The multi-inning save
Yesterday, Mike Hargrove asked J.J. Putz to get five outs to save the game. In his last appearance, he was asked to get four outs. Both times, he succeeded without any problem, shutting the door and ensuring the Mariners get a win against a divisional rival. For his part, J.J.’s willing to work multiple innings, but it apparently isn’t high on his wish list:
“It’s something you don’t want to have to do on a consistent basis,” Putz said of his five-out save. “But I’ve said this before, when I talked to Mariano [Rivera] last year he said, ‘Sometimes the biggest outs are in the eighth inning, and that’s when you may need to come in and save a game.’
Hooray for Mariano Rivera’s understanding of leverage! When Putz entered the game last night, the leverage index was 3.90. Keep in mind, leverage is a scale built around 1.00 being average, and anything over 2.0 is considered a very important situation. Most closers have leverage indexes in the 2.0 to 2.5 range, so while the 9th inning is indeed a higher pressure inning than most others, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the huge effect the 8th inning had on yesterday’s game.
In Monday’s game, when Putz was brought on in the 8th inning, the leverage was 4.71! That’s about as high leverage a situation as you’ll ever see.
We’ve given Hargrove a lot of crap for the way he runs his bullpen, living by strictly defined roles and putting guys in positions where they are very unlikely to succeed. But on his willingness to use Putz as a multi-inning closer, he’s ahead of the curve. J.J. got at least 4 outs in 15 different games last year, and that he’s already been asked to do it twice this year is a good sign.
When the game is on the line, you should have your best available reliever to try to get the outs. In almost every situation, that guy is going to be J.J. Putz. The 8th inning is often a very high leverage situation, and Hargrove’s willingness to use Putz to get more than the standard three out save is going to help this team win games.