September 18, 2006


According to this, Jonathan Papelbon and Replacement Level (David Gassko, September 18, 2006, Hardball Times), Jonathan Papelbon doesn't have to be any great shakes as a starter for it to be worth moving him to the rotation.

Meanwhile, yesterday Bobby Murcer said that, at the current pace, Alex Rodriguez will have probably come to the plate with a total of 500 men on base this season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 18, 2006 3:01 PM

I never have been able to understand the excessive value that some baseball announcers and writers put on closers. Just as an example, Mariano Rivera got a lot of support on shows like "Baseball tonight" last year as AL-MVP for only 78 innings of work, less than 6% of the Yankee's total innings. (thank goodness the MVP voters were more sensible, he finished 9th in the MVP voting). While his 1.38 ERA was impressive his other stats, 7-4 W-L and 43 saves were identical to Joe Nathan of the Twins. How is this in any way comparable to the contributions of A-Rod or Big Papi? Or even a starter who throws 225 or more innings?

If a team can win the Series with the likes of Ugeth Urbina, Keith Foulke or, G*d forbid, BH Kim as its closer, you have to wonder.

Posted by: jeff at September 18, 2006 3:32 PM

As Moneyball points out, the Oakland A's for years have made a tidy business of converting mediocre starts to closers, then trading the closers for youth.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 18, 2006 3:49 PM

Like most of the Moneyball aura, that is a myth. Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch, and Keith Foulke were relatively expensive, established closers. Huston Street, the current guy, was a successful college closer. Their attemptp to turn mediocre pitchers into closers failed: Arthur Rhodes and Juan Cruz come to mind.

Posted by: Fugate at September 18, 2006 4:51 PM

Foulke had collapsed, they revived him.

Issy they made:

The best example to use for them is actually that the no-name Duscherer is as good as the top pick Street.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 6:55 PM

The replacement level chaining article leaves out a key value of the reliever: The types of games they can save/lose. This is much harder to quantify. Statisticians compare a reliever on a dog team 40 games out with a reliever participating in a nip-and-tuck divisional scramble and say that if they have similar saves-to-blow-save ratios they are essentially of equal merit and interchangeable.

There are simply relievers who, when they appear, you know the game is over and it changes the whole way the opposition manages its offense leading up to the possible appearance of that reliever.

Great relievers, a statistic impossibility in OJ's world, are a great asset to a winning team planning on making a run. Comparing runs allowed over a chained replacement doesn't mention that many of those runs are against nothing teams or in nothing situations (a Royals reliever protecting a three-run lead against the Yankees this month, for instance). There needs to a a stat for quality of save, a save premium that factors in the opponent and the month. I want Gossage in his prime, give me Quissenbery, I want Rivera over the last ten years, I want Zumaya starting next year...there are no chained replacements even close.

The Red Sox are filling a gaping hole with Papelbon, this is a sign not of wise championship-building, but of desperation. It will domino down the bullpen and cost them dearly.

Posted by: Palmcroft at September 18, 2006 8:27 PM

But for Papelbon's six blown saves they're a playoff team. He hasn't been better than BK Kim was in the role.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 8:32 PM

There again I disagree with these normative stats. A save can be saving a lead of 1, 2 or 3 runs. Yet saving a lead of 1 run is of much more value than saving a lead of 3 runs, because the team is much closer to a loss with the narrower 1 run lead. The save stat values all saves the same. Papelbons value is in his other stats, ERA/WHIP. Papelbon will provide more high-value saves of one run than will his chained replacement.

The reason you think most relievers interchangeable, Jones/Papelbon/AA-dogmeatguy, is that the save stat actually covers too broad a territory to differentiate between bad savers like Jones and potentially great savers like Papelbon. Perhaps most bullpen pitchers can be reasonably assumed to save 85% of the three-run leads they inherit in the ninth, not so with a one-run lead against a playoff-caliber team.

Posted by: Palmcroft at September 18, 2006 8:58 PM

How many one-run saves and blown-saves do Jones and Papelbon have respectively?

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 9:14 PM

dunno, but I'd fat-lot rather have Papelbon

Posted by: Palmcroft at September 18, 2006 9:58 PM

No, you'd rather have Verlander, which is the point.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 10:06 PM

I've had season tickets for the A's Class AA team for the past five years. Trust me, there's a reason they've been converting mediocre minor league starters into relievers.

Posted by: John at September 18, 2006 10:36 PM