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Managing a Baseball Team 101

June 19, 2014

I guess I don’t understand much about managing a baseball team so I’d probably fail Managing a Baseball Team 101. I don’t understand why a manager, take Ron Gardenhire for example, although he’s not alone in this, won’t bring in his closer when the game is tied. Maybe he’ll do it at home – maybe – but on the road you can forget about it.

There’s probably a sabermetric whiz out there who can show me the stats on why it’s better to hold onto your closer until you have a lead and a save is on the line and I’d love to hear them, but I’ve always felt that ‘saves’ was a silly stat that mean more at the contract negotiating table than on the field and not a stat that’s as important as wins.

Your closer is supposed to be your best reliever, right? He’s supposed to be the guy you trust can shut down the opposition’s offense for three outs so you can preserve a win. On the flip side, and I’m not talking about Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage or Hoyt Wilhelm (or my personal favorite Sparky Lyle) here, it’s also possible he’s the one pitcher on your staff with the least amount of physical endurance so you just save him to throw really, really hard and really, really fast for 10-15 pitches. Either way, whoever he is, whether he’s a he-man or a weakling – and assuming it’s not a three-inning save – your closer is the guy who gets the ball when the game is in danger of being lost. If I’m right about that, then why, when a game is tied in the 9th inning, isn’t that game considered being in danger of being lost. If it is then isn’t it the right time to bring in your closer? It is by my way of thinking.

My only answer is that it boils down to a perceived intimidation factor of the saves stat which is a psychological tool to mess with the batter’s head a little bit. Hey, he’s got 20 saves in 21 appearances, this guy’s for real and he’s going to be hard for me to hit . . . Uh oh, he’s got 43 saves in 56 appearances, I’ll never catch up with his fastball . . .  I admit there’s great value in messing with the hitter’s head, especially when the hitter is in high-stress situation like having to deliver a key hit, but I think playing to win in the 9th inning (maybe even the 8th) of a tie game, and especially in extra innings, is even more valuable.

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