Posts Tagged ‘Leverage’

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Eric Wedge, Lord of Leverage

April 28, 2009

Eric Wedge was actually ejected in the fourth inning of the Indians-Red Sox game, so this should be about the Indians bench or pitching coach, but that is beside the point.

After a pitching duel between Boston’s Tim Wakefield and Cleveland’s Cliff Lee, the score is 0-0. Boston has their 2-3-4 hitters coming up, and Cleveland’s substitute manager elected to send out the closer (and probably best reliever), Kerry Wood, to face the heart of the Sox order.

This is a positively brilliant move.

The idea that a closer should only pitch in “save” situations is the dumbest case of managing to a statistic. MLB managers suffer from a groupthink problem where they all make the same mistake, saving their closer for situations where they can earn a save. What managers should be doing is saving their closer for those situations with the highest leverage (close and late), and against the best hitters in the opponent’s batting order. A tie game in the ninth inning against a team’s (supposed) three best hitters should be one of the best times to use the closer.

Some day, we’ll all know closers as “relief aces”, and it won’t matter if it’s the 7th, 8th, 9th, or 10th inning. We’ll see the best relief pitcher when they can best be used to control the outcome of the game.

(Note: As I’m writing this, Kerry Wood gave up a three-run dinger to Jason Bay, but that doesn’t mean using Wood to try to maintain the tie wasn’t the right move.)

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