Pens and DHs Close–Expect 7-game WS
Although the pitchers who record the Ws and the SVs get all the attention, when it comes to the pitching staff, what do managers fears most? HINT: Think about those dramatic moments in the movies when the victim turns the key in the car. A: “exploding starters.”
In this age of specialization in pitching we have the starter, who is recognized for a QS—Quality Start—if he pitches six or more innings and allows three, or fewer, runs. Then there’s the “closer,” who typically pitches in the 9th inning and gets a “save” [SV]* or a BS [“blown save”] and the “set-up” pitcher who may be awarded an H, or Hold**, but it is not an official stat.
We also might need an MU stat for “mop-up,” for the pitchers who come into a game when his team is hopelessly behind.
What does all this have to do with the 2013 World Series?
A manager’s nightmare is the “exploding starter,” who does not bring his “A-game,” but instead comes to the mound in the first inning with his “D-game” and a full can of lighter fluid in his back pocket. In the first inning he starts running behind in the counts and he walks a batter, or two, and then, behind on a 3-1 count to the clean-up batter, “aims” his pitch, like a first-time dart thrower at the local bar, and “catches too much of the plate” and, before you know it, there’s a crooked number on the board, there are runners on base and still no outs.
Shortly, the manager makes a hapless visit to the mound, the catcher is non-responsive and not looking at his pitcher and the infielders are staying in their position, staring aimlessly into the crowd, the home plate ump is wandering toward the mound and, when he arrives, the manager acts surprised to see him.
This is a manager’s worst scenario: his starter has exploded in the first inning and he will now need to “quick heat” somebody in from the bullpen to “eat some innings” to limit the damage, until his team can score on the opposing pitcher.
In this World Series, if a St. Louis or Boston starter explodes or implodes on the mound in the first inning, what are the managers’ options?
Sox Manager, John Farrell, would likely resort to former starter Ryan Dempster, or lefty Felix Doubront, rookie Brandon Workman, or “Dr. Franklin & Mr. Morales,” who was demoted to the Minors to try to balance his attitude and altitude.
Cardinal Manager, Mike Matheny, has a better option, former starter and promising young arm Shelby Miller, who was 15-9, 3.04 ERA, 1.206 WHIP in 173.1 innings, before he went on the DL.
Mike Matheny told reporters about Miller’s role. “He’s going to be a guy we’re going to use if we get into a situation where we’ve got a bunch of innings to eat up, whether it’s at the front end or back. He’s going to be our guy (if) we have to put things together.”
Responding to concerns about Miller’s recovery from his elbow injury [hit by line drive in August] and stamina, RotoWorld reported that:
“Matheny made it clear that Miller, who remains in the bullpen, is not fatigued; Matheny is more concerned about Miller’s lack of high-pressure experience.” I see him as a frontline starter,” Matheny said. “He can be a top-of-your-rotation starter. But right now, we’re just trying to take all the information with it being his first full long season with kind of how he pitched compared to the other guys through September. I don’t want this to ever be translated to him or anybody else that we don’t have high, high confidence and high expectations for him.” [http://www.rotoworld.com/recent/mlb/5977/shelby-miller]
With 5 proven starters, Matheny has an edge, as he can start either Michael Wacha or Shelby Miller and have the other one serve as an “Emergency Second-Starter” if one of his starters explodes in an early inning.
For managers, all too often, a critical game in a short series is decided by the “middle relief” guys in the pen; the “bridge” hurlers who usually pitch in the 6th and 7th innings and send the Manager’s cortisol level in the blood stream to toxic levels.
So, before we look at the Closers and Set-Up pitchers, let us consider the “Middling Relievers.”
- R. Choate One of only 3 LHPs on the roster [all relievers]; the Dean of the Pen with 13 MLB seasons as a “One Lefty Batter” specialist. 2013: 2-1, 2.29, WHIP 1.05, K/W 28/11, GO/AO 2.52, 35.1 IP.
- S. Maness Rookie  2013: 5-2, 2.32, WHIP 1.25, K/W 35/13, GO/AO 4.40, 62 IP.
- K. Siegrist LHP, Rookie  2013: 3-1, 0.45, WHIP 0.88, K/W 50/18, GO/AO 0.89, 39.2 IP.
