Closers are failing at an alarming rate

Stephen Oh
Yahoo! Sports

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.

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