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April 8, 2009

Prospectus Today

Blowing Games, Blowing Leads

by Joe Sheehan

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Is there ever a must-win game in April? One of the standard arguments in the MVP discussion each season is that a particular player's performance was better in September, "when it counts," than it was at other times. The stathead counter to that is fairly simple: all games count exactly the same in the standings. That we know more about the arc of the season in September, or that a team has more time to make up a deficit in April, doesn't weight the games any differently.

The Braves and Phillies began their three-game series tied for first in the NL East. The Braves have taken the first two games, holding the Phillies to just one run total. The Braves exploited a key Phillies weakness in the first game, and have beaten up both Phillies starting pitchers. If they can win today, not only will they complete a sweep, but they'll go three games up on the Phillies. That reads almost like snark, but it's not; today's game will cause a two-game swing in the standings, standings that already favor the Braves. If it were September 8, this afternoon's contest would be the center of the baseball world. Maybe it shouldn't be, and I'm just missing something, but it's a very important game in determining who will eventually win this division. A two-game swing in the standings is massive, and if any team should know that, it's the Phillies, who won the East by a single game two years ago and by three-clinching on the next-to-last day-last season.

We miss the importance of these games early in the season because we're just not trained to look for them. But peek back a year, to April 20, 2008, and consider how important this sweep-avoiding win by the Phillies was. Think about how the Mets' bullpen failing to protect a tie, and the Phillies' bullpen throwing four shutout innings, was something of an introduction to the theme of the race. Think about how differently the last weeks of the season play out if the Mets have an extra two-game cushion in the standings.

Just because we don't know if a two-game swing will be important doesn't mean that we can't behave as if it will. Sure, these teams are going to play another 15 games, and there's plenty of time for story lines to develop. Math is math, though, and two games in the standings are enough to change an awful lot of baseball history. The Mets blew a 6-2 lead to the Brewers last April 13, eventually losing 9-7. The Mets finished one game in back of the Brewers for the NL Wild Card. You could argue that they lost that race on April 13.

The entire season matters. Each game counts exactly the same as every other, and working toward the elimination of the "when it counts" fallacy would be a very good next project for those of us in the advocacy wing of the performance analysis house.

It's not just the Phillies/Braves series that highlights this phenomenon. The Royals may be the least of five AL Central teams, but it's a division with so little separation that intradivisional games will be huge. Losing to the White Sox in a fairly ridiculous manner costs them ground that could be valuable. Blow a game with your fourth-best reliever to break a tie for first place in September, and they'll have your head; it's just as silly of a mistake in April.

  • The Astros' decision to sign Ivan Rodriguez was a low-cost, moderate-upside play. Rodriguez is mostly done, and there's not that much difference between him and Humberto Quintero-an underrated defensive catcher-at this point.

    If you're going to make it work, though, you can't invite Rodriguez to be a disaster for the offense. Rodriguez was, at one time, an interesting option as a #2 hitter. He hit for a very high average that gave him a good OBP, and his ability to get hits made him attractive for batting behind a player who could run. The tradeoff was that Pudge, even in his heyday, hit a lot of balls on the ground from the right-hand batters' box, so when he wasn't hitting doubles, he was often hitting into double plays.

    The 2008 version of Rodriguez comes with all the negatives of that package and none of the positives. He is, in fact, the anti-#2 batter: a low-OBP, low-power bat who hits a million balls on the ground (at an increasing rate-his three highest GB/FB ratios came in 2006, 2007, and 2008, peaking last year) and has lost most of his speed. Last year he grounded into a double play in more than one in five opportunities, after doing so at an 18 percent rate in '07.

    He brings absolutely nothing to the table as a second hitter. He makes Michael Bourn, who had a .288 OBP last season, look like Dustin Pedroia. Bourn will probably have a higher OBP than Rodriguez will, and he won't wipe out the runner in front of him as often as Rodriguez does. Do you know how bad a player has to be to make me advocate for Michael Bourn as a #2 hitter?

    I've taken you the long way around to this point: Cecil Cooper doesn't know what he's doing.

  • Then we have the Tigers. On January 24, the Tigers signed Brandon Lyon to a one-year deal. At the time, they made it quite clear that he wasn't promised the closer's job, just a chance at it, but by the time camp opened, he was considered the favorite for the job. A month later, Jim Leyland made it clear that he wanted to have one closer, though he wasn't specific about which candidate he favored. Lyon was so bad in March, however, that by the middle of the month, Leyland backtracked on that, saying, "I don't know that we'll have one closer." By the time camp broke, though, Leyland had come full circle, choosing Fernando Rodney, rather than Lyon, as his closer.

    (Thanks, Rotowire.)

    Take a look at that. The Tigers committed $4 million to Lyon in January, coming off of a season in which the pitcher had been a closer for most of the year, and where the Tigers had a vacancy in the role. They went into camp wanting a one-closer solution, with Lyon the frontrunner. Lyon, who even while collecting saves was no better than a middling reliever in the weaker league, was so bad that he pitched himself out of any share of the job.

    Then, in the first situation of the season where the Tigers need a good right-handed reliever, they go to Brandon Lyon, solely because it was the eighth inning and not the ninth. The game was on the line, runners on base, a win in the balance. Jim Leyland had definitively chosen Fernando Rodney as his guy... and yet he let Lyon, who had pitched his way out of an important role with the team for six weeks, pitch in the first high-leverage situation of the season.

    On top of the Kyle Farnsworth/Trey Hillman rant yesterday, you may be thinking I'm becoming a bit shrill on this subject. Maybe so, but it's time for this nonsense to end. There shouldn't be "eighth-inning" and "ninth-inning" relievers. Partitioning relievers by how many outs are left in the game was stupid when managers started doing it, and it's even moreso now, as we find every bullpen in the game set up this way.

    To all 30 managers, I issue this directive: Figure out who your best pitchers are, or more accurately, who your best pitchers are for various situations. For when you need a complete inning against the middle of the lineup; for when you need multiple innings; for when you need a ground ball; for when you need a strikeout; for when you need to get Jim Thome out. Then use them accordingly regardless of what time it is. Stop relying on the crutch of which inning you're in to make these decisions for you. Your pitchers want roles? Their role is to get guys out.

    These are not difficult concepts. Facing the middle of the lineup in the eighth is harder than facing the bottom of the order in the ninth, no matter how many ex-players who are invested in the myth of "closer" say otherwise. Stop using your better pitchers in lower-leverage spots. Getting four outs instead of three isn't going to break anything that wasn't going to break anyway, so stop losing games without getting your best pitcher into them.

    Bullpen management is horribly broken in today's game, and the first manager to fix it-Joe Maddon, I'm looking at you-is going to the Hall of Fame.

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

58 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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hallse

"To all 30 managers, I issue this directive: Figure out who your best pitchers are, or more accurately, who your best pitchers are for various situations."

Maybe that's exactly what Leyland and Hillman were doing.

Apr 08, 2009 11:40 AM
rating: 0
 
wilk75

Then Hillman is a bad judge of pitching talent.
There were at least 3 other pitchers who would have a better chance of getting Thome out, or at least certainly keeping him in the park, than Farnsworth (Mahay, Soria, Cruz).
There is NO argument that Farnsworth was more likely to get Thome out than these other 3 guys.

Apr 08, 2009 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
sunpar

"Just because we don't know if a two-game swing will be important doesn't mean that we can't behave as if it will. Sure, these teams are going to play another 15 games, and there's plenty of time for story lines to develop."

But that's really the point, isn't it-- it's what really makes September baseball more exciting.

It's true that rhetoric like "win when it counts" is misleading and mostly just wrong, because all games count.And yes, all games have the same value when it comes to overall standings.

But the reason that September games have more importance in most people's eyes is that the time frame for "making it up" grows ever shorter. A 2 game swing in April is much easier to erase as the season moves on than a 2 game swing in September. The math backs that up as well-- a 2 game deficit with 10 more to play impacts your playoff probabilities much more than a 2 game swing with 160 games left to play. Thus each game means more in September than it does now.

That's what most people mean, I think, when they talk about September baseball "counting for more".

Apr 08, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 4
 
sunpar

Oops... I totally missed this line in my first read-through: "that a team has more time to make up a deficit in April, doesn't weight the games any differently."

Which kind of gives your argument a different flavor and somewhat negates what I wrote. So never mind.

