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Why do we have closers again?

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Dick Whitman, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Joe Posnanski wrote a great column a couple weeks back about a study of how teams hold ninth-inning leads now compared to how they have throughout baseball history:

    Teams held 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 2010. Teams held 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 1952.


    I'm not quite sure what it all means, but it's really fascinating how consistently that percentage remains right at around 95.5 percent, every year, like clockwork, through decades and decades.

    What a game.
  2. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Stoppers > closers.

    Using your closer to hold down multi-run leads in the ninth is an outgrowth of our risk-averse natures:

    Leading the game in the ninth makes it feel like the win is already yours and losing it would be more emotionally painful than losing a tied game in the same situation.
  3. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    Having an order in your bullpen also allows players to better understand how/when they will be used which is information that (at least a large majority of them will tell you) helps them prepare more effectively and efficiently over the course of a season.
  4. Ilmago

    Ilmago Guest

    Blame Whitey Herzog for the one-inning-only-come-in-when-leading closer role.
  5. doctorquant

    doctorquant Well-Known Member

    Don't have data to confirm/deny this (yet), but it is a fact that variation in "competitiveness"* has declined since the 1950s.
    So maybe it is the case that the average 9th-inning lead is smaller these days than it was back then. If leads are smaller, they're harder to hold, so closers could be more effective in absolute terms even if their hold percentage is unchanged.

    *By that I mean that the yearly standard deviation of win percentages has gotten smaller.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    A-B-C. A-- Always, B-- Be, C-- Closing. Always Be Closing. Always Be Closing!
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Coffee is for closers.
  8. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    1. Many more complete games in 1952.
    2. Bullpens had closers, sort of. They used to be called "relief aces" or "ace firemen." They just weren't confined to only pitching the ninth inning. They were usually their own set-up men if that was required. So it's not surprising the percentages aren't much different.
  9. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    I can see the argument against them, though. If a team is leading 3-2 in the ninth and the starter is at the magical (and arbitrary) 100-pitch count, the manager almost feels obligated to bring in the closer, even if his starter could easily finish the game.

    And say that the starter is spent. Even if Papelbon has blown two straight saves, and Dan Bard hasn't allowed a hit in 20 straight innings, Papelbon is getting the ball because they are paying him $6 million a year.
  10. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Actually, back in the day of the 50s and 60s, since starters went longer on average, relievers in the eighth and ninth innings were more often employed on a lefty-righty matchup basis than "this guy for set job."
  11. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    And starters went longer on average, because managers allowed their pitchers to throw more than 100 pitches per game.

    Obviously, pitchers were also conditioned to throw more than 100 pitches, unlike most of today's pitchers.
  12. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    That's the way to do it. There are certain times in many games where the next few at-bats are absolutely critical, and could easily swing the game from one side or the other. That's when you want your best pitcher in the game. Tie games. One-run games with runners on base. One-run leads in the ninth. Not three-run leads and nobody on base in the ninth.

    I understand the need for roles, but teams *already* have go-to relief pitchers they use in key situations. It's just frequently the second- or third-best reliever on the team.
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