Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cordero's Blown

After last night's latest blown saves, the message board natives are restless. Never mind that most of the damage came on fieldable ground balls that went through the infield like me through chili nachos last year, the demin closer must b stoped1!11!

Whatever.

So what do the numbers say? How does his performance rank against other closers?

I looked at his performance over the last two years in his saves and blown saves, ignoring his other appearances for the sake of this exercise.

Over the last two years, he's 51-12 in save opportunities, an 81% success rate. That's by no means great. League average for closers is in the 85% range.

But that doesn't tell the whole story.

What do you think the Nats record is in his blown saves?

They're 3-5 in them this year and 1-3 last year, for a 4-8 record. Not great, for sure, but it's not the automatic L that most people think it is. Even if you want to pretend that any other replacement closer wouldn't have blown any games (which is utterly ridiculous; everyone blows the occasional save), the extra five wins would still have put the Nats behind six other teams for the Wild Card. If the team had an 'average' closer -- at least someone who saved at the league average rate -- that's just one extra win over what they've got now. Big Whup.

But that doesn't really tell the full story either. All saves aren't the same.

Cordero seems like he's had a lot of chances in one-run saves. I'm not sure how it compares to other teams in the league, but when he's in there, the Nats are barely hanging on, leading to lots of extra tension, at least in our fuzzy memories. We don't remember the routine saves that well, just the extraordinary ones or the blown ones.
             S   BS  %     LG Ave%
1-run saves 22 9 71 75.1
2-run saves 13 3 81 89.4
3-run saves 16 0 100 95.5

(to clarify something that came up in comments. the Lg Ave total is the percent of the time that that save is converted by a closer STARTING the 9th inning. It doesn't include middle relievers and other situations, so it's an apples to apples comparison)

Despite what you may think, Cordero is basically a league average closer. He's as effective as most every other closer in the league not named Hoffman or Rivera (the truly elite guys). But he's also not Latroy Hawkins or Jorge Julio, the absolute dregs.

If you want to tinker around with the numbers, if the Nats had that perfectly league-average closer, they'd have 1 extra 1-run save, 1 extra 2-run save, but one more blown 3-run save, for a net of one extra blown save.

Given how teams sometimes win their blown saves anyway, there's no guarantee that there'd be an extra non-curly L in the book in the first place.

Can Cordero do better? Of course. Four of this year's blown saves I'd note came before his grandmother's death. He's been 8-3 in one-run saves since, a rate that's right in line with league average.

But the constant bashing of Cordero for going out there and doing what 95% of all other closers do is over the top. He's an effective reliever who gets the job done as much as his peers, especially when he has defensive support behind him, which he most definitely did not last night.

Crap happens sometimes, as it has to the 44 pitchers the Nats have hung a blown save on over the last two years. Even 'stiffs' like Billy Wagner, Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon and Jason Isringhausen pop up on that list.

No closer is perfect all the time.

26 Comments:

  • No, this post is entirely too balanced and well reasoned. You've lost your street cred. You've changed, man. It used to be about the unmitigated bitterness.

    Just for comparison, in 2007 Jon Rauch is 3/7 in save situations, Saul Rivera is 3/5 and Jesus Colome is 1/2.

    By Blogger Nate, at 8/07/2007 12:48 PM  

  • BS for middle relievers is a junk stat because they don't get the chance to accumulate saves. So they only really get a chance to get blown saves.

    Rivera's 3/3 in real save opps this year. his two BS are 7th inning appearances where he never would've had the chance to get a save like a closer would anyway.

    One if his saves was a one-run lead. One was a 3-run lead. The other was a 4-run lead!?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 12:52 PM  

  • First of all, it is my personal opinion that Cordero should not be the closer. He doesn't have dominant stuff anymore. Your closer needs to have dominating pitches. His fastball isn't as fast as it used to be and his breaking pitches aren't fooling anybody. I would much rather see Rauch in that role.

    Secondly, if this were a question of "who would be better in the closer role," I can guarantee you that Manny Acta would go against logic nine times out of ten. Take for instance last nights debacle where, with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth or seventh, he sent Lannan up. Meanwhile, the Giants pitcher had been throwing garbage, but Lannan swings at the first three pitches, two of which were in the dirt, and struck out. Nice job, Manny. I love it when teh plan comes together.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 1:01 PM  

  • A fairer way to calculate save % as a way to compare relievers (if you include non-closers) is to calculate it as (saves + holds) / opportunties. It's not perfect -- particularly when someone can get a "hold" for pitching 1/3 of an inning while giving up 2 hits and a walk and turning a 3-run lead into a 1-run lead with the tying run on 3rd.

    By Anonymous Simon Oliver Lockwood, at 8/07/2007 1:04 PM  

  • Tough crowd.

    Cordero is, as Chris says Cordero is, and that's adequate. I'm not sure you'd see much of a difference if Rauch were the closer. Maybe Rauch would be more effective in the short term, and maybe he wouldn't be, but it would be hard to filter out the noise in the short term. Over the long term, I doubt Rauch would be all that much more effective than Cordero, certainly not to the point where a switch is paramount.

