Tagged: closers

Good For (More Than) One: Multi-Inning Saves

With the retirement of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, some things have or are becoming less and less a part of the game, the number 42 notwithstanding. In particular, Rivera was a rare breed of reliever that is slowly going the way of the buffalo, a remnant of how games were closed out before the 2000’s — the multi-inning closer.

Much like the reliever who relied upon the split finger fastball, which was en vogue for most of the 1970’s and 1980’s, only to be practiced by a scant few in the current day game, the closer who comes in to get the 4+ out save has apparently all but vanished. With the current landscape of the bullpen filled with one out specialists and closers who can only come in to a game in a clean inning, but only if you ask nicely, the reliever who can be relied upon to get more than one inning’s worth of outs stands out amongst the ultra-specialization of the 21st century bullpen.

Or is it? Is this Last of the Mohicans perception of the multi-inning save guy just a misguided narrative, or is there some merit to the notion that closers like Rivera or his counterpart in Boston — Koji Uehara — for example, are few and far between?

Let’s take a look at the last 25 years of saves, which is a reasonable swath of data to look at and figure out if the 4+ out save is truly dying a slow death. 25 years also covers the evolution of the bullpen and the role of a closer within the 9th inning, and the development of the setup man and the stat that accompanies said 8th inning guy, the hold.

So with that, let’s look at some data, all courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and their invaluable Play Index tool. Using said tool, we will look at all saves of 1.1 innings or more between 1988 and 2013.

Multi IP Saves By Team Across Year

This first chart is simply a count of all of the multi-inning saves (let’s shorten it to MIS moving forward), broken down by year. The various coloured tiles denote a pitcher — as we can see, there were quite a few pitchers who notched a MIS back in the day, with quite a few of them notching multiple MISs in a season. The number at the end of each row is the number of MISs for a season; we can already see a drastic change in the role of a MIS, with 2005 being a particular watershed year for the ‘death’ of the MIS.

Rewinding a bit, let’s talk about the kings of the MIS:

Multi IP Save Career Leaders

Of the relievers with 10 or more MISs between our years of interest, we find one — ONE — who is still currently active moving into the 2013 offseason: Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Adjusting the criteria to include pitchers who have made an appearance in the last three years and we grab one more pitcher, the aforementioned Rivera. All in all, this list is dominated by some of the bigger closer names of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Right now, there is a strong chance that the dying breed of the MIS closer is more truth than happenstance.

Just to compare/contrast some of the players who dominate the first five seasons of our 25 year span to those of the last five years, I have included the next two pie charts for comparison:

Multi IP Save Leaders, 1988-1993

Multi IP Save Leaders, 2008-2013

With this, we see a trend — the leaders of the given five year eras vary greatly in how many saves they have garnered to put them atop the MIS leaders list — no one in the last five years has notched double digit MISs, while in the early era, ten saves wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket.

Just eyeballing simple counting stats isn’t enough, we need to look at more data to really see if things have truly changed. Let’s do that now and take a look at the average MIS across the years, with regards to the number of innings pitched and the average walk and strikeout rates per nine innings (BB/9 and K/9) notched:

Average IP, K 9, and BB 9, 1988-2013

While the walk (in orange) and inning (in red) rates are a little tough to see given how close the data run together, we do see a couple of trends — strikeout rates are up and average innings per MIS are slightly down; while there is a bit of ocean wave-like variability, it looks as though walks haven’t really changed much over the 25 years of interest.

So far, we have one solid and one potential change in the MIS over the last 25 years — more strikeouts per outing as of late, with the more recent MIS outings being shorter in duration as compared to those of yesteryear. Cool? I guess.

Let’s grab a couple more stats that can help evaluate the quality of a reliever’s outing — average leverage index (aLI), run average by 24 based out situations (RE24), and win probability added (WPA). I will leave it to the reader to peruse this reference to get a better idea of the finer grain details of each of these stats. In a broad sense, looking at these stats, we can get a feel of how valuable and crucial these MISs were to the success of the team.

Average aLI, RE24, and WPA, 1988-2013

Again, we see some interesting trends, with an additionally interesting drop in aLI from 2008 to the past season; WPA doesn’t appear to have much change across the quarter century, with RE24 also showing a little drop off in the last couple of years, but making a return to pre-2010 values.

