In the past quarter-century we've seen a drastic change in pitching usage patterns. Not only has every team gone to a five-man rotation, but starters rarely pitch complete games anymore. Instead they routinely yield to a bullpen which, if the lead fits into a narrow box outside of which 95 percent of all managers are afraid to think, passes the baton to a one-inning specialist imbued with mystical powers that relievers of an earlier era somehow did not possess.Jaffe goes on to explain the arguments for and against enshrining various relievers and the methodology behind it.
If this specialist, called a closer, is successful--and for the most part, such success is as attainable as that for an NFL placekicker--he collects a statistical cookie called a save (mmm, cookie) and is exalted by the media. Meanwhile the closer’s fireman predecessors, who often pitched two or three frames at a clip and entered when the score was tied or (heaven forbid) tilted in the other team’s favor, receive little love from the Hall of Fame electorate, which has trained itself to value an 80-inning/40-save season more highly than the 110-inning/25-save ones of that bygone era.
We shouldn’t be fooled by high save totals; it’s the runs that matter, and due to the limited innings they throw, the Davenport numbers tell us that it’s nearly impossible for the best late-model relievers to be more valuable than the best everyday players or starting pitchers. Annual Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3) totals above 10.0 are common for elite players at their peaks, but the best relievers--of either variety--top 8.0 only in a rare Mariano Rivera/Eric Gagne-caliber year. The three enshrined relievers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley) have a combined two seasons above 8.0 as relievers (Eck topped 8.0 twice as a starter).
Also today, Joe Sheehan posts an elegant piece arguing that Nomar will not be a good buy for the Dodgers. Unlike a few folks we know, here's the most inflammatory line: "Garciaparra is at a point in his career where you have to question his ability to both stay on the field and be a productive player when he does so." Sheehan then makes the case that L.A. will be paying more (and getting less production) than it would had it just stuck with its incumbent first baseman.
We bring this up only because they are shining examples of what strong and relevant columns are being written today.
Then there's the CHB (aka Sybil). Today's missive, likely written on a napkin over lunch, is on the selling of various Manny Ramirez memorabilia.
What, is Shaughnessy primping for a spot on Page Six of the Post?