    By Anonymous Basil, at 8/07/2007 1:07 PM  

  • Don't make me turn anonymous commenting off.

    The decision to not pinch hit was probably a bad one, regardless of outcome, but did you just look at the fecking numbers?

    Cordero's an average closer despite what your scout's eye says. Rauch, who certainly isn't Mr. Dominance, would likely do about the same.

    It's not like Mariano Rivera is warming up in the pen and Acta's not using him.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 1:08 PM  

  • Sorry, but 8% below league average in 2-run save situations suuuuucks, plain and simple. Hmm...me thinks you doth protest too much, Manny, about your favorite, Felipe...er, uh I mean Chris, about your favorite, Chad. LOL!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 1:13 PM  

  • Math isn't your strong point is it?

    A league average closer would've saved exactly one more save than Cordero.

    And we're supposed to ride the guy out of town on a rail for that?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 1:15 PM  

  • Sometimes I feel like the minority in supporting a guy that for the most part gets the job done.

    By Blogger Evolution33, at 8/07/2007 1:25 PM  

  • Hey Chris -

    Shouldn't you have a minimum appearances number to get a better sense of Chief's place compared to the other closers?

    If Rauch's bs 3/7 is part of your league average numbers then it isn't really an apples to apples comparison.

    By Anonymous WebberDC, at 8/07/2007 1:34 PM  

  • The league average rates aren't the league average BS numbers. That's how often a team saves that lead STARTING the 9th inning. I should've clarified that in the post.

    So we are comparing apples to apples.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 1:34 PM  

  • Letting Lannan hit in the top of the 6th made sense to me. He had good stuff and the Nats had three more chances to get something going against a pitcher not in command of his best stuff.

    The next off day isn't for a week. No sense burning up the bullpen right away when your starter is doing just fine.

    Of course pinch hitting with Hanrahan, he of a double and a triple in 4 official AB might have been fun too.

    By Anonymous Sec 515, at 8/07/2007 1:37 PM  

  • exactly evo (and chris) - aren't there bigger fish to fry on this team? let's face it, being within spitting distance of league average is a "plus" position on this team. our "need" for a new closer ranks somewhere behind the following:

    CF, LF, SP1, SP2, SP3, SS (even if you buy in to the guzzie renaissance, his contract is up after next year), 2B (lopez is minus offensively and defensively and belliard is a one year stopgap) and C (unless we're ready to start flores)

    bottom line - am i worried about him in a smaller park next year, yes i am. but, for now, leave chad alone!

    By Blogger Bill, at 8/07/2007 1:47 PM  

  • Thanks Chris, but you raised a point I wasn't smart enough to notice. I was suggesting something different.

    If we are comparing Chief's last 1 1/2+ years to other closers to determine effectiveness, shouldn't we look closers with at a min. number of save opportunities to make that comparison? i.e. - we want to compare Chief to Rivera, Hoffman, Papelbon et al. and not a bullpen by committee set up or a closer of the month guy.

    However, I think I have answered my own question because I think you are comparing Chief's save conversion rate to the league rather than Chief's conversion rate to the other established closers in the league, correct?

    I think the latter might be helpful as well, particularly since we are headed to an arbitration room with him again.

    By Anonymous WebberDC, at 8/07/2007 1:50 PM  

  • Do the numbers say Cordero is a league average closer? Perhaps.

    However, the question, I think, isn't whether Cordero, among the Nats' current relievers, should be their closer, but why, if the Nats are serious about The Plan, they haven't cashed in Cordero for the maximum possible value before more people realize he is only an average, replacable closer, rather than hanging onto him as a league average or slightly worse closer when they have/had a few guys like Rauch, Majewski, and Bray, who could do/have done the same job just as capably into the mid-range future (at least if they hadn't been wasted, along with a quality minor league pitcher like Daryl Thompson, bringing in craptastic, overrated right fielders and shortstops).

    (BTW Chris, as you say, blown saves for middle relievers are indeed a junk stat, so perhaps you should remove the Mike Stantons of the world from your calculations, rather than simply pointing out that the Nats have caused "44 blown saves" over the last two seasons.)

    By Anonymous Tito, at 8/07/2007 1:51 PM  

  • Chris,

    Great analysis. Essentially, Chris's numbers put Cordero with a statisical margin of error (+/- 2 saves) to make it impossible to say whether Cordero is a below average closer since there are variables (like the defense behind you, the umpires strike zone, the opponent) that do not make every save opportunity equal.

    Take last night for example. If Lopez knocks down Sweeney's grounder and Cordero hangs on for the save, Cordero jumps right into the league average totals. So, if the Nats had Omar Vizquel playing short would everyone be happy with Cordero as a closer?

    Also, I disagree with the "one dominant pitch requirement". Dennis Eckersley lacked a dominant pitch when he became closer at 30+, but the Eck had pinpoint control. While I am not contending that Chad=Eck, Chad also has outstanding control which reduces the chances that someone will get on to score against him

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 1:59 PM  

  • Tito -- go ahead and filter those out mentally. I had a hard enough time figuring out how to get those results! ;)

    Webber -- Yes, it's the league average closer. It includes players like Jorge Julio when they were their team's 9th inning closer. Obviously, the really ineffective ones like Julio don't last that long, so they don't skew the results tooooo much.