Apr 08, 2009 11:48 AM
rating: 1
 
sas129

Wait sunpar, isn't your point still valid? People's perception of September "counting" more is really a reflection of the greater swings in probability for making the post-season during the later part of the season. Losing on opening day would have a negligible effect on a team's playoff odds vs. a loss in September that officially eliminates a team. Right?

It's why you'd see CC Sabathia pitch on three days rest in September but never in April: the games in September represent a big enough swing in playoff odds that they merit the increased risks of injury/fatigue that come with expanding the playing time of your best players.

I'm not saying that this justifies Hillman's specific choice of Farnsworth over the other options, but the baseball season is a marathon. A manager can't start tactically sprinting in April.

Basically, I'm saying that Joe's point about closer usage is valid, but not because of the time of year.

Apr 08, 2009 14:36 PM
rating: 2
 
dbiester

The opportunity cost of losing in April is much lower than the opportunity cost of losing in September. The games count just as much, but when the schedule starts running out there are fewer chances.

Apr 09, 2009 08:25 AM
rating: 3
 
keeperleaguegm
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LOL. As a Yankees fan, I'm so happy that Farnworth is in Kansas City and no longer in New York; the only thing better would be if he ended up in Boston.

Apr 08, 2009 11:44 AM
rating: -4
 
wilk75

My only concern about "Figuring out who your best pitchers are, or more accurately, who your best pitchers are for various situations" is this:
You can't have everybody loose and ready in the bullpen for whatever situation might present itself, can you? Maybe my question should be this: Realistically, how long should it take a major league pitcher to warm up and be ready to come into the game? 5 minutes?
Any longer than that and I don't think you can predict what situation you might face to ensure that you have the right guy warmed up and ready in the pen, can you?

Apr 08, 2009 11:46 AM
rating: 3
 
Richie

This is a darn good point. I suspect it may invalidate any 'most key situations' strategy. The '9th only' strategy actually might be optimal when you factor this in.

Apr 08, 2009 13:58 PM
rating: 1
 
Joal K.

It was no surprise that Jim Thome is coming up, and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that he sucks vs. LHP. Nor does it take a rocket scientist to know that you have a one-run lead, and need your best option (be it a LHP or Soria) on the mound in that situation.

Another example is Mike Scioscia. Monday night, with a 3-0 lead, he uses Arredondo for 1 out in the 7th, Shields for 1 inning in the 8th, and Fuentes for 1 inning in the 9th. Why not just let Arredondo or Shields pitch 1.1 inning and save the other for the next day (or extra innings)?

In fact, the next day, the Angels and A's were tied 3-3 in the 7th facing the top of Oakland's lineup. This is about as high-leverage as it gets, and who does Scioscia call on? Kevin Jepsen, who promptly surrenders 2 runs.

Utter foolishness.

Apr 08, 2009 15:24 PM
rating: 4
 
Dan W.

For what it's worth, Thome's OPS last season was identical vs. LHP and RHP, though it's true that he had some large platoon splits prior to that.

Apr 09, 2009 12:55 PM
rating: 0
 
SChandler

I hope you remain "a bit shrill" on this because there is nothing in baseball that irritates me more than the way managers use their bullpen. You are absolutely correct.

Apr 08, 2009 11:52 AM
rating: 1
 
soBC

Here here.

Cecil Cooper is just (Dusty Baker - Barry Bonds). And I thought Trey Hillman had more sense.

Apr 08, 2009 11:53 AM
rating: -1
 
sunpar

It's "Hear Hear"

>.>

Apr 08, 2009 12:00 PM
rating: -1
 
BottomoftheNinth

Joe, I agree in general with your point here. In fact, I think that it makes sense to use your best people in April (or May) more than in September. In the standings, a one-game-lead is still a one-game-lead and no one cares where it comes from. So why not take advantage of managers "experimenting" (as Christina implies in her article today about Farnsworth) with their players in April and May and try to win a couple extra games with your best matchup guys? I understand some of your players might not be in the best form in April but this sounds like a pretty good gamble to me. One more added benefit of this approach would be that you wouldn't exert your best players in September (not to mention extra help from the expanded rosters) and thus keep them relatively fresh for the playoffs.

