Blog Entry

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:41 pm
 
By Matt Snyder

White Sox relief pitcher Matt Thornton, formerly the closer, has four blown saves this season against just one save. Just as anyone reliever should, Thornton hates blown saves. Except he actually hates how they are scored.

"If you are not in the ninth inning, I don't think it should be a blown save. Also, when you come in with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning, that's not a blown save. It's ridiculous. You start the inning clean yourself and you are the last pitcher out there. You come in and don't get the job done. That's a blown save." (MLB.com)

Well, he does have a few good points. I always think it's weird to see guys who threw in the sixth or seventh inning tagged with a blown save, because there was no chance the guy was going to get a save. And obviously if you inherit runners from someone else, it's hard to place the blame solely on the shoulders of the guy who followed the real problem.

Here's the thing, though: Stats aren't perfect and they aren't always intended to be. It's a pretty rudimentary measure of a player's worth to just look at saves and blown saves, just as it is wins and losses for starting pitchers. Thornton is trying to ensure individual stats are purely individual stats, but in a team sport like baseball with so many moving parts, there are few stats that are not partially to blame (or aided by) teammates and opposition. But let's just focus on the save here.

First of all, what if the closer is brought in in the eighth with no baserunners and loses the lead then? According to Thornton, that shouldn't be a blown save, but it's the closer and if he finished the game -- which you would guess was the manager's intent -- he would get a save. Are official scorers supposed to read the minds of the managers and decide who was going to get the shot in the ninth before tacking on blown saves? Better yet, why not go ask the manager, Thornton's manager -- the great Ozzie Guillen -- surely would love to talk about the blown save rule after a late blown lead. Who wouldn't?

Secondly, the save -- in and of itself -- is a pretty easy stat to accrue. Sure, there are high-leverage saves that are incredibly difficult and Mariano Rivera is definitely a Hall of Famer for all the ones he's handled over the years. But let's remember the save rules. A closer can enter the game with a three-run lead and pitch one inning to get a save. Imagine if pitchers in any other inning were handed the ball and told "just don't give up three runs." Really? It's tough to get three outs before allowing three runs? That's too easy to be a "save," regardless of whether or not it's harder to pitch in the ninth.

How about this one? A closer can enter with the tying run on deck and record one out to get the save.

So let's say the White Sox are leading 6-1. Sergio Santos enters the game, records two outs and then walks the bases loaded before having to be pulled with an arm injury. Thornton is summoned from the bullpen. He allows a grand slam and then walks the next three hitters. (Yes, he would probably be pulled from the game, but please stay with me here, there's a point being made). Then he allows a rocket in the gap that is caught by a diving Alex Rios. Yeah, that's a save for Thornton. Five batters faced, a home run, three walks and a diving catch to bail him out -- and it counts the exact same as if he'd entered the game with a one-run lead in the eighth and struck out the only six batters he faced. I wonder if he'd complain about that?

It's obviously a flawed rule. But that's OK. Just see what Thornton has to further say about it.

"Honestly, blown saves don't matter. Who cares if you blew a save? If the team wins a game, it doesn't matter."

Well, Matt, you care. You don't rant about a subject you don't care about. See, I don't talk about Jersey Shore because I couldn't care less about it. I do care about baseball, which is why I just wrote a few paragraphs about why the save rule is flawed. There's a difference.

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Category: MLB
Comments

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:21 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

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Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:23 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

 wrote:

As the author says, stats are an imperfect measure of a player's worth.  My favorite is when a guy comes in, in the 6th or 7th inning with a 2run lead.  He gives up 3 runs, but eventually gets through the inning.  His team comes back and scores 2 runs to regain the lead.  The closer(s) pitch the last two innings, and guess what?  The guy who blew the lead gets the win.
I believe that stats like this are misleading and probably responsible for why WHIP is overtaking ERA and W/L as the best stat to define pitcher performance.

Another is when a relief pitcher has a 1.06 ERA, but he has allowed just about all of the baserunners he inherited to score, thereby blowing up the ERA of the guy who preceded him.
This is one of the reasons that it's still important for the guy throwing the pitches to get the blown save, regardless of how many guys his predecessor put on base.  If the closer comes on in the 8th inning with a 2 run lead, though the last pitcher loaded the bases, it's still important who was responsible for blowing the save, regardless of who gets tagged for ERA if the next batter hits a 3-RBI double.
And why does the starter have to pitch at least 5 innings to get a win, and a RP can pitch to one batter and get the win?
This IS a flaw that I've always wondered about.  My guess is that everyone knows that John Lester is a superb pitcher who can throw 120 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in a rough game while leading, while some guy like Matt Albers is usually only reliable enough to throw about an inning.



Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

Regardless of the stats, those in the club house know who has it and who do not.  It all comes out in the end whether the stats say so or not.  Media and fans can be fooled, but the clubhouse is not.



Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: May 12, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

As the author says, stats are an imperfect measure of a player's worth.  My favorite is when a guy comes in, in the 6th or 7th inning with a 2run lead.  He gives up 3 runs, but eventually gets through the inning.  His team comes back and scores 2 runs to regain the lead.  The closer(s) pitch the last two innings, and guess what?  The guy who blew the lead gets the win.

Another is when a relief pitcher has a 1.06 ERA, but he has allowed just about all of the baserunners he inherited to score, thereby blowing up the ERA of the guy who preceded him.

And why does the starter have to pitch at least 5 innings to get a win, and a RP can pitch to one batter and get the win?



Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: May 12, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

Yeah, by "no chance" I meant that in a close game the manager was obviously going to use his back-end guys, so giving the guy a blown save is a bit odd. But of course it makes sense which the letter of the rule. Thanks for reading.

- Matt



Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: May 12, 2011 2:59 pm
 

Thornton doesn't like flawed blown save rules

The guy that 'comes in with one out in the 7th inning' COULD get a save if he protects the lead and finishes out the game.  Since it is possible for the reliever to get a save, he's charged with a blown save if he doesn't protect the lead.  It's not very common, but there have been 3 inning saves recorded as well.  There are ways to obtain a save other than the traditional final 3 outs when the team is leading by 3 or fewer runs that has become commonplace in MLB.


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