Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some More Pointless Cordero Data

First, if you missed it a few weeks ago, here's my post showing that Cordero has blown only one more save than an average closer would've over the last two seasons, when you adjust for the difficulty (ie: one-run versus three-run opportunities). In other words, he's dead-average in effectiveness in a closer (if you define a closer's job as racking up saves).

So here are some more comparisons. I took the three seasons since '05 and found all closers who have saved at least 35 games or more. There are 29 of them, which should tell you that at the bottom of the league, closer is a volatile position full of crappy pitchers.

Cordero is 6th in baseball in saves with 104. That's more than Mariano Rivera and Brad Lidge. He's just a few saves behind Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan and Todd Jones. So, really, the number of saves doesn't tell you a hell of a lot, other than it's a proxy for the consistency and quality of a reliever. Small difference in save totals mean nothing.

He's 6th in wins, tied with Houston Street. The underrated Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera lead this category with 17 and 15 respectively.

He's 15th in losses, with 11, despite being a closer for all three seasons, unlike a few of the names on the list. Ryan Dempster, Danys Baez, Todd Jones and Derrick Turnbow lead the league, and none of those are pitchers any of us would think of as elite closers.

He's 12th in ERA with a 2.76, just behind Trevor Hoffman. The average of the 29 relievers (note: not adjusted for playing time, just the mean of their aggregate ERAs) is 3.03. Jonathon Papelbon laps the field with a 1.58 ERA. Turnbow, Borowski, Benitez and Baez all have sub-4 ERAs (despite averaging over 50 saves a piece).

If we look at ERA+, which adjusts for league strength and park effects with 100 being perfectly average, he's 13th with an ERA+ of 153.

The chief criticism of him is his homer-prone ways. The stats back it up. His 1.29 HR/9 is third highest behind Armando Benitez and Eddie Guardado. 8 closers succeed because of their homer stinginess with a HR/9 of under .5. The group average is .8 HR/9.

The other criticism of him is that he's too darn hittable. The numbers don't back this up. 13 others of this group are more hittable than him as measure by H/9. He's allowed just .2 more hits per 9 than Mariano Rivera. Bob Wickman, who has just a handful of fewer saves than him, allows 1.4 more hits for every 9 IP.

Another gripe about his pitching is his lack of control. He walks too many batters! Well, that's not true either. He has the 9th best walk total of any closer as measured by BB/9. He's sandwiched in between Papelbon and Wagner on the rankings. Among this group, Cordero walks .5 fewer batters for every 9 IP, a solid total.

Ah, but he doesn't strike anyone out! OK, you got me there. His 7.6/9 total (which, despite what Bob Carpenter thinks, is HIGHER than Jon Rauch's 7.2/9 IP total) is near the bottom, 7th worst among the group. (I'll just note that that's 2 places above Trevor Hoffman).

Finally, if we look at baserunners (using WHIP: Walks + Hits / IP), he's above average here, too. His 1.12 is 10th out of the 29 closers I looked at.

Look at the bigger picture. He's basically average at every test of a closer's (and relief pitcher's) success. He allows too many homers and probably doesn't K as many as we'd like, but those are overcome. He doesn't give up many more hits than an average guy. And he doesn't walk more. He has strengths and weaknesses.

We expect perfection from our closers. It doesn't happen. They fail. Even the best do. Nobody's arguing that Cordero's the best. He's clearly an average closer. Yet, we act as if he's the worst. Get a grip, and take a look at the bigger picture. Not every team has a Papelbon. Most teams, even good playoff teams like Cleveland, Detroit, Arizona, etc, don't have a truly elite closer.

Don't expect so much out of the guy at the end of the games that you ignore the things that he does well.

Could he be better? Sure. But if perfection is your standard for all things, then you're never going to be happy watching any baseball game.

If you want to see the full data, here's the spreadsheet with all the closer data.


