The Hardball Times posted some research about how relievers are being used. I’m not going to attempt to summarize it ‘cuz I don’t really have a handle on it myself, but it’s worth reading.

Instead, I’ll take some of their own words:

A closer is two-and-a-half times more likely to be brought into the ninth with a three-run lead (75% of the time) than with the score tied (30% of the time). Excuse my bold formatting, but this makes no sense at all!

Three-run leads are gimme situations; fans are heading to the exits. On the other hand, tie games in the ninth are the epitome of crucial situations. Yet most managers would rather use their closer with a three-run lead. What gives?

Read the article and tell me if you agree or don’t agree: Regardless of whether it’s verifiable, players want tightly defined bullpen roles and managers use them in that way because they want to believe it makes things more predictable.Who knows if defying this usage pattern actually worsens most pitchers’ performances, but like Crash Davis said,

If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you are!

So once again, the statistical survey of the game and conventional wisdom disagree. The team that can make their relievers believe in the “best guy for the tightest situations” approach would have a distinct advantage, but how do you change the minds of baseball players, whose superstitions and illogical beliefs are well-documented?

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