The save stat originated in 1969, and in a way, little by little, it has created a monster on baseball.
I once had a discussion with a friend of mine who was actually very knowledgable in baseball, he was arguing who was the best reliever ever. His argument was that Trevor Hoffman was the best reliever because he had more saves than Mariano Rivera (of course this was before Mariano surpassed him). I tried to convince him that Mariano was better, to no avail.
Then, I wrote an article for a sports magazine in Mexico about closers. In it I detailed how K-Rod, although a very good reliever in his best times, had an exaggerated season in which he saved 62 games, but many of them were "easy" saves, in which all he had to do was not to allow 3 runs in 1 inning, a not so difficult task to do.
I'm not old enough to tell stories about those 3-inning saves by Gossage, Fingers, etc, but I'm old enough to have seen Fernando Valenzuela pitch complete games for Tom Lasorda, without needing any closer, even in playoff games.
But the game has changed.
You will seldom watch a complete game. My son asked me the other day: What is a CG dad? Something you will rarely see, in which the starting pitcher goes the 9 innings. All 9? -Asked him again. Yes, all 9 innings kiddo, sometimes, even more, so he pitches all the game.
Today, almost all relievers throw 95 mph. Many of them throw 97-98. Little by little you can find more pitchers that pass the century mark.
So why risk an injury to the starter when you can bring these flame throwers for the 7th, the 8th and the 9th and make the game "shorter"?
Fernando Valenzuela never touched 95.
Greg Maddux was never a flame thrower.
Jaime Moyer tossed the slow, the super slow and the never arriving change-ups.
But all 3 of them knew how to pitch. They knew how to fool the batters, they controlled the zone, they knew where the ball was going to end up.
I remember we had some of those flame throwers ourselves. Like J.J. Putz. Who dominated one season, and then dissapeared into oblivion. Or, Brandon Morrow, another prospect who could throw it very hard but who sometimes couldn't find the strike zone.
Seems to me that pitching, just like hitting, is very streaky, or perhaps random is the word. But of course, there's randomness involved (thankfully for us statisticians). Seems to me that when a pitcher is on, it's difficult to hit anything off him. I remember opposing pitchers dominating us completely for 9 innings like Greinke, or many Rangers starters. Some other times, your stuff might be off and mlb hitters are surely going to make you pay for your mistakes.
But the save stat is something that has changed for worse mlb. Today managers seem to behave as if there was a rule that prohibits the pitcher that tossed the 8th inning to pitch the 9th. This stat credits the reliever for a Save in case he preserves the lead succesfully. So what do managers do? They bring their "suppossed" best reliever in the 9th, no matter what. It doesn't matter if the starter just tossed a perfect 8th inning and still has some gas left in the tank. If the lead is 3 or less, he will bring the closer. If the previous reliever entered the 8th in a critical situation and got the third out with, let's say 2 or 3 pitches, he will be removed in favor of the so-called-closer.
Why? To earn a Save? Isn't it more important to earn a Win? Perhaps your closer just pitched yesterday, and he yielded the losing HR in walk-off fashion on a hanging slider, so he doesn't trust his slider tonight. He will try to throw his fastball 105 mph even if that's not humanly possible, just to make up for the mistake he made yesterday.
This just happened to us. Díaz is a very good pitcher, but he is very young, and the manager has only used him on 9th innings (or tight 8th) since he was called the closer last year (his rookie year by the way). I say this has ruined him.
Let your best pitcher of the day throw the 9th. Perhaps your best pitcher for the 9th is the starter. Perhaps someone not your closer. Perhaps your closer is not sharp tonight. You have plenty of coaches who can tell you that before hand. You have plenty of analytics available today that can tell you who is sharp today, and who isn't. But please, forget about the Save Stat, and focus more on the W stat, which is the only one that matters.
Edited by Pirata Morado, 18 May 2017 - 02:59 PM.