A Closer, A Closer…By
A troubling epidemic has swept across Major League Baseball over the first month of the season leaving many fans to throw their arms in the air in exasperation, all asking the same question.
What has happened to my team’s closer?
It’s not just you, Miami Marlin fans. Many fans of the majority of teams have sat in stunned horror as their teams have seen 9th inning leads turn into the things nightmares are made of.
Formerly consistent closers like Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero have imploded, seemingly forgetting how to close games. While others, like Mariano River, Scott Downs, Andrew Bailey, Kyle Farnsworth, Drew Storen, Huston Street, and Sergio Santos have seen their seasons halted if not completely ended due to injury.
And all of this through just 30-games.
Looking into the numbers we see by the end of May last season or through roughly 54 games (on average) there were 212 blown saves across the entire MLB while through the first thirty games of the 2012 season (again, on average) there have already been 121 blown saves. This puts the league on pace for roughly 217 blown saves by the same 54-game mark.
“But, Mike… That doesn’t sound as if it’s that big of an increase…”
Of course it doesn’t. An increase of five blown saves doesn’t sound that large when you’re talking about a 54-game period and 30 teams. But, as we’ve all heard before, the MLB season is a marathon and not a sprint, and the longer this trend continues the more glaring the numbers become.
If this rate holds there will have been 653 combined blown saves over the course of entire MLB season where there had been just 576 through all of the 2011 season. An increase of 77 blown saves representing a 13% increase in the overall number.
“But, Mike… That’s only an average of 2.5 blown saves more per team…”
Yes, yes it is my opinionated and imagined reader. The issue is that most some teams, teams like Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, and Milwaukee, will likely be immune to the epidemic. Their closers probably won’t see long bouts of ineffectiveness or injury, so, their percentages will probably stay in line with last season (if not better).
That means the 24 other teams will end up seeing the brunt of a 13% increase and see 3.20 more blown saves this season than last, not 2.5. In one of the more highly contested divisions in baseball, where Philadelphia, Atlanta, and perhaps also the New York Mets have figured out their closer role, the longer the Marlins struggle to close out games the farther behind they could find themselves.
Is RHP Steve Cishek the answer? Will Heath Bell find his old form? Is there a trade looming on the horizon? No one yet knows.
What we do know is that four teams finished within five games of the Wildcard spot last season, and six were within 10 games. The margin for error is both slim and ever changing, and, the addition of a second Wildcard spot will likely put more teams in line for a playoff spot which makes every wasted opportunity that much more impactful.
It may only be May, but If the numbers hold and the trend persist, it won’t be long before many fans will find themselves yelling to the sky “my Kingdom for a Closer!”