Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Blown Save

People often critisize the statistic "Saves" because they feel it actually dictates the way managers use their bullpens. I would argue that stat "Blown Save" has just as much, if not more, impact. Blow saves look worse than saves look good, especially for closers.

Pedro Feliciano came into the Yankees-Mets game this afternoon in the 9th inning. At the time, the Yankees had the bases loaded, only one out, and were trailing by one run. Feliciano got a ground ball that was just too slowly hit to get Damon for a double play, allowing the tying run to score. Feliciano then retired Jeter to end the inning. Not too bad of a performance. Bases loaded one out, and having to face Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter, and giving up only one run. He got a blown save for the effort.

In a more extreme example, a relief pitcher can come into a game with the bases loaded, nobody out in the 7th inning, and if they gave up only one of the inherited runs, and then pitched 3 innings of shutout ball, if that game goes into extra innings, all this pitcher will show on their record is a blown save.

Using your best relief pitcher, the closer, in those crucial game situations in the 7th and 8th innings and not only the 9th, would give that pitcher many more blown saves. Their save percentage would be down an extreme amount.

One may say that this still would be the best strategy for a team, and in the short run it could be. In the long run it would hurt the team. No top closer would want to be in that situation. They won't be on the saves leaders, have a harder time making all-star teams, and quite possibly lower their market value when teams see how many "blown saves" they have.

While a strategy of using your best pitcher at the biggest moment may be good in theory (and it hasn't exactly been shown that it would be good in practice anyway), it won't be effective for long if you can't get or keep the players you need to do it.

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