Another Rarity

By S. Samek

Ah so many problems with the game of baseball. Though still much loved. First was the mentioning of killing extra-inning games.

 Second is the over reliance on the specialty closer.

This problem leads to a very real problem the rarity of the complete game and its possible extinction.

In this ESPN article It shows that the numbers of complete games being thrown are going down by significant margins. As of the writing of this article the 2017 season is on pace for 75 complete games. This is down from 83 in 2016. Sense 2011 and the 173 complete games thrown that season the number has been declining every season this decade.

The percentages of complete games being thrown has also gone down according to the ESPN piece. During the 1900’s 79 percent of game pitched were complete games. Today just about two and a half percent go the distance. The trend has been decreasing percentages the whole time.

One reason behind this is pitch count watching. This season none of the 26 complete games this season, none have been more than throwing 120 pitches. Compared with 250 complete games of 120 plus pitches in 1988. Though in 5 year increments the trend downward is continuing. Just five compete games went 120 or more pitches last year.

This trend has to be assisted by the bullpen argument. The game has shifted to a bunch of specialists in the bullpen, even to the point of the loogy, or roogy. (Left handed one-out guy, or right handed one out guy.)

The point is get the 27 outs even if you have to take six pitchers to do it.

The ideal scenario in a baseball game is have a starter go six, or seven innings for the quality start then move to a set-up man for the eighth and the closer in the ninth. Lots of closers never see the field for days based on the need to lock down the save and the win. Lots of closers are known for being hard throwers. Being able to give maximum effort for a short time is an advantage and shortening the game with a lock down bullpen is a legitimate strategy. Though a lot of the time the closer, which is often one of the best arms on the team gets left on the bench.

Conversely, the closer would mess with the idea of the complete game. Even with a starter cruising and the game in hand, why not bring in the closer in a save situation. Have the starter not throw more pitches than needed and still pick up the win. The starter gets pulled for the all-important save and loses the complete game.

 

The pitcher hitting may have a say in this argument too. A lot of times pitchers are lifted in favor of pitch hitters, for offensive improvement. Yes, using a designated hitter helps keep pitchers focused on pitching, but it still doesn’t mean pitchers will be kept in longer. It just means you won’t have to deal with often time a liability at the plate. Though some pitchers can hit insert Madison Bumgarner here.

Looks lie the key to completeness in 2017 isn’t actually complete a game. Five of this season 22 games have only been eight inning complete games. While technically a complete game because you lost after the top of the ninth with the home team winning, I feel it cheapens it. Full games are nine innings. To truly be a complete game you have to pitch all nine.

Though I must admit the rarity is what makes it exciting. If it becomes too common to throw a complete game it loses its luster. That’s why perfect games and no-hitters are celebrated. For their difficulty to achieve. Complete games are easier to throw than perfect games and no hitters, but still can be a special thing. Just let your pitchers have a couple more pitches to finish things off.

 

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Save the Save

By S. 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.

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. The save then gave way to the relief man of the year award solely tabulated on save and win total.

 

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.

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.