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Friday, June 15, 2012


Phlipper: You are right that much of the closer analysis is circular reasoning. A recent blog post from Joe Posnanski (who I think is normally excellent) challenged the "last 3 outs are the hardest" orthodoxy by pointing out that slash lines are lowest in the 9th inning of all innings: an analysis that suffers from exactly the same mistake.

However, you seem to be suggesting that the concept of leverage is arbitrary. It is not. It can be accurately measured, as a function of how likely runs are to be scored in a given scenario, given average hitters and average pitchers. The form of leverage listed on Fangraphs and other sites assumes generic hitters and pitchers, but in theory a more complete "leverage" could easily be calculated. It is not arbitrary.

Is it possible that there could be a psychological benefit to having defined roles? Sure, maybe. But in my experience, 9 times out of 10, when you actually run the numbers on traditional, pseudo-psychological wisdom in sports (things like the Wheeler Closer in Non-Save Situation Adrenaline Rule), it turns out to be somewhere between overstated and dead wrong.

Getting paid by the post these days?

A warm body needed at Lehigh since Brown went down again. Strictly minor league organizational filler.

Re-posted with spelling correction:

"2-3 weeks ago Ruiz was starting to cool off and I kind of just chalked it up as an awesome ride and pray that someone else was going to step up to keep the offense at a decent level.

Now he's 7 for his last 16 with 4 2B and 3BB/2HBP for a line of .438/.571/.688 in his last 5 games - OPS back to 1.000 on the dot and we're halfway thru June, amazing.

Has a healthy league lead in HBP with 10, wonder if thats a sign that he's moved closer to the plate this year and part of his success? Haven't noticed, but whatever it is, we still need a lot of it."

Posted by: lorecore | Friday, June 15, 2012 at 04:48 PM

Here's something for you to consider, lorecore, as clearly it's an idea that's never occurred to you before.

The vast majority of variability that we see in limited sample sizes of how players perform at various times throughout the season is explainable by normal patterns in the distribution of events.

When someone says that someone isn't going good "right now," chances are that they are attributing a random pattern distribution to some factor for which there is no actual evidential support.

Of course, there could be an actual reason why Ruiz was getting more hits a while ago, stopped for a while, and then picked it up again. If you had some evidence of % of hard-hit balls during those periods, then you might have the beginning of supporting evidence, but even there the difference in prevalence of line drives could also very likely just be a product of random distribution patterns.

On thing you can know for sure is that the vast majority of times that people try to explain why a player is going good "right now" or bad "right now," they're just seeing what they want to see.

Of course, the professionals in the game know that, for the most part. That's why they take the long-term view. The players themselves also likely often over-attribute random distribution to fairly arbitrary explanations such as "seeing the ball well," but even though they probably do so to some extent, at least they actually know something about what they're talking about when they offer some kind of an explanation for the variability in their performances. But watch how Charlie has patience and waits things out before reaching hasty conclusions. You might learn something from that.


I know I just booked my World Series tickets.

DH -

I agree that most of the speculation/explanations about the influence of psychology on performance is pretty far fetched.

"However, you seem to be suggesting that the concept of leverage is arbitrary."

Not really. I'm saying that you never really know in other situations what the actual leverage is. If you bring in the closer in the top of the at home, and your team scores 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th, was it a high-leverage situation. Have you maximized the use of your best pitcher in that situation? You bring him into the 9th inning, and you're living or dying on the basis of his performance, by definition, unless he happens to give up just the number of runs that results in a tie.

I'm not discounting the notion of maximizing the usage of your closer in high leverage situations, and I'm not saying you can't look at the probabilities to make guesses about what will likely be the highest leverage situations. I don't really disagree with the basic outlines of the argument. I'm just saying that in the "anti-closer orthodoxy" I see a lot of folks that are simply unwilling to look at the costs/benefits on both sides of the equation, who are willing to fudge on details they don't like, and who as a result overevaluate the advantages of the strategies they support to the point where they may very well be arguing for strategic advantages that are overwhelmed by hard to define variables like psychological influences on performance.

I wouldn't be surprised if he popped up to the show at some point. He's essentially next in line among the AAA OFs now.

Great, we're getting Mets re-treads now.

Why did we trade Pods for peanuts? Still don't understand that

Maybe, just maybe, because the best and often most expensive reliever are in the games at these times?

Maybe, indeed. But that's missing the larger point. Paying $11 million for a pitcher who's gonna throw a lousy 60-odd innings per season is a waste of money, regardless of how one feels about the concept of leverage. (Of course if one doesn't consider leverage a valid concept, one can't then make a "best reliever ... at those times" argument w/out blatantly contradicting oneself, but that's a whole other issue). My belief is that teams should branch out from the narrow focus of "Saves", as paying big money for a Closer rapidly progresses from a point of diminishing returns to a point of zero return. And considering Papelbon has been the only steady performer in a bullpen which has rendered the latter parts of many a game a moot point by virtue of its lack of virtue, refusing to expand his role only further weakens an already weak ball club. In short, there's no reason for Papelbon to be here at all if he's going to sit on his ass, chew seeds & wait for Save situations to materialize even as lesser talents make that an impossibility. I consider it to be a logically indefensible strategy.

All I know is that every single time they bring in Paps to close out a game, I'm saying to myself, "Man, I sure wish they'd signed a mediocre closer for less money on a short contract instead of going out and getting the best relief pitcher in the game."

"Great, we're getting Mets re-treads now."

Talk about role reversal.

Phils really could use a long-man out of the pen who is upgrade over Savery. Is Condrey available?

Nice straw man Philipper. Your counterfactual is, apparently, that the savings would be used to light the owners' cigars...

All I know is that every single time they bring in Savery/Schwimer/Rosenberg to pitch in a tie game on the road, I'm saying to myself, "Man, I sure wish they'd signed a closer like Nathan or Broxton for less money on a short contract instead of going out and getting the best relief pitcher in the game and not having enough money to sign another veteran reliever."

Game Chat ==>

Buddy - If they had signed a mediocre closer, they might have had a few more blown saves and a few more dollars to sign another mediocre reliever - resulting in fewer losses than we get from throwing a Savery or a Diekman in there.

It's possible. Of course, they might have signed two mediocre pitchers only to watch one of them blow up completely, have their arm fall off, etc.

I'm basically observing that some folks are just have a reflexive proclivity to be overly negative, and accordingly, fail to look at both sides of the issue.

In the meantime, having been a fan of the team when they were perennially horrible, I have a hard time getting worked up about the team spending someone else's money to sign the top reliever in the game, and a fun pitcher to watch (provided I can stay awake between pitches).

7 Risp..

How nice...

Nice consistent offense by phillies

Where is Polly billboard head?

Is he hurt again?

His non presence is actively hurting this team...

How fitting. Jimmy popups Game, set and match. See you tomorrow batting #1

Of course if you have no games to save,it doesn't matter who the closer is.

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