- C. Martinez Rookie  2013: 2-1, 5.08, WHIP 1.41, K/W 28/11, GO/AO 1.59, 28.1 IP.
- J. Axford Veteran , former closer for Brewers [105 SVs], 2013: 7-7, 4.02, WHIP 1.52, K/W 65/28, GO/AO 1.12, 65 IP.
- The Rookies are pitching most of the innings , Choate/Axford  with Axford  and Choate just 35.1 as the Lefty Batter Specialist.
- Former closer for Brewers with 105 SVs had 0 SVs for the Cards in 2013, but, if Mujica and Rosenthal are ineffective, Cards have a proven closer in the pen.
- Expect to see Lefty Specialist Choate pitch against Mike Carp, Salty, Nava in key and pinch hit situations.
- In his 39.1 innings, Siegrist has been “lights out” [ERA 0.45, WHIP 0.88, K/W 50/18], but his GO/AO [ground out/fly ball out] ratio is about even.
- If Martinez enters the game, don’t go to the kitchen for beer: Sox will score runs.
- J. Tazawa Veteran reliever and briefly closer [May 2013]; 2013: 5-4 3.16, WHIP 1.20, K/W 72/12, GO/AO 0.70, 68.1 IP.
- R. Dempster Twilight Veteran ; 85 SVs from 2005-2007 for Cubs; 2013: 8-9, 4.57, WHIP 1.45, K/W 157/79, GO/AO 0.91, 171.1 IP.
- F. Doubront LHP, Primarily a Starter;4-2 in last 10 starts; 2013: 11-6, 4.32, WHIP 1.43, K/W 139/71, GO/AO 1.08, 162.1 IP.
- F. Morales LHP ; labeled a “swing man,” since he can start or relieve; moods cause inconsistency; you never know which Franklin Morales is showing up. 2013: 2-2, 4.62, WHIP 1.54, K/W 21/15, GO/AO 0.58, 25.1 IP.
- B. Workman Rookie ; once projected as starter; 2013: 6-3, 4.97, WHIP 1.42, K/W 47/15, GO/AO 0.80, 41.2 IP. Good 3-1 K/W ratio, but still a work in progress.
- Tazawa will be used as the “Set-Up” guy for Uehara, but, if Dempster and Workman fail, Farrell may need to use him earlier in a game.
- If Uehara falters or is injured, recall: May 2013, Tazawa was named interim closer after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. By the end of July he had settled into the main setup role ahead of new closer Koji Uehara.
- Farrell has 2 options with LHP, starter Doubront and the unpredictable Dr. Morales and their ERAs are 4.32 and 4.62. When Farrell calls for a LHP from the pen, do not go to the kitchen for a beer—trouble may be brewing on the screen.
- Farrell has 2 options with RHP, veteran starter/reliever Dempster 4.57, WHIP 1.45 and the unpredictable rookie Workman, 4.97, WHIP 1.42. When Farrell calls for a RHP from the pen, do not go to the kitchen for a beer—trouble may be brewing on the screen.
- While the Amazin’ Asians, Tazawa and Uehara are a virtual lock for the 8th and 9th innings, the 6th and 7th will be potential disasters for the Sox.
- Whenever Farrell goes to the pen in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings, hold your water and hold your breath.
- While Koji Uehara is the best closer in MLB and had one of the best seasons in MLB history for a closer, remember that, if Uehara falters or is injured: May 2013, Tazawa was named interim closer after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. By the end of July he had settled into the main setup role ahead of new closer Koji Uehara. Also, Dempster did save a lot of games for the Cubs, albeit 6 years ago.
KOJI UEHARA STATS SUMMARY
SEASON41 1.0973000212474.1331095192101 .130 0.57 0.83
- Where a 2-1 K/W ratio is considered “good” in MLB, Uehara had better than a 10-1 ratio.
- While no MLB closer is as good as Uehara, the Cards have a young, very good one:
EDWARD MUJICA STATS SUMMARY
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- Mujica’s K/W ratio matches Ueharas: 45/5, or 9 to 1.
And, their “set-up” guy compares well to Tazawa:
TREVOR ROSENTHAL STATS SUMMARY
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Don’t be blinded by the excellence of Uehara and reliability of Tazawa; the Cards can hold their own with Mujica [Moo-hee-kah] and Rosenthal.
