The 2006 relief ace celebrates a save.

I’ve got a non-Sox related article today (although I do chat quite a bit about how this relates to the Sox). I’ve got a non-hot stove related article today. I highly recommend reading this article even if you’re not interested in statistics or anything non-Red Sox. It came together better than I expected.
In 2004, I invented a new statistic, Saves per Inning Pitched. The two and a half years of data I’ve covered this (I ran SIP numbers for some players in 2003) have left me unsure how valuable this statistic is. However, I’m going to continue doing it for a number of reasons.
One: Why not? It’s not like there’s a jillion other topics to write about. We’ll get to them this offseason.
Two: This will be the third full year of SIP, which means there should be enough history to really gauge if SIP is good or not. (That is where I will rely on you readers: tell me if this is worthwhile or not, please)
Three: I’m curious to see how 2006 compares to 2005, 2004, and 2003 and if it’s worthwhile to me.
Here’s the article covering 2003, 2004, and 2005. Here’s the rundown of SIP that I wrote last year:

Saves per Inning Pitched (SIP) measures the true worth of a closer. Is he someone who gets cheap saves? Is he someone only used for closing situations? Or is he someone the team depends on, that is used in close games, tie games, or even situations where there is no save opportunity but there is a save-the-team opportunity. SIP is a way to determine who is a closer and who is a relief ace. Which teams use their closer to get the saves, and which use them to keep the game close, to win against the opposition? Saves per Inning Pitched.
There are two limitations.
Limitation One: Said person that is being measured by SIP needs to have at least 50% of all team saves.
Limitation Two: The next person with the most saves on the team cannot have more than 25% of the total saves. Why is this limitation here? Splitting saves means there was no closer. This would reduce SIP to nothing, for it is measuring a closer. To sound like a broken record, SIP is to find out if full-time closers are closers or relief aces.

Additional points I want to make: This could be useful in free agency to figure out which teams are making people act like true closers and finding out why: Not durable enough? Injury history limiting them to one inning? How about similar SIPs for different closers under the same manager? That’s a managerial trend. Again, it’s the difference between a closer and a relief ace. This doesn’t measure the effectiveness of a closer. I would much rather have Trevor Hoffman with 40 saves and a 1.50 ERA in 42 IP than John Doe with 30 saves and a 3.50 ERA in 80 IP. However, a relief ace (like Scot Shields or Keith Foulke in 2004) would always be inherently more valuable than Trevor Hoffman, provided they are as dominant.
For example, in 2004, Trevor Hoffman’s SIP was 0.76, which means that 76% of the time, when Trevor Hoffman pitched, he got a save! Contrast that with Foulke’s 39% in 2004.
Here are the 2006 SIPs, followed by a look back at some people’s SIPs over the last four years and comparisons.