Doing a Pearson’s correlation on all of these stats of interest across year, we get the following results:

Stat Pearson’s R p-value
IP -.181 <.001
BB/9 .018 .496
K/9 .179 <.001
aLI .071 .006
RE24 -.054 .035
WPA -.011 .683

Created with the HTML Table Generator

We find four of the six stats have a statistically significant correlation with year (P-value less than .05); in particular, a significant negative correlation between IP and RE24 and year and a significant positive correlation between K/9 and aLI and year is found. One caveat — RE24 is an additive stat, so the fact it trends significantly with innings pitched isn’t a huge deal. However, the fact that we find small (all Pearson’s R’s are very small, below .30) but significant trends in innings, strikeouts, and aLI do portend to the MIS evolving over the last 25 years.

In spite of a number of stats showing us the MIS of years past are not the same as the few that we do see in our current day game, we haven’t seen the death of this quirky save just yet. In fact, an encouraging spike in MISs in 2013 — a jump to 44 after only 17 being notched in 2012 — shows us that with some help from the likes of Uehara as well as Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s Ernesto Frieri and veteran Carlos Marmol doing their bit to keep the MIS alive, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to pen the eulogy of the multi-inning save.

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Closing By Committee Poll: The Results

In my previous post, we discussed the Washington Nationals and their closer situation and did a quick poll/psychology test on who people felt should be closer, based on the statistics of four relievers, Nats or otherwise. If you need to catch up and read part one, you can check it out here.

Go on, I’ll wait.

Did you read it? You didn’t, did you. It’s OK. We’ll move on without you. Thank you to the 21 folks who did vote, even if you did vote for Kenny Powers. To those who ignored my pleas for participation, all I can do is shake my head in mild disappointment:

jim-head-shake

Are you thoroughly shamed? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Undeterred, let’s move on to find out the results of said poll and see who Nats fans think has the stats of a closer.

Let’s briefly recap some things — first, I presented the statistics of four relievers. Two are previous All-Stars, two are current closers, two are non-closer short relievers, and three have 30+ save seasons under their respective belts. A little more information: two are current Nationals and two are non-Nats. So far, so good? OK, the results:

Screen shot 2013-08-24 at 5.15.48 PM

Player 1 is the resounding winner and it isn’t even close. It appears his combination of stuff, in the form of a good strikeout and swinging strike rate, and success, in the form of his shutdown/meltdown numbers, are what set him apart and led to his vote of confidence by the bullpen committee of you, the readers.

So who was it? Who are the mystery closer candidates?

Player 1 is Sam LeCure of the Cincinnati Reds

Player 2 is Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles

Player 3 is Rafael Soriano of the Nationals

Player 4 is Drew Storen of the Nationals

…and ‘Other’ is the aforementioned Mr. Powers.

Are you wowed? Surprised? Ready to flame me on twitter?

Before flaming, let me discuss the fine gentlemen and the reason why I included the likes of Johnson and LeCure to the discussion.

LeCure, as we learned in my previous post, is similar in style to Storen, not only in approach/stuff, but also place in the bullpen. While from a pure talent perspective, he doesn’t have Storen’s repertoire, he does have a similar pitching style, in the fact that he uses 3-4 pitches and can throw them all for strikes with respectable command of them all. He doesn’t have Storen’s velocity; yet, both pitchers are a rare bullpen breed in using 3+ plus pitches to get batters out. They both also are victims(?) of their situations, in that their managers both manage to the save; they have a designated closer (for the Reds, it’s flamethrower Aroldis Chapman), and from there, the bullpen roles are filled in. Both managers have displayed tremendous amounts of confidence in and leeway to their closers in terms of using them only in save situations and letting them pitch their way out of jams. So, to the 6th through 8th innings, LeCure goes and he has excelled in said role. He has quietly become one of the more reliable relievers in the game and has done so out of the limelight and without much quibbling about where he pitches.

Johnson is not only similar in approach to Soriano in terms of pitching style, but also being oft maligned by his team’s fans. Known to blow a save here and there (he currently leads the AL in blown saves), he still is his manager’s guy, for the most part. While Orioles manager Buck Showalter has shown a propensity to go to the hot hand or to matchups more frequently than Reds manager Dusty Baker or Nats manager Davey Johnson when it comes to managing the ninth inning, he still has publicly confessed that Johnson is his closer. Much like Soriano, Johnson gets by more on contact in the form of a devastating two-seam fastball with a ton of movement and will not induce too many swinging strikes or strikeouts. In this situation, a closer with this approach will be more dependent upon inducing ground ball contact and relying upon his defense to bail him out of tights situations more so than a pitcher who can go to a strikeout pitch to get him out of trouble, so again, we see Johnson and Soriano paired up.

So we have a quartet with a number of similarities and a number of disparities, both within and out of their control. Remember the FIP/xFIP table from the last article? Let’s look at it now, including each player’s ERA:

  ERA FIP xFIP
LeCure 3.12 3.00 3.34
Johnson 3.51 3.94 3.77
Soriano 3.79 3.91 4.17
Storen 5.70 3.84 3.46

Let’s look at this a little closer now and compare/contrast the values here. Previously, we spoke of FIP and xFIP and their relation — when FIP is lower than xFIP, we can infer that a pitcher is pitching better than what his stats project; of course the converse of this is true when FIP is greater than xFIP.

Now, let’s add ERA into this. ERA can be affected more greatly by what the defense does behind you, so when compared to FIP and xFIP, you can get a decent understanding of how much outside forces play a role in a pitcher’s performance. With that in mind, what has each of our four guys done thus far in 2013? First, some quick associations:

LeCure: ERA > FIP < xFIP

Johnson: ERA < FIP > xFIP

Soriano: ERA < FIP < xFIP

Storen: ERA > FIP > xFIP

LeCure has not only outperformed his xFIP, his ERA shows that he might even be a little unlucky in certain instances, but only slightly. Johnson and Storen have both struggled when compared against their own expected performances (FIP > xFIP), but where Johnson has been bailed out by his defense — arguably one of the more talented in the majors — Storen has suffered from the miscues of his teammates at times. Add to it a propensity to give up home runs more so than the other three and you have in a nutshell some of Storen’s  problems this season. Soriano, while not performing to usual standards, is getting a decent amount of help from his defense (ERA < FIP); add to it a low K rate and the occasional home run, and well… I won’t belabour the point.

So what do we have in the end? Overall, there aren’t too many differences between success and perceived failure or struggles; this is where this becomes more psychology experiment than poll. In many ways, labels are just that — labels, and not true definitions or evaluations of worth. It is the perceptions of roles and general success that can sometimes blind a person to a player’s true worth or success — I perceive myself to be the closer, therefore, if I don’t close, I am not successful. My ERA is X, when it should be X-1, therefore, I am struggling. Player X is my closer, therefore, I should not use Player Y in the ninth inning. Player X is my closer, so I shouldn’t use him in the seventh in a bases loaded situation where the batter up to bat is 0 for 25 against my closer, because, it’s the seventh inning. That and no one really likes Soriano.

While my exercise here will potentially fall on deaf ears, it hopefully opens eyes to the notion that success can be found in and defined by many  different combinations of statistics and situations; it’s just a matter of being open to alterations in your perception and the notion that high performers and success come in all shapes, sizes, innings, counts, and pitch types. The fact that many felt a non-closer displayed the most closer-ish stats, even when compared to pitchers labeled as closers, just speaks to this and also speaks to the promise that is left to be fulfilled by pitchers that may not necessarily pitch in the ninth inning.

Closing By Committee Poll

There has been much ado about the status of the Washington Nationals closer role as of late, with the resurgence of Drew Storen, post-AAA assignment and mechanical tweak, and the concomitant tanking of Rafael Soriano, he of the 11.37 ERA, .435 BABIP, and 3 home runs given up in the past six appearances.

While is has been hotly debated as to whether Storen should become re-acquainted with the ninth inning closer’s role that he was so accustomed to and successful in back in 2011 in lieu of the apparently out of gas Soriano, whose efforts thus far in the closer’s role have him tied for second place in the National League for saves, the ultimate answer is sure to conjure up Abraham Lincoln’s quote about not pleasing everyone, every time (I’m paraphrasing here).

