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The secret of Zach Britton's unique dominance


xian4

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The standards for a reliever have been in constant flux forever. I'm not sure we're anywhere near an endpoint or a period of stability. It's hard to know. Sutter and Gossage and Fingers are in with careers that really don't look overwhelmingly impressive. It's hard to make an objective case that Fingers was better than Trevor Hoffman, or Sutter was better than Billy Wagner, or Eckersley was better than Doug Jones.

Counting stats? Who knows? Guys with 300 saves are in, 450 or 550 or 600 are out. By fWAR there are eight guys between 20 and 30, with #s 1, 3, and 8 on that list in, the rest out.

Reliever is the most muddled group of a messy HOF process. You can argue that almost no relievers should go in since part of the job description is to not do A, B, and C otherwise you'd be a starter.

I think he'd have to find his way into games more regularly, even if he wasn't in line for a save.

If he threw +/- 100 innings at his current rate (assuming maybe 10 2-inning performances and 80 or so 1 inning performances) he'd get into about 90 games, and be more competitive for counting stats, which is of course, only doable if they let him pitch close games that aren't save situations.

I also don't know how possible it is, because at that workload, you start getting into situations where luck plays a big factor. This sort of usage rate requires that the O's have a high percentage of competitive games. More importantly, it would require that non-competitive games largely come and go when Britton wouldn't have been available to pitch anyway. I don't know how repeatable this is over a 15 year career.

That said, 100 innings over 15 years, while maintaining his current level of dominance, would probably get 'er done.

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I think he'd have to find his way into games more regularly, even if he wasn't in line for a save.

If he threw +/- 100 innings at his current rate (assuming maybe 10 2-inning performances and 80 or so 1 inning performances) he'd get into about 90 games, and be more competitive for counting stats, which is of course, only doable if they let him pitch close games that aren't save situations.

I also don't know how possible it is, because at that workload, you start getting into situations where luck plays a big factor. This sort of usage rate requires that the O's have a high percentage of competitive games. More importantly, it would require that non-competitive games largely come and go when Britton wouldn't have been available to pitch anyway. I don't know how repeatable this is over a 15 year career.

That said, 100 innings over 15 years, while maintaining his current level of dominance, would probably get 'er done.

I don't think a quantity of innings will have anything to do with it. You kind of allude to it, but any additional innings/games would probably be of lower leverage so each additional inning would have less impact. And likely less effective. Some old-school relievers threw 100+ innings but they were usually less consistent year-to-year and couldn't stay healthy.

The current setup of one inning at a time exists because it works pretty well.

I think the relievers/HOF situation will remain unsettled mainly because the truth is they're just not as valuable individually as a starter or a regular position player.

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Personally, I don't want to see a bunch of relievers in the Hall of Fame. In today's usage, if you close for 15 years at about an 89-90% save rate and a sub-2.50 ERA, then you should get a look. But I really don't want to think about guys who have had a nice run of 3-5 years. There's dozens of those guys, and most of them flame out.

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Personally, I don't want to see a bunch of relievers in the Hall of Fame. In today's usage, if you close for 15 years at about an 89-90% save rate and a sub-2.50 ERA, then you should get a look. But I really don't want to think about guys who have had a nice run of 3-5 years. There's dozens of those guys, and most of them flame out.

You mean Dennis Eckersley? I know that's not quite right as he was kind of Burt Hooton or Jon Matlack for a decade, then he was Craig Kimbrel for six years, then he was Jorge Julio for another six years. A unique career.

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In today's usage, if you close for 15 years at about an 89-90% save rate and a sub-2.50 ERA, then you should get a look.

Since 1990, relievers with 900+ games (average of 60+ a year for 15 years), sub 2.50 ERA: Mariano Rivera. Full stop.

Billy Wagner also gets to 15 years if you count his 2009 where he pitched 15 innings and his first year where he pitched one game. Blown Save data isn't on Fangraphs for his whole career but he's at 87% for the years they have (2002-). So we may be back to just Mariano. But maybe that's the point.

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You mean Dennis Eckersley? I know that's not quite right as he was kind of Burt Hooton or Jon Matlack for a decade, then he was Craig Kimbrel for six years, then he was Jorge Julio for another six years. A unique career.

It's probably the uniqueness that got him in. At an 85% career save rate, he probably doesn't deserve it.

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Here's a bizarre set of facts:

Francisco Rodriguez is 6th on the MLB career save list along with holding the single-season record.

Joe Nathan is 8th.

Jonathan Papelbon is 10th.

If you ever want to make an argument about saves being a goofy stat, there it is. We're in an era like the 1800s for starters where a guy like Mickey Welch (I'm sure 98% of you have never heard of Mickey Welch) can compile 307 wins and is still 20th all time in wins. Mainly because of weird circumstances.

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It's probably the uniqueness that got him in. At an 85% career save rate, he probably doesn't deserve it.

I think he got a ton of extra credit (not unlike Rollie Fingers) for his undeserved Cy Young/MVP season in '92, and his 0.61 ERA in 1990. By modern metrics Eck was the 25th best AL pitcher in '92. He threw 80 innings to a 1.91, while Clemens threw 246 to a 2.41. By fWAR Eck was the 6th-best player on the A's.

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I think he got a ton of extra credit (not unlike Rollie Fingers) for his undeserved Cy Young/MVP season in '92, and his 0.61 ERA in 1990. By modern metrics Eck was the 25th best AL pitcher in '92. He threw 80 innings to a 1.91, while Clemens threw 246 to a 2.41. By fWAR Eck was the 6th-best player on the A's.

He also gets extra credit for closing for a team that went to three straight World Series. His peak and that team's peak coincided and that's always a good formula for getting into the HOF.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Zach is once again leading the world in ground ball percentage, at 77.1%. It's crazy how hard he is to square up.

He also has a .188 BABIP this year, which is probably unsustainable despite all the grounders.

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Really wish he could be a starter. I know he's had shoulder issues, and then it would weaken the pen, but it might be something to consider next offseason.

I know, that I am in the minority here in OH.

But, when you have a guy that is lights out as a closer, that is more valuable than a pitcher that throws every 5th game. IMO

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I know, that I am in the minority here in OH.

But, when you have a guy that is lights out as a closer, that is more valuable than a pitcher that throws every 5th game. IMO

With how great our pen is that is a very solid take on the situation. Plus it'll never happen because Britton is about to be making "starter" money anyway for the rest of his career.

Didn't Britton come up with the sinker when he was trying to learn to throw the cutter? Now that's irony.

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