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Closers Worthless, Posnanski Says


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Ok, now that I have your attention...:laughlol:

No, that's not really what he says.


So, I guessed that all the advances -- the creation of the bullpen as weapon, the evolution of the closer, the Mariano Rivera cutter, all of it -- only made teams about 5% more likely to win games in 2010 than in, say, 1952.

I was wrong.

The truth is that all the bullpen advances have had ABSOLUTELY ZERO EFFECT on how much more often teams win games they're leading in the ninth inning. Zero. Nada. Zilch. The ol' bagel.

Teams won 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 2010. Teams won 95.5% of their ninth-inning leads in 1952.


Other than that, though, the best winning percentage for ninth-inning leads is .958. It has happened four times -- 2008, 1988, 1972 and 1965. That pretty much covers the entire spectrum of bullpen use. It doesn't change. Basically, teams as a whole ALWAYS win between a touch less than 94% and a touch more than 95% of the time. This has been stunningly, almost mockingly, consistent. The game has grown, the leagues have expanded, the roles have changed, the pressure has turned up, but the numbers don't change.


From 1951-1962, the New York Yankees won 97.3% of their ninth inning leads. If you carry it another decimal point, they actually won a slightly HIGHER percentage of their ninth inning leads than the Mariano Yankees.


Teams, good and bad, with great closers and terrible ones, are going to win the game almost every time they lead going into the ninth inning. Sure, you want to maximize the ninth inning, but I think it's probably a lot more important to HAVE LEADS going into the ninth inning.

And thus ... the setup man. In 2010, teams won 91.7% of the time when they led going into the eighth inning. And that was the highest percentage over the last 60 years. It could have been a statistical blip. It probably WAS a statistical blip. But it seems interesting just the same. I think the setup man is becoming the new closer.

As he suggests, and so do some of the commenters, this is not exactly a completely ground-breaking discovery. But it's still shocking to see the numbers laid out and just how inconsequential a "closer", as we think about him today, may actually be. Especially compared to the "setup" man, who is essentially doing the same job the "closer" did 30 years ago.

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