Closers do nothing to help teams hold ninth inning leads

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Some pretty startling stuff from Joe Posnanski today, who was snooping around in the stats, looking at what percentage of games teams win when they have ninth inning leads. He figured — as I would have — that due to bullpen specialization and the advent of the fireballing closer, teams held on to such leads far more often now than they used to. Nope:

The truth is that all the bullpen advances have had ABSOLUTELY ZERO EFFECT on how much more often teams win games they’re leading in the ninth inning. Zero. Nada. Zilch. The ol’ bagel.

Teams won 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 2010. Teams won 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 1952.

Pretty astonishing. That stat has rarely changed. What’s more, Posnanski finds that even having Marinao Rivera or Dennis Eckersley doesn’t change the equation that much.

Which isn’t to say that a team could just chuck their closers right now and be done with it. The entire pitching staff has been bent over time in order to make room for one inning specialists. Teams couldn’t simply go back to 1952-style pitcher usage, because they don’t have 1952-style pitchers. And it’s possible — though I’m not sure how one would research it — that the change in pitcher usage has led to fewer pitcher injuries because more guys are carrying the load. I’m not sure that’s even knowable, actually, because of the way we classified injuries 40 and 50 years ago compared to the way we do today. Guys who just pitched poorly back then may be on the DL today because we realize, hey, torn labrum.

But this data certainly suggests that closers have accomplished basically one thing since their creation: they’ve managed to get teams to pay closers a lot of money.

Steven Matz homers in back-to-back starts

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Mets starter Steven Matz helped his own cause again, belting a solo home run in the top of the third inning of Tuesday’s game against the Phillies. Matz turned on a 1-1 breaking ball from Cy Young contender Aaron Nola, breaking a scoreless tie.

Matz also homered in his previous start against the Marlins last Thursday. According to MLB Stat of the Day, he is the third Mets pitcher to homer in back-to-back starts, joining Tom Seaver (1972) and Ron Darling (1989).

Matz is the fourth full-time pitcher to hit multiple home runs this season, joining the Reds’ Michael Lorenzen (four), and the Cardinals’ John Gant and Miles Mikolas (two each). The last Mets pitcher to hit multiple home runs in a season was Noah Syndergaard, who hit three in 2016.

Along with the bat, Matz has also been dealing on the mound. As of this writing, he has held the Phillies scoreless over five innings despite walking five batters and allowing two hits.