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

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    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by gonelong View Post
    I am going totally from memory, so I reserve the right to be wrong here ...

    My impression was that Bill James had advocated using your best reliever in high leverage situations in the 6/7/8/9 innings if the opportunity presented itself.

    I seem to recall that Boston just didn't have a bonafide closer that year and went with closer by committee. They didn't have a "best reliever" to deploy in high leverage situations, they had a bunch of mediocrity.

    When I think of using your top flight reliever in High leverage situations, I think it's closer to how the Reds used the Nasty Boys in 1990, than how Boston recently went about it.

    GL
    That is a good point. The Red Sox that year didn't decide to buck the Closer trend and use a closer-by-committee approach as a pre-arranged strategy. They just simply didn't have good relief pitchers that year, much less one dominant guy who was the obvious best candidate to be a closer.

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  3. #107
    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Kc61 View Post
    There are several problems with defining roles by leverage, to quote Rick's fine post.

    1. You never know when the highest leverage situation arises. Sometimes it may appear clear, but using up Chapman in a sixth inning leverage situation may leave you stranded in the eighth and ninth.

    2. If the same pitchers throw every leveraged situation, then they will die of overuse and perhaps over stress. There has to be an allocation to allow the workload and stress load be divided somewhat.

    3. Using relievers by leverage could lead to constant warming up of top guys when you believe a high leverage situation is on the horizon. There's no surefire advance warning often that high leverage is about to happen and a manager would have to warm up his top guys whenever he thinks it MAY happen.

    4. Some pitchers just like to know when they are likely to be used. Chapman probably doesn't want the irregularity of use by leverage. He wants to get ready in the eighth and pitch in the ninth.

    I think the use of top relievers in the eighth and ninth is simply a managerial device to give pitchers a regular, repeatable role. It's just an allocation system.

    And in my view, in the playoffs and other really key games, most managers DO change these roles. They do use starters as relievers, and do use their top relievers more in high leverage situations.

    But they choose to go with more regular roles in allocating work over 162. I get that, even though in a particular game it may not work out.
    Those are all good points and I agree with them, but there are some counterpoints to be made as well.

    True, you never know when the highest leverage situation will arise, but you also don't know in advance when you are going to have a one or two run lead in the 9th inning either. You may save your best reliever for a save situation that never arises because an inferior reliever blew the game in a critical situation earlier in the game that your "closer" could have extinguished.

    It seems to me that the Closer is the pitcher that is used with the least regularity. Sometimes he pitches two, three, four days in a row. Other times he goes a week without being used.

    If your ace reliever takes a long time to warm up or can't handle irregular use, then put him in the rotation where he gets all the time he needs to warm up and prepare and he always knows days in advance when he will be pitching.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    Those are all good points and I agree with them, but there are some counterpoints to be made as well.

    True, you never know when the highest leverage situation will arise, but you also don't know in advance when you are going to have a one or two run lead in the 9th inning either. You may save your best reliever for a save situation that never arises because an inferior reliever blew the game in a critical situation earlier in the game that your "closer" could have extinguished.
    Even in the world of baseball where so many players are freakishly superstitious and regimented, pitchers stand out. Your "best" reliever isn't always your "best" reliever. It's situation dependent.


    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    It seems to me that the Closer is the pitcher that is used with the least regularity. Sometimes he pitches two, three, four days in a row. Other times he goes a week without being used.
    That's part of the gig of being a closer and they know that going in. Many times you'll see closer come in in a non-save situation to "just get some work" and stay on schedule and they can't pitch w/ 5 run lead. They need to be walking that razors edge in order to throw at their best.

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicDumpling View Post
    If your ace reliever takes a long time to warm up or can't handle irregular use, then put him in the rotation where he gets all the time he needs to warm up and prepare and he always knows days in advance when he will be pitching.
    If you're "ace reliever" takes a long time (how long is "long"? Are we talking longer than the 4 pitches it takes T. Lincecum? Or are we talking 40 pitches?) to warm up, then I don't see him being your "ace reliever".