  • I think the big rap against the Chief is not that he fails occasionally, and not all that often as you point out, but rather that when he does fail he fails in grand fashion, as he did last night. Other teams never just nickel-and-dime him into a blown save, they bludgeon him thoroughly and leave him lying in a heap senseless on the side of the mound. As many like to point out, more often than not when Chad does notch a save he still manages to "make it interesting". Raw statistics may not bear this out, but you have to admit that's the prevailing sense when it comes to the Chief. They don't call him Cardiac Cordero for nothing. And the more cardiacs a team has, the more likely it is to die now and then. There's no way around that!

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 8/25/2007 3:59 PM  

  • OK, so find me the non-Papelbon reliever who DOESN'T crap the bed on occasion.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/25/2007 4:02 PM  

  • I was a few brews deep by the end of last nights debacle, so I can't remember if I heard this during the game or on a previous occasion. Either way, it is appropriatly related to Chad's spectacular evening.
    The theory that I heard is that closers are less effective if they are brought into a game in a non-save situation. Something about them not bringing their 'A' game if there isn't as much on the line. It sounds kind of shady to me, but I was wondering if anybody has heard this before, or if there's any data to back it up??

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/25/2007 4:43 PM  

  • Rob - Somebody ran the stats on this in the not-too-distant past, and it didn't hold up. If I can find the info I'll pass it on to Chris to decide if he wants to post it. But the bottom line is closers as a group do not perform measurably worse in non-save situations. Now, whether an individual closer has a mental block is probably more a matter of psychology than statistics.

    By Blogger Nate, at 8/25/2007 4:56 PM  

  • I think the problem is not that Chad is just an average closer but rather that Manny Acta thinks he is a great closer (he is not) and puts all the Nats eggs into the Chad basket. Acta does not seem to be able to get the feedback from the pen on whether he has "it" or "not" Acta never pulls him before it is to late.

    Barry at WP is saying if you look at this year’s data he is far below average and last night did not technically even cost him a blown save! I hope the Nats do not take such a long view at the stats as Chris does here. Chad is only as good as his last 10 outings not 110.

    By Blogger JayB, at 8/25/2007 5:10 PM  

  • Interesting, Nate.
    That's kinda what I thought about it being psychological. Some guys are maybe more prone to being 'clutch', just as some are prone to choke. (Or in this case, suffocate on a big donkey dick!)

    By Blogger Rob B, at 8/25/2007 5:18 PM  

  • JayB -- think about what you just said there in that last part and what it would mean for the Nationals player evaluation.

    Don't make me start up a list of the 10 stupidest things ever said in comments to this blog ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/25/2007 5:18 PM  

  • Anyone remember Rocky Biddle?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 5:32 PM  

  • Hey Chris,

    I'll do my best to keep your work load down......but what I mean is do not put him out every single oppertunity when he is not pitching well (last 10 outings). I am not wanting to cut him....just be realistic that he is not even in the top 2/3 this year.....

    By Blogger JayB, at 8/25/2007 5:48 PM  

  • Interesting to note -- the Nationals are the 10th team this year to blow a lead of 4 runs or more in the bottom of the 9th inning. So, at least 9 other relief pitchers (including some other closers) have done this. Billy Wagner did it last year against the Yankees on a Fox Game of the Week (and Trevor Hoffman blew 2 saves in the same series).

    By Blogger Natsfan74, at 8/25/2007 6:15 PM  

  • JayB:

    Cordero hasn't pitched much lately (although last night marked back-to-back appearances). And, as you say, he hasn't been throwing well.

    What better time to let him get into a game and try to get back into his rhythm than with a four-run lead? Would you prefer Manny Acta save him for only 1-run games while he's in a slump?

    And, really, the slump is a very recent event anyway. Before Thursday, Chad hadn't given up multiple runs in an appearance since June 23. In fact, he's only done that 5 times this year -- including these two most-recent games. He's had an additional 12 appearances in which he allowed one run (one of those twelve was unearned). He's been in 62 games this year, so if you do the math, that's 45 no-run appearances.

    Man, what a terrible pitcher. ::eyeroll::

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 6:23 PM  

  • Should we just say Chad is the best we have and we should just accept him as is for the next 5-7 years? I would have liked to see Ayala stay in and if not that then Rauch and if not that then Schroder before Chad in that situation last night.