The Nationals are a team with an embarrassment of bullpen riches and in reality, they have easily three players who can and have successfully closed games. However, the third member of this trifecta — Tyler Clippard — has been quasi-relegated to setup man duties, so the showdown for the ninth inning comes to these aforementioned flawed fellows. While Storen has shown gumption and some nasty stuff upon his return to DC, his body of work hasn’t impressed in general, and has apparently made manager Davey Johnson a bit gun-shy when it comes to letting him work out of jams. Soriano, while accumulating nice save stats, does not have the fastball/cutter/splitter combo as sharp as has been seen in previous years; overall, Soriano’s repertoire has looked flat in the last few appearances, much to the chagrin of the Nats side of the scoreboard and to the delight of hitters looking for a pitch to drive.

So who wins this arms race? Should there be a changing of the guard? Should things stay as is? Some very emotional and vocal Twitter cries had me thinking about the predicament and I thought this situation is ripe for a poll. Teams have closers by committee, let’s have a closer by poll, yes?

First, let me lay down the groundwork and throw a curve or two just so it doesn’t become a ‘Coke vs. Pepsi’ type of endeavour. I have selected four pitchers — three of them have had seasons with 30+ saves, two of them have been All-Star selections. Two are currently their team’s closer, while two of them toil in the later, non-ninth innings. Who, in your mind, should close? Who, by virtue of their stats, makes you think, ‘yes, this guy can shut things down in the ninth inning’?

On to the stats!

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% HR/FB GB/FB
Player 1 9.92 3.31 0.73 0.304 79.00% 8.00% 1.02
Player 2 6.87 2.72 0.8 0.323 77.60% 12.50% 2.38
Player 3 6.75 2.14 1.15 0.300 76.80% 9.20% 0.72
Player 4 9.32 2.66 1.33 0.333 60.10% 13.20% 1.17

 
Here, we look at each player’s outcome relevant stats — while they each do things differently in terms of their pitch types and velocities, we can get a good view of where things end up once they release their pitches. Players 1 and 4 strike out a ton of folks. Players 2 and 4 seem a bit unlucky judged by their 2013 BABIP’s. Player 2 gets a LOT of groundballs (GB/FB), but also a lot of home runs (HR/FB%), and Player 4 seems to give up a big, run scoring hit more frequently than he would like, judged by his left on base percentage (LOB%). OK, that’s a nice start, let’s look at some more numbers:

  ERA FIP xFIP
Player 1 ??? 3.00 3.34
Player 2 ??? 3.94 3.77
Player 3 ??? 3.91 4.17
Player 4 ??? 3.84 3.46

 
I will reveal ERAs once I get some poll results as they can possibly reveal who each player is (and what’s the fun in that?), so for now, let’s look at their fielding independent pitching (FIP and xFIP) numbers; xFIP is expected fielding independent pitching, which you can read more about here, if you so desire. In general, pitchers whose FIP is less than their xFIP are outperforming what was expected of them, with the converse being true with their xFIP being less than their FIP. Cool. So Players 1 and 3 are doing better than what FIP expects them to, while 2 and 4 are underperforming. We can take that knowledge and compare it to ERA (once revealed) to look at how much of an effect the pitcher (or defense) has on their performances — typically, if FIP and xFIP are less than ERA, you tend to believe that the defense behind a guy is hurting him a tad. If ERA is lower than both FIP and xFIP, it leads you to possibly think that a pitcher is outperforming his stats, and that the defense behind him has bailed him out a few times. Still with me? Thanks! A couple more tables:

  Swing% Contact% Zone% SwStr%
Player 1 41.00% 73.70% 44.90% 10.70%
Player 2 45.60% 82.40% 42.80% 7.80%
Player 3 49.60% 81.30% 47.00% 9.10%
Player 4 49.70% 78.40% 49.10% 10.40%

 
Here we are looking at how well each pitcher is pitching, with respect to the batters results — are they throwing strikes? Are they good strikes? Do they have a great pitch that generates swings and misses? — and overall, we see Player 1 and 4 are getting swings and misses (SwStr%), typically a hallmark of a good pitch (or pitches). All four players throw pitches in the strike zone less than 50% of the time (Zone%). By the looks of it, Players 2 and 3 generate a lot of contact (Contact%), while 3 and 4 get batters to swing quite a bit (Swing%). When you look at these data compared to the first table, we see a trend — players 1 and 4 have a good bit in common as far as their approaches, while Players 2 and 3 seem to be a comparable pair. Overall, the 1/4 combo have more swing and miss stuff, while the 2/3 combo look to get more hitters out by inducing contact and letting their defense help them out.

