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  1. This is precisely why i want to see the Red Sox trade Papelbon in the off season. Some team will surely over pay for him.

    Comment by Dayton Moore — September 21, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  2. Francisco Cordero’s 2-6 record includes him in any discussion of overpaid closers. And unlike Fuentes the Reds have absolutely no business overpaying a closer, as they’re clearly in no position to contend. Not that that’s an excuse for the Angels, but it’s at least philosophically defensible.

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 21, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  3. with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera (who has not QUITE been worth his contract the last few years by WAR, but you’ve got to take into account the extra value for a constantly-contending team of having a shutdown closer in the post-season, plus the fact that they have the financial power to be able to pay over-the-odds per WAR to secure the absolute best talent in every position) it’s hard to think of a relief pitcher who’s been signed to a rich multi-year contract who hasn’t been a bust to some extent. You’d think teams would learn, but somehow the cache of having that “proven closer” continues to be siren song luring unsuspecting GMs onto the rocks.

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — September 21, 2009 @ 9:53 am

  4. I’d LOVE if the Red Sox did this:
    Papelbon for a SS, Wagner close for a year (I know we said we wouldn’t pick his option up, but I think he’d be fine with it if the job was his). Yes, we’d be paying him $8 mil, but…13.94 K/9 Yes please.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  5. SSS obviously, but even if he regresses to a little below his career average of 11 K/9, gives up 3 BB / 9 and 1 HR / 9, that’s still a pretty good player to run out there.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  6. That Nathan guy hasn’t been half-bad.

    Comment by TomG — September 21, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  7. One thing about Nathan, check out his career BABIP. It’s low.

    But it’s been low for years. Even as a starter, it was low. The highest it’s ever been is .286. This season his LD rate is low, but his career rate is 17.3%. Wonder how he does it.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  8. Obviously Jonathan Broxton is team controlled still. He will make a lot of money when becomes arbitration eligible, and later, if applicable, a free agent. It is nearly disingenuous to include him in comparison to guys that have the mlb service time that Fuentes, Wood, and Rodriguez have accrued.

    Comment by Richie Abernathy — September 21, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  9. Forgive me if I’m stating something that’s obvious, but is a lot of the variability in relief pitcher performance attributed to the small sample size of innings that they pitch over the course of a season? Over 60-70 inning stretches a lot of starting pitchers can look brilliant, or terrible, but over the course of an entire season, it tends to even out more.

    Comment by Bobby Boden — September 21, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  10. Shouldn’t Rafael Soriano be on this list? His ERA only acceptable at 3.16, but his FIP is at 2.67, which better than some of these guys. His K/9 are good, and so are his HR/9.

    On the other hand, he’s split closing duty with some of the other guys on the Braves relief staff, so he doesn’t have a ton of saves. He’s had a rough time since the All-Star Break. This is not his best year, but considering he’s only 29, and his WAR is 1.8, I think he’s worth just about what he’s getting paid.

    Comment by Andrew P — September 21, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  11. Cordero has pitched very well this year. Certainly no where near his contract, but using his W/L record as a metric for success is a bad strategy.

    Comment by DavidCEisen — September 21, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  12. Does WAR account for this value?:

    Comment by Dirty Water — September 21, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  13. My first inclination was good outfield defense, but UZR/150 for Twins outfielders has them hovering around five runs below average for the past three years, and approximately average the two years before that. Further investigation would be warranted, but I’m lazy/hungry right now.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 21, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  14. Yes, but usually steady declines in K/9 is predictive of problems. All 3 have had it.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  15. >In other words, it took K-Rod a couple of months to earn what he’s actually been worth to the Metropolitans all season long.

    Huh? I don’t understand this sentence.

    Comment by b_rider — September 21, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  16. Thanks in no small part to a 3.1% HR/FB rate.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  17. I really don’t see the argument for anything besides W/L record for a reliever being relevant.

    Comment by James — September 21, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  18. “This season his LD rate is low, but his career rate is 17.3%. Wonder how he does it.”

