The save stat and perverse incentives

52 Comments

Ted Berg flagged something pretty darn illuminating this morning.  The quotes of the principles in yesterday’s Yankees game, happy that they failed on offense so that Mariano Rivera could get his 602nd save:

“I couldn’t believe they were cheering me for hitting into a double play,” Swisher said. “I said: ‘Whoa, what’s this? And then I looked at the bullpen and saw Mo coming out and I said: ‘Now I get it!’ This was the greatest double play of my life.”

“Runners at first and second…it was unbelievable,” Rivera said. “I don’t ever want my teammates to do bad so I can pitch, but this time I was happy for the opportunity. I’m listening to the fans and I said: ‘Wow, these guys are into it!’”

The most common critique of stats and stat-oriented analysis is that it allegedly elevates that which isn’t truly important over on-the-field baseball.  Yet there is nothing in baseball that does that more than the save stat, which non-stats oriented analysts love about a zillion times more than the SABR-nerds.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.