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Two ends of the relief continuum September 21, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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The Royals’ Danny Duffy nailed a three-inning save against the Tigers on the 20th. Now, it’s called a three-inning save, but Duffy did something about two to three pitchers do each year – he actually pitched four innings in relief. Recently moved to the pen, Duffy was still in shape to pitch four innings, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out six in relief of starter Kris Medlen. This year, only the Rays’ Matt Andriese has joined Duffy in the four-inning save club.

Four seems to be a soft limit under normal circumstances. There’s a handful of exceptions – Dick Hall recorded an eight-inning save in 1961, and 1920 was weird – but in recent memory, the longest save was a seven-inning effort by Joaquin Benoit in relief of Aaron Myette (who was ejected after four pitches and started the following day as well) and winning pitcher Todd Van Poppel. Ignoring Benoit, and Madison Bumgarner‘s brilliant five-inning save in the last game of the 2014 World Series, the last time a pitcher went 5 innings in a save was Blas Minor saving a game for the Pirates against the Mets in 1993.

On the other end of the spectrum, Huston Street recorded his 38th save for the Angels against the Twins on the 19th. He was called in to pitch only the last third of an inning – why would Mike Scioscia do that? Well, because Street had recorded his 37th save in a full inning pitched earlier that day in a 12-inning win. The Angels had used four other relievers to get to Street, and Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Anderson was crumbling in the ninth inning of game 2, so Scioscia waved for his closer. That doesn’t happen often; Jason Motte, Josh Collmenter, and Mark Lowe have all recorded saves on “negative” rest this year, but never two saves in one day. Jenrry Mejia came close on May 25 of last year, but as always, he was a disappointment; he saved game 2 after winning game 1. Joe Smith is the most recent one: he recorded saves 8 and 9 on July 1 of 2014, also for the Angels.

The Three-Inning Save is an Endangered Species April 7, 2014

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Yesterday, Manny Parra pitched two perfect innings to pick up the save against the Mets. It was a natural save situation – the Reds were leading 2-1 and used their best reliever to maintain that lead. Usually, saves are only one inning, but two-inning saves aren’t unusual.

The save rule (Rule 10.19) does, however, allow for a less-common type of save:

  1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
  2. He is not the winning pitcher;
  3. He is credited with at least ⅓ of an inning pitched; and
  4. He satisfies one of the following conditions:
    1. He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning
    2. He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
    3. He pitches for at least three innings.

Brad Hand of Miami picked up that sort of save on April 4th, saving starter Tom Koehler‘s win in a rout of the Padres. It was Hand’s first career save; he’s in his fourth season with the Marlins and has been excellent from the bullpen, but this was his first save opportunity. It was also the first three-inning save of 2014.

The king of the three-inning save last year was Brett Anderson, then of Oakland and currently of Colorado. Anderson recorded three of the long saves – coincidentally his only three career saves. He’s starting for Colorado this year, so his days as long man are probably over. These long saves were more common in the past, when starters finished games far more often and specialized relievers weren’t used; the all-time leader for this type of save is Hoyt Wilhelm, who notched 53 of them between 1952 and 1971, often pitching four full innings. Bob Stanley, Dan Quisenberry, and Bill Campbell share the single-season record with 11 three-inning saves in 1982, 1983, and 1977, respectively. Since 2005, only Anderson and John Wasdin of the 2005 Texas Rangers have had three of them in a season. Don’t expect many more this year.

Utility Pitchers II: Alternate Definition January 3, 2011

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In the previous post, I discussed utility pitchers, which I defined as players who primarily play a defensive position who are called on to pitch. It never occurred to me that Bleacher Report had previously defined it otherwise – as a pitcher who can perform well in any role.

How can I quantify that? Well, it seems to me that a sign of quality as a starter is the vaunted quality start (game score above 50, or six innings with three or fewer runs allowed, depending who you ask), and a sign of quality as a reliever is the save. Thus, a good utility pitcher is one who can muster at least one quality start and at least one save in a given season. It’s not perfect, since it relies on the manager being willing to insert a primary starter at the right point in a game to earn a save (or starting a primary reliever, as Joe Girardi did with Brian Bruney back in 2008). Nonetheless, eight pitchers managed that feat this year.

By far the most versatile was Hisanori Takahashi of the Mets. Tak managed six quality starts, a handful of appearances as a left-handed specialist, and eight saves when he stepped in as the Mets’ closer after Francisco Rodriguez became unavailable.

Mike Pelfrey also represented for the Mets, although he made only one relief appearance (in the crazy 20-inning game against the Cardinals).

Matt Garza of the Rays made some news this July when he showed his versatility by starting and saving games in the same series.

The other five pitchers were Bruce Chen, Nelson Figueroa, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Harrison, and David Hernandez.

Shockingly, Carlos Zambrano wasn’t among the pitchers listed, even though he spent some time in the bullpen for the Cubs and some time as a starter. (Big Z was briefly the highest-paid setup man in the league.)

My guess for the 2011 season? Neftali Feliz of the Rangers was among the best closers this year but has the ability to start games as well. Most likely, though, it’ll be someone like Pelfrey, who was pressed into service in relief for an extra-inning game.