    17.3% is low…..

    Comment by James — September 21, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

  19. I really don’t see the argument for anything besides W/L record for a reliever being relevant.

    If you’re saying what I think you’re saying it’s one of the more inane comments I’ve read here.

    Comment by Not David — September 21, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  20. It only took him a couple months to receive the salary that he’s been worth over the course of the year, according to FG’s WAR and win-value calculations.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 21, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  21. Yea I had trouble with this too at first:

    In other words, it took K-Rod a couple of months to earn (in salary) what he’s actually been worth (in wins) to the Metropolitans all season long.

    Comment by James — September 21, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  22. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and took it as sarcasm.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 21, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  23. Yeah, I was a little behind the 8-ball this morning, didn’t have the time to edit as I would have liked.

    Comment by Erik Manning — September 21, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

  24. I would hope so, but it’s been getting increasingly more difficult to give up that benefit.

    Comment by Not David — September 21, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  25. His career BABIP is .264. Out of 1810 pitchers with 600+ major league IP, that’s good for a tie in 74th lowest ever. Many of the guys he’s in the company of played in the dead ball era.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  26. Mariano rivera should blow some saves and let the offense win games in the bottom of the inning. Then he’d have a good W-L record and be superawesomeman.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  27. Even though he was signed mid season, ya gotta include Brad Lidge in this post. He has been worse than K-Rod, Fuentes, and Wood, and he is getting paid more.


    Comment by Nathan — September 21, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  28. I’d love to see Theo do this. I am positive that a ballpen of Ramirez, Oki, Bard, MDC, Saito (assuming the option is picked up in this case), plus possibly the addition of one more low profile but solid reliever would still be very effective. In this case I would cash in on Paps and let Wagner walk for the 2 picks. Though I must admit, I am sometimes guilty of overvaluing draft picks, and undervaluing the importance of having a lockdown ballpen in a pennant race and then in the playoffs.

    Comment by Diaz — September 21, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  29. Can you put a good FIP in the W column? Didn’t think so.

    (I’m being sarcastic fyi. Sorry just bored at work…)

    Comment by James — September 21, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  30. Dude… exactly. My argument was that a low LD% was causally related to his low BABIP…

    That is a pretty remarkable stat nonetheless. The point is, he has 3 + pitches, and you just can’t hit any of them hard.

    Comment by James — September 21, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  31. Lidge is only half of it; I don’t see Philly doing anything in the playoffs with a bullpen that continues to wilt under pressure. Lidge, Myers, Park and Madson need a shrink, and fast.

    Comment by Dirty Water — September 21, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  32. Now hold on, it is only fair to consider Lidge’s value last year. An argument could be made that the Phils don’t sniff the playoffs without Lidge and his low 2s FIP. As far as this year, just regress a little to 2008 during the playoffs Brad and I’ll be happy.

    Comment by neuter_your_dogma — September 21, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  33. or maybe stop filming for that inane yet fun show of theirs for the time being.

    Comment by anon — September 21, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

  34. If the current generation of career closers produce several Lidges and Gagnes, who are just unbeatable for a few years and fade, for each Joe Nathan, wonder whether Lee Smith will get reconsidered as HOF material. 500 saves looks reachable if you get 40/year, but unlike HR’s you can’t keep accumulating 25-30 per year if you are the #2 on your team.

    Comment by Gilbert — September 21, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  35. .264 is low, even for that LD rate. Especially given he’s played most his career on a fast track and the Twins aren’t exactly running out the Mariners’ defensive outfield.

    Comment by Joe R — September 21, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  36. Gomez is more likely to be in center, with span in left at the end of a close game. That alignment is very good. I don’t know for sure how much this has happened the last 2 years, and I they didn’t had a good defensive replacement like Gomez before last year.

