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

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

    Quote Originally Posted by scott91575 View Post
    Yet high leverage is not all closers, so it's not applicable to this situation. Only high leverage and a save situation would be applicable. A high leverage situation with a non closer has no relevance to the debate at hand since that has zero impact on how much a closer affects wins and losses.

    Now if you want to say closers should not be used to only close the ballgame in a save situation (so they are no longer technically a closer) and instead should be used in a higher percentage of high leverage situations, I am on board.
    That's what I'm saying. And "closers" and "high leverage" have been synonymous for most of MLB history, so it actually has more relevance than the current "save situation."

    I would agree that closers, the way closers are used today and have been for the past 15 years or so, don't matter much.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    That's what I'm saying. And "closers" and "high leverage" have been synonymous for most of MLB history, so it actually has more relevance than the current "save situation."

    I would agree that closers, the way closers are used today and have been for the past 15 years or so, don't matter much.
    I disagree with the bold. Closer and save situation go hand in hand. That is a fact. That is what closers are used for and that defines a closer. You are attempting to change the definition of a closer by saying "a guy used in a high leverage situation." Most fans and even most baseball people don't know the definition of what "high leverage" is. They think it's a save situation, and often it is not. Not many people know about leverage index and ever fewer understand it, so there is no way a closer is defined by high leverage situations defined by the leverage index.

    The whole point of this thread is to prove that the current usage of a closer, which is one pitcher being used only for save situations, has little to no impact on the outcome of baseball games. Therefore those pitchers should be used differently. Changing the definition of what a closer is by stating it's someone in a high leverage situation, as defined by the leverage index, completely changes the debate. In fact, I would state that if more managers used their best bullpen pitchers in only high leverage situations and not save situations, you would see an impact in late game win percentage increases vs. the current usage of a closer. Yet that does not happen in baseball (well, not very often), and therefore using high leverage stats is not applicable when discussing the current role of a closer since closer are used exclusively for save situations, not high leverage situations.

    In the end we agree on how "closers" should be used, but discussing high leverage stats is not applicable to a debate concerning the current definition and usage of closers. Closers are used in save situations, and that is the relevant stat when discussing their current effectiveness (or lack thereof since they are being misused).

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

    I don't understand, just because the mental aspect of the game can't be calculated on a stat sheet, why it's totally discounted. I totally get the numbers side of thing, and respect the growing influence statistical evaulation has had on the game. But ballplayers are humans. Some get more nervous than others, some handle pressure better than others. That's called life. Maybe this doesn't matter as much during the regular season, but what about the postseason? When every single pitch is magnified times 100. I think it absolutely matters who you throw out there in the 9th. Look at Mariano Rivera's numbers in the postseason and tell me just any good pitcher can match those stats. The guy has something special. He's unflappable. You can't measure that, but it exists.

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    13 Belongs in Cooperstown Captain13's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by cincrazy View Post
    I don't understand, just because the mental aspect of the game can't be calculated on a stat sheet, why it's totally discounted. I totally get the numbers side of thing, and respect the growing influence statistical evaulation has had on the game. But ballplayers are humans. Some get more nervous than others, some handle pressure better than others. That's called life. Maybe this doesn't matter as much during the regular season, but what about the postseason? When every single pitch is magnified times 100. I think it absolutely matters who you throw out there in the 9th. Look at Mariano Rivera's numbers in the postseason and tell me just any good pitcher can match those stats. The guy has something special. He's unflappable. You can't measure that, but it exists.
    I don't think anyone is disputing that, but to save these guys for save situations only seems silly. And to save them for the ninth inning only is crazy rediculous. At least Joe Torre got that and would bring Mariano in early if the situation arose for a four, five, or even six out save. I never understood why a manager would leave in a lesser reliever in a "high leverage" situation when your closer is on the bench.

    Try this on for size and think what the majority of managers would do: One out in the bottom of the 8th, runners on first and third up 6-4 and the 3 and 4 hole hitters due up. It seems to me, most managers would go LOOGY or righty-righty matchup and pray to get out of the inning so the closer can face the bottom of the order in the 9th. Even if your closer can't go 1 2/3 very often one could bring him in for the tougher outs and if it takes too many pitches use the other guy for the bottom of the order with nobody on base.
    What if this is as good as it gets?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain13 View Post
    I don't think anyone is disputing that, but to save these guys for save situations only seems silly. And to save them for the ninth inning only is crazy rediculous. At least Joe Torre got that and would bring Mariano in early if the situation arose for a four, five, or even six out save. I never understood why a manager would leave in a lesser reliever in a "high leverage" situation when your closer is on the bench.