ARI  Valverde      18           52      49.1      ---    Jorge Julio had 47% of team saves
ATL  Wickman       18           47      26.0      ---    7 people had saves for ATL!
BAL  Ray           33           94      66.0      0.50   Walker and Baez should give him more save chances
BOS  Papelbon      35           76      68.1      0.51   Team had 46 total saves
CHW  Jenks         41           89      69.2      0.59   Hermanson 0.60 SIP last year
CHC  Dempster      24           83      75.0      0.32   Howry 5 SV, team 29 total opportunities
CIN  Weathers      12           33      73.2      ---    8 people had saves
CLE  Wickman       15           63      28.0      0.53   24 total chances! Thanks for the memories, Carmona
COL  Fuentes       30           88      65.1      0.46   COL is my sleeper team next year
DET  Jones         37           80      64.0      0.58   Jones in FLA 2005: 0.55 SIP
FLA  Borowski      36           88      69.2      0.52
HOU  Lidge         32           76      75.0      0.43   Wheeler 21% of SV (9)
KCA  Burgos        18           51      73.1      ---    Joe "Vulcan" Nelson 26% of SV
LAA  Rodriguez     47           94      73.0      0.64   0.67 SIP in 2005, 3 straight 0.67's (Percival) for LAA
LAD  Saito         24           60      78.1      0.31   Baez 23% of SV (9)
MIL  Turnbow       24           56      56.1      -.--   Cordero 16 SV. Cordero had 0.69 SIPs in 04+05 for TEX
MIN  Nathan        36           90      68.1      0.53   0.61 SIP the past 2 years
NYY  Rivera        34           79      75.0      0.45   0.57, 0.68, 0.55 last 3 years... losing faith in 'pen?
NYM  Wagner        40           93      72.1      0.55   0.51 in 2003, 0.49 in 2005
OAK  Street        37           69      70.2      0.53   54 team save opportunities
PHI  Gordon        34           81      59.1      0.58
SDP  Hoffman       46           92      63.0      0.73   02: 0.64, 04: 0.76, 05: 0.75
SFG  Benitez       17           46      38.1      -.--
SEA  Putz          36           77      78.1      0.46   He's just filthy.
STL  Isringhausen  33           87      58.1      0.58   0.63, 0.66 in 04+05
TBD  Walker        10           30      20.0      -.--
TEX  Otsuka        32           76      59.2      0.54
TOR  Ryan          38           90      72.1      0.53   0.51 in 2005
WAS  Cordero       29           90      73.1      0.40   0.63 in 2005

The winner of the highest SIP award is unsurprisingly Trevor Hoffman. The lowest qualifier is Takashi Saito, but he gained the job later in the year. The second lowest qualifier was Ryan Dempster, but this is where SIP fails as it did with Saito: Dempster lost his job. He was not a full-year closer. Thus, the award goes to … Chad Cordero! (Hmmm…)

Celebrating his 400th save, Hoffman is a true closer.

It could be a matter of Chad Cordero breaking out, but in 2003, Rocky Biddle had a 0.47 SIP for the Montreal Expos. Biddle has a career 5.47 ERA and in his 34-save year, had an ERA of 4.65. In 2004, Biddle had 11 saves at a 9.62 ERA and has not been heard since. 2004 was the year Cordero took over as closer and did not qualify for SIP. In 2005, Cordero registered a 0.63 SIP and this year, he’s at 0.40. Could this be a matter of Robinson bringing Cordero along slowly in 2005 and now letting it rip in 2006? We need another year of Cordero to tell, but it’s encouraging that he was used as a relief ace last year.
Poor Jose Valverde. five saves in his rookie year in 2003, eight in 2004 (Greg Aquino got the majority but did not qualify for SIP) and then the last two years has had the majority of saves but split time with Brandon Lyon (2005) and Jorge Julio (2006)
Here’s the progression of Atlanta. John Smoltz with an 0.70 SIP in 2003 and 0.54 in 2004, then Chris Reitsma not qualifying for SIP in 2005, and Bob Wickman clocking in at an unqualified 0.69 (0.53 for a qualified SIP in Cleveland). They have had closer issues since Mark Wohlers. When will it stop? Wickman will get the ball in 2007.
In 2004, Joe Nathan had a SIP of 0.61, which he repeated in 2005. In 2006, the Twins relied on Nathan a lot more to the tune of an 0.53 SIP. Why? In 2006, the reliever ERA was 2.91. In 2005, it was 3.20 and in 2004 it was 3.93. You can thank Joe Nathan’s 1.58 ERA for the dip in ERA in 2006, which I’m sure has a direct correlation to his SIP trend.
As mentioned in the notes, is Joe Torre losing faith in his bullpen? Well, he’s got a good reason for it. The last four years of Rivera’s SIP are: 0.57, 0.68, 0.55, 0.45. He’s battled some injury trouble, so it’s no surprise his SIP has spiked, but instead of staying steady or rising like Trevor Hoffman, it’s going down. Here’s the bullpen ERA of the Yankees from 2003 on: 4.02, 4.43, 4.37, 4.18. Let’s walk through this. The best year was in 2003, and Rivera had a 0.57 SIP. No doubt trusting his bullpen in addition to Rivera’s issues, the SIP spikes, but so does the bullpen ERA. Bringing it back down makes progress, but not significantly. Bringing in Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers, and an increased (by far) focus on Rivera (and his low ERA) brings the ERA back down. So my answer to Torre losing faith in his bullpen is: yes, absolutely.
Next look is at Billy Wagner. Wagner had a 0.51 SIP with Houston in 2003. In 2005 with Philadelphia (2004 he didn’t meet the 50% qualification due to injury), it was 0.49 and this year with the Mets it was 0.55. Pretty similar and predicable trend: Wagner was right down the middle, as most closers end up being. (Above 0.50 is more of a closer, below 0.50 is more of a relief ace.) As he aged and moved to the Mets with a stronger bullpen, the SIP rises. I would not be surprised to see it keep rising or at the very least, not fall.
Trevor Hoffman is still fantastically only a closer. His 2002 SIP was 0.64, then he was injured. He was still primarily used as a closer in 2002 because of his upward tick in age and injury questions. But when he returned from injury in 2004, he became even more of a closer at a 0.76 SIP. In 2005, a 0.75 came his way and in 2006, a 0.73. Fascinating.
Isringhausen is the last example before I turn to Boston. In 2004, I measured his SIP at 0.63. It went up to 0.66 in 2005, and he was garnering about 81% of all team saves. In 2006, his SIP went down, to 0.58 while nabbing 87% of team saves. Big surprise, as the bullpen had a 4.06 ERA in 2006 and a 3.17 one in 2005. Isringhausen logged more innings because they had a worse bullpen. However, getting hurt near the end and keeping him out for the playoffs makes me easily predict that SIP shoots up next year.