  Shutdown Meltdown Pct
Player 1 20 5 80.0%
Player 2 28 11 71.8%
Player 3 22 8 73.3%
Player 4 19 10 65.5%

 
…and last, the shutdown (SD)/meltdown (MD) table. I will leave you to your own devices to read up on what each means (which you can find here); for those click averse, here is the Fangraphs breakdown of the stat:

Screen shot 2013-08-24 at 10.47.11 AM

 
So, fellow budding managers, who closes? If you had a choice of one of these players, who would it be for the Nats?

Please note, not all of these players are currently on the Nats, but were chosen for their similarities in terms of bullpen role, success, and fan perception of their success in their given roles.

 

Once I get a few results, I will update the post.

***

All stats courtesy of Fangraphs

Beating A Dead Horse: Clippard As Closer

Sometimes, the enemy of good is better, and I sheepishly admit that I fall victim to this thinking quite frequently. I can’t just leave things alone; I must pick, prod, and dig a little deeper, until my curiosity is satisfied, or I have made the thing under my scrutiny completely unrecognizable, unworthy of salvaging. To put it another way, I am the world’s worst Jenga player.

Hmm, let’s see what happens if I control for pitcher’s favourite Celine Dion album…

I am at it again.

I have dedicated one post already to the success of Tyler Clippard as the National’s closer, but you know, I just… can’t… let… go…

In between now and the previous Clippard love fest, the Nats have compiled a 19-7 record, and find themselves not only atop the NL East standings, but all of MLB, with a tidy 72 wins, 3 more than the vaunted 2010 club amassed the entire season. Clippard has saved 9 of those 19 victories, bringing his save total to 24, good for a tie for 6th in the NL, and for 10th in the MLB.

While impressive, let’s pick a little more at this oh so itchy sabermetric scab. Much like my previous Clippard foray, let’s use some fancy pants statistics to see how impressive the season Clippard’s having really is. However, this time, let’s have Fangraphs provide us our numbers fix, focusing on some of their stats that are formulated to parse out a pitcher’s true value, and performance, all while removing factors that are out of the control of said hurler- things like park factors, the defense behind them, that sort of thing. I have included some more traditional statistics as well, just to keep things somewhat grounded in baseball statistics terra firma.

For this round of mental gymnastics, I will again set the bar using Tyler’s stats thus far, and see who, if anyone, is having as dominant a season as their team’s fireman.

So howzit look, about 2/3rds of the way into the 2012 season?

Player Team SV K/9 HR/9 FIP WAR WPA SIERA BB/9 FB%
Craig Kimbrel Braves 31 15.7 0.42 0.98 2.3 2.56 0.92 2.3 31.9 %
Aroldis Chapman Reds 28 16.7 0.47 1.01 3.2 2.4 0.78 2.2 43.5 %
Tyler Clippard Nationals 24 10.9 0.68 3.1 0.9 0.42 3.13 4.1 58.7 %

Again, we find that Clip is having a lights out season as closer, and is in very rarefied air in terms of performance. To only be bested by Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman in some very critical stats that make or break a pitcher’s season, is an outstanding season.

If we… OK, *I*, want to nitpick further, the disparities between Kimbrel’s and Chapman’s FIP, WPA, and SIERA, compared to Clip’s are probably best explained by Clippard’s propensity to not only walk more batters than the other two, but also by his fly ball percentage, and lower K/9. In essence, more fly balls mean more potential for hits, which means more runners; add that to more walks leading to more runners, and fewer K’s to neutralize those scoring opportunities gives us Clippard’s inflated in comparison peripherals.

This, however, is splitting hairs – in the end, only two closers are bettering Clip for all intents and purposes, and Nationals fans should be happy with this notion, and leave it that.

…You know, I’ve noticed he’s throwing his fastball less frequently up in the zone, I wonder if that, along with him throwing more changeups, and hitters making more contact this year has something to do with his SIERA…

Clippard’s Closing: A Nice Plan A

Bros before closer roles, roomie.

Home runs in two back to back save opportunities aside, I feel that the rush to bring Storen in to close might be an ill advised move, and that the witch hunt for Clippard to be banished to the 8th is unwarranted.

While numbers tend to lie on match.com profiles, in baseball, they rarely ever do, so let’s have a look at what Tyler has done in the closers role, as compared both to Storen’s fantastic 2011 tour of duty, and of other closers in 2012.

