There were some questions about the best way to see if bad teams earn saves as well as good teams — so here are hopefully some answers.
Should we have used save opportunities as our metric? Better teams should make more save opportunities for our closers, and using opportunities removes the quality of the closer from the equation, right? One problem, before we run the numbers, is that save opportunities exist in the seventh and eighth innings, but the closer is rarely brought into those innings any more. So there will be some save opps that won’t ever turn into saves for our bad team closer… but let’s see what happens:
Actually, this makes it look like even more of a crapshoot.
Winning percentage only explains about 8.6% of the variance in save opportunities. Less than 10%! Bad teams get about the same amount of chances as good teams! Look at how flat that line is.
Okay, so is it that the good teams have good closers that also make the team good? In other words, what if we plot save percentage against winning percentage?
Okay, so here we have something. 20.5% of save percentage is explained by winning percentage. Good teams do have slightly better closers. But that doesn’t help us a ton in the case of a good closer on a bad team.
So, now we’re getting closer to this bad team / good team closer situation. Good teams (marginally) produce more saves, but if you break it down into save chances and save percentage, that effect gets smaller.
The fact remains: there are plenty of good closers on bad teams, and all you have to do to truly reflect their value is knock a few saves off the top of their projection — but not many. Certainly no more than one fifth. We still have lefty closers and bad bullpens to tackle in this mini-series.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.