Apr 08, 2009 11:55 AM
rating: -1
 
FRL

How about Cecil Cooper's decision last night to not sacrafice in the 9th of a tie game, 1st and 2nd, no outs and Michael Bourn at the plate? So he blows that chance and then in the 10th he does the exact same thing with Jason Michaels batting. Micahels managed a sac fly and the Astros wound up winning, but Cooper's ineptitude was on display.

Apr 08, 2009 11:55 AM
rating: -1
 
stanky22
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Hemingway: "grace under pressure". Jordan, Montana,Nicalaus,etc.etc.etc. When "it counts" who comes through ? Math says naah. Pressure say yeah.













the late knockout punch

Apr 08, 2009 12:12 PM
rating: -34
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

wtf?

Apr 08, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
Drew Miller

I don't think that was English.

Apr 08, 2009 22:58 PM
rating: 0
 
bronnerea

Joe, you are anything but shrill on this subject. Bullpen mismanagement cheapens the game. I love seeing the big hits in the late innings as much as anybody, but when big hitters deliver "clutch" hits against clearly suboptimal pitchers, I get left feeling so....unsurprised. This is an issue that requires the escalation you are pushing here. I couldn't agree more.

Apr 08, 2009 12:26 PM
rating: 1
 
kapcuse79

Oh c'mon people. Joe is absolutely right. People are guided by this prevailing conventional wisdom. Be a contrarian.

Apr 08, 2009 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

Well, it's one thing to be against conventional wisdom when it's wrong, as Joe is here. It's another to be contrarian just for the sake of it, as Joe and other writers at BP often can be.

Apr 08, 2009 13:21 PM
rating: 1
 
kapcuse79
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While we're on this point of challenging the conventional wisdom, I have another directive for coaches. This time football coaches. If you're getting driven on late in the game, USE A TIMEOUT. Stop the other team's momentum.

You never see football coaches call defensive timeouts like you do in basketball. But instead, football coaches always save their TOs for offensive possessions. Such bull.


Apr 08, 2009 12:36 PM
rating: -8
 
Zaxell

One comment about reliever usage patterns that I think is often overlooked in these analyses: there is a difficult-to-measure cost associated with having a reliever ready at a given time, whether or not that reliever ultimately enters the game. Pitches thrown in the bullpen, while not as significant as pitches thrown in a game, do take their toll on a guy's body. If Hillman were to always have Soria ready for situations like this, it could compromise his durability over the course of the season.
You can make the argument that using an inferior pitcher in a high-leverage situation could be a legitimate probability play that panned out poorly, rather than simple bad judgment. I'm probably giving Hillman too much credit, but I do think there are valid excuses for not having your best pitcher on the pound with the game on the line. Of course, I stil can't come up with an excuse for using Farnsworth in the 8th inning to begin with.

Apr 08, 2009 12:51 PM
rating: 3
 
Justin

You can be fairly certain when a teams number 3 hitter is going to bat. In late innings your best reliever should face their best hitter, period.

Apr 08, 2009 13:18 PM
rating: -1
 
Richie

I don't see where this holds. If you trade a 10% better chance of getting Hitter #3 out for a 10% worse chance of getting Hitter #6 out, where's your gain?

Apr 08, 2009 14:01 PM
rating: 1
 
antoine6

When you're up by a run and the #3 hitter is more likely to hit an extra-base hit or a home run than the #6 hitter, that 10% give and take is not equal.

Apr 08, 2009 14:27 PM
rating: 3
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

Here's a tip for Hillman and others that may help them make better decisions.

In a close game, in the 7th inning or later, imagine yourself on the other team. What pitcher on the opposing team (that would be your Royals, Trey) would you least prefer to face right now?

If the answer is Joakim Soria, then maybe he's the pitcher you should have in the game right now.

Apr 08, 2009 13:16 PM
rating: 5
 
Scott
(296)

That's good logic - except for one small matter. If say, Soria is a one-inning pitcher, and if that situation comes up in the, say, 7th, and you burn his inning in the 7th-8th, then who comes in to clean up the mess the next time runners get on? A guy who you have decided - for good or ill - isn't your "closer".