    I'm of the opinion, especially after last year, that Lincecum is a bigger weapon out of the pen because of his ability to be ready at a moments notice as well as his ability to throw several innings if needed. They don't call him "The Freak" for nothing though. That's a rare thing.
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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    I agree wholeheartedly that a run in the 8th is equal to the same amount as a run in the 1st. However I think runs later in the game can be much more difficult to come by. What gets lost in the entire argument is pressure and the sense of finality that teams face. If you have what is percieved as a lock down closer it makes a manager force the issue in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings. You are forced to take more chances in a close game because you "think" the realities of scoring off an "elite" closer is difficult. Go look at game threads when its a tight ball game and see all the nerves pouring themselves over the posts. Humans playing the game feel those nerves too.

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I agree with this. But why do bullpen roles have to be defined by inning? Why not by leverage? Is it that much ask relievers who are available in a given day to "keep your head in the game and be mentally ready in the 7th thorough 9th" innings? Just how predictable do things have to be?

    I know I'm not typically old school, but come on. Is it really that hard to:

    1. Have your mop up guy(s), your elite/high leverage guy(s) and the rest and have everybody know whose who
    2. Explain to the guys how you look at leverage. Once we get to the 7th:
    - First cut is the score
    - Second cut is the base/out situation
    - Third cut is spot in the opponent's lineup
    - Fourth cut is lateness in the game

    Sure, you could layer in some nuance if you have a guy who has a giant platoon split or who owns certain types of hitters, but there's no way that players can't handle an approach that doesn't start with an arbitrary stat and works down from there.

    Show me a manager who brings his closer in at the top of the 8th to face the 2-3-4 batters in a 2 run game and then uses his middle reliever to get 5-6-7 and get the "save" and I'll be happy.
    I agree with you and think that managers already are doing that. Lets just take a look at the way the Reds were constructed down the stretch last season. Chapman was getting the ball in the 9th. But the Reds had two top tier relievers who were used in a high leverage situation. Marshall in many situations was used against a teams best left handed hitter and Broxton was used in high leverage situations in the 7th or 8th. Every manager slots his relievers in a certain way, often times setting aside their best relievers for hte highest leverage situation.

    In reality until a manager decides to buck the trend, we will not have any "proof" that closers don't matter. Until we have a manager who decides to go closer by committee we won't know if that way works better than what has become standard over the past decades.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    I agree wholeheartedly that a run in the 8th is equal to the same amount as a run in the 1st. However I think runs later in the game can be much more difficult to come by.
    Nice point. Also there is less opportunity to overcome runs given up later in the game. So if a reliever gives up the lead in say the 6th inning, there is at least more of a chance for the offense to come back then if it were the 9th.
    ...the 2-2 to Woodsen and here it comes...and it is swung on and missed! And Tom Browning has pitched a perfect game! Twenty-seven outs in a row, and he is being mobbed by his teammates, just to the thirdbase side of the mound.

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

    This seems soooooo simple and people are over complicating the issue.

    A reliever on average pitches 55-80 innings.
    A healthy starter on average pitches 150-200 innings.

    Let's assume that Chapman is effective in both roles. A starter is double the value by having almost twice the innings logged. It's simple.

    The closer role has the perception of higher importance but statistically doesn't. 3 outs in the 4th are just as important as 3 outs in the 9th. Also the closer gets the glory of the victory for throwing 10-25 pitches while the starter that threw 100+ is in dugout wearing a jacket. I think fans "feel" closer are more important than than truly are.

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    AtomicDumpling (03-15-2013)

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

    The problem I have with this analysis is that the answer to whether a closer matters would likely get buried in the noise of what is apparent anytime you do analysis like this... pretty much every single factor, and every single player, has less of an impact on who wins and loses games than any of use realize.

    It's the same reason we saw last year when Votto got injured. When he went down, statistically we started understanding that we were projected to win about 59% of our games instead of 60 (estimating here). Does that mean there is no point in having Votto if he only makes 1% of a difference? Obviously not.

    I think baseball teams really do aim for that .01 improvement in their chance of winning. Maybe even .001.

    As a slight tangent, I think odds are less important for this particular team over the long haul. It's a playoff team. Once we get there, the title will come down to 1 or 2 situations that decide if we go home or we go on. Not a sample size of 500,000... just a couple situations. In those situations, I don't care about numbers anymore. I want a guy on my roster that I believe will come through in that moment. If that moment is the 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, I really don't care.

