Skip to content

The save stat and perverse incentives

Sep 20, 2011, 10:32 AM EDT

Mariano Rivera Reuters

Ted Berg flagged something pretty darn illuminating this morning.  The quotes of the principles in yesterday’s Yankees game, happy that they failed on offense so that Mariano Rivera could get his 602nd save:

“I couldn’t believe they were cheering me for hitting into a double play,” Swisher said. “I said: ‘Whoa, what’s this? And then I looked at the bullpen and saw Mo coming out and I said: ‘Now I get it!’ This was the greatest double play of my life.”

“Runners at first and second…it was unbelievable,” Rivera said. “I don’t ever want my teammates to do bad so I can pitch, but this time I was happy for the opportunity. I’m listening to the fans and I said: ‘Wow, these guys are into it!’”

The most common critique of stats and stat-oriented analysis is that it allegedly elevates that which isn’t truly important over on-the-field baseball.  Yet there is nothing in baseball that does that more than the save stat, which non-stats oriented analysts love about a zillion times more than the SABR-nerds.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    Much the same as Posada catching the ninth, Beep-beep should have been brought in for Swish.
    Tradition.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      Much the same as Posada catching the ninth

      Please explain why

      • phukyouk - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        cause he ALWAYS hits into DP’s… or so i assume?

      • yankeesfanlen - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:54 AM

        Jeter is the GIDP Captain of the team.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:57 AM

        I get that, the quoted part references Jorge catching and asking why he should have.

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      Sarcastic humor aside, he was already in the game. Unless he was beside himself over the Grumpy slight, thus his other self being able to come off the bench for Swish.
      /sarcasm back atcha.

    • yankeesfanlen - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:02 AM

      If we’re going in for a 2005 Yankees game, we may as well make it Old Timers’ Day.

  2. thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Good for Rivera, he’s the greatest reliever ever, blah blah blah….
    …but saves are an utterly pointless, completely ridiculous statistic. Why anyone gives them any weight at all is beyond me, much less why teams build their bullpen’s around them. It makes no sense that a pitcher will get millions, perhaps tens of millions more on a contract because a manager decided to use him in the 9th inning instead of the 8th.

    Chris Perez was an all-star this year for the Indians. He has a 3.49 ERA, a 1.42 K/BB ratio, and coughs up roughly 1 homer per 9 innings. By virtually any account, Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Vinnie Pestano have been much, much better this year, yet will never be considered for the all-star team or get paid as much in the future….because their manager puts Perez in the 9th with his team up by 3 or fewer runs. Nevermind that the situations the others pitch in are likely equally or more important. It’s all about perception based on an incredibly stupid statistic.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:01 AM

      It may be that the save stat is overrated, but it is definitely not pointless and ridiculous. What you are doing is saying that getting 3 outs in the 9th is as tough to do as getting 3 outs in the 5th and it has been said by many pitchers that this is just not the case. Whether stat guys want to admit it or not, getting the last 3 outs of a game is much more pressure-filled than getting an out in the 7th inning, no matter how many men are on base at the time. Because if you are on the road, no matter what happens, if you screw up in the 7th, your team will still have a shot. If you screw up in the 9th, you lose. Ballgame over.

      Now, if you want to say that the save stat is stupid because a 3 run lead isn’t much pressure, then I’m fine with making it a 2 run lead…or even a 1 run lead. 3 run leads make it a pretty overrated stat…especially when it is one of those 5 run leads with the bases loaded and 2 out kind of saves. But to completely dismiss the stat out of hand is not fair either.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        “What you are doing is saying that getting 3 outs in the 9th is as tough to do as getting 3 outs in the 5th and it has been said by many pitchers that this is just not the case.”—- Umm, so the hand-eye coordinator of batter suddenly improves in the 9th?

        The wonderful Joe Posnanski dug into some stats and discovered that in the 00′s, teams won 95% of games when leading in the 9th inning. In the 50′s, before closers….teams won 95% of their games when leading in the 9th. In fact, in virtually era Posnanski looked at, teams won 95% of their games when leading in the 9th.

