A Rambling Bit

This will probably be a long rambling post about something I heard on Mike and Mike in the Morning. They were talking about closers in baseball and how someone thinks it would be better for Boston to use Papelbon as a starter instead of a closer.

The reasoning behind this being that statistics have shown that a team will almost always win a game in which they have a three run lead despite the closer. They used a bunch of different numbers on the site and even a quote from Trevor Hoffman. They turned the discussion into which is more important, a closer or a starter. To me, this should not even be a discussion, a starter is much more valuable, but this is not what I want to talk about.

At what point would Papelbon be more valuable as a starter? If he were a 4th or 5th starter getting maybe 10 wins, and they could pretty much plug in another starter and not see much difference, then he is much better as a closer. However, if he pitches anywhere near his ERA+ closing numbers, then he would be a phenomenal starter.

Unfortunately it is hard to tell if he could pitch at that level as a starter,most likely not (Santana’s best season ERA+ was 182), but even close to an above average year makes him one of the top starters in baseball. The elite starters in the league are pretty hard to come by.

Trust me, I am not saying that he would be that good, but if the Red Sox believe he could be, then they should seriously consider moving him to the starting rotation. Same with Joba Chamberlain. Oh and for those of you who have no idea what ERA+ means, check out this.

Speaking of closers…I have used the discussion that closers are underused. A few years ago the Red Sox tried to use their best relievers in optimal situations, which caused many fans to get pretty upset.

Without bringing up any specific Pirates games I want to toss this scenario out there. The Buccos are up 3-0 going into the 7th inning. Snell walks a batter, then gives up a single, runners on 1st and 3rd. The Pirates go to the bullpen with the heart of the order coming up (let’s use the Mets, since they have a very good lineup). Why would you bring in a bunch of subpar relievers, such as John Grabow or Marte to face guys like Wright, Beltran, Delgado? If Capps is your closer, the guy you rely on to “save” the game, is this not the moment when the game truly needs saved? Instead they bring in a righty, he gets an out, but a run scores. Then they bring in another reliever and another until they are out of the inning and the score is now 3-3. The Pirates get the run back and Capps come on to close the 9th facing the bottom of the order. Does that make much sense? Wouldn’t Capps have been better used back in the 7th?

Well it appears things that I have said to people in a drunken argument, actually have been studied and the results are sort of in my favor. If I am reading the article correctly. I hope that some of my friends who love baseball, or love statistics (that means you Ryan, Jason, and Jason) check this article out. Let me know what you guys think.

For the rest of you none baseball fans, please enjoy a very sexy picture of a very sexy lady.

