Sunday, January 07, 2007

Definition of a "Closer"--My correction of the page in Wikipedia, 1/7/07

"One of the statistics for closers is the save. It's easily misunderstood, as there big variables involved behind the "save," such as men on base and in scoring position on entering, how many runs lead the team has, how many outs the closer gets for the team, whether or not the team is in a heated pennant race down to the wire, whether the save is in regular or post season, etc.(baseball-reference)

Beginning with Dennis Eckersley, the general practice was for a closer to enter the game to pitch the ninth inning when his team was ahead by three runs or fewer, which aligned with the requirements to get a save. Many teams still use this system, but after the advent of Mariano Rivera in the post season of 1995 and his continued multi-inning late inning relief appearances for 12 continuous regular seasons and 12 post seasons, by around 2002, other teams started the use their closer for more than the 9th inning, in regular and post season. Included are the Angels' Frankie Rodriguez, the Red Sox Keith Foulke in 2004, the Blue Jays' BJ Ryan, the Mets BJ Wagner, and the Red Sox Jon Papelbon for part of the 2006 season.(baseball-reference). If the closer fails at his task by letting the other team tie the game or take a lead, he has blown the save.

In a game in which the home team enters the ninth inning tied, it is impossible for that team's closer to gain a save. In such a situation, the manager will likely use his closer anyway in order to prevent the visiting team from taking the lead.

Occasionally, some teams try to employ a closer by committee, in which no single player is assigned the role of closer. Rather, the manager will select a pitcher to close the game based on whoever he feels has the hot hand or the favorable match-up. Use of a closer by committee, however, is often a signal that the manager does not have confidence in any particular member of his bullpen, and the pitcher who gains his confidence will eventually become the closer.

Easily sensationalized, the "saves" stat should note that the team's manager decides when to put a pitcher in a game, taking into account the degree of difficulty involved, etc. A manager looking to pad a player's stats for team publicity, etc., can hold a relief pitcher back from the most difficult and taxing "saves," and put him in the easier ones. This must be looked at in analyzing saves. Another statistic that can be used to identify the best closers, although not readily available from normal box scores, is the percentage of inherited baserunners that score. Since closers often enter games with one or more runners on base, and their job is to stop them from scoring, this statistic can be useful in gauging their effectiveness.

Some teams with established closers also designate one or two setup pitchers to pitch immediately before the closer. In such a case, the set-up man will pitch the eighth inning and the closer will pitch the ninth in a close game."

**I've made this change a few times to correct misinformation. The old version, mid-page, began, "The marquee statistic for a closer is the 'save.' Since this statement is a media creation and not accurate, I defined the term in more detail. My version will no doubt be rejected again, as the powerful baseball media like have their bias and don't want the truth to get out. sm


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