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Closers are failing at an alarming rate

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Twenty-six pitchers who had at least 20 save opportunities in 2007 have had at least one save opportunity in 2008. Those 26 pitchers converted an excellent 86.2 percent of their opportunities last year, much better than the MLB average of 70 percent.

However, in the first three weeks of this season, those 26 pitchers had blown 24 of 114 save opportunities for just a 78.9 percentage, a drop of 7.3 percentage points.

AccuScore ran simulations of a pitcher who typically converts 86.2 percent of 114 save opportunities to track the number of times he would have 24 or more blown saves. In 100,000 simulations, there was only a 2.2 percent chance that a closer would exhibit that degree of drop-off.

2007 SEASON 2008 SEASON SV%
CLOSER SV BS SV% SV BS SV% DIFF
Eric Gagne 16 4 80.0% 6 3 66.7% -13.3%
Jeremy Accardo 30 5 85.7% 4 2 66.7% -19.0%
Manny Corpas 19 3 86.4% 4 2 66.7% -19.7%
Jose Valverde 47 7 87.0% 2 2 50.0% -37.0%
Joe Borowski 45 8 84.9% 2 2 50.0% -34.9%
Alan Embree 17 4 81.0% 0 2 0.0% -81.0%
Francisco Rodriguez 40 6 87.0% 7 1 87.5% 0.5%
Bobby Jenks 40 6 87.0% 6 1 85.7% -1.3%
Jason Isringhausen 32 2 94.1% 6 1 85.7% -8.4%
Huston Street 16 5 76.2% 5 1 83.3% 7.1%
Trevor Hoffman 42 7 85.7% 4 1 80.0% -5.7%
Kevin Gregg 32 4 88.9% 3 1 75.0% -13.9%
J.J. Putz 40 2 95.2% 1 1 50.0% -45.2%
Takashi Saito 39 4 90.7% 1 1 50.0% -40.7%
Brian Fuentes 20 7 74.1% 0 1 0.0% -74.1%
Brad Hennessey 19 5 79.2% 0 1 0.0% -79.2%
Al Reyes 26 4 86.7% 0 1 0.0% -86.7%
Jonathan Papelbon 37 3 92.5% 7 0 100.0% 7.5%
Joe Nathan 37 4 90.2% 6 0 100.0% 9.8%
Mariano Rivera 30 4 88.2% 5 0 100.0% 11.8%
Joakim Soria 17 4 81.0% 5 0 100.0% 19.0%
Matt Capps 18 3 85.7% 4 0 100.0% 14.3%
Billy Wagner 34 5 87.2% 4 0 100.0% 12.8%
Todd Jones 38 6 86.4% 3 0 100.0% 13.6%
Brad Lidge 19 8 70.4% 3 0 100.0% 29.6%
Francisco Cordero 44 7 86.3% 2 0 100.0% 13.7%
TOTAL 794 127 86.2% 90 24 78.9% -7.3%

Note the four closers highlighted in yellow. The table below shows their teams’ current chances of making the playoffs and a forecast for total wins this season compared to their chances if the team had not lost their blown-save games.

CLOSER CURRENT NO BLOWN SAVES
(TEAM LOSS / BS) PLAYOFF WINS PLAYOFF WINS
Eric Gagne, Brewers (1/3) 32.7% 86.1 33.2% 86.2
Manny Corpas, Rockies (1/2) 4.4% 77.1 6.4% 78.3
Jose Valverde, Astros (1/2) 2.5% 75.1 3.3% 76.1
Joe Borowski, Indians (2/2) 18.6% 80.4 26.6% 82.5

Overall, only one of the four closers has significantly cost their team a playoff spot. Eric Gagne has three blown saves, but the Brewers recovered to win two of those games. Manny Corpas and Jose Valverde have each blown two saves, but their teams won one of those two games.

Joe Borowski is the pitcher who has really hurt his team. The Indians lost both of his blown-save games, and they were against the Red Sox and Angels, teams that could end up battling the Indians for a wild-card berth. While two fewer wins (82.5 down to 80.4) does not sound like much, they cut the Indians' chances of making the playoffs by 8 percent in the brutally competitive American League. Perhaps fortunately for the Indians, Borowski is on the disabled list now.