Season W L SV SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP HR/FB% ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2012 2 3 15 11.1 3.7 0.65 0.235 5.6 2.83 2.77 3.74 0.9
2011 3 0 0 10.6 2.65 1.12 0.197 9.5 1.83 3.17 3.2 1.2

So far in 2012, compared to 2011, Tyler has done a great job of exceeding expectations, as seen with his FIP/xFIP numbers. His WAR, as compared to 2011, is also indicative of a solid showing this year. He is also striking out more batters this year as compared to last, while also having half as many fly balls go out as home runs, as compared to last year – even in spite of the shaky outings of late. We do see an uptick in walks, as well as BABIP; however, his 0.235 BABIP of 2012 is still lower than his career mark of 0.241.

Let’s look a little closer at Clippard’s numbers, in his role as the Nats ninth inning stopper:

Split G H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
in Saves 15 3.8 1.25 1.9 12.6 0.122 0.173 0.286 0.459 0.148
in Sv Situ 27 5.2 1 2.7 12 0.160 0.225 0.298 0.523 0.214

Compare these numbers to his overall 2012 season, both a closer and setup man, as well as his 2011 All Star season. Clippard is more than doing the job closing out wins for the NL East leading Nationals. In fact, he is doing just as well, if not better than last year’s career year. How outstanding is the season Clippard is having as a closer, as compared to his closing peers? Let’s have a look…

For this exercise, I used baseball-reference.com’s Play Index query tool, to find comparable closers, using Tyler’s stats as the bar to surpass. The stats I used to compare Tyler, as full time closer, against other closers were…

ERA+ > 164
SO/9 > 12
Batting Average Against </= 0.160
Saves >/= 15

The verdict?

Player Tm ERA+ ERA WAR SV SV% BA W L H/9 SO/9 HR/9 OPS
Huston Street SDP 343 1.07 1.2 15 100 0.119 2 0 3.6 12.1 0 0.372
Craig Kimbrel ATL 325 1.25 1.8 27 96 0.123 0 1 3.8 15.5 0.25 0.345
Kenley Jansen LAD 186 2.06 1.5 16 81 0.140 4 3 4.4 13.4 0.82 0.495
Tyler Clippard WSN 164 2.39 0.9 15 88 0.160 0 1 5.2 12 1 0.523

Well, it’s pretty damning. Damning for Clippard to be an elite closer thus far in the embryonic stages of his life as a closer. To put up numbers that can only be bested by 3 other closers this year, and bests the seasons of many longstanding luminaries of the ninth inning world is a damn good season, back to back gopherball games be damned.

So, now the million dollar question. Yes, Washington has a great fill in closer in Clippard, but does he stay there once Storen returns to full capacity? While the final answer is up to the braintrust of Mike Rizzo, and Davey Johnson, let me throw some Storen numbers at you to compare to Clip’s, and let you play armchair manager.

Here are Drew’s numbers from his fantastic 2011 season:

Season W L SV SO/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2011 6 3 43 8.84 2.39 0.96 0.25 11.10% 2.75 3.32 3.14 0.9
Split G H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip    
in Saves 43 5.4 0.2 2.4 8.6 0.171 0.228 0.241 0.469 0.226
in Sv Situ 51 6.7 1.2 2.4 8.6 0.203 0.260 0.359 0.619 0.235

Elite closer status, elite numbers. However, Storen’s 2011 trails Clip’s 2012 closer output in H/9, SO/9, BAA, BABIP, OPS, and OBP. He does have the upper hand when it comes to home runs, doing a much better job of minimizing the long ball, compared to Clip thus far. He also had a better save percentage: 90% (with 5 blown saves), compared to Tyler’s 88% (two blown saves).

Any other MLB team would love to have Storen or Clippard as their closer. It is an embarrassment of riches to have Storen, the likes of Clippard, as well as Sean Burnett, and Ryan Mattheus – both in their own rights having dominant seasons – in the bullpen, keeping Nats starters in the W column.

However, as we can see, Tyler is more than deserving of maintaining his role as the closer, even as Storen returns to the mound. While creating a conundrum in terms of status, and number of innings to divvy up amongst some very deserving pitchers, it is a refreshing change from Nationals teams of the past, and bodes well for a successful run not only towards the NL East division crown, but also a lengthy run in the playoffs.