I'm not really defending Hillman - he had better options available, and failed to use any of them. But you DO have to find out how a guy is going to handle a situation when it comes up - both the manager AND the pitcher. And occasionally, it is going to cost you. Point being, if you can see that it is costing you more times than not, then you have a far sounder basis to make the call to eat a contract or cut bait (as I expect the Royals are going to have to do eventually, although I'd love to be wrong).

Apr 08, 2009 18:57 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

So you shouldn't use your best available pitcher in a high leverage situation because there might be another high leverage situation later on?

[boggle]

Apr 09, 2009 08:09 AM
rating: 2
 
Michael Bodell
(89)

I agree with both of Joe's main points. Bullpen usage is terrible, and I think contracts around saves is really why people are invested in the closer myth. Identical numbers in the eighth and ninth innings lead to very different free agency payoffs.

On the importance of April, one fun thing to do would be to write up a summary of the past season, played in reverse. Where the "important" games that "change the races" and have "clutch performances" are all the April games.

Apr 08, 2009 13:33 PM
rating: 2
 
oira61

Joe: You're right in theory. But the problem is in preparing for the situation. Modern "closers" require more time to prepare, for whatever reason, than setup men. Maybe they're just lining up an excuse, but it's true for many. Sometimes it's obvious that the 8th inning is going to be key, and sometimes it's not.

I'd like to see more closers get up in the 8th inning at the sign of trouble, and I'd like to see more of these guys get 4 or 5 outs. But you do have to take preparation time into account, as Davey Johnson learned at the WBC (sigh).

Apr 08, 2009 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
ndubby

'Modern "closers" require more time to prepare, for whatever reason, than setup men.'

Not sure where you get this from. Does Putz need less time now that he's a "setup man" than when he was a "closer"?

Apr 09, 2009 10:24 AM
rating: 1
 
T. Kiefer

On bullpen management:
The thing that drives me more nuts than what Joe is saying is when Leyland will pull a pitcher who's doing really well and replace him with another in order to satisfy a "righty-lefty" or "lefty-righty" match-up. Seay (a lefty I believe) was pitching really well against his *one* batter, then Leyland pulled him because a left-handed batter was coming up. He then put in Lyon, and you could feel through the TV that Lyon was going to blow it. (Please correct me if I have the "left/right" thing screwed up; I get these confused.)

A job of a pitcher, as has been said, is to throw strikes and get people out. If the pitcher is smokin', he should stay in regardless of the batter he's facing.

Apr 08, 2009 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

Yeah, you do have it reversed. Left-handed pitchers generally do better against left-handed batters. Same with righties against righties. If Leyland is in the habit of replacing his left handers with righties when a lefty is up, then he shouldn't be managing.

Apr 08, 2009 22:46 PM
rating: 0
 
kapcuse79

Case in point: Braves should have brought Gonzalez in in the seventh today.

Apr 08, 2009 15:20 PM
rating: -1
 
antoine6

Maybe. But when not a single one of your middle relievers or setup guys can throw a strike, you're kind of screwed regardless. Bigger issue there than bullpen mismanagement.

The one thing Joe doesn't mention, which matters moreso for the 7th inning than the 8th, is that if you give up runs in the 7th, you have at least two more chances to get them back, whereas if you give them up in the 9th, you often don't. That doesn't mean all closers should be saved for the 9th, it just means you have to consider that the marginal value of giving up a run in the 9th is higher than one in the 7th or 8th.

Apr 08, 2009 15:54 PM
rating: 1
 
ndubby

Aren't hitters just as motivated to score runs if their team is down in 7th as when their team is down in the 9th?

Apr 09, 2009 10:28 AM
rating: 0
 
ndubby

Or i guess the question is, shouldn't they be just as motivated?

Apr 09, 2009 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
jjgreen33

I think there's an important distinction that's being missed. Major league managers are, by and large, risk averse. The decision to use the set-up guy in the 8th and the closer in the 9th -- regardless of situation -- may not be an optimal strategy for winning baseball games. It is, however, an optimal strategy for job retention.

Hypothetically, let's assume Trey Hillman started using Joakim Soria only in the most high leverage situations. The first time that Juan Cruz or Kyle Farnsworth blow a 3 run lead in the 9th inning against the bottom of the other team's order, Hillman would be hammered by the conventional baseball for not using his closer in a save situation. To the contrary, when Trey Hillman suboptimally uses Kyle Farnsworth in the 8th inning to pitch to Jim Thome, the story is about Kyle Farnsworth's failure, not Trey Hillman's.