    Comment by lookatthosetwins — September 21, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  37. Yeah. I wish we could look at the UZR behind a given pitcher instead of just having to go by what the team did on the aggregate. Given the volatility of defense, it’s certainly possible they played better for Nathan.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 21, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  38. Id see it as more likely that we go after someone in the offseason to fill the closer position than keep Wagner, but Id be more than fine with it if Theo took the plunge. Selling high on Papelbon and getting an SS or another valuable piece would be great, especially sense Bards gonna be ready to close in a year or two.

    Comment by Danny — September 21, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  39. Yeah? Have you watched him much? I hate to sully the land of metrics with the anecdotal, but I watch the guy week in and week out and he has a clean inning about as often as I win the lottery. I should know better than to refer to W-L without clarifying, but to say that a closer’s record is less indicative of his performance than other pitchers would be to ignore the unique situation in which he enters the game. In Cordero’s case it’s far more of an indicator than his peripherals (which are mediocre at best, especially the plummeting strikeout rate) or his ERA, which is almost a full run lower than his FIP. But please, tell me what he’s done well, especially if you never see him actually throw a baseball. I’m especially interested in people who think they know everything about a player based on numerical analysis.

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 21, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  40. You might want to leave Gagne out of the discussion, since we already have an idea of where that came from.

    Comment by The Fonz — September 21, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  41. Broxton already went to arbitration. He has 2 more years left and is in line for a massive raise.

    Comment by Alireza — September 21, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  42. that is just wrong!

    Comment by Nats Fan — September 21, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  43. Hey, I can’t prove it, but I think some guys, say a guy like Nathan, have consistently low BABIPs because he throws high quality pitches. The kind that batters consistently and repeatedly fail to square up. Stats DO show that, right?

    Comment by jirish — September 21, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  44. Brian Fuentes has 43 saves (in 50 attempts). Jepsen has zero saves in zero opportunities. Its hard to understand how Fuentes is displaced.

    Comment by RydeBlindWagner — September 21, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  45. “Have you watched him much?”

    This is one of the most patently absurd arguments ever. Thanks to this technological advancement called the Internet, people from all over the world are able to follow the performance of any playerat such an in-depth level, whether it be with up-to-the-minute box scores, game logs, or even down to individual pitches with PitchFX, that it would be like he were there himself. So, unless there’s something that requires direct visual evidence, like whether a pitcher’s mechanics are a bit off or if looks like he’s suffering from the aftereffects of some bad shellfish, there’s nothing that you, dear Armchair Scout, can ascertain that isn’t readily available to anyone with a computer and two bits of common sense. And, even on the two latter points, you can bet someone, somewhere, has already commented about it on some website or message board.

    Comment by TomG — September 21, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

  46. Is this supposed to be sarcasm?

    Comment by Benne — September 22, 2009 @ 12:10 am

  47. As a dude, I love Papelbon.

    You just know he’s going to unintentionally Rocker-out one day, though. Like not on purpose, but just say something stupid.

    Comment by Joe R — September 22, 2009 @ 1:53 am

  48. I don’t think you’ll get two picks for Wagner. If he’s offered arbitration, it’s hard to see him saying no.

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — September 22, 2009 @ 5:01 am

  49. I actually thought Nathan was on a pretty small contract. I see now he’s on a 4yr-47m deal. Strange to see a small market team signing a closer to such a monster deal, but yep, it looks like they’ve beaten the odds there and got a winner.

    They’ve been lucky so far with his health, though – if he misses a year (which is statistically quite likely to happen if you sign an ageing pitcher to a 4-year deal) it’s VERY hard for him to recoup that value.

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — September 22, 2009 @ 5:04 am

  50. None of these guys was a truly elite, top-5-in-the-game reliever when they signed the contracts. K-Rod had a declining K/BB rate, Fuentes was NEVER a truly elite relief pitcher, and Wood was held together with elastoplasts and popsicle sticks and thus must be said to have had a hugely elevated injury risk compared to an average pitcher.

    I could just about stomach those sort of contracts for a Papelbon, Nathan, Rivera or a Soria, but Brian F’ing Fuentes? The same Brian Fuentes who’s never walked less than 3 per 9, who’s had a FIP less than 3.40 precisely once in an 8 year career, and who lost his job as a closer just two years ago because he kept on getting shelled and had a 4.15 FIP?

