About that Cubs Closer Battle
I recently purchased a copy of the Bill James Handbook 2009...I know, a little late to the party...but it does a great job of presenting information that isn't readily available, information I'll pass along as they become relevant throughout the season. I'm also going to get a subscription to BillJames.net to update everyone as the season progresses.
But thumbing through the book they have all kinds of stats on relievers and let's see if any of it will help Lou pick his closer on the year.
James has a piece on the "21st Century Bullpen" and goes on about how the modern day bullpen has changed drastically over the last 10 years or so and in a very Jamesian way, goes about reclassifying it and includes 21 categories in total ranging from easy to tough saves, clean outings and so forth. I'm not going to republish all his work, but here's some of the relevant ones. Of course, I'm going to have to explain some of these first.
Consecutive Days - A count of how many times a pitcher has thrown on back-to-back days or games in the rare case of a double-header.
Long Outings - Outings of 25 or more pitches
Leverage Index -A metric developed by Tangotiger to account for the game situation. 1.00 is average.
Easy Saves - Saves where the first batter a reliever faces does not represent the tying or winning run and there are three outs or less remaining; 58% of all saves are easy and relievers come through on 87% of them.
Regular Saves - not an easy or tough save; 37% of all saves are regular saves and they are converted 57% of the time
Tough Saves - reliever enters with the potential tying or winning run on base; 5% of all saves are tough saves and they're converted 22% of the time. For the three save types, you'll see something like 15-17 which means 15 converted saves of that type in 17 of those opportunities.
Clean Outing - a game in which the reliever is not charged with a run and does not allow an inherited runner to score.
Save/Hold Percentage - We're use to seeing save percentage but it discriminates against anyone that isn't a closer since they rarely get saves to boost that percentage. So instead James adds up holds and save.
So I was probably a bit overly critical on Kevin Gregg when the Cubs acquired him as the Marlins certainly put his feet to the fire a lot more than Lou did with Kerry. Gregg did tie for the league lead in blown saves with 9(with Manny Corpas), but he also tied for the league lead in tough saves with 4 (with Brian Wilson). Kerry had the 5th highest NL total in Easy Saves and 4th in regular saves (Gregg was 7th in regular saves). Also, Gregg came in with 15 runners on base, allowing just one of them to score all year, while Wood entered a game with just 12 inherited runners, allowing 2 of them to score.
Kerry did have a pretty unfortunate run of bad luck when you look at that above link and his BABIP numbers, so I still have little doubt that he'll be a better pitcher than Gregg this year (enters keyboard shortcut for "if healthy). But no reason to keep revisiting that argument as Wood is a Cleveland Indian and it's Kevin Gregg versus Carlos Marmol for the closer job.
In terms of their rank among other pitchers, Marmol's 27 outings on consecutive days was the tied for the fifth most in the majors and of course he led the NL with 30 Holds (second to Scott Shields in the majors with 31). Marmol actually dominates most of the NL leaderboards in the book.
10th in Inherited Runners Scored % with a minimum of 30 IR - 21.3% (Cotts was 9th, Eyre was 6th and Ohman 2nd for what it's worth)
3rd in Relief Opponent OBP - .251
1st in Relief Opponent SLG - .257 (Gregg was third at .271)
10th in Relief Opponent BA versus lefties - .182
1st in Relief Opponent BA versus righties and overall - .098 and .135
1st in Relief OBP 1st Batter Faced - .185
1st in Relief Opponent BA w/ Runners On - .148
2nd in Relief Opponent BA w/ RISP - .133
1st in Strikeout/Hit Ratio - 2.85 (Harden was 2nd with 2.28)
1st in Opponent OPS vs Slider - .302
So what does this all mean? Well I think Carlos Marmol is kind of good at pitching...can we all agree on that? As for who should be the closer, I don't think the Cubs can go wrong on this decision. Lou isn't going to let the front office dictate his decision, but from a payroll standpoint, letting Gregg close will keep Marmol's arbitration dollars down a little longer and make Gregg more attractive if he becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the Cubs could get two draft picks assuming he's a Type A free agent. Pitchers, managers and fans generally like the defined roles in the bullpen and I don't think there's any doubt that you'd rather have Marmol coming in to escape those 7th and 8th innning jams over Gregg. If you give Marmol the closer job, Lou will hesitate on using him before the 9th and that's probably not the best use of such a dynamic pitcher. Ideally, the two players wouldn't care what innings they pitched and Lou would bring in Marmol in the toughest of situations whether it's the 7th, 8th or 9th. But that's not the reality of today's game so I'll be hoping that announcement from Lou later this week will be that Kevin Gregg is the 2009 closer.