win % of the 89-92 A's who used Eckersley in the manner of the current closer before it was widespread league wide.
    Keep in mind that the team would still have the same pitching staff even if they didn't designate one guy as the Closer. So you wouldn't be removing the Closer from the team, you would just be using him earlier in the game sometimes or putting him in the rotation possibly.

    I think everyone can agree on this point: Using your best reliever as a designated Closer might mean your team blows fewer save chances each season. We can disagree on how many blown saves would be avoided, but we can all agree there would be at least one or two or more.

    The part of the equation most people don't seem to consider is this: If you use your best reliever in a more critical situation earlier in the game your team might win more games. Your team would generate more save chances this way. Also, the 9th inning leads would be larger and easier to protect.

    That is a key difference. If you used Mariano Rivera in the 6th inning maybe you would have a 4 run lead in the 9th inning instead of a 3 run lead, or maybe you have a 1 run lead instead of a 1 run deficit. When debating the role of a closer you have to consider all 9 innings of a baseball game, not just the 9th inning.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hoosier Red View Post
    I think it's an important point too that while pretty much the league averages .97%, if a good closer means you're at 98% and a poor closer means you're at 96%, then isn't a good closer worth roughly 3 wins?
    That would be true if your team had 150 save chances.

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    I agree with this.


    Keep in mind that the team would still have the same pitching staff even if they didn't designate one guy as the Closer. So you wouldn't be removing the Closer from the team, you would just be using him earlier in the game sometimes or putting him in the rotation possibly.

    I think everyone can agree on this point: Using your best reliever as a designated Closer might mean your team blows fewer save chances each season. We can disagree on how many blown saves would be avoided, but we can all agree there would be at least one or two or more.

    The part of the equation most people don't seem to consider is this: If you use your best reliever in a more critical situation earlier in the game your team might win more games. Your team would generate more save chances this way. Also, the 9th inning leads would be larger and easier to protect.

    That is a key difference. If you used Mariano Rivera in the 6th inning maybe you would have a 4 run lead in the 9th inning instead of a 3 run lead, or maybe you have a 1 run lead instead of a 1 run deficit. When debating the role of a closer you have to consider all 9 innings of a baseball game, not just the 9th inning.



    That would be true if your team had 150 save chances.
    Yep. Three crucial outs are three crucial outs. Doesn't matter if it's the seventh or the ninth.

    Good pitching helps you. Plain and simple. I don't think that the difference between Craig Kimbrel or Johnny Venters (just an example) is enourmous enough to declare one more valuable than the other just because one guy strikes out two in the ninth and one strikes out two in the eighth.
    "We know we're better than this, but we can't prove it." - Tony Gwynn

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    I think it is and for many years has been vitally important that good pitchers pitch the late innings and finish games.

    Yes, it may be that "closers" as we know them today, in exactly current form, have existed a short time.

    But I think that begs the question.

    Teams in the old days didn't have many relievers, many of them weren't very good - but teams usually saved the best relievers for the late innings.

    Luis Arroyo of the Yankees is an example. I saw him pitch often in the early 1960s, he had a great year in 1961, and while not a 2013 style one-inning closer, he pitched the late innings in many key games and the Yankees won.

    In 1961 he finished 54 games and pitched 119 innings. Not a "closer" in today's parlance, but a guy who finished games successfully.

    The combo of Brosnan and Henry, similar. Not a closer in the exact sense of today, but finished lots of games successfully. I'm sure there are many other examples.

    The fallacy of the anti-closer argument is that it defines the issue too narrowly.
    I'd agree that having your "closer" used exactly like 2013 closers isn't that vital. Having one guy pitch every ninth inning isn't critical to me.

    But I would also argue that having a very good pitcher or two available for the late innings is crucial. Whether you do it 1960s style or 2013 style is way less important. But the idea that virtually any major league caliber pitcher can be thrown out there in the late innings, I'd dispute.

    In 1999 the Reds used Danny Graves and Scott Williamson as co-closers. It was very successful. Was that a 2013 style closer situation? I'd argue not. Still the Reds used two very good pitchers to finish off close games -- that's what I'd argue is necessary.
    Last edited by Kc61; 03-13-2013 at 08:35 PM.

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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Except teams didn't even use "closers" before the 80's really. Yet the rates were exactly the same.
    And the use of closers in the 80s, 90s and 2000s also coincides with a huge increase in offense league-wide (smaller ballparks, expansion/watered down pitching, and PEDs). More offense means a greater chance for blown leads.


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