true or false baseball challop: not a single one of the modern day closers belongs in the Hall of Fame

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true: a lot of them, even the most dominant ones, were totally failures as starting pitchers. they pitch one inning or less and can get away with a lot more than starting pitchers can. they're the "stars" of relief pitchers but they pitch fewer innings than other ones and the only difference between a superior middle reliever and an average (but more celebrated) closer is the save stat, which is totally meaningless and seems to exist only to garner huge contracts for middling pitchers who might be waiver-wire bait otherwise.

false: mariano rivera, trevor hoffman, joe nathan, papelbon, etc have pitched enough so that their superior stats are evidence of great pitchers. even with 1 inning or less in their appearances, after awhile it does add up and the cumulative stats can't be denied. the save is meaningless but the importance of their role in shutting down an opposing team to finish off a game is shown by how many teams with inconsistent closers are often in big trouble in playoff races or in the playoffs, c.f. "we can't go into october with (x) as our closer, we'll get past round 1" etc etc.

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 16:45 (nine years ago) Permalink

with the preface that i really, really don't care about the hall of fame:

hoffman and rivera belong as they were pretty obviously the best relief pitchers of a generation and judged against their peers, not history, their dominance and longevity makes it a no-brainer.

i think the key is that the category in question is "relief pitchers" not "closers"

call all destroyer, Friday, 18 September 2009 16:52 (nine years ago) Permalink

It's true (Rivera is the exception obv--once you do it that many times in the post-season you've proved your value.)

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:03 (nine years ago) Permalink

"but the importance of their role in shutting down an opposing team to finish off a game is shown by how many teams with inconsistent closers are often in big trouble in playoff races or in the playoffs"

So are teams with mediocre starting pitching, mediocre middle-infield defense, mediocre middle relief, etc. . .

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:06 (nine years ago) Permalink

i lean more "true" on this one, allowing for the exception of rivera. what's amazing when you look at a dude liks dennis eckersley, who is is the hall due to his relief years, is that he had six very good to excellent years as a closer and a few good years as a starter and that's it. his last five years as a closer were more todd jones than HOF-level.

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:09 (nine years ago) Permalink

i realize we're talking about comparing closers to other closers and not holding them to the same standards as starting pitchers, of course.

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:10 (nine years ago) Permalink

There is not a doubt in my mind that Smoltz >>>>>>>>>>> Dennis Eckersley >>> Gossage >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> any other closer in the hall >>> any other closer (except Rivera.)

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

Actually there may be a couple of people around Eckersley/Gossage. Fingers and Wilhelm were pretty good obv. So maybe there is a doubt in my mind.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:17 (nine years ago) Permalink

Rivera really is just a freak. That he's been doing this for a decade and a half now is just crazy. He's probably on steroids.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:21 (nine years ago) Permalink

all closers should die, i agree

candice spergin (cankles), Friday, 18 September 2009 17:22 (nine years ago) Permalink

how do you exclude hoffman and not rivera? just on the postseason?

call all destroyer, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:24 (nine years ago) Permalink

Mostly. But Rivera also pitched consistently better in a consistently tougher environment.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:26 (nine years ago) Permalink

i guess i'm just uncomfortable with a slope slippery enough to one day lead down to a muddy pond named "hall of famer jonathan papelbon"

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:26 (nine years ago) Permalink

I mean Trevor Hoffmann is a good pitcher, but he's pitched 50% of his games in basically the pitching equivalent of Coors field.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:27 (nine years ago) Permalink

the top ten most similar pitchers to rivera according to baseball reference:

1. Trevor Hoffman (900)
2. Jeff Reardon (865)
3. Bruce Sutter (865) *
4. Lee Smith (859)
5. Billy Wagner (859)
6. Doug Jones (854)
7. John Wetteland (841)
8. Tom Henke (838)
9. Robb Nen (829)
10. Roberto Hernandez (828)

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

smoltz is the only clsoer who should be in the hqall

candice spergin (cankles), Friday, 18 September 2009 17:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

not sure rivera's opportunities to go to the postseason should prop him up. guess i also see a smaller gulf between hoffman and rivera and a bigger one between those two guys and everyone else.

