Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saving Broxton

Some Head Coaches in the NFL and college carry a card that describes the ideal situations for attempting a 2 point conversion. I imagine baseball managers have something similar regarding closer use. It probably looks something like this:
  • They can't be used in tied road games (unless they are pitching a second inning because they blew the save in their first inning of work).
  • They can't be used in non-save situations (unless they need work because they haven't pitched in a while).
  • They can't be removed from the game(unless they blow the save).
Ned Yost's strict adherence to the third rule almost cost the Royals a win last night. Handed a 3 run lead Jonathan Broxton did what he does when pitching with a 1 or 2 run lead, he let the tying run on base. After walking Denard Span to start the inning he then gave up an infield single to Ben Revere and a run scoring double to Joe Mauer. Now if this were the 8th inning, and Greg Holland (or whoever) were pitching, Yost likely goes to the bullpen at this point and calls on Aaron Crow or Kelvin Herrera, because the situation called for strikeouts. But it was the 9th inning and Yost was going to get his closer that save or lose trying.

The next three hitters would all represent the winning run and Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe were all just capable enough to smash a walkoff home run. Of course that didn't happen. A ground out, flyout and popout later the game was over and Johnny Drama had somehow escaped yet again.

Broxton is on pace for a 40+ save season, which isn't near as impressive a feat as it used to be. There have been 135 such seasons in MLB history but only 11 were achieved by pitchers with a higher WHIP than the 1.337 Broxton currently owns. I was actually surprised it was that many.

Rk Player WHIP SV Year
1 Mitch Williams 1.613 43 1993
2 Antonio Alfonseca 1.514 45 2000
3 Brian Wilson 1.444 41 2008
4 Todd Jones 1.438 42 2000
5 Francisco Cordero 1.431 40 2010
6 Joe Borowski 1.431 45 2007
7 Jose Mesa 1.413 43 2004
8 Brian Fuentes 1.400 48 2009
9 Bobby Jenks 1.392 41 2006
10 Roberto Hernandez 1.377 43 1999
11 Jose Mesa 1.374 45 2002
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/30/2012.

It would be nice if Yost realized that a Royals win is vitally more important than a Broxton save. If Crow or Collins or Herrera has to come in and clean up Broxton's mess, then so be it. The team is just 2 games out of second place and may actually play meaningful baseball after the All Star break for the first time in quite a while.

Andy at the High Heat Stats blog posted just yesterday an article criticizing managers for the way closers are handled saying the "current prevailing strategy has been shown to be monumentally flawed". That's true and I think a good majority of fans realize this. So the question is, why don't managers?  I agree with Andy that closer use will change at some point, it almost has to, but unfortunately I don't believe for a second that Ned Yost will be the manager that leads the late inning revolution.

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