    By Blogger JayB, at 8/25/2007 6:35 PM  

  • The [blogger/apologist] doth protest too much, methinks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 6:42 PM  

  • If we're using Papelbon as our standard, it wasn't so long ago that the Red Sox were rumored to be interested in Cordero, because Papelbon was considering joining the Red Sox starting rotation. Obviously, he changed his mind, but it's interesting to note that the issue was fatigue after 59 games and 68.1 innings pitched in the 2006 season. FWIW, at this point in the 2007, Papelbon has appeared in 45 games and pitched 45.1 innings. Cordero has appeared in 62 games and pitched 61 innings.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 7:13 PM  

  • Chris - the thing is, some people think he IS one of the best. Im not sure why that is.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 8:27 PM  

  • An Briosca Mor said...

    "Raw statistics may not bear this out, but you have to admit that's the prevailing sense when it comes to the Chief. They don't call him Cardiac Cordero for nothing"

    This is perhaps the single most infuriating aspect of the whole Chad debate to me. People hear this and know that it is true: "Cardiac" Cordero is a MYTH. Chad is no more prone than most closers (less prone in fact) to have "interesting" saves. "Interesting" can only refer to allowing runners on base, and the reality is he just doesn't do that most of the time. Prior to this week he had allowed one runner or less in 31 out of 43 appearances since his leave of absence. As I said on another message board, if one baserunner is a heart attack for you, maybe you need to see a cardiologist.

    This faulty "sense" that "people" have of Cordero is just flat out WRONG. It is based on the obvious fact that memories are selective. "Interesting" saves and crushing disappointments like last night are burned into memory FOREVER, especially when they serve to reinforce preconcieved ideas about a player. The FAR MORE COMMON "no sweat" outings flit in and out of your average fan's short term memory with the speed of a hummingbird's wings. So the bias in most fans' memories creates the totally innacurate (and hence utterly WORTHLESS) perception of Chad as this mythical creature known as "Cardiac" Cordero.

    Fans need to educate themselves about this phenomenon and guard themselves against falling prey to it. People, I implore you: trust the factual record in this case - not your own most definitely LYING EYES.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/25/2007 9:34 PM  

  • I would have like to see Shawn Hill go back out for the eight inning. Not that that's neither here nor there.

    Maybe the ninth.

    Maybe we're seeing more and more starting pitchers breaking down because they're never given enough work to build up their arms.

    Too many are now thinking "six and out. Okay...maybe five." I think Hill would have loved to gone back out there. If his arm is well, it's well. Let him keep building it up.

    By Blogger Jim H, at 8/25/2007 10:43 PM  

  • Hey, natsagainatlast: Chill, dude. All I said is that a lot of people have the impression that Chad is Cardiac Cordero. You can't deny that. A lot of people DO have that impression. You yourself enumerated some of the reasons why. It's because so many people have that impression that there's a Cordero debate that starts up again whenver he hits a slump.

    I'm not one who thinks the Nats should dump the Chief. But I also don't think he should have been out there closing on Friday night, for reasons I've explained on other boards. And I am a bit skeptical about how well he'll do in the new park, since the fences will be shorter there and he gets a lot of his outs on very deep fly balls. But I'm not saying he shouldn't get the chance to close on S. Capitol St. I just think it remains to be seen how well he'll do there. As they say, that's why they play the games...

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 8/26/2007 12:40 AM  

  • One of the other things I noticed when I was digging around a while back in Cordero’s stats, in this case his game log, was prior to this year the bulk of his negative closer stats, losses and blown saves, were the result of his HRs. I think it was something like 13 of his 15 BS and over half his losses were the result of or had HRs involved. Maybe that’s a normal percentage for closers but because he gives up more HRs than most closers he probably has a higher total count. It was actually pretty rare for Cordero to lose or blow a save by teams stringing out hits. But I think those HR related losses and BS may feed the negative perception of Cordero by making them more memorable. Last year a number of HRs came in games that weren’t save situations. This year has been different for him because there are more rally type losses and blown saves.

