- When talking about how effectively closers are being used, Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory uses a Leverage Index to understand the most difficult save situations--and Javy Guerra's 2011 save portfolio was not rated as very difficult (link insider only):
Several years ago, sabermetrician Tom Tango developed a measure called the leverage index (LI) in order to gauge high-pressure moments in baseball. The average leverage index is 1.0, representing, well, the average-pressure situation. A situation with a 2.0 represents a situation twice as crucial to the winning (or losing) of a game, with a 0.5 representing only half the pressure.
Everyone knows instinctively that not all save situations are created alike, but the LI shows us just how different they can be. A typical easy save situation, entering the bottom of the ninth inning protecting a three-run lead, isn't a particularly difficult task and has a leverage index of about 1.0. Chris Perez's blown save against the Toronto Blue Jays on Opening Day was of this variety. After Perez's blown save, there was the oddity of the Jays letting Luis Perez pitch four innings, with an LI greater than 1.0 for every single batter, only to have their closer, Sergio Santos, close out the equivalent of a 1-foot putt, needing to get just two outs with a three-run lead.
On the flip side, a situation in which the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth while guarding a one-run lead is the very definition of a do-or-die scenario, and thus has a leverage index of 10.9.
In 2011, no pitcher was more underrated by the save stat than Los Angeles Angels fireballer Jordan Walden. Despite an ERA below 3.00 in his rookie season, Walden led the league in blown saves, tying with Carlos Marmol at 10, which for the save-ophile would suggest that he didn't do his job. However, the save stat doesn't take into account the difficulty of a save conversion, and Walden easily bested every other reliever in baseball when it came to the importance of the situations he pitched in, with a leverage index of 2.54. The next highest LI among relievers with more than 50 innings pitched? Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants, at 2.30. Angels manager Mike Scioscia scores big points here for getting his best relief pitcher into the most crucial situations. Other closers who had the hardest fires to put out include Wilson, Mariano Rivera (2.16) and Heath Bell (2.15).
However, there are the closers who got a break, relatively speaking. Javy Guerra had a sterling save percentage, saving 21-of-23 for a 93 percent conversion rate, but he also had the easiest go of any pitcher with 20 save opportunities (LI of 1.39). Next lowest was Frank Francisco at 1.47. Kyle Farnsworth, previously known mostly for the heartburn he causes fans, had his best major league season in terms of saves, helped by a 1.51 LI.
On the flipside, however, perhaps there are downsides of high Leverage Indices.
- We may be stuck with the .267 BA Juan Uribe (remember, his BA was .083 as recently as April 8). However, as the Orioles know, it could be worse. Thanks to Deadspin for this video (you've gotta click through for the link), but as Deadspin wrote:
Listen closely to the Baltimore crowd, not particularly forgiving of any tricks of the wind. One fellow speaks for his compatriots with "Reynolds, you're killing us!" Another is more succinct, repeating "You suck!"
- In more serious news, Rachel Robinson carries on Jackie Robinson's values with a unyielding spirit and nothing but regal class. This article was from the April 16, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated (Bubba Watson cover), and here's the lead:
Early this year in its airy, wood-floored main space in downtown Manhattan, the Jackie Robinson Foundation held a fund-raising event commemorating what would have been the Hall of Famer's 93rd birthday. The evening also honored former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who posthumously received the foundation's annual Chairman Award for having "carried on the tradition of Jackie Robinson." Although the Yankees were no friend to Robinson during his playing days with the Brooklyn Dodgers—the Yanks heckled him profoundly while beating Brooklyn in five of six World Series—Steinbrenner had, over a 37-year ownership reign, which began in 1973, been generous in charity and loyal to baseball people in need. The former Yankee Darryl Strawberry, an African-American slugger whose career was derailed by drug use, was on hand to express gratitude to the Boss for "sticking by me and pulling me up when no one else would."
Several ex-players attended the event, including Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, as well as foundation chair and former National League president Len Coleman. But the light in the room came from somewhere else: a woman in a black pantsuit, with shoulder-length gray hair and dangling earrings. She mingled unhurriedly, occasionally dispensing hugs to those she knew. Other guests kept looking toward her, angling to get close, to eavesdrop on her banter, to shake her hand, to take in her glow. She needed no name tag. This was Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow. To observe her for any length of time and then to learn that she will soon turn 90 is akin to learning that yes, in fact, cows can fly. She looks 68.
About an hour into the evening, Morgan took to a lectern to emcee a short program. He noted that it has been 65 years since Jackie Robinson crossed the major league color line—on April 15, Major League Baseball will celebrate the anniversary of his first game with the Dodgers—and 50 years since Robinson was inducted into the Hall. Strawberry took a turn at the mike, as did Coleman and David Robinson, one of Jackie and Rachel's three children. Then Morgan stepped to the lectern again. "Now," he said, "I have to formally introduce someone who is here tonight. You know that England has its queen, well ... we have ours. The queen mother— Rachel Robinson."
- Finally, one last point from Monday's LAT, which suffered from proofreading misses. I mean, I know that everyone was at Coachella this past weekend, but could we tone down the marijuana references a bit? (And how are these six records ordered, by the way? The grid makes more sense if the two 9-1 records are grouped together.)
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Sax emerges from his weekend manifesto-writing retreat, with links of goodness for your reading pleasure: