Re-examining Saves – 2017 Season

The save statistic is flawed and tells us little about a closing pitcher’s effectiveness.  In order to better gauge the performance of the pitchers that populated the saves leaderboard, I developed three ways to explore their performance.  In a previous post, I examined relief pitcher performance for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  In this post, I review the 2017 saves leaderboard using the three methods.

The first method for examining closer performance is to sort each save a pitcher earned into 5 different categories.

The criteria for each save category:

Ultra Save = no walks, no hits, no HBP (no baserunners), at least 1 IP, struck out all batters faced, earned the save.

Power Save = no walks, no hits, no HBP (no baserunners), at least 1 IP, at least 1 K, earned the save.

Plain Save = no walks, no hits, no HBP (no baserunners), at least 1 IP, no Ks, earned the save.

Ugly Save = at least one hit, at least one run, no Ks, at least 1 IP, earned the save.

Disaster Save = at least two hits, at least two runs, no strikeouts, earned the save.

 

Here is the 2017 Save Leaderboard sorted by total saves earned as well as a tally of saves meeting the criteria for each of the five types:

 

2017 Saves Leaders

Name   Saves/save Op      Ultra             Power             Plain                Ugly            Disaster

Colome 47/53                      1                      6                       6                      5                       1

Holland 41/45                     2                    11                       5                      1                       1

Jansen 41/42                        5                      9                      4                      0                        0

Osuna 39/49                         2                    12                     5                       0                       0

Knebel 39/45                        0                      7                     2                       0                       0

Rodney 39/45                       2                      9                     3                       1                       0

Kimbrel 35/39                      5                    10                     1                       1                       0

Diaz 34/39                             1                    16                     0                       0                       0

Giles 34/38                            1                     8                       2                       1                       0

Davis 32/33                           1                     6                       5                       1                       1

Allen 30/34                           0                     11                     2                       0                       0

Kintzler 29/35                      0                       3                     3                       0                       0

Iglesias 28/30                       0                       3                     2                       1                       0

Ramos 27/30                        0                       6                     1                       1                       0

Herrera 26/31                      0                       3                     4                       1                       0

Neris 26/29                           1                       6                     3                       2                       0

Doolittle 24/26                     2                        7                    0                       2                       0

Chapman 22/26                   0                         5                   2                       0                       0

Johnson 22/31                      0                         6                   3                       1                       1

Maurer 22/26                       1                         5                   3                       0                       0

Hand 21/26                           1                        10                  0                       2                       0

Rivero 21/23                         1                         6                   0                       0                       0

Oh 20/24                                0                         0                   3                       1                       0

Norris 19/23                          0                         5                   1                      0                        0

Reed 19/21                             0                         3                   2                      1                        0

colome Colome led all of baseball with 47 saves in 2017.

My 5 save type model is based on the notion that the key characteristic of a closer is dominance.  In the 9th inning of a 1, 2, or 3 run game, any type of baserunner is a hazard to a team looking to shut the door on an opponent.  Thus, my save model rewards pitchers who do not allow balls in play (valuing the safest out – the strikeout) and avoid baserunners of any kind (HBP, walks, hits).  Greater penalties are given to pitchers based on the level that they violate these two criteria.

Keeping dominance in mind, there are a number of ways to utilize my data system to achieve a better understanding of the quality of each closer.  The first way is to award a number value to each type of save and then tally the points.  The values I gave each of the five possible save types are listed below:

Ultra = 3

Power = 2

Plain = 1

Ugly = -1

Disaster = -2

Utilizing the second method to examine closer performance, the Quality of Save leaderboard re-ranks the top 25 list.

Based on the new point total for Quality of Save, the 2017 leaderboard looks like this:

Saves/Save Opps.                        Quality Save Score                                               Rank Change

1 Jansen  41/42                                               37                                                                       +1

2 Osuna  39/49                                               35                                                                       +2

2 Kimbrel  35/39                                            35                                                                       +5

2 Diaz  34/39                                                   35                                                                       +6

5 Holland  41/45                                            30                                                                       -3

6 Rodney  39/45                                             26                                                                       -2

7 Allen  30/34                                                 24                                                                       +4

8 Hand  21/26                                                 21                                                                       +13

9 Giles  34/38                                                  20                                                                       -1

10 Doolittle  24/26                                         18                                                                       +7

11 Davis  32/33                                               17                                                                       -1

12 Knebel  39/45                                            16                                                                       -8

12 Neris  26/29                                               16                                                                       +3

12 Maurer  22/26                                           16                                                                       +6

15 Rivero  21/23                                             15                                                                       +6

16 Colome  47/53                                           14                                                                       -15

17 Chapman  22/26                                        12                                                                       +1

17 Ramos  27/30                                             12                                                                       -3

17 Johnson  22/31                                           12                                                                       +1

20 Norris  19/23                                              11                                                                       +4

21 Herrera  26/31                                            9                                                                         -6

21 Kintzler  29/35                                            9                                                                         -9

23 Iglesias  28/30                                             7                                                                         -10

23 Reed  19/21                                                  7                                                                         +1

25 Oh  20/24                                                      2                                                                        -2

jansen Jansen led all of baseball with a 37 quality save score in 2017.

This rating system gives a more accurate picture of player performance than using only save totals.  However, there is another adjustment that makes the rankings even more descriptive.  The third method is to apply a 1 point penalty for each blown save.  When this is executed, the 2017 leader board shifts again and creates a much clearer picture of closer dominance than raw save totals.

Saves/Save Opps.                        Quality Save Score                     New Point Total

1 Jansen  41/42                                             37                                           36

2 Kimbrel  35/39                                          35                                            31

3 Diaz  34/39                                                 35                                           30

4 Holland  41/45                                           30                                           26

5 Osuna  39/49                                              35                                           25

6 Rodney  39/45                                            26                                           20

6 Allen  30/34                                                24                                           20

8 Giles  34/38                                                 20                                           16

8 Davis  32/33                                                17                                           16

8 Doolittle  24/26                                           18                                          16

8 Hand  21/26                                                 21                                          16

12 Rivero  21/23                                             15                                          13

12 Neris  26/29                                               16                                          13

14 Maurer  22/26                                           16                                          12

15 Knebel  39/45                                            16                                          10

16 Ramos  27/30                                            12                                           9

17 Colome  47/53                                           14                                           8

17 Chapman  22/26                                       12                                           8

19 Norris  19/23                                             11                                           7

20 Iglesias  28/30                                           7                                             5

20 Reed  19/21                                                7                                             5

22 Herrera  26/31                                           9                                             4

23 Kintzler  29/35                                           9                                             3

23 Johnson  22/31                                        12                                              3

25 Oh  20/24                                                    2                                             -2

jansen Jansen still maintains the top slot for his work in 2017.

Another way to analyze the 2017 save leaders performance using my 5 save type method is adding the number of Ultra and Power saves together.  This gives a snapshot of how dominant a closer has been while in save situations.  Using just these two categories, the 2017 dominant save leaders were (total and % of saves that were dominant are both reported below):

Name                   Ultra & PowerSvs Combo Total                   % of overall svs Ultra+Power

Hand  21/26                          11 of 21                                                                             52.3%

Diaz  34/39                            17 of 34                                                                             50%

Kimbrel  35/39                      15 of 35                                                                            42.8%

Doolittle  24/26                      9 of 24                                                                             37.5%

Allen  30/34                           11 of 30                                                                            36.6%

Osuna  39/49                         14 of 39                                                                            35.8%

Jansen  41/42                        14 of 41                                                                            34.1%

Holland  41/45                      13 of 41                                                                            31.7%

Rivero  21/23                          7 of 21                                                                             33.3%

Rodney  39/45                      11 of 39                                                                             28.2%

Johnson  22/31                     6 of 22                                                                               27.2%

Maurer  22/26                       6 of 22                                                                              27.2%

Neris  26/29                           7 of 26                                                                              26.9%

Giles  34/38                            9 of 34                                                                              26.4%

Norris  19/23                         5 of 19                                                                              26.3%

Chapman  22/26                   5 of 22                                                                              22.7%

Ramos  27/30                        6 of 27                                                                              22.2%

Davis  32/33                           7 of 32                                                                             21.8%

Knebel  39/45                        7 of 39                                                                             17.9%

Reed  19/21                           3 of 19                                                                              15.7%

Colome  47/53                      7 of 47                                                                              14.8%

Herrera  26/31                      3 of 26                                                                             11.5%

Iglesias  28/30                       3 of 28                                                                             10.7%

Kintzler  29/35                      3 of 29                                                                             10.3%

Oh  20/24                                0 of 20                                                                               0%

hand Over 52 percent of Hand’s saves were of the Ultra or Power type in 2017.

 

Click here for a look at the 2015 and 2016 MLB Saves Leaders using the same methodology.

Follow me on Twitter @doctordaver

Big thanks to baseball-reference.com and their Play Index.

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