call all destroyer, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:28 (nine years ago) Permalink

No it's still a pretty big gulf between those two guys. And what Rivera's done in the post-season (opportunities aside) is so incredibly historic that to not count it all would be silly.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:30 (nine years ago) Permalink

i think smoltz probably should get into the hall even if you take away his relief stats (also i think during those 3 1/2 relief seasons he would have been a pretty awesome starter)

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:30 (nine years ago) Permalink

Yeah if he could stayed healthy those 3.5 seasons.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:33 (nine years ago) Permalink

but was he so injured during that time that he couldn't start? i feel like i remember him bitching about staying in at closer, despite his total effectiveness. i feel like he really put the pressure on w/r/t issue which is why atlanta finally relented, though everyone thought he was done as a starter (i may recall a morbs post speculating on 100 innings max.)

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:36 (nine years ago) Permalink

I'm just saying it's not a given that he would have produced at an awesome starter level for those years.

Alex in SF, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:37 (nine years ago) Permalink

maybe not, but i guess i think he would have been good for about what he did from '05-'07, with maybe fewer innings as they were easing him back into the role in '05. not a given, as you said, but i think he would have been more valuable to the braves in that fashion...

omar little, Friday, 18 September 2009 17:42 (nine years ago) Permalink

Maybe it's just that I watched Hoffman fail more often than a non-Padres fan would have, but I never really felt like he was a shutdown guy. He never seemed dominant in big games, and failed on the big stage with some regularity. He was consistent, and hard to hit when his change-up was it its best, but was he a better closer than, say, Papelbon? I'm not sure.

Rivera, on the other hand, seems like a given, if you are allowing relievers in the Hall of Fame at all.

Your heartbeat soun like sasquatch feet (polyphonic), Friday, 18 September 2009 20:29 (nine years ago) Permalink

I'll stay happy as long as John Franco never gets in.

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:12 (nine years ago) Permalink

poly, I don't think Hoffman ever lost a game to Omir Santos. (c'mon, Papelbon is just getting started -- see Bill James on Peak vs Career)

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

i'm not totally sure what "the big stage" is in baseball--hoffman has what like 10 career playoff innings?

given that success over time is basically how you get in the hof marking someone up or down for a tiny sample of playoff innings is retarded.

call all destroyer, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:19 (nine years ago) Permalink

lol it also might get jack morris into the hall some day (i hope it never comes tbqh) ;_;

omar little, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:25 (nine years ago) Permalink

false in my opinion. the role of the closer has changed over the years and modern closers have shaped the role in a way that's entertaining, creative and interesting. how much or how little a guy pitches, or whether he'd be good in another pitching role, isn't as interesting to me as how a guy plays his position, and modern closers have carved out their own position.

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:25 (nine years ago) Permalink

J0hn HATES BIG SAMPLE SIZES

Funny how we're still not gonna put Jack Morris in the HOF for postseason starts, nor was Willie Mays kept out for kinda sucking in the World Series.

xxp

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:29 (nine years ago) Permalink

Rivera has logged an awful lot of October innings that mirror his regular-season performance.

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:30 (nine years ago) Permalink

Morbs are the pre-modern closers way higher on K/IP? real question, I honestly have no idea

and honestly my favorite closer of all time was just a terrible pitcher so I should probably just suggest band myself now

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:31 (nine years ago) Permalink

well, the pre-moderns were "aces" not closers (ie, they didn't always finish) and it depends which ones.

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

this is why I like modern closers! I like anybody who carves out a niche for themselves!

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:37 (nine years ago) Permalink

do you think there should be hall of fame long-snappers too?

candice spergin (cankles), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:38 (nine years ago) Permalink

most of my grandchildren's inheritance is presently tied up in the long-snappers hall of fame steering committee fund

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:44 (nine years ago) Permalink

"given that success over time is basically how you get in the hof marking someone up or down for a tiny sample of playoff innings is retarded."

I agree about small samples, yes, but 117 innings is not really a small sample and Rivera's #s are bonkers.