In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, we learned that we should ABC: Always Be Closing.
For the Nats, should it Always Be Clippard?

 

Scott Radinsky: A Love Story

I feel that it is time to make myself vulnerable, and bare my baseball soul to all four of you kind, gentle, possibly lactose intolerant readers.

I come with a tale not only of adoration, but of respect, and emulation of a man who I have made one of my interwebs aliases, and whose visage you see anytime you wander through the ‘How Do I Baseball?’ parcel of URL land. That man will be unmasked in the following text, and I feel that this exposé is a long time coming for the current Cleveland Indians pitching coach, to not only celebrate his baseball career, and his accomplishments, but also to show him as the Renaissance Man that he truly is. Plus, everyone knows him as this guy’s brother in law so let’s try and get him into the limelight for once, yes?

Scott Radinsky, this is your life, my homage to you, and the final unveiling of my unrequited man crush.

Did you ever know that you’re my heeerooo

As previously mentioned, he is the pitching coach for the Indians, having started his coaching career with them soon after his playing career careened to a halt with Cleveland after 2 innings of work in 2001, after a MLB tour of duty spanning 11 years, primarily with the Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. During this time, he put up some very respectable numbers, especially with my occasionally beloved Dodgers. Being the all-purpose lefty out of the bullpen when I pitched, I went out of my way to mimic his style, down to his delivery, and how he wore his cap. He was what I wanted to be – the funky lefty coming out of the Dodgers bullpen, socks high, coming only out of the stretch (because windups are fo’ suckas), and whipping a fastball/slider combo to those who dare dig in the batter’s box on my watch. You can peruse the juicy bits of his career here, but briefly, a career 118 ERA+, with career years (as determined by WAR) in 1991, and 1998, and a 63% winning percentage to go with 52 saves made for quite a career showing for the lefty from the San Fernando Valley. Also a recipient of the Tony Conigliaro Award in 1995, Rad left the game as one of the more decorated Jewish pitchers the game has had, placing 2nd in career appearances, fourth in ERA, and 11th in career wins. LOOGY, setup man, closer – regardless of the title, Radinsky did the job asked of him, but did make his name as an 8th inning man, pitching about 40% of his innings in that game frame. Yet, he definitely rose to the occasion when in the closers role, saving 90% of games he came into the game with a save opportunity, holding hitters to a .102 BAA in the games he saved.

The Ballad of Rad goes beyond that for me. A cancer survivor, he spent the entire 1994 season undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During this time away from the playing, he never left the game, spending his time away chemotherapy sessions as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Simi Valley High School. The holder of numerous pitching records for the Pioneers, Rad put the SVHS program on the map, being the first MLB’er to come out of the school, while also being a key component of the early development of Jeff Weaver into a sometimes MLB capable pitcher. On a personal level, he mentored two former college teammates of mine on that 1994 Simi Valley team, who both came away with nothing but positive things to say about Scott as both a player and a person, adding that it was his tutelage that allowed them make the final jump from good player to great, Division I ready players.

With his high school baseball career came another type of career, that of frontman for a number of punk groups over the span of a couple of decades. Getting his feet wet in the 1980’s Nardcore scene with Scared Straight, he then went on to front punk mainstays Ten Foot Pole, and Pulley.

‘I celebrate the man’s entire catalog’

It doesn’t stop there. Proprietor of one of the larger, and most well known skate parks in the country, Scott plunked down a significant amount of money to open Skatelab, and to see the creation of the Skateboard Hall of Fame, and Skateboard Museum within its walls.

It’s been quite a life thus far for Rad – baseball, skate parks, surviving cancer, and lead singer of three punk bands – it is one that I have personally striven to equal, or come close to it, in my own way. To be selfless, and at the same time indefatigable in your pursuits, and to conquer his personal battles, be it cancer, or Ubaldo Jimenez, shows the heart of a man who gets what life is about – fulfillment, and happiness through any storm weathered.

So the next time you see him saunter up to the mound during an Indians game to check on Chris Perez, and his propensity for projectile vomiting, give a round of applause to a man who is living the dream that we all never want to wake up from, closer vomit notwithstanding.

DavidWikipedia: David according to the Hebrew Bible, was the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and, according to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke an ancestor of Jesus.