        What you’re actually saying is that we should ignore the statistics and go by circumstantial information. Saves are more important because it *seems* like those outs are harder to get. Umm…they’re not. Players don’t become better in the 9th inning.

        Also, how is a 5-4 lead in the 9th harder to record outs for than a 5-4 lead in the 8th? One guy gets a save and several million more dollars.

      • yankeesfanlen - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        Chris, I think the ninth is rougher too. You know, some teams actually pay big bucks now to buy closers to pitch the EIGHTH? Can you imagine the arrogance?
        Gotta go, my cell has a message to buy a Mo autographed commenarable baseball for $199.99

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Again, falcon, and no disrespect here, but when you are pitching in the 8th inning of a 5-4 game and you screw it up and give up 2 runs, your team has another shot to win the game. When you are in the bottom of the 9th and pitching in a 5-4 game and give up 2 runs…your team LOSES IMMEDIATELY. Now, if you don’t see the difference with that, then I don’t know what to say.

        And no matter how much statistics joe pos pulls out of the excel spreadsheet, I will take the word of guys like Mitch Williams who say that there is nothing harder than getting the last 3 out of a ballgame. All the snarkiness about hand-eye coordination changing, etc. will not change the fact that it is MORE PRESSURE to get those last three outs.

      • Joe - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        What if the three outs in the 8th are Pujols, Holliday and Berkman, and the three outs in the 9th are Shumacher, Molina and Descalso?

      • dailyrev - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        The ancillary point to be made here involves the very raison d’etre of the closer (and some setup men too): statistics on virtually any starting pitcher, even the best of them, show that repeated looks mean better performance by hitters; and the 3rd time, after the old proverb, is often indeed the charm for hitters. Paraphrasing another proverb, familiarity begets raking. This trend also follows when pitchers are changed, which should surprise no one except people who pay attention only to baseball statistics: those of us who live outside that shell know that there is abundant psychophysical research showing that hand-eye coordination improves with simple sequential repetition.

        So especially in a live-ball era (and if you don’t believe the ball is “live” ask the unfortunate Mr. Karstens about what happened when he shattered a bat last night and watched the ball sail into the LF seats), outs are tougher to come by in the last third of a game. Those who get them consistently deserve recognition (for Yankee fans I’d add the observation that young Mr. Robertson has been at least as equally remarkable this year as Rivera has been). To do it consistently for a few years at this level is extraordinary; to do it for a decade and a half strains belief. And to do it consistently in the post-season where the best lineups occur (and where the 5-run-lead-with-bases-loaded situation is rarely seen) touches sublimity.

        This is perhaps one reason that great players like Rivera avoid the glare of these moments, because in our culture, you have to have numbers to justify your performance but if you do perform then the numbers must themselves be meaningless. We insist on statistical support and then say that some statistics are numb.

        In this case, we’re all fortunate if we love the game as we claim to, because we can drop the geek glasses and just review what the man has done for 17 yrs., beyond the numbers. His greatness is then self-evident.

      • chrisdtx - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        You don’t think that Mitch Williams might have an agenda by saying getting 3 outs in the 9th is so difficult? You know, because that’s what his career and “legacy” is based off of and everthing.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        It is my opinion, and the opinion of many baseball men who pitched in baseball, that pitching the 9th is more pressure than pitching any other inning. You want to trot out some examples of when better hitters are there, it doesn’t matter. I will defer to the men who actually played the game.

      • Mark - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:13 PM

        ” When you are in the bottom of the 9th and pitching in a 5-4 game and give up 2 runs…your team LOSES IMMEDIATELY. Now, if you don’t see the difference with that, then I don’t know what to say.”

        If your team is down by a run in the ninth you can’t come back because you’re facing the other teams closer. Wasn’t that the point you were making?

