By Steve Samek
The hot button statistical topic of major league baseball is the save. Just how important is the save. Is it worth saving your so called top relief pitcher for a situation that may never come.
Be hold a new strategy. Andrew Miller gets acquired by the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline. Miller was acquired to be the Indians shutdown man in the ninth inning closer. When did he enter the game, as early as the fifth inning during the Indians run to the end of October baseball. Then behold the debate on whether or not the closer, or at least the modern one is going to become extinct. http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/17903285/how-andrew-miller-became-most-important-reliever-baseball
Miller’s role was that of the fireman. The old-school terms for relievers. That came in during a tough situation to put out the fire. Firemen pitched multiple innings with the tightest of leds. The save wasn’t even adopted by the MLB until 1969. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/goose-egg-new-save-stat-relief-pitchers/?sf71069884=1 The save then gave way to the relief man of the year award solely tabulated on save and win total. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sporting_News_Reliever_of_the_Year_Award.
Today the best arms are sent into the ninth innings with up to a three-run led for the all-important save. The starters go the six expected or maybe seven innings the turn it over to an 8th inning guy and the closer in the ninth. It’s a bull pen of specialization rather than get in there and get the guy out no matter what the scenario.
Taking a look at the save requirements. According to the Major league baseball rule book, Saves:
Rule 10.20 in the Official Rule Book states:
Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
(2) He is not the winning pitcher; and
(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
– (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
– (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
– (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.
Seems too easy right. Three run led saves require everyone due up in the inning to score if tied. Though under conditions 3 b and c the save is much tougher, but still reasonable.
An alternative was given for the stat called the Goose egg. It is a harder save set up more in the old fireman style. A long explanation can be seen here. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/goose-egg-new-save-stat-relief-pitchers/?sf71069884=1.
Though the first part of the article is about how too many stats are ruining baseball. So why add another one. Why not just change the save requirements and call it a day? Why not just get rid of the save all together?
I advocate for the latter. It promotes the best pitcher pitching to get the outs rather than waiting and wasting your best pitcher on a chance that may never come.
Two I hate the fact that it is such a situational stat. The number of saves a pitcher gets changes based on the number of three and under run wins a team gets. So why are teams aiming to win by less, just for a stat. Granted the stat is a bit of an equalizer as an 80-win team and 50-win team can both have 30 plus save men in a season if the chips fall right. Though the save is exactly that based on how the chips fall. A hit can be all it takes to create, or bust a save. The situation may come 30 times a year or it may come 15. So is the 30 save man better than the 15 save man because of situations beyond each’s control.
If you want to simplify the game why not eliminate a worthless situational stat from the ranks. If that’s not possible maybe go the goose egg route and toughen up the requirements. Better yet let your starters pitch as much as they can and forget the bullpen. Saves need to die if baseball wants to move forward strategy wise.