Major League Baseball has been in a state of change because of the new stats and analytics being created on an ever-growing basis. Some stats, such as exit velocity and launch angle have overrun offensives, with phrases such as “high leverage situations” taking over pitching staffs. There’s one older pitching stat, the save, that some people have questioned in recent years, asking if a game’s most important outs can come before the ninth inning, where closers make their living. That theory was tested by the New York Mets’ manager Buck Showalter when he used his bullpen in a different way than “the book” says to … and while the move almost cost his team a win, it also may be the prelude to a new era in baseball. This begs the question: Is Buck Showalter and the rest of Major League Baseball trying to make saves obsolete?
In the battle for the best record in the National League, the New York Mets turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Showalter, instead of waiting until the ninth inning to use Edwin Diaz, brought in his “closer” in the bottom of the eighth after taking the lead because LA was slated to send the heart of their lineup to the plate. Diaz faced Mookie Betts, Will Smith and Trea Turner and set them down 1-2-3 to maintain the lead. The Mets’ manager then used Seth Lugo, normally a setup pitcher, to try and close out the win; however, the righty gave up two runs in the ninth, forcing a tenth inning, where the Mets won.
One of the requirements of earning a Major League save is getting the game’s final out, even if that’s the only out the pitcher records. Those who create and push their data spreadsheets, however, have said for years that the most important outs of any game may not be the final ones in the ninth inning. Any baseball game may turn on events in any inning, and some managers have craved the freedom to use their “closer,” in theory their best relief pitcher, at that moment, freeing themselves from the burden of pre-determined roles for their bullpen or the agents who wish to have pitchers pad their stats for future contract negations.
Showalter had hinted during the season that he may try to do what he did; and the move nearly backfired since Lugo blew “the save” against the Dodgers, but his players picked him up with a tenth inning win. The conversation, however, still should be had: Are managers about to embark on a movement to ruin the save stat forever?
Perhaps the better question is: Should the rules for how a pitcher obtains a save be rewritten?
The theory of the ninth inning not necessarily being the most important is true in many cases. After all, a team might need a big double play or strikeout in the sixth inning to maintain a one-run lead before blowing a game open later, removing the need for a closer to earn a save. Without that big out in the sixth, however, they may not have played with a lead and changed their strategy in the later innings. I believe the save rule needs to be modernized to allow the official scorer to give it to the pitcher who recorded the most important out(s) of the game, unless that pitcher was the starter, then no save needs to be awarded. The stat, otherwise, to me, is somewhat misleading and should be kept in perspective when evaluating relief pitchers.
Buck Showalter knew was he was doing and it will be interesting to see if the manager who is leading the National League will be a trendsetter or a lone wolf. I, for one, hope that more managers follow his lead and prove that not all 27 outs in a baseball game are the same, and it’s not always the last one that is the most important to save the win.
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Is Buck Showalter Trying To Make Saves Obsolete? | TooAthletic.com