Bruce Sutter

Must-click link: The evolution of the closer

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We talk often about how crazy it is that managers won’t use their best relievers in tight spots, with guys like Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel watching like spectators as their teams lose games.

It’s the save star that drives this. The only stat I can think of which actually controls how the game is played as opposed to merely reflecting what happens. It’s a ridiculous state of affairs. But how did we get here?

David Schoenfield answers that question over at ESPN today with a great post, drawing on history and a little Bill James to explain how we got from a world in which starters completed nearly half the games pitched to one in which relief aces through as many as 200 innings a year to today’s state of affairs where managers will only use their best short men if and only if the game is already in hand.

Go educate yourself. It’s great reading. It’s also the basis for a great retort for the next time you hear someone decrying sabermetrically-oriented people for allowing stats to dominate their understanding of the game. Because really, it’s overwhelmingly the non-sabermetrically-oriented people who perpetuate the legend of the closer, and the closer itself is a creature of a statistic.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.