    Try this on for size and think what the majority of managers would do: One out in the bottom of the 8th, runners on first and third up 6-4 and the 3 and 4 hole hitters due up. It seems to me, most managers would go LOOGY or righty-righty matchup and pray to get out of the inning so the closer can face the bottom of the order in the 9th. Even if your closer can't go 1 2/3 very often one could bring him in for the tougher outs and if it takes too many pitches use the other guy for the bottom of the order with nobody on base.
    I agree, managers could certainly do a better job with strategy when it comes to high leverage situations. Luckily, I think the Reds have enough quality bullpen arms where Dusty can be stubborn in using his closer only in a closing situation and it doesn't often hurt us TOO much (although it certainly has at some points). As you mentioned, Torre in particular seemed to do a good job of managing his pen.

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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
    Bad example. The Pirates play in one of the most pitcher friendly parks in baseball. This has a huge effect on the frequency of blown leads. It is just harder to come from behind in a pitcher's park like PNC. There are lots of factors that go into a teams' win percentage when leading in the 9th other than the closer.
    I would imagine the Pirates' save chances were actually much more difficult than the Yankees' save chances simply for the fact that a higher percentage of Pirates saves chances would be one run leads while a Yankees save chance is more likely to be a three run lead. The Yankees scored a lot more runs and had better starting pitching, which led to larger late inning leads. The Pirates relievers were essentially just as good at saving games as Mariano Rivera even though they were protecting smaller leads.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain13 View Post
    I don't think anyone is disputing that, but to save these guys for save situations only seems silly. And to save them for the ninth inning only is crazy rediculous.
    This is kind of the real issue. There is a mythology about the last out borne I suppose out of the legend of walk offs (we all at one time pretended to be the guy who hit the grandslam in the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game).

    But the reality is that outs should really be easier to get in the late innings of the modern game because generally the pen has the upper hand in the sense a specialist is either leveraging a platoon advantage or pitching against a guy called on to pinch hit.

    Below are mlb "pitching splits by inning" for 2012.

    Code:
                                                                                                                                                                            
    Split            G      IP   ER  ERA    PA    AB    R     H   2B  3B   HR   SB  CS   BB    SO SO/BB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS    TB  GDP HBP  SH  SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    1st inning    4860  4860.0 2527 4.68 20990 18824 2735  5009 1012 118  601  526 176 1723  3916  2.27 .266 .331 .428 .759  8060  387 176  98 167  22 188  .305   109   100
    2nd inning    4860  4860.0 1968 3.64 20283 18370 2125  4593  932  91  546  267 115 1488  4106  2.76 .250 .310 .400 .710  7345  430 159 154 108  42 156  .293    96   100
    3rd inning    4860  4860.0 2185 4.05 20554 18455 2428  4724  947 117  524  414 148 1570  3879  2.47 .256 .317 .405 .723  7477  390 165 202 161  71 203  .296    99   100
    4th inning    4860  4860.0 2345 4.34 20640 18622 2504  4939  972 109  668  296 131 1556  3700  2.38 .265 .324 .437 .761  8133  456 147 165 146  75 181  .297   110   100
    5th inning    4860  4860.0 2265 4.19 20647 18586 2448  4837  981  98  573  357 160 1573  3886  2.47 .260 .322 .416 .738  7733  388 163 205 119 130 196  .299   104   100
    6th inning    4859  4858.2 2266 4.20 20806 18683 2465  4921  926 121  596  321 117 1641  3828  2.33 .263 .325 .422 .747  7877  440 150 167 165 134 203  .300   106   100
    7th inning    4856  4855.2 2010 3.73 20630 18415 2210  4567  886  85  496  359 118 1722  4139  2.40 .248 .316 .386 .702  7111  410 174 184 128 152 226  .293    94   100
    8th inning    4850  4849.0 1993 3.70 20550 18364 2177  4470  887  95  481  383  91 1749  4508  2.58 .243 .313 .381 .694  6990  402 179 125 130 186 200  .295    92   100
    9th inning    3762  3700.0 1400 3.41 15511 13920 1544  3226  584  77  378  232  57 1270  3709  2.92 .232 .301 .366 .667  5098  271 136 104  80 137 158  .287    85   100
    Ext inning     384   792.0  343 3.90  3568  3012  381   777  134  16   71   74  23  417   755  1.81 .258 .355 .384 .739  1156   42  45  75  19 106  31  .320   106   100
    Innings 1-3   4860 14580.0 6680 4.12 61827 55649 7288 14326 2891 326 1671 1207 439 4781 11901  2.49 .257 .320 .411 .731 22882 1207 500 454 436 135 547  .298   102   100
    Innings 4-6   4860 14578.2 6876 4.24 62093 55891 7417 14697 2879 328 1837  974 408 4770 11414  2.39 .263 .324 .425 .749 23743 1284 460 537 430 339 580  .299   106   100
    Innings 7-9   4856 13404.2 5403 3.63 56691 50699 5931 12263 2357 257 1355  974 266 4741 12356  2.61 .242 .311 .379 .690 19199 1083 489 413 338 475 584  .292    91   100
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

    Basically you'd expect batters to perform best the second and third time they see a pitcher and then perform worse as the opposing manager stacks the odds against them with modern bullpen usage. That's pretty much what the splits above show.

