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Friday, November 07, 2008

Mariano Rivera #1 in 'Tough Saves'--SI.com

"For today, I'm more concerned with something else Bill (James) and the guys did (in the new edition of the Bill James Handbook): They took all the closers and broke up their their save opportunities into three simple categories:
  • 1. Easy Save. This is a save when the first batter faced is not the tying or go-ahead run.
  • 2. Tough save: This is a save when the tying or go ahead run is already on base when you take over.
  • 3. Regular save: Everything else. (To see a sample from this season, click here.)

Simple enough. Here's a little info on each type of save.

1. Easy save: This represents more than half -- 58% to be exact -- of all save opportunities. And last year all relievers were successful on 87% of their easy save opportunities. Remember, that's ALL relievers -- not just specified closers. People who you would describe as closers (pitchers who had more than 10 save opportunities last year) were actually successful about 92% of the time -- or to put it in perspective, more often than almost any NBA player make free throws or field goal kickers make 30-yard field goals. A real closer should not blow easy saves.

2. Tough save: Almost never happens anymore --

  • except with Mariano Rivera who was five-for-five in tough save opportunities last year. Most managers bring the closer in to start a clean ninth inning, so tough saves only happen about 5% of the time. And relievers finish them off about 22% of the time. Again, full-time closers do considerably better than that -- they close out about 55% of tough saves.

3. Regular save. Most people would call a regular save a "tough" save because, in most cases it would mean starting the ninth inning with just a one-run lead. Regular saves make up 37% of all save opportunities, and all relievers close them out 57% of the time. Real closers finish them off 72.5% of the time -- as they should since, for the most part, real closers get paid more money."

1. Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Expected saves: 27

Actual saves: 39

CLOSER+: 145

I'm was thinking about doing a bigger piece on Rivera  I'm fascinated by the guy's ability to get people out for a decade and more with, essentially, one pitch. Plus, I have this theory that I'm working on that Rivera has been even more valuable than his reputation,"...

2. Brad Lidge, Phillies

Expected Saves: 31

Actual saves: 41

CLOSER+: 132

I got the nicest call from Brad Lidge's grandmother the other day. In this crazy business, you get all sorts of phone calls, from people who hate your guts, to people who love you, to people want something you don't have (like free tickets or time with Tiger Woods). But then you get a nice call from Brad Lidge's grandmother, and it's just, you know, nice.

3. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Expected saves: 31

Actual saves: 41

CLOSER+: 129

The formula goes goes into fractions which is why Papelbon's expected and actual saves are the same as Lidge's but his CLOSER+ is a touch lower. At least I think that's the reason. Papelbon was 4 for 4 in tough saves,

  • which is much better than Lidge (who was not given a tough save opportunity all year).

But he was just 15 for 20 on regular saves (while Lidge, of course, did not blow a save opportunity all year long)."...

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