It’s obvious that the effectiveness of a closer spreads all over to the effectiveness of the bullpen, and the more the closer is used as a relief ace, the better the bullpen performs.

Okay, the Red Sox now.
Byung-Hyun Kim did not qualify for SIP in 2003. In 2004, Foulke logged an amazing 0.39 (the year before that in Oakland was 0.50). We relied on Foulke a lot, and it probably cost him his career. In 2005, Foulke imploded, and nobody registered a SIP. In 2006, Papelbon nabbed a 0.51 SIP that would probably have been lower if he had pitched all of September.
Here’s the bullpen ERA for the Red Sox from 2003 on. In 2003, it was a bullpen-by-committee sort of thing, with Byung-Hyun Kim plugging the hole in the dam for a while. In 2004, it was Keith Foulke. In 2005, it was a mix-and-match with Foulke flailing due to injury. In 2006, Papelbon anchored the bullpen. Anyways, ERAs from 2003 on: 4.83, 3.87, 5.15, 4.51. Wow. Let’s look at this. In 2003, the bullpen by committee failed. In 2004, using Foulke as a relief ace, the bullpen pulled together and performed admirably despite any other high-impact players other than Mike Timlin (and maybe Alan Embree, but we did depend on folks such as Curtis Leskanic … nothing against him, he won Game 4 of the ALCS). In 2005, the bullpen and Foulke imploded, and in 2004, the only bright spot was Papelbon which accounts for the ERA trend downward. It’s obvious that the effectiveness of a closer spreads all over to the effectiveness of the bullpen, and the more the closer is used as a relief ace, the better the bullpen performs.
Why? The closer IS THE BEST RELIEVER ON THE STAFF. The more you use him, the better the bullpen performs. This is illustrated perfectly with the Rivera and Red Sox example. (The aberration is Trevor Hoffman, but that’s largely because of Kevin Towers’ innate gift at compiling a bullpen – but the only reason Hoffman is not a relief ace is because of his injury troubles.)
Well, that closes my look on SIP, and my thoughts? I’m going to keep doing it. It’s far from a perfect statistic and only applies to about 10 of all closers every year, but then again, closers always change quickly. It’s hard to find that one good, consistent closer, so when you do, you do all you can to hang onto him. Closers change as fast as the career track of Britney Spears. When used right, SIP is quite illuminating.