Alex in SF, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:44 (nine years ago) Permalink

i guess that was disingenuous of me (lol) - what about kickers/punters though? i think it's pretty analogous

candice spergin (cankles), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:46 (nine years ago) Permalink

And as I said before Rivera is just flat out better than Hoffman is. Post-season, regular season, hell probably even spring training, the guy has put up better #s against better competition in a less hospitable ballpark.

Alex in SF, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:46 (nine years ago) Permalink

kickers should totally be hof candidates!

a full circle lol (J0hn D.), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:47 (nine years ago) Permalink

That Ray Guy isn't in the football HOF is pretty silly actually.

Alex in SF, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:50 (nine years ago) Permalink

there's a pretty good argument to be made that ray guy just wasn't good enough compared to his peers, but then again the football hof's standards are really bizarre and probably too high.

candice spergin (cankles), Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:55 (nine years ago) Permalink

Is there? I'll admit that being in SF and listening to Madden probably biases me on that one, but I thought most people agreed he was the best punter of his era.

Alex in SF, Saturday, 19 September 2009 00:59 (nine years ago) Permalink

c/o dr z:

I'll trot out the usual arguments. More than half of today's punters have higher lifetime averages. His net was poor because he'd hit the middle of the end zone, rather than the coffin corner (Peter King once did a work-up on his net average, and it stunk). What he's got going for him was that he once hit that freakin' gondola about 15 miles in the air, plus John Madden sings his praises every five minutes. And I guess that's enough for some of the airheads who cast votes.

dr. z is obsessed with punting likes to assert that tommy davis was the greatest ever:

I first became fascinated with the punting game, and especially hang time, 46 years ago. I was working at my first newspaper job, on the Sacramento Bee, and every Sunday we used to go up to Kezar Stadium to root for the 49ers. We'd sit in the East end zone and take our shirts off, drink beer and cheer our heads off. And watch Tommy Davis, the greatest punter in history, although we didn't know it at the time, booting high hangers out of the worst end zone in the league.
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The murderous Kezar winds blew eastward, in from the ocean. When the Niners were backed up, Davis would be standing in his own end zone, buffeted by those Pacific gusts, sometimes without the full 15-yard distance from the center. And he'd send out 45 and 50-yard rockets. Never have I heard a punter cheered as loudly as Davis was. I had heard the expression "hang time," and I figured, why not see what Davis was hitting, especially since I had such a good, close-up view, when he was kicking them out of the end zone.

Well, he hit a lot of 4.6's and 4.8's, into that wind, a truly outstanding achievement. He did it for 11 years and ran up the third-best gross average in history, behind the Raiders' Shane Lechler and Hall of Fame QB Sammy Baugh, whose numbers were padded by third-down quick kicks, when the ball would roll forever. No one, though, had to face the conditions Davis did. I have mentioned him, from time to time, for Hall of Fame consideration. Blank looks all around.

Ray Guy.

His name comes up every year, courtesy of Frank Cooney of San Francisco, and I'm placed in the unfortunate position of having to speak against him. Fourteen of today's punters have better lifetime averages. And gross average was Guy's forte, because he was a middle-of-the-end zone punter, and touchbacks kill the net. Even his contemporary for a while, Jerrel Wilson, had a better lifetime average, and he led the league four times to Guy's three.

and

On to the Hall of Fame. "You, sir, are a moron," writes William of Franklin, Ind., which immediately gets my attention. The fact is beyond dispute, your grace, but kindly tell me in which way my moronity manifests itself. "Ray Guy was and is the greatest punter I've ever seen," writes our e-mailer, and then he points out that I went on record in opposition to his enshrinement. Oh, he could boom 'em. I'd say Ray Guy, Reggie Roby, Tommy Davis, the Chargers' current big leg, Mike Scifres and Horace Gillom of the old Browns hit more five-second hang time efforts than any punters I've ever seen, or clocked, for that matter, since I've been timing 'em for about 50 years.

Please answer this one for me, sir: How come Guy's lifetime average of 42.4 is below the career averages of more than half of today's punters? Because he was inconsistent, that's why. And he wasn't a coffin-corner punter, either. He put 'em in the middle of the end zone, which was why his net average was so low.

plus

But once again, for the umpteenth time, Ray Guy appears on the Hall of Fame ballot. His lifetime gross average was an unimpressive 42.4. I got a letter on his behalf from some lobbying agency that tried to cover this number by explaining that he made up for it by pinning the enemy deep with coffin-corner kicks. This is a flat out lie written by someone who probably spells football with a pf. Guy's big weakness was that he didn't go for the edges. He was a middle of the end zone punter, although he had the livest leg in the game and when he caught one it really hung.

