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2008 Fan Save Values

One of the main reasons I got involved with sabermetrics was to show fans intimidated by statistical analysis that not all effective evaluative methods consist of complex mathematical formulas. My favorite statistics are ones like FIP, wOBA, and EqA: better indicators of skill and performance but scaled to look similar to the more commonly accepted barometers. In using similar scales more of a chance exists for widespread acceptance.

Through surveys I found that a major reason fans shy away from better evaluative methods is that they are unfamiliar with the baselines. They don’t necessarily know what a good VORP is, or a good WPA; however, they definitely know what constitutes a good or bad ERA or batting average.

One of these stats not mentioned too much is called “Fan Save Value,” and it was created by analyst Ari Kaplan while working for the Orioles in 1990. Essentially, as described in the book Baseball Hacks by Joseph Adler, FSV measures the difficulty level of each save by taking into account the lead with which the closer enters as well as the number of outs he must record to secure a win for his team. When all of the results are added together we are left with a number similar to the saves total but more indicative of how hard a closer had to work.

The formula for FSV is (X/Y)/2, where X=the amount of outs to record and Y=the lead of his team. For instance, recording a one-inning save with a two-run lead would result in an FSV of 0.75; 3 outs divided by 2 runs ahead, then divided by 2. Using this statistic I decided to look at the current saves leaders and determine how hard each has had to work:

Francisco Rodriguez, LAA: 12 saves, 11.3 FSV
George Sherrill, Bal: 11 saves, 7.6 FSV
Joe Nathan, Min: 10 saves, 10.8 FSV
Jonathan Papelbon, Bos: 8 saves, 10.3 FSV
Mariano Rivera, NYY: 8 saves, 9.8 FSV
Huston Street, Oak: 8 saves, 8.3 FSV

Brian Wilson, SF: 10 saves, 10.5 FSV
Eric Gagne, Mil: 9 saves, 8.0 FSV
Jason Isringhausen, StL: 9 saves, 6.5 FSV
Brandon Lyon, Ari: 9 saves, 9.5 FSV
Brad Lidge, Phi: 7 saves, 7.5 FSV
Jon Rauch, Was: 7 saves, 6.1 FSV

The saves leader in each league remains on top when using FSV but the rest of the leaderboard shifts. The biggest dropoffs come from Isringhausen and Sherrill: Both of these pitchers have entered save situations in which their teams led by large margins and/or recorded a couple of 0.2 IP saves.

Papelbon, on the other hand, has pitched more than one inning in a few of his saves. Since the overall result looks similar to the saves total, and saves are commonly used as an end-all when evaluating closers, the FSV is an easy to use and better evaluative tool because it adds context to a normally context-free statistic.