    Comment by Felonius_Monk — September 22, 2009 @ 5:11 am

  51. Actually, even a cursory perusal of Cordero’s numbers would show his deficiencies. Please, explain to me how a closer loses six games — and they are in a special position to have losses counted against them as they typically come in with a lead and no one on base, often against inferior stretches of the hitting order — and that’s considered pitching well. And yeah, I’d expect habitues of this site to assert that they can tell all without actually laying eyes on a player. But that’s your problem, not mine. The confidence people have in this sort of analysis is growing laughable, as are blanket assertions about the uselessness of ERA and win-loss records in evaluating players. There’s a vast difference between *there are better ways to evaluate players than ERA and w-l* and *ERA and w-l have no bearing on player evaluation*.

    It’s amusing that you mention game log, Tom. if you’d looked at Cordero’s you’d see what I see. And PITCHf/x is suddenly reliable? Funny, last thing I heard there were all sorts of disclaimers about variability of pitch characterization (look up Brett Anderson’s slider and CB allocations some time) as well as dubious velocity readings. I’m sure you think you’re talking to some BBWAA slob who thinks the Cy Young goes to the guys with the most wins. Allow me to disabuse you of that notion. The inanity in this thread is concentrated in assertions that it’s all in the numbers. Thankfully FanGraphs is a lot smarter than its comments section.

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 22, 2009 @ 10:23 am

  52. Actually, blackoutyears, W/L record really doesn’t tell you anything about a pitchers’ performance, and certainly nothing that couldn’t be gleaned from more reliable stats. But to your question about how a closer could lose 6 games and still be considered good, Mariano Rivera lost 6 in ’01. He was his typical excellent self that year. Sometimes closers come into tie games. They almost always are the last line of defense. Any other pitcher who gives up the lead will leave the offense a chance to bail them out. If a closer fails, the game is over. Since no closer, not even Rivera, is perfect, they are more likely to see their failures show up in the loss column.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 22, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  53. You can keep saying that wins and losses tell us nothing, but that’s simply because, lemming-like, you must. What can you tell me about Rivera’s wins and losses besides a number? Nothing, because you’ve been conditioned to disregard them. As always, it’s nice to see the comments here serving as their usual bastion of independent thought. You can challenge yourself or you can be a caricature. Your choice. Insisting that you can find out everything you need to know about a player with PITCHf/x and Baseball-Reference is amusing I’ll grant. I guess the saving grace is you’re too arrogant to realize how stoopid you look?

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 22, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  54. 1) You’re looking at stats, too. You wouldn’t know a pitcher’s W-L record if you didn’t look at a stat sheet.
    2) In 1983, Lee Smith went 4-10. 10 effin losses. Oh yeah, he also appeared in 66 games, threw 103 1/3 innings, had his best career ERA+, and converted 29 of his 33 save chances, and two of those blown saves were him being called in with runners already in scoring position. The next season, Lee Smith went 9-7, and his ERA doubled in the process, and gave up over 2 more baserunners per 9 innings. Looking at W-L record for a reliever is pretty much useless.

    Comment by Joe R — September 22, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  55. Blackoutyears, care to explain to me what, exactly, Rivera’s 4-6 record told you about him that year? You insist that it must say something, but you haven’t mentioned what it says. Because if tells you he was bad that year, you’re retarded. It rated among his best seasons in K-rate, BB-rate, FIP, appearances, innings pitched, and even saves (not that those mean much, but since you like W/L, I’ll throw you a bone). But yeah, he lost six games, so I’m sure he wasn’t good that year, right?

