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  • Are blown saves really a problem for the Birds?

    Viva El Birdos breaks it down...


    HC is due back from vacation today. he had a pre-programmed post set to go, but i figure night’s meltdown might still be on people’s minds; i know it’s on mine. so HC’s post will run either tomorrow or tuesday, and i’ll toss out a few quick reflections about that loss.

    the 21-blown-saves stat is getting a lot of play, and i think it’s worth parsing that for a moment. 21 blown saves don't (as many people seem to assume) translate into 21 losses; it’s commonplace to lose a lead late in the game, blow the save, and still end up winning the game. the cardinals have done that several times this year, e.g. on may 2 vs the cubs, may 17 vs the rays, june 15 vs the phillies to name 3 quick examples. and it almost happened last night: mcclellan blew a save situation in the 9th and allowed the pirates to tie the score, but the cards got the lead back in the 10th and, had they held the 2nd lead, would have recorded a win despite blowing a save. instead, they got two blown saves but only one loss --- another illustration of how we can’t map blown saves directly to win-loss totals.

    the only way to gauge the won-loss impact of all those blown saves is to go through the schedule and count up how many of them actually led to defeats. which i have just done; not a difficult task, took me about 10 minutes. of the 21 blown saves, 8 came in wins and 10 came in losses. you’ll note the numbers don’t add up to 21 --- that’s because the cards have 3 losses (including last night’s) in which they blew more than one save opportunity. so the won-loss impact of those 21 blown saves is 10 defeats --- and in truth it’s less than that, because no bullpen can be expected to be perfect. every team blows some saves and loses some games late --- so the question is, how many games have the cards lost that they would have won with an average performance by the bullpen? my sense is that the number is right around about 5 --- a lot lower than 21, but it's still a depressingly high number. add 5 wins to the cards’ total and they have the second-best record in baseball; they’re 19 games over .500 (at 57-38), half a game behind the cubs, and 5.5 games ahead of milwaukee in the wild-card race.

    the 5-game estimate, by the way, gibes w/ the bullpen’s aggregate WPA figure as listed at fangraphs. as a unit, they are at -2.31 in WPA, or negative 4.6 wins (0.5 of WPA = 1 win). the only team with a worse aggregate bullpen WPA is washington.

    one thing i haven’t heard mentioned anywhere is that jason michaels has stunned the cardinals twice now: he’s also the dude who hit the grand slam off adam wainwright back on june 2 to tie up a game the cardinals seemingly had well in hand. they led 4-0, you’ll recall, but it seemed like a much bigger bulge than that because wainwright had a 3-hit shutout going through 6 innings and was only 2 batter over the minimum. in the 7th he gave up a double and two walks, and with two out michaels jumped on the first pitch and hit it out to tie the game; wainwright stayed in and gave up the go-behind run the following inning. that doesn’t count as a blown save, but it might as well; another late lead the team failed to protect.

    i’m mostly a numbers guy, but i do wonder about the psychological impact of last night’s defeat. comes at a very bad time --- wins have been hard to come by this month, and the additions of sabathia and harden to the division seem to have raised a few doubts in the clubhouse; the team is looking to the front office for a countermove. one loss usually doesn’t mean much in a season this long . . . . . still, the last thing the team needs is another challenge, another hurdle to overcome. the cardinals have handled most of them so far this year, but how long can a thin lineup and thin rotation keep it up? if i may use a tour de france metaphor: the team is like a domestique who’s found himself in the leading pack in an alpine stage, right there with the elite hill climbers. how long can he stay in the group? how long before he cracks?

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    Only five losses?

    No way.

    Beyond blown saves or blown leads, you've got take a look at how many games were tied late, and how often we came out on the short end of the stick....which, to me, since about May 1 has been almost always.

    Comment


    • #3
      He he is saying is that an 'average' job by the bullpen gets 5 more wins, which sounds right to me. There is no bullpen that would have 15 more wins.
      Sketch in STL
      Official Sponsor of jHonny Peralta

      I'M WITH HILLARY!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by sketch View Post
        He he is saying is that an 'average' job by the bullpen gets 5 more wins, which sounds right to me. There is no bullpen that would have 15 more wins.
        Doesn't sound right to me.

        We've lost something like 15 to 18 games where we've led or were tied after six innings. A decent pen, let alone a good one, turns around more than five of those. That gets away from the "blown save" stat some, of course, but if he's saying the pen doesn't suck as much as we think it does, I totally disagree.

        We're not going to win all of those, of course. But for a contending team, that's just an incredible number of winnable games lost by the ASB.

        Comment


        • #5
          I love when stats guys take a ridiculously easy question and try to make it complex.

          I don't need to know the bullpen's aggregate WPA to tell me they are a problem.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by chs266s View Post
            I love when stats guys take a ridiculously easy question and try to make it complex.

            I don't need to know the bullpen's aggregate WPA to tell me they are a problem.
            This is why many stat guys wear socks to bed.

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with Reggie and chs.
              Sometimes elections have positive consequences!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cardinalgirl View Post
                I agree with Reggie and chs.
                Almost always a sound choice, although I wouldn't recommend it carte blanche.

                You would have to do unnatural things to wimmen.

                Comment


                • #9
                  well I had "as usual" at the end of it, but then I realized it's not totally usual ...just semi usual so I erased it. I could say "I laughed at what Reggie said. As usual." and it would be totally correct.
                  Sometimes elections have positive consequences!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cardinalgirl View Post
                    well I had "as usual" at the end of it, but then I realized it's not totally usual ...just semi usual so I erased it. I could say "I laughed at what Reggie said. As usual." and it would be totally correct.
                    Flattery will get you nowhere. My heart belongs to Nebby.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      dammit! FOILED AGAIN!!!!
                      Sometimes elections have positive consequences!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yes, they are.

                        Even if they don't all translate into losses the others were still winnable games.

                        Plus, it's a morale buster. Even thought the Cards seem to have been pretty resilient after blown save losses.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland View Post
                          Doesn't sound right to me.

                          We've lost something like 15 to 18 games where we've led or were tied after six innings. A decent pen, let alone a good one, turns around more than five of those. That gets away from the "blown save" stat some, of course, but if he's saying the pen doesn't suck as much as we think it does, I totally disagree.

                          We're not going to win all of those, of course. But for a contending team, that's just an incredible number of winnable games lost by the ASB.
                          I'm in no way saying that the BP isn't a huge problem for this team (and I don't think he is either). I just don't think that this team would have won 10-15 more games (30-35 games over .500!!!) if they had an average BP.

                          It will be the thing that costs the team the post-season. If they had won those 5 games and are in first place, then a player or 2 might keep them there. Now there are 3 teams right on their ass for the WC.
                          Sketch in STL
                          Official Sponsor of jHonny Peralta

                          I'M WITH HILLARY!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by chs266s View Post
                            I love when stats guys take a ridiculously easy question and try to make it complex.
                            Indeed. Turns out the answer to the question is "yes". Shocking, no?
                            Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

                            "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011

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                            • #15
                              Yes. Yes, they are.

                              I think he's putting a little too much emphasis on the blown save statistic, which we shouldn't really care about anyway. The bullpen sucks. Even if you debunk the "blown save" thing, there are 800 other statistics to tell you why they suck.

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