Every year, I run a feature here at Fire Brand called Saves per Inning Pitched (SIP). It’s a little statistic I made up that in the general scheme of things, probably means nothing. But I like doing it because it tells me what teams utilize their closer as a true closer or a relief ace.
In this era of highly specialized relief work, I am a throwback: I love relief aces. That’s why I loved Keith Foulke in 2004 when he had a 0.39 SIP (39 percent of his saves per innings). Contrast that with Trevor Hoffman the same year, who got a save 79 percent of the time he pitched an inning.
A recap of the criteria:
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. (2006 SIP)
There is one change here, and that’s combining the two limitations. In my experience, I have found that even if a closer has 50 percent of a team’s save… it’s still 50 percent. Shouldn’t they have more? In addition, even if there is someone who doesn’t attain the 25 percent threshold to knock off the closer, combined, two people may have gotten more than 25 percent. The idea here is to evaluate only the closers, those that were able to sustain an entire season of doing so. (This is why this statistic is partly flawed: it cannot be applied to everyone, so I don’t recommend it show up on the back of baseball cards one day.)
Looking at the 2007 SIP, the lowest team percentage saves that I feel comfortable allowing in is Jeremy Accardo’s 68 percent, because he netted 30 out of 44 saves, with three going to injured B.J. Ryan (73 percent of non-Ryan saves went to Accardo) and relief aces Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen mooched three and six, respectively. The next lowest percentages go to Bob Wickman and Matt Capps at 56 percent of saves, and Capps was disqualified under the old limitations (Salomon Torres had 38 percent) and Bob Wickman just barely made the cut with Rafael Soriano getting 25 percent. So the new limitation: A player must have had at least 65 percent of all saves.
Looking at the list now, I am much more confident in the accuracy of the statistic. In previous years (and 2007, under the old limitations) people would just squeak into the ratings that had no business being there. Take this year: Brett Myers made the cut even though he started three games. That would skew the SIP because it would factor in his starting innings (even if you just factored in his relief appearances, there’s no way to easily break down how many saves were available the day Myers started becoming a closer to the end of the year. Perhaps when that day comes, we can revisit this limitation.)
Again, this statistic isn’t meant to revolutionize the world; just to give us a glimpse into how certain players (and managers) manage their closers.
What follows is the 2007 SIP. First is the team of the player, then the player’s name, the number of saves they had, the percentage of team saves they had, innings pitched, then the SIP. Notes include the previous SIPs of those closers if applicable. Archives: 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006
|ARI||Valverde, Jose||47||92||64.1||0.73||05+06: Fell short of qualifying|
|ATL||Wickman, Bob||20||56||41.1||N/A||04: 0.62, 05: 0.73|
|BAL||Ray, Chris||16||53||42.2||N/A||06: 0.50|
|BOS||Papelbon, Jonathan||37||82||58.1||0.64||06: 0.51. Best closer in the game?|
|CHC||Dempster, Ryan||28||72||66.2||0.42||05: 0.36, 06: 0.32|
|CHW||Jenks, Bobby||40||95||65||0.62||06: 0.59|
|CIN||Weathers, David||33||97||77.2||0.43||05+06: Fell short of qualifying|
|CLE||Borowski, Joe||45||92||65.2||0.69||03: 0.48 06: 0.52 – increasing liability|
|COL||Fuentes, Brian||20||51||61.1||N/A||Lost job to Corpas|
|DET||Jones, Todd||38||86||61.1||0.62||05: 0.55, 06: 0.58 – notice trend?|