To change bullpen usage patterns, BP's target audience should be the conventional baseball media (which is slowly coming around on things like OBP, for example). Bullpen usage patterns won't change until the Bill Plaschke's of the world start asking the right questions, and not giving Trey Hillman a free pass for decisions like yesterday's debacle.

Apr 08, 2009 15:49 PM
rating: 4
 
smitty

I think what would change things is that a team tries it and it works. This will be a tough thing but that is how most changes occur in baseball. You are absolutely correct in managers are going to lose their jobs quickly if they do this and they don't succeed with it. So it will take a set of circumstances that would allow the manager to make the necessary changes and keep his job when it doesn't work out sometimes. But if his team wins the World Series or something, then the media gets on board and other teams start to use it and all of that good stuff.

The evolution of the relief pitcher is very interesting. Use of relievers has changed throughout baseball history and I think it will again. The media tends to be the followers here and not the leaders. Once a manager makes a new use of relievers successful, the media follows along.

Today's Braves game was a perfect example of a great time to bring in Gonzalez (in the 7th). He could have faced the lefties and chances are he would have gotten out of the inning with the lead. And they still had Soriano to close. Cox ain't going to get fired anytime soon most likely. And the Braves really have two closer type guys anyway.

(The Braves' weaknesses were really exposed in this game. Other than fragile armed Gonzalez and Soriano, their bullpen is pretty shaky. And Chipper and Anderson are hurt already).



Apr 08, 2009 16:33 PM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

Also, you need a confident and job-secure GM and Front Office (Beane, Epstein) to come out and take ownership of it and not leave the manager out to dry.

FWIW, the Red Sox did try something along the line of this model in 2003, it didn't really work, and they abandoned it, without it costing Grady Little his job. He took care of that all on his own later in the season. They got hammered for it in the Boston media, but Epstein's ownership of the idea meant that it was harder to direct criticism at the manager.

Apr 08, 2009 16:56 PM
rating: 1
 
jjgreen33

I think the Red Sox's "experiment" proves my point. The experiment didn't work because the pitchers they had in the bullpen weren't very good. Yet, the Sox were hammered by the national media, which blamed every bad result on Sox atypical bullpen usage. Little didn't lose his job because the idea was Theo's, but you can be sure he would not have tried it without Theo's blessing.

Apr 08, 2009 17:08 PM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

You hit it on the nose. The whole concept of "roles" is designed to deflect responsibility away from the manager - which is why managers love to talk about "roles."

If a player fails in a situation he shouldn't be in (e.g. Farnsworth v. Thome), it's the player's fault, because he didn't perform his "role." It's not the manager's fault for putting him in that situtation.

Knowledgable fans see through this farce, but knowledgable fans are a distinct minority.

Apr 09, 2009 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
monkeyfly78
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Brandon Morrow

Apr 08, 2009 15:58 PM
rating: -5
 
mranney

Thank you for that article.

I always thought the home team should play "Knock Three Times ", or, " Tiptoe thru the Tulips " or some other nonsense when the visting team's closer came in looking all mean.

What I would be interested in knowing is how many games are lost due to the " closer " NOT coming in earlier ?
However, the " closer ", in a lot of cases, is not the team's best relief pitcher, so maybe NOT coming in early has actually " saved " ( new stat ) some games, and it all evens out.

Again, great article.

Apr 08, 2009 16:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Brad Hutnick

In response to the first part of the article about wins "counting" more in September (or not). I agree that a game in the standings = a game in the standings, but how does this fit with the idea of "per game" win expectancies? I'm not sure I'm understanding it correctly, but couldn't the concept of leverage (down by two runs in the seventh inning is a higher leverage situation than being in a tie ball game in the second, because runs given up/not scored in the former lower the chances of winning MORE than a run given up/not scored in the latter) also apply to the standings? Let's say the Phillies lost today - doesn't that hurt their playoff odds a lot less than being swept in their Sept. 18-20 series that will happen later this year (assuming they're anywhere close to being in the race then)? I'm a newcomer, so sorry if this has all been explained nicely elsewhere, and I'd appreciate being pointed in the right direction.