In general AL teams have the advantage of an established and experienced DH ready to go and the NL teams need to find one and that guy is not accustomed to the role.
If there was a better DH in MLB than Big Papi in 2013, send me an email.
Manager Matheny will need to select a RHB vs. LHP and a LHB vs. RHP, but who?
Danny Knobler says:
“We go through this every year, but no team is as DH-dependent as the Red Sox. And few National League teams are as DH-friendly as the Cardinals.
The Cardinals expect to get Allen Craig back for the World Series, after he missed the first two rounds of the playoffs. But the thinking is that coming back from a foot injury, Craig will have a lot easier time as the DH than if he has to play first base. And Matt Adams has done well at first base in Craig’s absence.
The Cardinals don’t have a typical NL bench built with plenty of top pinch hitters. They were last in the league this year in batting average by pinch hitters (.201), and while Shane Robinson had a pinch-hit home run in Game 4 against the Dodgers, the Cardinals have just one hit in their other 14 postseason pinch-hit chances.
They’d be better off with Craig and Adams both getting four or five plate appearances (and with Craig able to stay off his feet by being the DH).” [http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/danny-knobler/24117327/with-red-sox-and-cardinals-an-alldh-world-series-would-be-best-for-all]
But, if Matheny needs a LHB for DH, he has three strong bats Matt Adams [.284] and Matt Carpenter [.318], as well as Daniel Descalso [.238], Kolten Wong [.153], and Adron Chambers [.154].
Although the Sox have the best DH in MLB, the Cards have some very good hitters who can give it a try at DH.
- The Cards have younger and much better “Middle Relievers” than the Red Sox, which makes them vulnerable in the event of an exploded starter or in innings 6 and 7.
- The Red Sox have the best closer in MLB and a very good set-up guy, but the Cardinals are very, very close to being their equal.
- Although the Sox have the best DH in MLB, the Cards have some very good hitters who can give it a try at DH.
Before we took a close look at the Cardinals, many members of Red Sox Nation were confident that their Sox would win the Series, maybe even a sweep. But, upon further review, it appears that Sox fans should not start reaching across the poker table to rake in the pot; wait to get a good look at your cards to evaluate your chances of winning.
"PREDICTION: 7 GAME SERIES."
May 2013, Tazawa was named interim closer after injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey. By the end of July he had settled into the main setup role ahead of new closer Koji Uehara.
A relief pitcher is awarded a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:
- He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
- He is not the winning pitcher; and
- He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
- He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
- He enters the game, regardless of the score, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck; or
- He pitches for at least three innings. (The word “effectively” has been removed from the MLB rules.)
Under the last condition, the official scorer has some discretion as to whether or not to award a save. This is rule 10.20 of the Major League Rules.
No more than one save may be credited in each game.
A hold is an unofficial statistic that measures the effectiveness of middle relievers. A hold is granted to a relief pitcher who enters a game with his team in the lead in a save situation, and hands over that lead to another reliever without the score having been tied in the interim. A pitcher cannot get credit for a hold in a game in which he is credited with either a win or a save (except in the very exceptional situation where a pitcher moves to another position and later resumes pitching); nor can he get a hold if charged with a loss.
A pitcher who comes into a game and is eligible for a hold and fails in his mission is charges with a blown save; there is no such thing as a blown hold.
As the hold is not an official statistic, there is no consensus whether a pitcher needs to record an out or pitch effectively to get credit for a hold. Some compilers consider that the mere fact of not surrendering the lead is sufficient; while most observers consider that the other two criteria should also apply. The lack of consensus on this issue means that hold totals vary from source to source.
The hold statistic was designed to be a more effective measure of the role of middle relievers. As it stands, they are charged with a blown save when they fail in their mission, but usually have no chance or registering the save if they are successful, as that is the closer‘s prerogative. Given this, ignorant commentators will say that a certain middle reliever is not cut out to succeed as a closer as his save percentage (saves divided by saves + blown saves) is very low, which is ridiculous when one thinks about it. Save percentage for a middle reliever should in fact be calculated by dividing saves + holds by saves + holds + blown saves.
Baseball-reference.com does not list holds among its statistics for pitchers.