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Forget the save: Nate Silver introduces “The Goose Egg”

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We’ve talked for years about how the save statistic has been the tail that has wagged the relief-pitching dog. About how, often, managers reserve their best relief pitchers for save situations even if there may be more critical periods in the game when the best bullpen arm might be most needed.

We probably see less of this now than we did a few years ago — as we’ve noted recently, some managers are starting to think outside the box with this stuff — but the save is still considered by most to be the most important relief pitching stat.

Today Nate Silver has come up with a way to deal with that. He has announced the creation of “The Goose Egg”

But there’s a solution. Building on the work of Baseball Prospectus’s Russell Carleton,2 I’ve designed a statistic and named it the goose egg to honor (or troll) Gossage. The basic idea — aside from some additional provisions designed to handle inherited runners, which we’ll detail later — is that a pitcher gets a goose egg for a clutch, scoreless relief inning. Specifically, he gets credit for throwing a scoreless inning when it’s the seventh inning or later and the game is tied or his team leads by no more than two runs. A pitcher can get more than one goose egg in a game, so pitching three clutch scoreless innings counts three times as much as one inning does.

The goose egg properly rewards the contributions made by Gossage and other “firemen” of his era, who regularly threw two or three innings at a time, often came into the game with runners on base, and routinely pitched in tie games and not just in save situations.

I’m not sure that creating another stat to combat the tyranny of a different stat is the best thing, but it may be a better stat. And it’s certainly interesting.

The concept that Silver captures here — shutdown relief work at a game’s critical stages — is the one that matters most, whether we measure it formally or whether managers and clubs just observe it, acknowledge it and attempt to maximize it.

Diamondbacks place Shelby Miller on the 10-day disabled list

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The Diamondbacks announced on Monday that starter Shelby Miller has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. Miller will get a second opinion on his elbow on Tuesday, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Pitcher Silvino Bracho has been called up from Triple-A Reno to take Miller’s spot on the roster.

Miller, 26, left Sunday’s start with what was described at the time as forearm tightness. Through his first four starts, Miller is carrying a 4.09 ERA with a 20/12 K/BB ratio in 22 innings.

Bracho, 24, has pitched quite well in 6 2/3 innings of relief at Reno. He’s given up just one unearned run on four hits and a walk (intentional) with 12 strikeouts.

Archie Bradley figures to take Miller’s spot in the starting rotation as Bracho will work middle relief.

Eric Thames hit two more homers

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And John Lackey is livid.

The Brewers’ first baseman homered in each of his first two plate appearances against Reds starter Amir Garrett on Monday evening, helping his team to a 6-1 lead after two frames. The first was a solo blast in the first inning, and the second was a two-run shot to the opposite field in the second inning.

According to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Thames has tied the Brewers’ record for home runs in April with 10. Carlos Lee also hit 10 homers in April 2006.

Seven of Thames’ 10 home runs have come against the Reds. Including his first two at-bats on Monday night, Thames is hitting .379/.474/.924 with 17 RBI along with the 10 dingers. Not too shabby from a guy the Brewers signed to a three-year, $16 million contract during the offseason.

Lackey and Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio both recently implied Thames is using performance-enhancing drugs, but Thames was tested immediately after last Monday’s game against the Cubs.