Apr 08, 2009 16:50 PM
rating: 3
 
Brad Hutnick

Sorry, I failed to point out that their Sept. 18-20 series is at Atlanta.

Apr 08, 2009 16:52 PM
rating: 0
 
Meezerman

While getting swept in a September series matters more if they're in the race, getting swept in April is what determines this "if." Suppose Philly gets off to a monster start and has a 15 game lead in September. Now, getting swept in September doesn't matter at all. What determines the size of Philly's division lead in September? Games in April, May, June, etc.

Apr 08, 2009 18:50 PM
rating: 0
 
sas129

That's the point that sunpar made earlier and I agree. Games in September would most certainly have more leverage than games in April, unless I'm missing something. In addition, a manager must always try to keep his players healthy and rested for the team's remaining games. On opening day, those remaining games number 161. In September, that number is much lower, allowing him to factor in less rest for his stars.

Again, this is not to say HIllman couldn't have used Soria to get an extra out the other day. I just think that Joe is oversimplifying the April vs. September argument, and weakening his overall point in the process.

Apr 08, 2009 19:03 PM
rating: 1
 
rweiler

Well, if you want real silliness, you have Bruce Bochy. In yesterday's game, Bobby Howry pitched to 5 batters in the 8th, struck out 3 of them using a total of 18 pitches. His spot doesn't come up in the Giants 1/2, and the first batter in the 9th is left handed. Howry is pulled for Alex Hinshaw, another lefty, who promptly walks the lead off hitter. Why on earth waste a pitching change for no reason at all when they guy you have out there is pitching well and has barely thrown enough pitches to get warmed up?

Apr 08, 2009 17:15 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

If you get a scoreless inning outa Bobby Howry, count your blessings, and don't push your luck.

Apr 09, 2009 08:18 AM
rating: 1
 
lurgee21

Joe -- I have always felt like April games don't matter attitude was foolish. When I look at the Phillies' schedule for April, they could very easily rack up wins against Florida & Washington to get ahead.

Apr 08, 2009 20:46 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Swartz

The leverage of a September 8 win with a 2-game deficit is higher than the leverage of an April 8 win with a 2-game deficit.

The Nationals' highest leverage games are in April, and the Phillies' highest leverage games are in September.

The standard deviation of any team's performance relative to its abilities is about 6 games over the last 159 games of a season. Over the last 20 games in a season, the standard deviation is a just 2 games. There's a gigantic difference between a two-game swing when the vast majority of all teams will be within 3 wins of each over the last 20 games, and when most pairs of good teams will NOT be within 3 games of each other over the last 159 games.

Apr 08, 2009 21:26 PM
rating: 2
 
Robert Flaxman

Well, Rodriguez hit 7th tonight. Maybe Cooper read this piece?

Apr 08, 2009 22:11 PM
rating: 0
 
buddaley

I think Maddon is already altering the conventional use of bullpens. His "closer", Percival, is not his best reliever, which allows him to use Balfour, Howell and others in the situations for which they are most useful as he did last night. I realize he is still accepting the notion of a closer mentality, but he seems to add to it the determination to put relievers into the situations for which they are most suited.

What I really want to see is an expansion of his willingness to pull Percival if he gets into trouble in the 9th. Last year he did that, but only under extreme duress and with the excuse that Troy was hurting. If he can incorporate that into normal practice he will have moved very far from the current irrational bullpen usage.

Apr 09, 2009 06:34 AM
rating: 2
 
ndubby

Would Percival even be on the roster if he weren't a certified "closer"? Fairly sure he's on the lower end of TB's bullpen depth chart.

Apr 09, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: 0
 
Dan W.

On this topic, did the Mets really spend tens of millions of dollars this off-season on Rodriguez so that Bobby Parnell, Darren O'Day, and Pedro Feliciano could be used in the highest leverage situations in last night's game? Don't even get me started on "don't use your closer in a tie game on the road," that basest of canards. For $36 million, couldn't they have spent $39 and gotten Jerry Manuel a subscription to BP?

Apr 11, 2009 10:58 AM
rating: 0
 
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