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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Broadcaster uses Regular Season Total Save stat to defend a closer, in this case Cordero, a fan differs

"On the Cincinnati Reds TV broadcast against the Brewers on April 2, analyst Chris Welsh criticized Reds fans for booing closer Francisco Cordero(notes). The reliever had just yielded a single to the first hitter he faced after coming in for the ninth with Cincinnati up 4-1.

"I just don't understand why Reds fans are so hard on this guy," Welsh said. "If they looked at his numbers among closers in baseball, they'd see he has the third most saves over the last three years. He has more than Mariano Rivera(notes)."

  • "I can't disagree with you," said Welsh's broadcast partner, Jim Kelch.

Most Reds fans can and do disagree with Welsh, and we have every reason to boo Cordero. In fact, less than 5 minutes after Welsh made that comment, he watched Ryan Braun(notes) crush a ball over the second base bag that shortstop Edgar Renteria(notes) made a miraculous play on. Prince Fielder(notes) then hit a low rope to right field that second baseman Brandon Phillips(notes) somehow ran down. Basically, Cordero was at the mercy of his infielders. However, even their stellar play could not contain Cordero's next pitch, which Casey Megehee shot right up the middle to bring in Braun.

Then the tying run came to the plate, which is an all-too frequent occurrence when Cordero comes in to close the game. Along with that potential tying run came more boos from the fans. Cordero, of course, then threw three balls to Erick Aybar(notes) before finally striking him out to "save" a game that ended up being closer than it was when entered.

Welsh's praise of Cordero is unjustified when you look at numbers other than saves, a stat that reveals little about a closer's success. Technically, Cordero gets a save if he enters a game with a three run lead and records at least one out without giving up that lead. A closer can actually earn a save per game with an ERA of 18.00, assuming he entered every game with a three-run lead and gave up two runs each time.

While Cordero's ERA is obviously not as high as the theoretical example above, it is much higher than the other top closers in the game. His 3.48 ERA in 2010 was almost two runs higher than in the previous year. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, whom Welsh implied was inferior to Cordero, posted a 1.80 ERA last season. Sure, Cordero had 40 saves to Rivera's 33, but he yielded almost

  • two runs more per game than did the Yankees closer.

The closer for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, Brian Wilson(notes), also had an ERA (1.81) nearly two runs lower than Cordero's. Heath Bell(notes), the San Diego Padres closer, who saved 47 games last year, had a 1.93 ERA, again two runs lower than Cordero. Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Nathan(notes), considered by many baseball analysts to be the AL's most consistent closer before missing last season with an injury, saved 47 games with a 2.10 ERA in 2009.

Another reason Cordero gets booed is because of the walks he issues. He gave up 36 bases on balls in 72 innings last year, exactly one every two innings. Rivera walked just 11 in 60 innings of work, and Wilson walked ten fewer than Cordero in 74 innings. Nathan yielded just 22 walks in 68 innings in 2009.

The bottom line is that Cordero seldom has a 1-2-3 inning. His walk ratio and ERA are terrible for a pitcher whose job is to shut down the opponent for just one inning. The fans are justified when they boo him.

Chris Welsh was a former pitcher in the big leagues. He should know that ERA is a much better indicator of a pitcher's ability than how many saves he is awarded. The fans he has criticized in Cincinnati apparently know more about pitching than he does, so I guess we're lucky he is in the broadcast booth at Great American ballpark instead of on the pitching mound."

Sources: baseball-reference.com FoxsportsOhio,4/2/11.

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