2 thoughts on “A Rambling Bit

  1. I read your article josh, and it made me think too hard, and since i’ve graduated college, i try to avoid thinking, it makes my head hurt. That’s why i’m a personal trainer. But, I think turning papelbon into a starter would be risky business for the red sox, or any team that has an elite hard throwing closer with “potential” to be a starter. There is a reason these pitchers were thrown into the bull pen to begin with. They lacked the stamina to pitch a quality start (any starter going atleast 6 innings)or injured themselves from throwing too many innings their body wasn’t capable of coping with. That’s how mariano rivera became a closer, eric gagne’, jason isringhausen, kerry wood, etc. Unless a team is really hurting for starting pitching, which i understand the red sox have a lot of injuries going for them right now, but even so, they aren’t hurting for good quality starters, and they’ll be fine for the rest of season and especially when everyone starts coming back healthy. If papelbon was the closer for the cardinals, i’d say throw him in a starting role and see how he does, but i doubt he will have the strength to go 6 innings throwing pitches 95mph+. It’s a whole different strategy and there’s only 2 people i think have perfected the difference between starting and closing. One is in the hall of fame, dennis eckersely, and one will be joining him after he retires, john smoltz. Those 2 are the only ones i can say could or can pitch in any given situation effectively and with a proper intimidation factor with the batter knowing the pitcher isn’t out of his element. That being said, to answer your other part, i agree that the closer should be the best reliever in your bull pen for any situation. He should be used in any situation when there is a major threat on your team to lose the game. That’s where they are most valuable, though many coaches still believe that the most important part of the game is finishing it with a victory, hence closing the game in the 9th. But now you have to look at all those other multi-million dollar arms in the bullpen that are going to waste because they don’t have the “closer” title. For instance, i’ll use the pirates for an example. We have marte in there who has closer experience, but is used as a left handed specialist, to get that strong lefty out. Is his stuff sub-par in comparison to the elite closers in the league, maybe, is his stuff sub-par to capps, not necessarily. Capps has a stronger closer mentality, the bull-dog approach so to speak, a guy that can thrown the door shut when he needs to, it’s this that makes him invaluable with the reliever staff and why he is the closer for the pirates. Now if we have the example you set where the pirates bring in pitcher after pitcher and the score ends up being 3-3 vs. bringing capps in right away and stopping the threat with say only giving up 1 run, now what do you do in the 8th inning? Does capps pitch another inning when he doesn’t pitch multiple innings usually and end up slinging low, straight 90mph fast balls that get hammered, or do you bring in a sub-par reliever like a grabow to possibly give up 2 runs to tie the game in the 8th anyways, putting you in the same boat, but now stuck with a tie game in the 9th depending on what the bats do for you in the bottom of the 8th and your closer has already pitched. That’s where the “sub-par stuff pitcher with closing experience” comes into play. Now since that is the new given example, does it matter the pirates will go through 3 different pitchers in that inning and leave with a tie game going into the 9th, but still have their big gun ready to go? Or, use the big gun to stop the bleeding then and now, but still not have enough back up with the rest of the pen going late into the game? I know it doesn’t really answer any questions or give a definite opinion, in fact i guess it’s a little vague. But, i tend to say there’s a lot more gray area in the decision making of when to use your closer, “your best reliever” in what situation, it’s not black and white. I think the only managers you couldn’t question on when they use their best reliever would be the bobby cox’s, joe torre’s and jim leylands. The rest will be questioned by the home fans every night their team doesn’t end up on top. I like the way baseball was played in the 70’s even though i wasn’t around to watch it, but hard nosed, i’m going to give you my best hitter possible in the your worst situation, and i’m going to throw my best pitcher at you in our worst situation, bunting the runner over, hustling your tail off to beat a throw to first, small ball baseball that i was raised to play. But, until america decides to dump the long-ball love affair we’ve grown to get orgasmically excited over since the mcgwire/sosa roid race that saved america’s past time, i’m afraid there are going to be stereotypical closers, pitching specialists, and starters. Will a perfect hybrid of the 3 come to light in the next decade, maybe. But, what i do know is Papelbon is not him.

  2. The gist of the article I had linked says that once you get out of that rough inning, your odds are something like 90% to win the game if you are the home team. Obviously the Pirates are a bad example because their pen scares the hell out of me.

    Honestly, I think Papelbon could be a decent starter, probably a good 2 or 3 man. For the Red Sox, he is a better option in the pen. However, if he were on, say the Pirates, I would think/hope they would make him a starter.

    Personally, I believe way too much money is being spent on closers. Teams go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money on guys and in the end, they usually find some AAA starter who can do the job just as well (look at Toronto, although I am not sure if Accardo was a converted starter…well at some point I am sure he was a starter…anyways)

    Maybe instead of Papelbon, I should have used Chamberlain. The Yankees would probably be better served having Joba play AAA as a starter. Get his arm strength used to the higher pitch counts and whatnot. If they could develop him into a 1-3 starter, that’s a much better use than just having him as a setup man for Rivera.

    I agree about Smoltz and Eck. If Smoltz had stayed in the ‘pen, he probably could have gotten 300 saves. Hell he cranked out 150 in what, 3 years?

    This is something that will be debated for years. I wish we could see more intelligent managerial moves during games…

    On a sidenote, I hope when you say you want to see more bunting, you do not mean Pirates style. Like having Freddy Sanchez bunt in the 5th inning…that is dumb, do not take the bat out of your best hitter. Bunting should be reserved for certain situations, pitchers ABs, or very late inning situations…Over a 5 year period, stats have shown that teams are more likely to score a run with 0 outs and a man on 1st, then with 1 out and a man on second. Basically they found that bunting a man over, produced less runs than just letting the batter hit away (again, certain situations it should be used, not nearly as much as John Russell used it the other night)

    Anyways, that is neither here nor there.

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