    As I said before in a previous post when I went into checking out Cordero’s stats I was skeptical of him as a closer. Because of his style/stuff, I thought the rest of the league would catch up to him once they had seen him enough times. That he wouldn’t have much staying power. Again that just didn’t hold up. The division teams which have seen him the most, other than Atlanta which just owns him (and because I saw more Atlanta broadcasts that fed my negative perception of Cordero), have done very poorly against him.

    Like it or not people (me included) have a stereotype image of closers and Cordero doesn’t fit it. They carry Astros games on cable out here and a few years back Wagner put on an unbelievable show. He was overpowering. Like a man among boys making guys look helpless. That’s the image fans have of closers, that’s what they want to see, and Cordero doesn’t match it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 6:41 AM  

  • After reading Barry S/Mark Z's quotes from St. Claire in the papers I ask again, why does Acta put Chad out there blindly and more importantly why can he not respond quickly to what was clearly a batting practice fastball at best?

    St. Claire's comments back up the opinion that Chad does not have "it" now and needs work on his mechanics before he will “get it”. It seems the Nats have an opening for that type of work most 6th innings.

    How did you like Schroeder last night? Seems like he could hold a 4 run lead?

    By Blogger JayB, at 8/26/2007 8:20 AM  

  • Last comment I promise.....Having spent some time in a college bull pen warning up pitchers, it seems to me the mechanics problem St. Claire is talking about was likely evident while Chad was warming up. It seems that melt down could have been prevented by with some honest communication and decisive decision making.

    By Blogger JayB, at 8/26/2007 8:31 AM  

  • I think it's standard that managers treat their closers like that. Once a closer comes in the game, it's theirs to lose. If you trust to your closer enough to be a closer, you trust him enough to get out of whatever mess he's made. The game in question here was a little different because if was a 4-run lead, so it allowed more Chad to make more mistakes, but I don't think many managers would have acted differently than Manny did.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 8:37 AM  

  • A.B.Mor: You seemed to be dismissing "raw statisitics" and suggesting that the "sense" of the fans was onto to something about Cordero that the stats didn't pick up. And while sometimes stats can be misleading, in the very narrow question of whether or not Cordero has these alleged "cardiac" tenedencies, the stats are very clear and most fans' memories are seriously flawed and erroneous. If I misinterpreted what you were saying, I apologize for that, but that's how it came across to me.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 1:46 PM  

  • Svrgula: "But this much is undeniable: Cordero has eight blown saves, two more than anyone else in baseball. And that doesn't even count last night, because he entered with a four-run lead, and as ugly as that was, it doesn't count as a blown save. His save percentage -- 77.8 percent (28 of 36) -- ranks 24th among all closers in baseball." I don't see how you can overlook this key stat, Chris.

    Either Cordero is a closer or a setup guy. With so many blown saves and a nice ERA overall, he looks a lot more like a setup guy who will occasionally have nights like he had in Colorado. If he were a setup guy, Manny more likely has someone warming up with him and makes a quick change before Cordero blows the game.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 4:38 PM  

  • natsagainatlast: As a fan who watches nearly every game and is not a stat-head, I can say I must be seriously flawed based on your last comment. I can't compare other closers to Cordero because I don't watch every other MLB game as a fan who wants the team to win. However, while I love Cordero, I do put him in the "cardiac closer" category (or Cor-drama as I've called it) because it seems he often has runners in scoring position (tying, if not winning runs), walks a runner, allows a home run or whatever even in games he successfully closes. I'm not knocking him, I'm just saying as a seriously flawed fan that while I often feel he will close a game out, it will include drama and nervousness on my part.

    By Blogger Cathy, at 8/26/2007 5:04 PM  

  • Okay, Tofu Dog: if Cordero's our setup guy, who's the closer? There's nobody on this team that isn't going to do what Cordero did once in a while.

