Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The use of closers

Every bit of statistical evidence points out that the save is overrated and relief pitchers are misused. A teams closer is typically that team's best pitcher. So it'd make sense if you put him in when the score is tied in the 7th rather then putting him in when your team is up by 3 in the ninth. Studes over at the Hardball Times put forth this article analizing the use of closers in tough situations. It's not a very in depth article, but it does scratch the surface a bit.

While statistical evidence and common sense say that the best pitcher should be used in the tighest situation, history has said otherwise. All eight 2004 playoff teams had a legitimate closer. Brad Lidge was the only one of the 8 playoff closers that didn't top 30 saves and that's only because he wasn't the closer all year. Either way, I don't think anyone will question Lidge as a legitimate closer. Seven of eight 2003 playoff teams had a closer with at least 28 saves. The only team that didn't? The Red Sox using the closer by commitee idea, which we all know turned out to be a disaster. All eight teams in 2002 had a 28+ save closer. So history dictates that winners have closers.

I'd really like to see the closer by committee approach done with the right personel. The reason that the 2003 Red Sox bullpen failed wasn't because of the roles the players had, it was because they didn't have the right players. I'd like to see a team like the Dodgers try it. It would only make sense to see Eric Gagne come into the game in the 7th when the opponent has two men on base and the score is tied. If the Dodgers have a three run lead in the ninth? Hell, throw in Darren Dreifort. When a team has a good bullpen with a couple of great arms, using a closer wouldn't make sense. Unfortunately, there's not enough evidence to support that claim. One day there will be another team willing to buck tradition.

There's a few ifs here, but if Mantei stays healthy, Kim stays and is productive, and if they can get a Mike Myers type loogy, the Sox are the perfect team for this bullpen approach. They'd have 3 guys that have been successful closers, two solid set up men in Timlin and Embree, and a guy like Wakefield or Arroyo that can eat up innings back there with effectiveness. In short, the bullpen could be effective in any situation, therefore meaning you can use your best guy at the toughest time.
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