I’m stealing a page from Derek’s book. Begin off-topic diatribe now…
Its nearing 12:30 in the morning, as Thursday has wrapped and Friday would be peaking out from under the clouds if it could penetrate the wall of them that have rolled in. There is half a foot of snow outside, and I’m supposed to be at work in a little over seven hours. We’re two days from months end, and I’ve got enough projects that need tending to fill my weekend. I’ve already committed to work Saturday, and that was before I left early today to drive home before the storm paralyzed the city. When the snow began falling this afternoon, I followed the programmed response of the news and started complaining. I was ready for spring, 70 degree days, not having to drive 30 on the freeway because people in the south don’t realize that it is possible for cars to accelerate in the snow without hitting a busload of small handicapped children. As the flakes fell, I rooted for it to pass, or for it to warm up and melt, or at least for the plow to have the good sense to clear just the streets that I need to take to work in the morning. As my roomate and a good friend got the good news that they weren’t working tommorrow, they began to celebrate and plan a sledding excursion. John is 25, married, and will be a first-time father within the next month, giddy over the white covering, and planning a trip down a hill on a piece of wood without steering.
I’m 23 years old, single as the day I was born, with the most understanding boss on the planet, and no pressures placed upon me except the ones I thrust on myself. And I’m rooting against snow. Why? So that I sit behind a desk and ensure that reports for a mid-level executive of a woman’s underwear company can be more accurate by a few pennies, so they can hem and haw and figure out how many more styles they can sew in Honduras instead of America. My roomate Aaron, 3 years my senior, with a job of much greater responsibility, has made plans to hurdle himself down a hill on a Friday morning, celebrating the gift of winter. John, whose wife could theoretically go into labor at any moment, will join him on this quest to enjoy life. And I’ve decided to try to drive 30 miles in a two-wheel drive vehicle with poor alignment for the right to be the only person in the office? I’m 23 going on 40. I’m rooting against snow. Something is clearly wrong.
Life is to be enjoyed, not tolerated and persevered. Within the next thirty days, I’ll get to see John only when he needs me to pick up some diapers from the store and drop them off at his place on the way home. I’ve lived with Aaron for two months and been disappointed that we’ve only had two real conversations in the that timeframe. An opportunity like this is rare, and I nearly let it go by, so that I could help establish myself as another faceless employee in a cubicle at a company that asks women to stick wire inside their shirts and markets it as a comfort strap.
I’m 23 years old, have no idea who I’m going to marry after I figure out how to stop offending women en masse, and have more freedom to make my own decisions than nearly everyone else on the planet, and I was rooting against snow. Take it as a cautionary warning; maturity straddles the fence of boredom and humbugs refer to themselves as responsible. Me? I’m going sledding, and I’ll see everyone at work on Monday.
Usually, comments like what Melvin made yesterday will be defended with tales of players who pitched well in non-save situations, but faltered when handed a closers role, and have had their toughness called into question. Frequent targets of this include LaTroy Hawkins, Armando Benitez, Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke, Jeff Nelson, and Arthur Rhodes. All have been dominant setup men at some point in their careers, and all have endured some struggles in ninth inning situations. Hawkins, in particular, was a disaster as a closer (5.96 ERA in 2001), but an untouchable setup man in 2002 and 2003 (2.13 and 1.86 ERA’s respectively). While the usual defenses from those who do not believe in “closers mentality” are sample size, natural improvement, or random variation, I believe there are instances of pitchers who simply are more effective when the game is not on the line. However, they are the exception, not the rule.
Pitchers like Eddie Guardado are the norm. They’re effective whether used in the first, fifth, or ninth innings. Among effective major league pitchers, I would estimate 90 % fall into this category. Shigetoshi Hasegawa didn’t pitch lights out in the 9th last year because he had guts, heart, and determination. 37 pitchers in MLB last year recorded at least 10 saves. Among these fierce warriors of proven mettle are former castoffs Damaso Marte, Julian Tavarez, Cliff Politte, Aquilino Lopez, Mike DeJean, Dan Kolb, Lance Carter, Joe Borowski, Rocky Biddle, and Tim Worrell.
Derek’s column is dead on. The save invented the closer, and its a misunderstanding of the game to believe that you have to pay a premium for a pitcher who has the intestinal fortitude to pitch effectively in the ninth inning.
Melvin said baserunning and situational hitting are two of the areas that the team needs to improve this season. And he will use the five-week training camp to get the message across.
“With a lineup that puts the ball in play, we have the option of starting the runners more than we did last year,” he said. “We may not be as fast (as a year ago), but all of our hitters, one-through-nine, make contact.
“I don’t want to mention any names, but we had some swing-and-miss guys.”
What a stupid thing to say. I mean beyond the every-year refrain of situational hitting… Heaven forbid Melvin should pass up a chance to take another dig at Mike Cameron and his productive career in center field.
I mentioned this yesterday — if you’re interested in why closers are overrated and Bob Melvin’s opinions on the subject are bunk, my Baseball Prospectus Basics article ran today: “How to run a bullpen“. No subscription required, though everyone should subscribe.