At one of our Hall of Fame selectors meetings, Peter King, who had meticulously gone through years of play-by-play sheets, presented the research he had done on what Guy's net would have been, had it been kept in those days. It was in the low 30, mediocre indeed. But every time you get John Madden talking about Guy, whom he had coached in Oakland, he'd mention his hang time, "regularly in the high-5.0 range, sometimes as high as six seconds."

This is, of course, nonsense. Never in history has there been a six-second hanger.

candice spergin (cankles), Saturday, 19 September 2009 01:14 (nine years ago) Permalink

why the fuck are you talkin bout that evil 'roided up sport heah?

A Patch on Blazing Saddles (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 19 September 2009 01:19 (nine years ago) Permalink

id support feagles for the HOF, though i dont know how his kicking comp stats are (and dont care really)

johnny crunch, Saturday, 19 September 2009 01:49 (nine years ago) Permalink

This nerd sez Dr Z is wrong:

http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/26/statistics-leave-no-doubt-ray-guy-should-be-in-the-hall/

Alex in SF, Saturday, 19 September 2009 02:15 (nine years ago) Permalink

this thread is like punching yourself in the nuts
do you guys even party?

sanskrit, Saturday, 19 September 2009 02:34 (nine years ago) Permalink

Hay Guyz!
http://usss.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/gagne.jpg

*⁂((✪⥎✪))⁂* (Steve Shasta), Saturday, 19 September 2009 05:00 (nine years ago) Permalink

great thread idea, no offense intended.

just that while you can dismiss closers as a flawed application of a specialist role, it's a bit of a challop to dismiss those who have been masterful in that role. mimes are sham douchebags, but that doesn't mean marcel marceau wasn't a fucking genius.

Rivera HOF = are really discussing this in 2009? really? first vote.
Hoffman HOF = durability will get him in, absolutely deserved
Papelbon HOF = whisper campaigns shouldn't happen until a ten year anniversary of dominance. its too easy to regress, fall apart, see above image

sanskrit, Saturday, 19 September 2009 23:01 (nine years ago) Permalink

six years pass...

Found this a pretty interesting attempt to answer a question most people have abandoned.

http://www.billjamesonline.com/relief_pitchers_and_the_hall/

clemenza, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 04:11 (two years ago) Permalink

Adding the two metrics together puts way too much emphasis on peak value. Multiplying them would be better. Still an interesting column though.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 16:25 (two years ago) Permalink

I definitely like the way the list reconfigures when you multiply:

                     WAR/200   IP/200   RP Score                

Mariano Rivera 6.4 6.2 39.7

Goose Gossage 3.7 7.9 29.2

Trevor Hoffman 4.8 5.4 25.9
Rollie Fingers 3.3 7.8 25.7
Lee Smith 4.1 6.3 25.8
Dan Quisenberry 5.2 4.8 25.0
Billy Wagner 5.4 4.5 24.3

Doug Jones 4.0 5.5 22.0
Dennis Eckersley 5.1 4.0 20.4
Lindy McDaniel 2.2 9.0 19.8
Hoyt Wilhelm 2.1 9.2 19.3
Bruce Sutter 3.7 5.2 19.2
Jonathan Papelbon 5.5 3.4 18.7

Kent Tekulve 2.0 7.2 14.6
Gene Garber 1.9 7.5 14.3
Sparky Lyle 2.1 7.0 14.2
Tug McGraw 2.0 7.0 14.0

Other than Eckersley seeming a little low (and maybe Wilhelm too), I like those groupings. 1) Greatest ever, HOF clearly; 2) second greatest ever, HOF yes; 3) next greatest, borderline HOF; 4) stars; 5) some guys from the '70s who are extremely similar.

clemenza, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 23:12 (two years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I like that. Best of all it gets rid of the newer guys who have impressive WAR/200 thanks to their inflated K/9 rates. When they've put up another five or six good seasons maybe they can re-enter the discussion.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 5 January 2016 23:22 (two years ago) Permalink

Here's my thought and forgive me if this stuff is obvious. Multiplying two stats together to obtain a different number makes sense when there's a compelling case to be made for why an even distribution of the numbers between the two stats is preferable to a player who has a higher number in one stat or the other.

