Lee Panas of Tiger Tales makes a good case for better use of MLB’s premier relievers. He uses his Tigers’ Jose Valverde as a case study but it goes for all closers of high talent.
This is the basic crux of his argument:
Instead of having Valverde enter a dozen or more games in very low impact situation just to get work, wouldn’t it be better if Leyland picked his spots using him only when the game was on the line? I’d rather see him enter a tie game in the eighth inning or with the bases loaded in the seventh than see him get a three out save with nobody on base and three run lead.
I’ve pleaded similar arguments to my baseball friends to no avail. There’s something simple about the “save” rule and there’s no getting around managers desire to saving their best guy for the ninth inning regardless of the actual impact the closer will have.
I know Lee isn’t the only one exploring this issue. Is the Save a dying stat? Perhaps not. But once we stop relying on it as the sole value of a closer, maybe they will be used in a more effective manner.