|FLA||Gregg, Kevin||32||80||84||0.38||First year as closer|
|HOU||Lidge, Brad||19||50||67||N/A||05: 0.60 06: 0.43|
|KC||Soria, Joakim||17||47||69||N/A||Up and coming|
|LAA||Rodriguez, Francisco||40||93||67.1||0.60||05: 0.67, 06: 0.64 – consistent|
|LAD||Saito, Takashi||39||91||64.1||0.61||06: 0.31, falls short of new limitations|
|MIL||Cordero, Francisco||44||90||63.1||0.70||04: 0.69, 05: 0.69. Team change didn’t change his abilities|
|MIN||Nathan, Joe||37||97||71.2||0.52||04: 0.61, 05: 0.61, 06: 0.53. Leaning on him more|
|NYM||Wagner, Billy||34||87||68.1||0.50||03: 0.51, 04: N/A, 05: 0.49, 06: 0.55. Consistent as middling relief ace/closer|
|NYY||Rivera, Mariano||30||88||71.1||0.42||03: 0.57, 04: 0.68, 05: 0.55, 06: 0.45. Being used more as a relief ace now|
|OAK||Embree, Alan||17||47||68||N/A||Remember him?|
|PHI||Myers, Brett||21||50||68.2||N/A||Started 3 games|
|PIT||Capps, Matt||18||56||79||N/A||Will spend full year closing|
|SD||Hoffman, Trevor||42||93||57.1||0.74||02: 0.64, 03: injured, 04: 0.76, 05: 0.75, 06: 0.73. True closer|
|SEA||Putz, J.J.||40||93||71.2||0.56||06: 0.46|
|SF||Hennessey, Brad||19||51||68.1||N/A||Will not close this year|
|STL||Isringhausen, Jason||32||94||65.1||0.49||03: 0.52, 04: 0.63, 05: 0.66, 06: 0.58. Over his injury woes from 04—05|
|TB||Reyes, Al||26||93||60.2||0.43||Lost job to Troy Percival (Percival: 03+04: 0.67)|
|TEX||Gagne, Eric||16||38||33.1||N/A||Yeah… nuff ‘ced.|
|TOR||Accardo, Jeremy||30||68||67.1||0.45||Should lose job back to BJ Ryan (Ryan: 05: 0.51, 06: 0.53)|
|WAS||Cordero, Chad||37||80||75||0.49||05: 0.63, 06: 0.40. Slid back to middle of pack|
- Papelbon predictably was held back for less innings and more save opportunities. He took a large step back from being a relief ace towards trending to being more of a true closer. I believe, and most people agree, that your best pitcher in the bullpen is a closer. If so, he should be pitching more, not less. Injury issues are always a concern, and I understand that. Still, I thought they were a little too cautious at times last year. I will be very interested to see what this year brings.
- Dempster is the one outlier and consistent qualifier for SIP despite losing huge chunks of his saves to other players every year. He’s not expected to close this year.
- Joe Borowski predictably has gotten a higher and higher SIP as the years go by. One trend I’ve noticed is that SIP spikes up dramatically as you age (Hoffman, Jones); as you get injured (Hoffman, Papelbon, Isringhausen), and as you get worse (Borowski, Jones)
- Francisco Rodriguez has been a closer for three years now, all with the same manager and team. Is it any wonder his SIPs are so consistent, considering he’s been healthy those three years?
- How about Francisco Cordero, notching a similar SIP despite switching teams from Texas to Milwaukee? Is this because of Cordero, is it because of the general accepted practices of closers, or just coincidence?
- Not really surprised Joe Nathan has been leaned on more in recent years, ditto Mariano Rivera. The team needed them to.
- Trevor Hoffman is a clear indicator (as is Isringhausen where Isringhausen was healthy, got hurt and then became healthy again) how much injury impacts SIP usage. He wins the 2007 Award for True Closer.
- Used most as relief aces: Kevin Gregg, Ryan Dempster, Mariano Rivera, David Weathers, Al Reyes, Jason Accardo, Chad Cordero. Only Weathers had more than 90 percent of save chances, at 97 percent. He was a true relief ace.
Let’s hear your thoughts. What do you think of SIP? What’s the most significant thing you take away from this statistic? Do you prefer a true closer or relief ace?