Like let's say you compare hitters based on how many doubles and home runs they have. If there's a player that has five doubles and five home runs, when I multiply those two numbers together, I get 25. But if there's a player with eight home runs and two doubles, which is actually preferable because it's more total bases, and I multiply those two numbers together, I only get 16.

I don't know what the compelling case would be for why an even distribution of numbers among the two stats above is preferable.

Clem, I think you've made the case that multiplying OBP and SLG is preferable to adding them and getting an OPS number? If OBP is more important than SLG (which is another argument I've seen people make though I haven't wrapped my head around it), I'm not sure why multiplying those two numbers would be a good strategy either.

timellison, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 13:08 (two years ago) Permalink

OBP > SLG is the root hypothetical that drove early (and current, I suppose...) sabrmetrics.

Never make an out (reflected in OBP) then you will score infinite runs.

How Butch, I mean (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Wednesday, 6 January 2016 14:28 (two years ago) Permalink

Yeah--not making outs is of paramount importance. (I think some of those early axioms were tested by running, say, 1,000 game simulations--I'm sure James and the rest found that a high team OBP generated more runs than a proportionally high team SLG).

As for the relief pitchers, I think NoTime's idea in multiplying the two numbers was that simply adding them gave too much credit to guys like Kimbrel and Chapman who've been awesome but for only a short period of time (a common thing with closers). Someone in the comments section of the Fleming piece suggests using a harmonized mean, which produces this list:

Mariano Rivera - 12.5
Trevor Hoffman - 10.2
Rich Gossage - 10.0
Lee Smith - 9.9
Billy Wagner - 9.8
Rollie Fingers - 9.3
Doug Jones - 9.2
Tom Henke - 9.0
Dennis Eckersley - 9.0
Joe Nathan - 8.6
Bruce Sutter - 8.6
Jonathan Papelbon - 8.4
Robb Nen - 8.3
Francisco Rodriguez - 8.1
Dan Plesac - 7.9

(Fleming says Henke was accidentally dropped from his initial addition-based list.) That might be the best one of all, I don't know. Anyway, even Fleming says in the piece that it's a complete junk stat. The interesting thing is how closely his junk stat mirrors our general perceptions about who the best closers are.

clemenza, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 15:52 (two years ago) Permalink

people voting for Smith, Hoffman and even Wagner while saying Mussina "didn't seem like a #1" just make me smdh

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 6 January 2016 15:56 (two years ago) Permalink

I don't know what the compelling case would be for why an even distribution of numbers among the two stats above is preferable.

There isn't one, I guess. Like others have said (including the writer), it's a junk stat. But at the same time, adding the numbers (i.e. giving equal weight to both columns) looked more incorrect to me than multiplication. At least when you multiply you give serious weight to longevity.

Neither column really addresses the supposed job of closer. It is better to pitch more innings and pitch well, or to pitch fewer innings and be dominant? Should we look at WAR or give more weight to situational stats? This goes for HOF voting and for picking a real life relief corps. I don't think anybody really knows.

One thing is for sure: saves are a junk stat too.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Wednesday, 6 January 2016 16:12 (two years ago) Permalink

Jeff: I don’t understand the love for Hoffman and not for Edgar Martinez. How can you bash a guy for not playing defense but applaud a guy for only pitching one inning?

Klaw: Because otherwise rational writers and fans remain obsessed with the save statistic.

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 7 January 2016 22:17 (two years ago) Permalink

two years pass...

Long piece by Daniel Marks on left-handed relievers, with a ranking of the 20 best:

http://www.billjamesonline.com/portsiders_in_the_pen/

Top three: Wagner, Chapman, McGraw.

clemenza, Sunday, 21 October 2018 13:37 (one month ago) Permalink

rip rod scurry

mookieproof, Sunday, 21 October 2018 20:50 (one month ago) Permalink


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