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Linear Saves 2008

by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
November 13, 2008

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 LSV Intro

Last year, I used Linear Saves to finally convince myself that Trevor Hoffman was a better closer than Billy Wagner.  By the early June, I was having second thoughts.  Billy Wagner had gone a respectable 13-for-15 in his save chances and boasted a ridiculous 0.36 ERA on the strength of adding a changeup to his arsenal.  Meanwhile, Hoffman was finally showing his age, sporting an 0-4 record, 5.68 ERA, and 11-for-14 save ratio.  

Hoffman would only blow one more save on the year: one run allowed to the middle of the Rockies' batting order.  The Padres would score a run to win that game for Hoffman in the bottom of the ninth.  Wagner, meanwhile, blew three straight saves in early June, allowing two runs in each contest.  He righted his ship before suffering a career-threatening elbow injury in early August. 

The point of this tale is that unlike a traditional counting stat, career Linear Weights stats can fluctuate wildly, especially so with Linear Saves due to the volatile nature of closers.  So our table of career Linear Saves has changed quite a bit in just one year and could indeed look different when we check in again next winter.

2007 Career Linear Saves Leaders (Min 10 LSV10)

Player Sv BS SV% Raw LSV LSV10 IP/RG

IP

ERA+
Trevor Hoffman 524 63 89.3% 30.4 32.1 1.07 942 2/3 147   
Lee Smith 478 103 82.3% 17.5 24.4 1.23 1289 1/3 132   
Mariano Rivera 443 59 88.2% 19.5 22 1.16 953 194
Tom Henke 311 55 85.0% 18.3 19.9 1.23 789 2/3 156   
Dennis Eckersley 390 71 84.6% 15.6 17.8 1.14 3285 2/3 116   
Billy Wagner 358 58 86.1% 9.5 17.8 1.07 771 180
Randy Myers 347 60 85.3% 14.3 17.3 1.14 884 2/3 122   
Eric Gagne 177 10 94.7% 17.9 16.7 1.09 597 1/3 124   
Dan Quisenberry 244 55 81.6% 12.6 16.6 1.55 1043 1/3 146   
John Smoltz 154 14 91.7% 11.2 11.2 1.08 3367 127
Troy Percival 324 57 85.0% 7.2 10.9 1.02 651 2/3 154   
Jose Mesa 321 61 84.0% -2.7 10.4 1.06 1548 2/3 100   

2008 Career Linear Saves Leaders (Min 10 LSV10)

Player Sv BS SV% Raw LSV LSV10 IP/RG

IP

ERA+
Trevor Hoffman 554 67 89.2% 32 33.7 1.06 988    145   
Mariano Rivera 482 60 88.9% 24.9 27.4 1.16 1023 2/3 199
Lee Smith 478 103 82.3% 17.5 24.4 1.23 1289 1/3 132   
Tom Henke 311 55 85.0% 18.3 19.9 1.23 789 2/3 156   
Dennis Eckersley 390 71 84.6% 15.6 17.8 1.14 3285 2/3 116   
Randy Myers 347 60 85.3% 14.3 17.3 1.14 884 2/3 122   
Dan Quisenberry 244 55 81.6% 12.6 16.6 1.55 1043 1/3 146   
Billy Wagner 385 65 85.6% 8.1 16.4 1.07 818 180
Eric Gagne 187 17 91.7% 13.6 12.4 1.09 597 1/3 124   
Troy Percival 352 61 85.2% 7.4 12.1 1.02 651 2/3 154   
John Smoltz 154 15 91.1% 10.3 11.2 1.08 3367 127
Jose Mesa 321 61 84.0% -2.7 10.4 1.06 1548 2/3 100   

Billy Wagner dropped from sixth to eighth on the all-time list while Eric Gagne fell from eighth to ninth. As a result, Dan Quisenberry shot up from ninth to seventh.  As Rickey Henderson might say, it's as though someone dug up Dan Quisenberry and he started saving games again.  This serves as yet another example of how rare it is for a closer to remain as consistent throughout a long career as Trevor Hoffman has done. Wagner, for instance, would need to save 150 consecutive games before he would match Hoffman's career save percentage.

But there is at least one challenger for Hoffman's crown.  With his 5.4 Linear Save performance in 2008, Mariano Rivera has leapfrogged Lee Smith and stands as runner up in career Linear Saves, trailing Hoffman by 6.3.  Rivera is two years younger than Hoffman, and has averaged 2.3 LSV per season over his dozen years as a closer.  Again, a lot can happen in two years, but suddenly the two future hall of Famers appear to be near-equals in this measure of closing efficiency.  Rivera's commanding edge in ERA, ERA+, winning percentage, playoff performance, and multi-inning appearances obviously make him a far better pitcher already, but we may be fast approaching the day on which Trevor Hoffman won't even have Linear Saves to hang his hat.

Feel free to download the updated Linear Saves Excel Spreadsheet.  We'd appreciate it if you cite and link back to BaseballEvolution.com whenever using Linear Weights and send us suggestions on how to better utilize and improve them. 




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com or found at the Baseball Evolution Forum

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