        Therefore, if you lose in the 8th you can’t come back to win it. Which means, that you should have used your best pitcher in the 8th to keep the lead, because the set up man wouldn’t have given up the runs in the 9th to the lesser hitters in the lineup.

        Or did I just blow your mind?

      • chrisdtx - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:18 PM

        Again, appeal to authority doesn’t work here. Find me a pitcher who admits that he couldn’t pitch the 9th because the pressure was too great, and preferred to pitch in the 7th. You aren’t going to find that guy. Athletes, by their nature, never admit that they choke under pressure. They are not wired that way. And a guy who makes his career closing games is not going to admit that there’s no difference between outs in the 9th vs. any other inning. In fact, it will be quite the opposite. They will inflate the value of those outs, which in turn inflates their perceived mental toughness and scrappy grittitude.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:34 PM

        I’m talking about Pressure boys. I know there isn’t a column on the spreadsheet on how to deal with it so you guys can’t accept that it exists and that is OK. We’ll agree to disagree. You guys think that there are nothing but robots out there who get the ball and throw the ball the same way no matter what the situation, no matter what the weather, no matter how loud the crowd may be. I am a little more realistic. To each his or her own.

      • jwbiii - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:59 PM

        I will take the word of guys like Mitch Williams who say that there is nothing harder than getting the last 3 out of a ballgame

        You obviously never had to watch Mitch Williams try to get the last three outs in a ballgame.

      • chrisdtx - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:13 PM

        It’s not about “a column on a spreadsheet”. A great pitcher is going to be a great pitcher, regardless of the inning of the game. The quibble is with how managers use their best relief pitchers and the dogma that your best guy has to get the last 3 outs because of a dumb statistic.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:20 PM

        But your “best relief pitcher” isn’t always the guy who is going to pitch the best under more pressure is he? And I am saying that there is more pressure in the 9th inning than there is in the 7th inning just about every single time. So, just because Papelbon might be your best reliever, he’s also the only guy you have in your pen who can pitch the 9th inning. Bard can’t even pitch in pressure situations in the 7th or 8th inning in September so I have no idea why Boston thought he would be a future closer when the pressure is REALLY on…oh yeah, Theo is a guy who probably thinks any solid reliever can close. Hopefully, for Sox fan’s sakes, he comes off that silly notion and gives Papelbon the money he deserves.

      • Mark - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:41 PM

        “. Bard can’t even pitch in pressure situations in the 7th or 8th inning in September so I have no idea why Boston thought he would be a future closer when the pressure is REALLY on”

        I think Daniel Bard would disagree about that:

        9th inning – 1.19 ERA, lowest OPS against, highest K:BB of any inning, outside of extras.
        8th inning = 3.29 ERA
        7th inning = 2.29 ERA

        Save situation= 2.90 ERA
        Non save situation = 2.62 ERA

        Bard’s problems are that he can’t hit the strike zone. Location has been awful for the last month or so. He’s very good in save situations, and he’s shown he can handle the 9th.

      • Mark - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        Sorry I thought you said he can’t pitch in the 7th/8th innings in general, not just September. My apologies.

    • Francisco (FC) - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      The Save statistic itself is wonky, just as wonky as pitcher wins and losses. As for the value of your best reliever coming in the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th. I think there’s merit in the debate. If you follow WPA at all (a SABR-nerd statistic BTW), outs are more valuable towards the end of the game and than in the middle or the beginning. While not a predictive statistic and more of a descriptive one, you can easily come up with working scenarios that make for hard decisions:

      Let’s say you’re in a jam in the 7th inning, you bring in your fireman, the best reliever in the pen, let’s say Mariano Rivera and he mows down the opposition. Fine. But he doesn’t go much beyond 1 inning regularly, so you bring in someone else to pitch the 8th or maybe the 9th, which by definition WON’T be your best reliever…usually this isn’t a problem, but if you run into ANOTHER jam in the 9th and all you need is one more out to seal deal… ahh but you just used your best reliever in the 7th, so now you’re stuck with a less stellar guy with the game on the playoffs on the line.

      That doesn’t mean the decision is wrong it’s just hard. Let’s say you don’t bring your best guy to put out the fire in the 7th, and the opposition capitalizes and scores. Now you’re in trouble. The only difference is you still have some outs left so your line-up has a chance to get you back in the game.

      People like to say that since the closer has come into existence teams ahead in the 9th haven’t been more successful than in the past when this wasn’t usually the case. But neither have they been noticeably worse. So there’s no compelling reason to go back to the way things were before. Except perhaps money wise but since the advent of free agency you’re not going to see closer salaries rolled back in any meaningful fashion.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:25 AM

        If you follow WPA at all (a SABR-nerd statistic BTW), outs are more valuable towards the end of the game and than in the middle or the beginning

        Generally this is true, but it’s a lot more indepth merely than saying outs in the 9th are worth more than outs in the first.

        And bringing up the fireman issue in the 7th does bring up a conundrum if you face the same situation in the 9th. However, you are forgetting the other side of the coin that if the pitcher in the 7th gives up the lead, the WPA (or Leverage Index) is a lot lower if you bring in your “closer” in the 9th while losing.

      • seanmk - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM

        and you are basically saying the reason why WPA in the 9th is worth more, it’s opportunity. You have chances to come back if you lose the lead in the 7th as opposed to the 9th, so in that respect the 9th is “more important.” But as church points out if you lose the lead in the 7th and never get it back, what does it matter if you saved your best reliever for the 9th; you didn’t use him.

        This is the main point on contention for people when managers “save their closer” in extra inning games in case a save situation arrises. you are managing for a situation that may not happen.

      • Francisco (FC) - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM

        As I said it’s a tough decision. And BTW Church I did bring up the other side of the coin did you skip my third paragraph? I may not have illustrated the WPA elegantly as you put it but I did mention your team would be in a tough spot if they didn’t use their best guy and the opposing line-up broke through.

        I merely challenge the assertion that automatically bringing in your best reliever to stop the fire in any situation after the 6th is a no-brainer. I think there are pros and cons and there may not be a right answer. Especially since the stats say neither approach is noticeably better than the other historically speaking.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        Well crap, sorry FC I must have missed it. I need to stop commenting on multiple threads at once.

        The big problem with using the fireman in the 6th/7th is there are tons of different situtations. A one run lead in the 7th with the bases loaded, no outs and pujols at bat is far different than bases loaded 2 outs and Jason Kendall.

        A possible solution is when you have two great relievers (kimbrel/venters, robertson/rivera, bard/papelbon) so you have one be the fireman and one stay the closer. Doing this rather than Joe Girardi X = 7th, Y = 8th and Z =9th inning guys.

  3. proudlycanadian - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    One problem with the save statistics, it that it discourages teams from using their best relief pitcher before the 9th inning. If the Red Sox had brought Papelbon into games in the 7th and 8th innings this month, they might not be the trouble they are in.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      Why not? Are you saying the same relievers who sucked in the 7th or 8th would magically be better in the 9th? Or do you think Papelbon should be throwing 2 or 3 innings?

      • cubsrice - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:49 AM

        I think it depends on where the opponent is in their batting order. If you’re facing the meat of their order, it makes sense to bring a better reliever in to dispatch them as the next two innings will have worse hitters. If you let the “regular 7th inning guy” (who isn’t as good) go in this situation, there’s a chance the game gets out of hand and you’ll never get to your closer anyway.

      • Joe - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        Well, there was this game:

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TOR/TOR201109070.shtml

        when Bard walked in the tying run with two outs in the 8th, and instead of going with his best reliever in Papelbon, Tito called on Hey-ba Matt-ba Albers, who proceeded to give up a bases-clearing double. Boston scored two in the 9th, but still lost. Papelbon was extremely well-rested, but it wasn’t a Save Situation, so we went with like our fifth-best reliever instead.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        Then who would pitch the 9th, Joe? Papelbon? OK, if you want him to go more than an inning, then I can see that. But what if he couldn’t do more than an inning? Then would you be OK with him pitching the 8th and having Hey-ba Matt-ba Albers pitching the 9th???