    Hoffman and Rivera are at about 85-90% success rates overall. You're more than welcome to dig through their one-run save rate for comparisons. ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 2:01 PM  

  • (It's posts like that last anonymous one that make me not want to cut 'em off!)

    That's exactly it. Most of the Cordero angst is from his result in one-run saves. And that's, as you point out, not always his doing.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/07/2007 2:02 PM  

  • Take last night for example. If Lopez knocks down Sweeney's grounder and Cordero hangs on for the save, Cordero jumps right into the league average totals. So, if the Nats had Omar Vizquel playing short would everyone be happy with Cordero as a closer?

    That's right. Of course, someone might then try to rebut this point by saying, "Well, sure, but Cordero's not an adequate closer because he doesn't blow away opposing hitters."

    Which is a fine point, except, for the most part, that's a way to distinguish someone who's very good from those who are good or adequate. It doesn't really distinguish Rauch from Cordero, at any rate, as their strikeout rates are quite similar (7K/9IP for Rauch, 6.7K/9IP for Cordero).

    By Anonymous Basil, at 8/07/2007 2:12 PM  

  • Admittedly, the Cordero apologists make some valid points. We'll just have to see how he does the rest of the year. However...two blown saves in his last 7 appearances...highest paid Nats pitcher (by a wide margin) and 3rd highest paid on the entire team. Is "league average" worth that? Sure, there are higher priority holes on this team, but how many of them make $4.2M a year?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 2:28 PM  

  • Lopez makes $3.9 Million...is that close enough?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 2:43 PM  

  • It's not really fair to look at Cordero's salary, because few of our pitchers are really well paid, and most of them probably shouldn't be. Just cuz he doesn't have a 95+ fastball and doesn't get a lot of K's, an out is still an out. (I know that statistically that's not exactly true, but we're only talking about one inning at a time.)
    What worries me is his WHIP, and letting guys get on base. If those warning track flies start turning into bombs in the new stadium, watch out!!!

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/07/2007 2:54 PM  

  • When I compared Cordero’s career stats with current closers career stats about a month ago what I found out was there’s not a whole lot of difference statistically between Cordero and what many would consider elite closers. It kind of surprised me because I wasn’t a huge Cordero fan. I didn’t break it down to the level of how many runs the lead was, I guess because I didn’t care, but Cordero’s save % is about 83%. Only Gagne was way above everyone else with like a 96% rate. Guys like Nathan, Wagner, Rivera, Papelbon, Isringhause, Hoffman, all fell in just below 90% to 85%. The difference between Cordero and these guys over 40 save opportunities in a year is around a couple of games or so. Where Cordero really falls short is that he doesn’t look as good as those guys when he saves game. He doesn’t look dominating which really falls under perception. His other big problem that is real is HRs. I couldn’t find anyone other than Ray and Saito who gave up more HRs per 9/IP. Many of the other closers have HR rates half of Cordero’s rate. And when you look back at his blown saves a lot of them are due to HRs. I just stopped worrying about him after I looked at that. I wouldn’t pay him Wagner bucks in the future but he is fine at his pay level right now.

    By Anonymous Tulsa Fan, at 8/07/2007 3:01 PM  

  • You know, it always hurts when Cordero blows a save... I don't know of any other player I like that makes me so sad to see them fail. But when he blows a save, I feel really bad for him. But he's still a good reliever, even if just "average" among the closers, who tend to be the best relievers. I mean, would we complain about a starting pitcher who was an "average" ace? Not exactly the same situation, but still.

    I think perhaps people got spoiled after 2005 when he was the #1 reliever in all of baseball. We got used to all saves being converted after he tied the MLB record for most saves in a month in June. I remember what a shock it was when he didn't convert a save in July.

    I too am disappointed that he hasn't been the best reliever in baseball for 2006 and 2007, but that doesn't mean I want him to stop being the closer. He's still good. I do worry about next year with a smaller park, but hopefully he will be able to adjust. He manages on the road ok, afterall.
    -cass

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/07/2007 7:09 PM  

  • Some of the anonymous comments are pretty amusing. "He doesn't have dominant stuff anymore. Your closer needs to have dominating pitches." Since when has Cordero ever had "dominating stuff"?

    In 2005, his fastball might have hit 91 mph if the wind was behind him and the radar gun was kind. In the games I've attended since mid-May, the radar for his fastball consistently reads 90 mph. Unlike 2005, it's not news if he throws something other than a fastball.

    And since he is the second youngest pitcher to reach the 100 save mark without "dominating stuff", he's obviously found *something* to get batters out since his debut in 2003.

    Sure, he gives up home runs from time to time, and he occasionally blows saves. But this season, since he's pitched 1-2-3 innings in 18 of his 54 appearances, he doesn't make me nervous when he takes the mound.

    By Anonymous Arl, at 8/08/2007 12:29 AM  

  • Didn't see the blown save in SF but I know if Church could catch, the Chief wouldn't have a blown save against the Mets.

    By Anonymous Dick, at 8/08/2007 2:03 PM  

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