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    TSJ55 (03-15-2013)

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    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    I'm just glad I'm not a manager and I get to throw pot shots from the peanut gallery.

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    Joseph (03-15-2013)

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Trajinous View Post
    This seems soooooo simple and people are over complicating the issue.

    A reliever on average pitches 55-80 innings.
    A healthy starter on average pitches 150-200 innings.

    Let's assume that Chapman is effective in both roles. A starter is double the value by having almost twice the innings logged. It's simple.

    The closer role has the perception of higher importance but statistically doesn't. 3 outs in the 4th are just as important as 3 outs in the 9th. Also the closer gets the glory of the victory for throwing 10-25 pitches while the starter that threw 100+ is in dugout wearing a jacket. I think fans "feel" closer are more important than than truly are.
    You're basically arguing against the concept of high leverage situations entirely. I don't think you'll find too many people agree with you there. The outs a closer gets are almost guaranteed to be in late and close games. The outs a starter pitches could be in a 15-0 game.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by swaisuc View Post
    You're basically arguing against the concept of high leverage situations entirely. I don't think you'll find too many people agree with you there. The outs a closer gets are almost guaranteed to be in late and close games. The outs a starter pitches could be in a 15-0 game.
    Not at all! Starters will pitch way more innings that are close than a closer/reliever does over the course of a season. I bet a starter pitches, completely pulling these out of the air, 40-50 innings that are tied or within 1 run. I would love to see the actual stats but don't know where to find that one out. Are you telling me the reliever/closer innings are more high leverage than a starter?

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Trajinous View Post
    Not at all! Starters will pitch way more innings that are close than a closer/reliever does over the course of a season. I bet a starter pitches, completely pulling these out of the air, 40-50 innings that are tied or within 1 run. I would love to see the actual stats but don't know where to find that one out. Are you telling me the reliever/closer innings are more high leverage than a starter?
    Going by BRef. Cueto faced 142 batters in High Leverage situations last season. Chapman faced 133.

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

    Cueto faced 529 batters in a game within one run. Champman 124. Just depends on ones definition of high leverage.

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    always ask questions bigredmechanism's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Trajinous View Post
    Not at all! Starters will pitch way more innings that are close than a closer/reliever does over the course of a season. I bet a starter pitches, completely pulling these out of the air, 40-50 innings that are tied or within 1 run. I would love to see the actual stats but don't know where to find that one out. Are you telling me the reliever/closer innings are more high leverage than a starter?
    I think the highest leverage pitchers (as a % of their workload) are going to be the guys who come in relief of the starter. Which is kind of annoying, because conventional wisdom will have your 6th and 7th inning guys as the least talented of the bullpen regulars.

    Granted, someone like Cueto or Arroyo is going to see more of those situations over the course of a season, but someone like Logan Ondrusek or Sean Marshall was in that situation more frequently albeit at a lesser amount of innings.
    Last edited by bigredmechanism; 03-15-2013 at 12:09 PM.
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by RadfordVA View Post
    Cueto faced 529 batters in a game within one run. Champman 124. Just depends on ones definition of high leverage.
    Great stats, thanks for the knowledge drop! Where did you find those stats?

    My philosophy is the best pitcher should pitch the most innings. I believe the closer role is overvalued. It has a perception and feeling of being more important where objectively it is not. A game feels more important in the 7-9th than the 3-6, even though they have the same value of needing 3 outs. A game can be lost in any inning but with the sense of urgency of "time running out", closers are overvalued in their role of winning a game.
    Last edited by Trajinous; 03-15-2013 at 12:32 PM.

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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Posnanski with more data showing that closers simply don't matter

    Quote Originally Posted by Trajinous View Post
    Great stats, thanks for the knowledge drop! Where did you find those stats?

    My philosophy is the best pitcher should pitch the most innings. I believe the closer role is overvalued. It has a perception and feeling of being more important where objectively it is not. A game feels more important in the 7-9th than the 3-6, even though they have the same value of needing 3 outs. A game can be lost in any inning but with the sense of urgency of "time running out", closers are overvalued in their role of winning a game.
    What is worse, 3 runs scored against you in the top of the first or 3 runs scored in the top of the 9th in a 0-0 game?


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