      • cubsrice - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        The pitcher in the 9th would depend again on what the situation is. It’s not a foolproof exercise, but the manager has to decide whether he wants to risk not being able to use his closer in the 9th if the 7th inning goes to hell. If you use your best reliever then, you dramatically increase the win probability entering the 9th if he’s able to get the job done. If you use a lesser reliever and he shits the bed, then you don’t have a chance to let your best reliever get the save anyway.

    • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      Proudly Canadian,

      I agree with the premise, just not your application.

      During a sustained stretch of this season it could be argued that Daniel Bard was the Red Sox best reliever. And until his September struggles – which are mechanical and not physical – it could still be argued that Bard is the Sox best reliever. And many, myself included, felt that Bard was the Sox best reliever last season as well.

      But, other than that – there is no doubt that when your best reliever also happens to be your Closer, he’s not always used when he is needed most.

      It would certainly help if Holds were recognized with a little more reverence.

      But one significant improvement of Saves would be to not require the Pitcher to finish the game.

      • baccards - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        Are you the same folk that deride TLR for overmanaging?

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        Not quite. There some things he does that I like and others that leave me wondering he does some of what he does just for attention.

        For most of the first half of the season LaRussa was reluctant to name a Closer. Because he had several good unestablished power arms to pick from I think this was a good strategy and eventually Salas emerged as the most reliable and effective.

        And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he proceeds on a similar tact next season.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        I meant to add that even after Salas won the “Closer” job – TLR still used him in non-Save situations when he felt that Salas was the best option.

      • baccards - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        bigleagues
        Very true, all can say what thay will – Tony uses who he thinks will be most effective – and tries to keep the work levels managable for the players..pitchers and position.. he used to get into the 8th and 9th inning guys routine, but then he had Eck and Izzy etc.
        He does have a method to his approach, if others don’t understand it, well that’s not really his fault, is it?

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:57 PM

        baccards:

        He rubs some people the wrong way. Heck, even Theo rubs me the wrong way sometimes. But no one can argue with TLR’s track record. Some would even try and claim that LaRussa couldn’t have done it without Duncan. And I say so what?! LaRussa is the first to admit it. How many people can name a tandem like that in the history of baseball?

        Even the best Managers go through 2,3 or 4 Pitching Coaches during an extended period with the same team – and many aren’t even in on the choice. LaRussa and Duncan are coming up on 30 years together with 3 different organizations. And almost nothing has stopped the Cardinals from being competitive each year he has been there.

        Love or hate him – he’s one of the all-time greats.

  4. bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Just for the record three things that started bringing me towards the state-nerd camp . . .

    1) I knew from a lifetime of watching games that the Win is just about the most flawed stat in the game.

    2) Until, I began officially scoring professional games and had to apply the convoluted and absurd Save stat.

    3) My personal bias against Derek Jeter’s post-30-years-old Defense (despite my respect for him as a player) which was met with contempt and even anger – because, after all, Jetah could (drawing on power he channeled from great Yankees of the past) mystically going to his right, reaching down across his body, snag the ball, thrust himself into the air, and while seemingly in flight, like a angel, throw that ball across his body – despite his momentum away from the base he had to throw to.

    • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

      {EDIT} Function.

      *STAT nerd

  5. presidentmiraflores - Sep 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    I apologize in advance for the annoying CAPS for emphasis.

    My opinion on traditional stats is that they should be used to tell you what happened, not to be used in hypothetical situations to tell you what COULD have happened. It seems to be the goal of the saber community to create stats that tell us more about what could have happened, a player’s ability to contribute to winning games in situations other than those he was in, and I think that is admirable.

    But that does not mean the traditional stats are worthless; most still tell us what ACTUALLY happened on the field.