    Stuffing the mess your starter left can be a huge thing provided your pen is of decent quality. It makes alot of sense to me that the last out of the 6th could be higher leverage than the last out of the 9th or that there could be times that the 7th inning is the best time to bring in your Chapman.
    Last edited by jojo; 03-14-2013 at 05:11 PM.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by TSJ55 View Post
    If you're saying that you would take one of those guys before Mo over the course of career then good luck. I'll take Mo and not look back.
    I think everyone would take Rivera, that is not really the issue being discussed. Obviously everyone would want the better pitcher.

    The issue being debated is how and when to use the best pitchers on your team.

    I would take Rivera, but instead of saving him for the 9th inning (when we might already have a big lead and wouldn't need to burn a great pitcher to close out a game we have already won), I would use him in a critical situation whenever it arises -- even if it is the 5th or 6th inning. Make sure to have your best pitchers face the best hitters whenever they come to the plate in a clutch situation and you are much more likely to have the lead at the end of the game. It makes zero sense to use an inferior pitcher against the heart of the lineup in the 7th or 8th inning so you can save your best reliever to face the bottom of the lineup in the 9th.

    Runs in the 9th inning are no different than runs in any other inning. The game is always on the line.

    I would also say the pressure on the pitcher is far greater in a tie game than in a game where they already have the lead, yet managers wait to use the closer until they have a lead to protect, despite the fact that closers supposedly have been given that role because they are great at handling the pressure.

    There is certainly more pressure on the pitcher in a close game in any inning than there is on a closer coming into the 9th inning with a 2 or 3 run lead.
    Last edited by AtomicDumpling; 03-14-2013 at 05:04 PM.

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

    I think the use of a closer has become commonplace in order to shield the manager from criticism. If the manager goes by the book and uses his relievers according to a standardized formula and the game gets blown he can just say "Look, I did everything by the book and it still didn't work. The pitcher blew the game, not me."

    If the manager mixes and matches his relievers on a daily basis he opens himself up to criticism from the peanut gallery whenever something goes wrong. Sportswriters and armchair experts would be second-guessing and Monday-morning-quarterbacking his every move and blaming him instead of the pitchers for the losses.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by cincrazy View Post
    I don't understand, just because the mental aspect of the game can't be calculated on a stat sheet, why it's totally discounted. I totally get the numbers side of thing, and respect the growing influence statistical evaulation has had on the game. But ballplayers are humans. Some get more nervous than others, some handle pressure better than others. That's called life. Maybe this doesn't matter as much during the regular season, but what about the postseason? When every single pitch is magnified times 100. I think it absolutely matters who you throw out there in the 9th. Look at Mariano Rivera's numbers in the postseason and tell me just any good pitcher can match those stats. The guy has something special. He's unflappable. You can't measure that, but it exists.
    Mo Rivera in the playoffs when he entered with a 2 or 1 run lead in a save situation was 30 of 34. That is 88%. In the regular seasons of 97, 99, 02, 04, 06, 09 and 11 (just randomly started opening up seasons), he saved 186 of 215 games with a 2 or 1 run lead in a save situation. That is 86%.

    I have no idea how that compares out to anyone else, or even the league averages for the playoffs.

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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

    Mo Rivera, from my sampling of regular season data from randomly sampled seasons of 97,99,02,04,06,09,11:

    With a 1 run lead: 79 of 102. 77%. Below average compared to the league rates in the data provided by Poz (85%).

    With a 2 run lead: 107 of 113. 95%. Above average compared to the league rates in the data provided by Poz (93%).

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

    I agree with those in here about not saving your "closer" for just the 9th inning. LaRussa was famous for pitching his closer in situations that it deemed for him to do so. I really wish they would change the save rule to match high leverage, late inning situations. If the closer "saves" the game in the 8th by striking out batters in bases loaded situation and gets out of the inning, he should get the save regardless if he pitches in the 9th.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Mo Rivera in the playoffs when he entered with a 2 or 1 run lead in a save situation was 30 of 34. That is 88%. In the regular seasons of 97, 99, 02, 04, 06, 09 and 11 (just randomly started opening up seasons), he saved 186 of 215 games with a 2 or 1 run lead in a save situation. That is 86%.

    I have no idea how that compares out to anyone else, or even the league averages for the playoffs.
    Wow. That's some good stuff right there. Kinda shocked, actually.


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