    Cordero, Rauch, Ayala, etc. are all above-average relievers. But none of them are really dominant. We don't have a Billy Wagner-type to put out there. So you go with what you've got.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 5:04 PM  

  • Miss Chatter: Yes, I am afraid that your recollections of Chad's "typical" performance IS in fact seriously flawed. Sorry - I don't mean anything personal by that, and again I am not talking about an overall assesment of Cordero but rather a very narrow question of whether or not he has a tenedency to have "dramatic" saves. And however much you people want to BELIEVE otherwise, the FACTS remain what they are - he does NOT have a tenedency to put a lot of runners on base in most of his appearances. Post leafe of absence, I will say again, he allowed 1 runner or less in 31 out of 43 appearances. That percentage is right in line with top closers like Papelbon & Wagner.

    And I'm not talking a "stathead" kind of stat here. This is just simply counting up the number of runners that reach base in each appearance, something you can do for yourself here. It's pretty cut & dried, black & white - the vast majority of the time, he just doesn't have more than a single runner reach base against him.(And he has allowed runs in only 3 of 28 saves - usually he doesn't have the luxury of multi-run leads to get away with that).

    I understand what you THINK you have seen when Chad has pitched, but the fact is your memory is playing tricks on you. And I understand the nervousness - lord knows as much as I have defended the guy, I am probably more nervous than most fans when he pitches! But the tension comes not from Chad's tenedencies but mainly from the nature of the situations he's usually in - close games, in the 9th inning. It wouldn't make any diffreence who the closer was as far as that is concerned.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 7:11 PM  

  • Tofu Dog: The total of blown saves is not really indicative of the kind of season Cordero has had. Half of those blown saves came pre-leave of absence. He had 9 multi-runner appearances out of 15 during this period, only 14 out of 47 since (and only 20 out of 68 last year). And most strikingly, 10 walks allowed in 15 pre-leave appearances and only 12 walks in 47 appearances since. And we all know how important location and control is to Chad's success. He had 3 pre-leave appearances where he walked 2 batters. He has had ZERO 2-walk appearances since. So in judging his season (and assesing what caliber pitcher he is) you really have to set aside the pre-leave Cordero in 2007. That was not typical of what he has shown for 2005-2006 and post-leave in 2007.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/26/2007 7:32 PM  

  • I blame Manny for the Friday night debacle. He should’ve let Ayala finish the game. Who cares if he had to bat for himself? It wasn’t a save situation and Ayala had pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning. The Chef (I call him that because he serves up so many meatballs) is rarely effective in non-save situation. Although he spots the ball well, his fastball has little movement when there’s an atmosphere, and no movement in Colorado. Friday’s loss devastated the Nats and they were never in either of the next two games.

    Note to Joel Hanrahan: Sorry to see your season go into the dumpster yesterday.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/27/2007 7:51 AM  

  • I don't think the Nats were "devastated"

    They lost because they couldn't hit Elmer Feckin' Dessens and because Hanrahan couldn't hit Ray King's fat ass from more than 4 paces.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 8/27/2007 8:10 AM  

  • On Hanrahan: The dumpster was already opening it's lid prior to yesterday. He had a few gutty performances, but he was living on the edge. Control has been his bugaboo in the minors for the past five or so seasons, his control wasn't good in his first few outings with the Nats, and it went in the crapper yesterday. And/or the dumpster.

    On Cordero: Part of the problem in getting a firm evaluation on him is the nature of relief pitching. The sample size for a closer is still rather small. There's a good bit of variation. He more than likely wasn't as good as he showed in the first half of 2005 (obviously), and he's more than likely not as bad as he's shown at times this season.

    Chris is right on this: Cordero's just about a league-average closer. I don't particularly care who occupies the closer role, to tell you the truth, but I guarantee you the next Nats closer will eventually frustrate everyone as much as Cordero does, for one reason or another (spotty control, hittability, etc.).

    Unless the Nats get an established elite one. But then the question becomes whether you want to pay $10M for a guy who pitches 70 innings a year.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/27/2007 9:36 AM  

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