    Examples: RBI tell us how many runs a batter ACTUALLY drove in, whereas oWAR or batting avg. with RISP could give us a better idea of what a player could have done if not for a weak supporting cast. Ortiz or Texeira or Howard actually drove in the runs they did, regardless of the fact that Bautista WOULD have driven in many more if he were in a better lineup.

    Mariano did close out all those games, and blow some, in save opportunities, regardless of whether you believe he would have been just as valuable as a set-up man without the saves. If you want to make the playing field level to compare 7th inning relievers to closers, knock yourself out, but it doesn’t erase what actually happened on the field, which is what most traditional stats best tell us.

    • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:27 PM

      I don’t think anyone would argue that counting stats like RBI, R, etc . . . don’t have merit.

      And you are right, the difference between traditional standard counting stats and sabremetrics is that the latter is more about giving context to the former.

      However that doesn’t change the fact that the Save Rule is flawed and the prominence of accumulating Saves has become, in various ways, toxic to teams managing and/or building their bullpen.

      There is no doubt about what constitutes a Home Run, Double, Run, K, BB, etc . . . all of them are straight forward and simple to comprehend and understand.

      Conversely, the Save is not straight forward, contains several if/then statements and is awkwardly applied. Multiple pitchers can be credited with “Blown Saves” within the same game, yet only one Pitcher can be credited with a Save. And a Pitcher who had a Blown Save can still earn a Win – which not only seems counter-intelligent – it is counter-intelligent.

      BTW, none of what I said above changes the fact that Mariano Rivera has been the most dominating modern day reliever to ever wear a uniform. (And I’m comforted by the fact that the Red Sox have scored some of their most storied comebacks and improbable victories with the otherwise infallible Mo).

      • presidentmiraflores - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:26 PM

        I honestly think the people who say saves mean nothing are getting just as carried away, and are just as wrong, as the people who would have us believe that a single stat means everything. I’m not saying you fall into that camp, but rather that saves do tell us something about what occurred, whether we want to put much stock in them or not.

        I don’t believe that sensible managers and GMs are so bent on helping their players to accumulate stats, or so enamored with players’ heretofore accumulation, that it becomes “toxic” to the way they manage and build teams. For those who are that misguided, if it weren’t for the save stat, I’m sure they would still succeed in mismanaging their teams.

      • bigleagues - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:36 PM

        I agree that Saves do tell us something but like any Stat or number, it only tells us part of the story. And in no way do I expect it to tell us everything. My main issues are basically as follows:

        1) A RP can earn a Save despite an awful performance. Not only can that RP avoid having ER’s being charged to him (if the runner’s were left on by the previous Pitcher) but that RP can be rewarded with a Save or worse, a win.

        2) Multiple BS may be credited during the course of a game, while a Save can only be credited to someone who enters a game with his team leading and who also finishes the game – even if he pitched the weakest part of the opposing teams lineup and the real heavy lifting was done the Inning before by another Pitcher entirely.

        3) Once a “Closer” is branded with that title, and is paid “Closer money” – it is near impossible for a team to change that Pitchers role without protest – even if he isn’t as effective as he once was.

        4) As it stands now, it is possible for a Pitcher to enter the 9th Inning with his team leading by 3 Runs, 2 Outs already having been recorded and a runner on 1B, throw 1 pitch and earn the Save.

      • presidentmiraflores - Sep 20, 2011 at 7:51 PM

        I don’t disagree with any of that, bigleagues, and as you said, we have to take stats with a grain of salt and recognize they don’t give us the entire picture. I would just say though that I don’t think many truly ineffective RPs will stay in that role long enough to rack up too many saves, and if a GM can’t be bothered to look at someone’s ERA before signing him, he deserves to get burned.

        In regards to the part about branding someone a closer, giving him commensurate money, and his not living up to the deal anymore, I think GMs, and probably fans too, have to recognize that the RP who can dominate and close games consistently for several or more consecutive seasons is a rare, rare thing. It is frankly a bit crazy to give anyone closer money for more than 2 or 3 years, unless the “closer money” comes via incentive clauses, and preferably they are ones that the manager/GM cannot interfere with too much (meaning not based on innings and saves as much as ERA, BA against, maybe staying under a certain number of blown saves, etc.).

