CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

Premium and Super Premium Subscribers Get a 20% Discount at MLB.tv!

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: O... (09/20)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (09/17)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: I (H... (09/21)
Next Article >>
Prospectus Notebook: H... (09/21)

September 20, 2005

Prospectus Today

Eighth vs. Ninth

by Joe Sheehan

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Last week, I found myself asserting into a camera that one reason closers are overrated as a class is that they often face the lower part of the the lineup, as opposed to the middle of the lineup that set-up men have to retire to do their job. While I believed this to be the case, it was just an assertion, and I had no real evidence to back it up.

So I decided to check it out. If what I'm saying is true, one effect would be that that setup men would have a better quality of batters faced than closers on the same teams. The differences might be small--remember that these pitchers are facing the same teams--but I would expect any differences to at least point in the right direction. What I'm looking for is teams where one guy pitches the eighth inning and the other one the ninth.

I identified 12 sets of stable closer/setup tandems for the '05 seasons, in three cases choosing two relievers as "setup" men based on usage patterns. What I found was very small differences, ranging from 17 points of OPS in favor of the set-up pitchers' opponents (Dustin Hermanson vs. the tandem of Damaso Marte and Cliff Politte) to nine points in favor of the closer (Braden Looper vs. Roberto Hernandez. The overall split was 7-4 in favor of the set-up pitchers facing tougher hitters, with one tie (the Angels).

I expected small differences, but these are so small that I don't think they can be considered significant. The full data set runs at the bottom of this page.

While I was working on this article, researcher Tom Fontaine sent me some data about batting orders, and what spots most frequently led off innings. The data is from 1997, but as he puts it, it's "very consistent" from year to year.

This information makes the case a bit more forcefully. The eighth inning opens most frequently with the #3 batter, followed closely by the #1 batter, then the #9. In any of those circumstances, the set-up man is facing the top or the middle of the order, a dangerous spot to be in. The ninth inning, on the other hand, is most likely to open with the #6 spot, followed by the #7 and #8 spots. That's an easier row to hoe. Here's the complete list:


Eighth inning     Ninth inning

1    12.49%       1    10.47%
2    11.61%       2     9.78%
3    12.71%       3    11.43%
4    10.52%       4    10.52%
5     9.73%       5    11.15%
6    10.33%       6    12.42%
7    10.17%       7    11.94%
8    10.28%       8    11.91%
9    12.16%       9    10.38%
Looking at the quality of batters faced is something of a blind alley, given the tiny differences, but when you consider what part of the lineup typically bats in the eighth inning versus the ninth, it supports the argument that set-up men do have a much more difficult job than closers. Despite the last 20 years of building up the final three outs of the game to be the be-all, end-all of relief pitching, it's apparent that the eighth inning is where much of the action is.

The data set for the first study:


               PA    AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS  Diff
Hermanson:    209   .261  .322  .411   733   -17

Marte:        199   .265  .332  .422   754
Politte:      240   .266  .327  .420   747


Wickman:      243   .265  .331  .420   751    -4

Howry:        240   .268  .330  .425   755
Rhodes:       175   .260  .327  .412   739


Rodriguez:    252   .264  .329  .424   753     0

Shields:      351   .262  .330  .423   753


Nathan:       258   .262  .325  .417   742   -16

Rincon:       287   .267  .329  .429   758


Rivera:       279  .267  .330  .423    753    -7

Gordon:       303  .269  .333  .427    760


Guardado:     215  .266  .329  .423    752    -5

Putz:         254  .265  .332  .425    757


Lidge:        257  .264  .335  .424    759    +5

Wheeler:      237  .263  .333  .421    754


Wagner:       264  .261  .326  .414    740    -5

Madson:       342  .262  .330  .415    745


Isringhausen: 215  .264  .333  .419    752     0

Tavarez:      251  .259  .326  .420    746
King:         169  .267  .340  .419    759


Hoffman:      208  .266  .334  .420    754   -11

Otsuka:       262  .267  .337  .428    765


Cordero:      303  .263  .334  .424    758    +3

Majewski:     333  .266  .336  .419    755


Looper:       267  .265  .335  .422    757    +9

Hernandez:    241  .263  .334  .414    748

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: O... (09/20)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Prospectus Today: The ... (09/17)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Prospectus Today: I (H... (09/21)
Next Article >>
Prospectus Notebook: H... (09/21)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Buy Corey Dickerson
Feature Focus: Feature Focus: Playoff Odds
Premium Article What You Need to Know: August 29, 2014
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: This Article Mentions Fehlan...
Premium Article The Call-Up: Dilson Herrera
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, Augu...
Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
Premium Article Prospectus Matchups: Out on One Bounce
Prospectus Hit List: Week of September 18
Premium Article Can Of Corn: Counterargument
Premium Article Under The Knife: Put the Focus on the Field

MORE BY JOE SHEEHAN
2005-09-25 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: NL Reset
2005-09-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: AL Reset
2005-09-21 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: I (Heart) Baseball
2005-09-20 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Eighth vs. Ninth
2005-09-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Races Get Hotter
2005-09-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Come Again?
2005-09-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Six Teams, Four Spots
More...

MORE PROSPECTUS TODAY
2005-09-25 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: NL Reset
2005-09-23 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: AL Reset
2005-09-21 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: I (Heart) Baseball
2005-09-20 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Eighth vs. Ninth
2005-09-17 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: The Races Get Hotter
2005-09-15 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Come Again?
2005-09-14 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Six Teams, Four Spots
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2006-05-10 - Premium Article Prospectus Today: Closing Time
2005-10-06 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Division Series, Day Two