Linear Saves 2008
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
November 13, 2008
One reason why neither Francisco Rodriguez nor Brad Lidge's season produce as good of a Linear
Saves total as we might expect is that 2008 was the best season for save
percentage for closers ever at 88.9%. This is probably due to
Managers generally made sound choices in 2008, replacing
struggling closers prudently. The Rockies quickly lost patience with Manny
Corpas and went back to their old buddy Brian Fuentes with excellent results.
The Brewers would never have made the postseason had they stuck with Eric Gagne over Solomon Torres, who nevertheless
struggled himself in September. Jim Riggleman had the wherewithal to
shelve last year's LSV leader, J.J. Putz, in favor of Brandon Morrow only
temporarily as Putz was returning from an injury (Putz certainly underwent one
of the largest drops in consecutive seasons, falling by 8.4 LSV). Tony
LaRussa did well to ditch the normally reliable Jason Isringhausen, but the
hapless leader went with Ryan Franklin as a less-than-adequate replacement.
|Most Linear Saves, Season
|* Strike-shortened season
Also, managers are still progressively more squeamish about bringing their
closer in to pitch multiple innings or with runners already on base, making save
opportunities easier than in years' past. Here is where Bill James and
Baseball Info Solutions come to our aid. In the
Bill James Handbook 2009, James puts the BIS game data to excellent use,
finding 21 different categories by which to evaluate relievers (not just
closers, like Linear Saves does). For our purposes here, the most
interesting thing he does is break down saves into three separate categories -
Easy, Regular, and Tough:
Easy Saves: The reliever enters the game with three or fewer outs
remaining and the first batter faced does not represent the potential tying or
winning run. In 2008, 58% of saves were Easy Saves and they got converted
at an 87% clip.
Tough Saves: The reliever enters with the potential tying or winning
run on base. Only 5% of saves were Tough Saves in 2008, and relievers were
credited with saves on just 22% of Tough Save opportunities.
Regular Saves: Any save that does not fall under the criteria for
either an Easy Save or a Tough Save. 37% of saves were Regular Saves this
year, and they were converted successfully at a 57% rate.
It's a shame we only have this breakdown for 2008. That data would go a long
way towards correcting the Goose Gossage timeline problem with Linear Saves;
Goose no doubt came into dozens more Tough Save Situations than has Trevor
Hoffman over the course of his career. But rather than lament what we
don't have, let's use what we do have for our four top Linear Saves closers for
Let this information temper your enthusiasm for a 62-save season, but don't let this take away anything from Mr. Lidge.
No other closer was perfect in both Regular and Easy save opportunities in '08.
Still, you can make a strong case that Mariano Rivera actually had the more
valuable season. Newest Chicago Cub Kevin Gregg, Jonathan Papelbon, and Brian Wilson were the only
other pitchers to convert as many as four Tough Saves this season. The
five Tough Saves that Rivera nailed down did more to help his team win than the
six extra Easy Saves that Lidge notched, and the one blown Regular Save probably
doesn't offset it.
What does Rivera's terrific season do for his career standing? Find out
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at email@example.com or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum