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The Save Max Experience
2007-08-14 10:44
by Mike Carminati
Experience is a mere whiff or rumble, produced by enormously complex and ill-deciphered causes of experience; and in the other direction, experience is a mere peephole through which glimpses come down to us of eternal things.
—George "Don't Call Me Johan" Santayana

Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes. —Oscar "Azocar" Wilde

I got a nice mention in Todd Zolecki's column in the Inquirer today. Todd noticed that the Phils had three relievers (Jose Mesa, Tom Gordon, and Antonio Alfonseca) who have over 100 career saves—oddly, none of whom is the closer—, and he asked if that was an uncommon occurrence.

I looked it up and it had happened 16 times prior to this season, the most being four 100-plus relievers on the 2002 Phils:

1968DETJohn Wyatt103Don McMahon106Roy Face188
1972LANJim Brewer103Ron Perranoski179Hoyt Wilhelm227
1972NYASparky Lyle104Jack Aker109Lindy McDaniel160
1973NYAWayne Granger101Sparky Lyle131Lindy McDaniel170
1985ATLTerry Forster122Gene Garber170Bruce Sutter283
1992OAKJeff Russell113Dennis Eckersley239Rich Gossage308
1996BALJesse Orosco133Roger McDowell159Randy Myers274
1997KCAGregg Olson173Mitch Williams192Jeff Montgomery256
2001LANJesse Orosco141Jeff Shaw203Gregg Olson217
2002PHIMike Timlin114Ricky Bottalico114Dan Plesac156Jose Mesa225
2003NYAJesse Orosco144Armando Benitez197Mariano Rivera283
2003PHIMike Williams144Dan Plesac158Jose Mesa249
2003SDNJesse Orosco144Rod Beck286Trevor Hoffman352
2004PHITodd Jones186Billy Wagner246Roberto Hernandez320
2005NYNBraden Looper103Danny Graves182Roberto Hernandez324
2006ATLDanys Baez111John Smoltz154Bob Wickman247

That got me wondering about the most career saves for a bullpen and whether it matters how much closing experience a bullpen has. You might notice that the Phils' bullpen even with three members with 100+ career saves has been among the worst in baseball all season. They currently have the 22nd best ERA (4.22) among the major-league bullpens.

I ran the numbers for team winning percentage, career saves, lead retention rate (based on leads after six innings), and relief wins (which is based on the runs saved based on pitching roles). I found that career saves matters very little.

First, here are the bullpens with the most career saves:

TeamYrWLPCTPOSTeam SVCareer SVMax Career SVLeads KeptLeads LostLead PctRelief Wins
Philadelphia Phillies20048676.53124383432052985.25%6.20
New York Yankees200310161.623149816283771187.50%5.53
San Diego Padres20036498.395531804352391276.47%-9.84
New York Mets20069765.59914379432667494.37%14.49
Oakland Athletics19929666.59315877630861789.71%5.14
New York Mets20047191.438431769424471279.66%3.96
Los Angeles Dodgers20018676.53134676521757887.69%-6.12
New York Mets20036695.41053875442451886.44%1.38
Oakland Athletics19936894.42074274530943786.00%-5.20
New York Yankees20059567.58614674337965889.04%0.40
Boston Red Sox19908874.543144742287571183.82%-2.42
New York Mets19999766.59524973841673791.25%9.32

Here are the least (since 1901):

TeamYrWLPCTPOSTeam SVCareer SVMax Career SVLeads KeptLeads LostLead PctRelief Wins
Philadelphia Athletics19048170.536501153886.89%-1.46
Cincinnati Reds19048865.575323254985.71%0.38
Chicago Orphans19026869.496523253591.38%0.36
Chicago Orphans19015386.381604239882.98%0.05
Philadelphia Phillies19025681.409734140785.11%-2.27
St. Louis Cardinals19025678.418644234391.89%-2.21
Philadelphia Athletics19017462.544414250984.75%-0.21
Detroit Tigers19017461.548325244688.00%0.22
Cincinnati Reds19027070.5004153511182.26%-0.39
Washington Senators19026175.449615439784.78%-0.50
Washington Senators19106685.437735348984.21%-1.34

You'll notice most are from the early twentieth century. Here are the most since the instution of the official save stat in 1969:

TeamYrWLPCTPOSTeam SVCareer SVMax Career SVLeads KeptLeads LostLead PctRelief Wins
Oakland Athletics19967884.481334431853886.89%-0.12
Florida Marlins199854108.3335244411301075.00%-6.65
Tampa Bay Devil Rays200162100.3835304523411277.36%0.83
Milwaukee Brewers200256106.346632503338392.68%-0.53
Montreal Expos19747982.4914275225521083.87%9.56
San Diego Padres19814169.373623531626389.66%0.49
Seattle Mariners19796795.414626541844884.62%-4.59
Detroit Tigers200343119.265527572629780.56%-6.27
Houston Astros19916597.4016365712401080.00%-1.71
Oakland Athletics19816445.5871105726431081.13%-1.19
Minnesota Twins20049270.568148604558887.88%9.38
Tampa Bay Devil Rays200255106.3425256042331175.00%-9.62
Minnesota Twins20006993.426535601846786.79%7.95
Oakland Athletics19808379.5122136031621184.93%-5.85

Now, here are the teams that did the best at retaining a lead after six innings:

TeamYrWLPCTPOSTeam SVCareer SVMax Career SVLeads KeptLeads LostLead PctRelief Wins
Cleveland Indians195411143.7211361562676198.70%6.93
Brooklyn Dodgers19529657.627124821859198.33%1.63
Brooklyn Dodgers19408865.5752141222255198.21%-0.20
Brooklyn Dodgers194210450.6752241462676297.44%3.12
St. Louis Cardinals20019369.57423828811475297.40%2.69
St. Louis Cardinals194210648.688115781575297.40%4.26
New York Yankees19468767.56531715710465297.01%-3.22
New York Giants19359162.595311842865297.01%-3.17
Cincinnati Reds19015287.3748013532196.97%-3.19
New York Mets196910062.6171351155763296.92%0.45
Detroit Tigers19738577.5253462325458296.67%6.09
New York Yankees198010359.63615027213472396.00%8.26

Now, here are the bullpens with the most Relief Wins:

TeamYrWLPCTPOSTeam SVCareer SVMax Career SVLeads KeptLeads LostLead PctRelief Wins
Los Angeles Dodgers20038577.52525816910758493.55%17.53
Atlanta Braves200210159.6311571946574494.87%16.90
Minnesota Twins20069666.59314013612464494.12%16.52
Texas Rangers20048973.5493521747463592.65%15.80
Oakland Athletics199010359.63616424214575494.94%15.21
Cleveland Indians20059369.57425132421466691.67%14.98
New York Mets20069765.59914379432667494.37%14.49
Cleveland Indians199510044.69415032716465691.55%14.16
Boston Red Sox19828973.5493331939656788.89%13.22
Cincinnati Reds19999667.58925518778691285.19%12.66
Houston Astros20038775.537250306225641185.33%12.55
St. Louis Cardinals200410557.64815725917771791.03%12.34
Anaheim Angels20037785.47533930728355394.83%12.22
Minnesota Twins20058379.5123441018850689.29%12.22
Anaheim Angels20029963.61125428525069692.00%12.20
Colorado Rockies19987785.4754361164849984.48%11.92
Los Angeles Dodgers20049369.57415121515258493.55%11.50
St. Louis Cardinals19956281.43443837931143687.76%11.49
Colorado Rockies20008280.5064332077950984.75%11.33
Boston Red Sox20008577.52524642926058690.63%11.20

How well do this stats correlate to each other and to team winning percentages? The short answer is not to well.

The best was lead retention to winning percentage (a 0.601 correlation coefficient), which makes sense because the both deal with winning. Career saves has just about nothing to do with lead retention (0.084), so having an experienced bullpen does not lead to an effective one. Career saves does not correlate to winning percentage (0.132) or Relief Wins (0.247) all that much better.

Then again, having a good bullpen does not necessary lead to winning ballgames. Relief Wins correlate to winning percentage and lead retention a bit better than career saves but it's hardly a strong relationship (0.467 and 0.423).

So what does it mean? A strong bullpen is important, but a strong rotation is even more important. Speaking of which, why is Brett Myers, the non-100 save closer for the Phils, still the closer? Wouldn't the Phils be better off with the former starter back in the rotation instead of Adam Eaton or Kyle Lohse?

Then again nothing about this team makes all that much sense to me including their current winning ways with half the team including the best second baseman in baseball, Chase Utley, on the DL. And now it looks like the players are campaigning for Charlie "I Need Friggin'" Manuel to retain his job according to a report in the Metro. Then again with the execrable Dave Montgomery running the team and the somnolent, semi-retired GM Pat Gillick making infuriating transaction after infuriating transaction, what does it matter who pilots the team on the field?

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