        But as I suggested in another thread recently, I would like to see incentivized contracts become more of the norm in sports anyway, and especially for players that are not so likely to stay at a high level, whether because of age, short resume, or being paid to produce at an extraordinarily high level–such as big-time sluggers, aces, closers, and the like.

      • bigleagues - Sep 21, 2011 at 2:28 AM

        el presidente!

        You will find no disagreement here with regard to base plus performance based incentives becoming the norm in contract – particularly long term contracts and/or for players who are moving toward their mid-30′s.

        However the only way I see that happening is if both sides agree to ban the type of guaranteed contracts we have today.

    • seanmk - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:29 PM

      i think you are a bit confused on the RBI thing. The point about RBIs or wins or saves as tools of evaluating is that people use them as the start and end point for reasons why someone is good, when they are really just situations of opportunity. You can’t get more then one RBI in any one plate appearence unless there are men on base ahead of you, and you are depending on them to be able to score themselves based on the hit, you can’t get a win unless your offense scores for you and you must pitch at least 5 innings, and you can’t get a save unless the situation dictates it’s a “save chance”.

      Using RBI totals as an end all be all penalizes players on worse teams with less chances. RBIs don’t tell you anything about the player himself and more about the players around him. I know he’s a sparkplug of conversation, but is the RBI ryan howard gets from a double that scores chase utley from first base, a credit to howard or a credit to utley for scoring from first base? I like RBIs from the stand point of a single game story, but totals don’t tell you anything about the quality of the hitter, more it’s a quality of the team.

      a point i’d make is, “Is mariano good because he has 600+ saves or is he good because he’s a reliever with a lifetime 2.22 era 1106 k : 274 walk ratio.”

      • presidentmiraflores - Sep 20, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Respectfully, I think you’re a bit confused about what I wrote, or you are reading things into, or out of, what I wrote. I clearly acknowledged that RBI tell you what happened, not what potentially could have happened had a hitter had a better supporting cast around him:

        “Examples: RBI tell us how many runs a batter ACTUALLY drove in, whereas oWAR or batting avg. with RISP could give us a better idea of what a player could have done if not for a weak supporting cast. Ortiz or Texeira or Howard actually drove in the runs they did, regardless of the fact that Bautista WOULD have driven in many more if he were in a better lineup.”

        It is implied therein that a hitter in a better lineup may end up with more RBI than a better hitter in a weak lineup, and of course this goes for runs scored and other stats.

        My comment is all about limiting how we interpret traditional stats. Again, they only tell us what occurred, not what could have occurred in a different situation with the same player. Therefore, I would not advocate using something like RBI, pitcher wins, runs scored, etc., as the end-all be-all in evaluating players. And to take that a step further, I can only be responsible for what I say or write, and how I use stats, not for how others use them, which is why I felt no need to apologize for those who go overboard with any kind of stat, be they traditional and simple or newer and more complex.

  6. natstowngreg - Sep 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    No doubt, many fans at Yankee Stadium wanted the Yankees to not score so they could witness the record. But at least some of of them also wanted the Yankees to not score because they have Mariano in their Roto leagues.

    Part of the overrating of saves is due to their importance in Roto scoring. It’s one reason why I mainly play in simulation games, where counting saves doesn’t matter. In a simulation, anyone can get a save by pitching a scoreless inning.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

This was 'the perfect baseball game'
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Springer (3891)
  2. I. Davis (2948)
  3. C. Kimbrel (2828)
  4. B. Harper (2755)
  5. M. Machado (2701)
  1. M. Cuddyer (2659)
  2. C. Granderson (2493)
  3. J. Chavez (2396)
  4. J. Reyes (2338)
  5. K. Calhoun (2238)