Saturday, January 7, 2012

Changing how the bullpen is used

Boy, we're going to miss you Mo.

With the retirement of Mariano Rivera, it's time for the Yankees to change the way they handle the bullpen. MLB Network's show Clubhouse Confidential, which brings in members of the sabremetric community, went over the difference between the elite closers in the game (Rivera, Papelbon, Kimbrel, etc) and the average reliever. And when it comes to a three run lead in the 9th inning, the difference between the two was only 2%. They basically pointed out that it makes the most sense to use your best reliever in the highest leverage situation. So, if the bases are loaded with only 1 out in the 8th inning, use your best reliever (normally the closer) then and the next best reliever (normally the set-up man) in the 9th.

Of course, the way contracts are given out, the guys that get the saves get paid. Recently Jonathan Papelbon got a 4 year deal with an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $12.5 million, after having a season with a 2.94 ERA. Last offseason Scott Downs was signed to a 3 year deal with an AAV of $5 million, after having a season with a 2.64 ERA. Also note that Papelbon appeared in 63 games for the Red Sox last year, while Downs appeared in 67 games for the Blue Jays in 2010. Now, I don't mean to compare Papelbon and Downs, as honestly (and as a Yankee fan and Papelbon hater this is hard) I'd take Papelbon over Downs any day. But if you ignored their roles, and only looked at the numbers, is there really a $7.5 million difference between them? Not to mention the extra year on the contract? I don't think so. But what it comes down to is the fact that one closes games while the other was primarily a set-up man. And closers get more money than any other reliever... by far. Therefore Robertson, or whoever is the heir to Mo, may be upset if they aren't given the clear closer's role.

But you know what? I don't care. I'm a Yankee fan. I like some individual players, but not one of them is more important than the team. So if David Robertson were to get upset about not being the true 9th inning guy in 2013, then it's "too bad, David". *note: I'm not saying Robertson is the heir to Mo, or that he'd get upset. I'm simply trying to create a scenario here.

With all of that said, keep in mind that the best reliever would still get the majority of the save opportunities, as a situation which calls for the best reliever to come in earlier doesn't happen too often. So in the future Robertson, or whoever, would still get more save opportunities than the 2nd best arm in the bullpen. But every once in a while David would be called upon before the 9th inning due to a big situation calling for the best reliever.