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August 20, 2013 6:41 am

Baseball Therapy: Saving the Save


Russell A. Carleton

Redefining the save rule so that it makes (more) sense.

Last week, I asked the question of whether teams should use their best reliever (the closer?) to protect a three-run lead in the ninth (a "cheap" save) or to prevent a one-run deficit in the ninth from getting bigger in the hopes of scoring and either tying the game or going ahead. Despite the fact that sabermetric wisdom says a closer should be used when the game is... close-er, it actually makes more sense to protect the bigger lead than to chase what is nearer to a lost cause than we might like to admit.

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Which is the better situation in which to use your closer: with a three-run lead, or a one-run deficit?

Here's a question. Which late-inning situation is more important: When your team is up by three runs, or down by one? In the past, I've argued that closers should come into tie games far more often than they do now and that teams might use their closer for two innings to protect a one-run lead in the eighth, rather than a three-run lead in the ninth. Should a team actually use its closer/best reliever sometimes when it is behind? If a visiting team finds itself behind by a run heading into the bottom of the eighth, it will have one last chance to either tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth, but it has to get through the eighth inning first. A home team trailing going into the top of the ninth might have the same conversation. Should they use the best that they have to keep the score close in the hope of pulling off a comeback?

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Providing every team's bullpen picture at a glance.

Bullpen management: it’s one of the areas in which a major-league manager can make the most difference, and it’s also one of the areas in which we’re least likely to be satisfied with his work. But before we can pass judgment on a manager’s use of his bullpen, we have to know how he used it, and not just on an anecdotal level (although we agree that he made a mistake that one time your team lost a tie game on the road without using its rested ace reliever). On our Manager Pitching report, you can see how many relievers each manager used, and how many of those relief outings ended without a run being allowed. But that report won’t tell you who those relievers were, or when they were used.

That’s where BP’s new Bullpen Mis(management) Tool comes in. The BPM, which was inspired by this article, is the latest cool toy produced by Dan Brooks, the mind behind Brooks Baseball who also brought us the PITCHf/x Pitcher and Hitter Profiles, the PITCHfx Matchups Tool, and the PITCHf/x Leaderboards. It allows us to see the average Leverage Index when entering the game for all members of each team’s bullpen, both for a full season and over time.

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