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 22, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  56. Nice try, Joe, but the misconception here seems to be that I think *a* 2-6 record is the problem, when in fact I’m talking only about Cordero’s. Four of his six losses have come in the last month, a period of time in which he’s pitched like dogshit for the most part. Because I actually *gasp* watch him pitch, I know this. I’ve seen his losses and his saves, and I know that the difference between the two is generally attributable to the Reds’ much improved defense. He was observably lucky in the first half and this stretch is a predictable regression. It is amusing that an off the cuff remark about a player’s record endgenders this sort of programmed response, to the degree that his mediocrity is defended and the efficacy of scouting is completely ravaged. Like I said, it borders on caricature or parody. I comment solely on players I’ve actually seen. Can anyone who’s responded here say the same?

    And to the guy who said that Cordero has pitched well this year, I’d like to know by what measure. I don’t believe it exists statistically or anecdotally.

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 22, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  57. Thanks, Kevin S. I was hoping someone would resort to calling me retarded; that’s how I know I’m on the internet. You know the second way I know I’m on the internet? People who’ve never formulated a profound analytical thought or created a statistical tool of their own present themselves as experts, as if I’m supposed to be impressed with what is simply an ability to parrot received opinions. I do see why you feel special. Which reminds me of the third way I know I’m on the internet: people are idiotic enough to think that they can actually persuade others. Fucking hilarious.

    Comment by blackoutyears — September 22, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  58. I learned something today; apparently, there are only two types of people on teh internets, those who create models, and those who parrot. It isn’t possible to read something else, understand the principle, and decide it makes sense. Nope, parrotism. Still waiting for you to explain why you think wins and losses are worthwhile for relievers, and tell you something other stats don’t. All you’ve done is launch ad hominem attacks at people who think that other numbers tell the story to the point that record adds nothing to it. You made the claim, the onus is on you to prove it, or shut up and go away.

    Oh, and as for calling you retarded? IF you think Rivera’s ’01 was bad because of his six losses, a conditional I used before and continue to use now, you are retarded. Sorry, that’s non-negotiable.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 22, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  59. blackoutyears is using an extreme end of the bell curve for his “point”.

    It’s like when some old guy says “average is important, geeks, there’s a big difference between a .200 and .350 hitter”, you say “no shit you ignoramus, that’s a batting champ vs. a guy who probably shouldn’t be an MLB regular”.

    Same here. 4 losses in one month, he pitched bad in this month, therefore, W-L record is significant. No shit.

    Pitcher A plays for the Sucktown Sucks. He pitches 210 innings in 30 starts, giving up only 30 ER, strikes out 300, walks only 30. But because his team can’t field or hit well, he goes 4-16

    Pitcher B plays for the Awesometown Awesomos. He pitches 150 innings in 30 starts, gives up 100 ER, K/BB of 1. Team hits behind him, he goes 12-8.

    Who, among these two, is “better”? How much does W-L record “tell” us? Know how many loses Brian Wilson has? 5. David Aardsma? 5 as well. Let’s conclude they both suck.

    Comment by Joe R — September 23, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

  60. And I love the accusations of “parroting” and “groupthink”. Not only does that show an unwillingness to argue with facts and hard logic, it shows a misunderstanding of the word “groupthink”.

    There’s a huge difference between “groupthink” and “consensus”. If you threw 20 nomadic people in a room 50 stories above the ground and gave them two options to escape, a window and the door. These people have never been in a room before, but after looking through the facts, realize the door is a much better option. This is a consensus opinion. If one leader said “let’s go out the window” and they all decided to follow, this is groupthink. Groupthink is taking a stand without inspection. Statistical analysts are the opposite; they inspect almost to a fault, and come to a conclusion. Often times, their views can clash, as well.

    In conclusion, try to exercise the left side of your brain for once while you’re not busy skipping psychology classes at community college*

    *this is a blatant, stereotyping, likely highly wrong assessment of blackoutyears. I said it anyway.

    Comment by Joe R — September 23, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  61. This is a joke, right?

    Comment by Pete — September 23, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  62. I think he’s saying Fuentes hasn’t been replaced from the Closer-with-a-capital-C role by Jepsen because Jepsen hasn’t had any save opportunities yet, not that Fuentes is a better pitcher.

    Comment by Kevin S. — September 23, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

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