Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Friday, August 24, 2007

Pitching Week, Part IV: Brett Myers as Closer 

Sorry for the late post, but I had a crazy morning … It occurred to me, as I looked at Brett Myers performance as closer this season, that the Phillies might have actually found the answer for what has been vexing them for some time now – the absence of a lights-out closer capable to salting away 2-1 and 3-2 leads the way that Mariano Rivera has done for the Yankees. Simply put, when healthy, Brett Myers has been a major force for the Phillies coming out of the bullpen. Thus far this season he has saved 12 of 13 games for the Phillies with a 2-2 record for the Phillies and a 2.59 ERA as a reliever.

The Phillies have really struggled with the bullpen and in particular with their closer in the last two seasons. Tom Gordon got off to a good start as the Phillies closer in 2006, saving 21 of 23 games with a 2.13 ERA prior to the All-Star Break and getting named to the All-Star Team as one of the Phillies three representatives. After that Gordon struggled, saving 13 of 16, but seeing his ERA balloon to 5.32. Gordon got off to a rough start this season, blowing three of his eight save opportunities. He went on the D.L. and the Phillies tried to plug Myers in. Brett did well ok, saving six of seven prior to the All-Star Break, with a 2.61 ERA. Since his return after the break, Myers has continued his blistering performance, going six for six with a 2.53 ERA. Here is how Myers season has gone:

Starter / Reliever
ERA: 9.39 / 2.59
HR/9: 2.93 / 0.28
BB/9: 5.28 / 3.45
K/9: 11.15 / 12.92

Basically Myers got shelled in his first few starts of the season before getting relegated to the bullpen. The interesting thing is that Myers numbers as a closer come close to what he’s done as a starter the last two seasons, when he was one of the Phillies best pitchers:

(Relief) 2007 / 2006 / 2005
ERA: 2.59 / 3.91 / 3.72
HR/9: 0.28 / 1.32 / 1.30
BB/9: 3.45 / 2.86 / 2.84
K/9: 12.92 / 8.59 / 8.69
K/BB ratio: 3.75 / 3.00 / 3.05

I’m reminded about something that I read when John Smoltz took over as the Braves closer in 2001: Smoltz, used to pacing himself for six or seven innings, seemed liberated by the fact that he could simply fire 95 mph fastballs for just an inning at a time. Smoltz looked utterly dominant on the mound as the Braves closer, saving 154 of 168 games (92%) from 2001 – 2004. Looking at Myers exceptional strikeout rate as the Phillies closer, I wonder if Myers will follow the same pattern. In Smoltz’s final season as the Braves closer, 2004, his strikeout rate was 9.37. When he moved back to the rotation his strikeout rate fell to 6.62. Can Myers keep up his pace? Why not?

I looked at the DIPS numbers for relievers and discovered that Myers has the second-best DIP ERA amongst relievers with 20 or more innings pitched:

1. Broxton (LAD): 1.87
2. Myers (PHI): 2.04
3. Cordero (MIL): 2.04
4. Saito (LAD): 2.38
5. Marmol (CHI): 2.48

Myers DIPS ERA is better than that of Bill Wagner (2.67), the Phillies closer from 2004 to 2005.

Suffice to say that Myers is pitching very well, which cannot be said for the rest of the Phillies bullpen, which is objectively awful:

B. Myers: 2.04
A. Alfonseca: 3.87
C. Condrey: 3.94
R. Madson: 3.95
F. Rosario: 4.68
J. Mesa: 5.50


It looks like the Phillies have found their closer. I like seeing Myers in this role in the future because the inability to close out close wins is killing the Phillies. They are 9-19 in one-run games. The Phillies leaky bullpen has probably cost the Phillies 4 or 5 losses compared if it had turned in average performances. The team might actually be in first place right now if Madson, Condrey, J.C. Romero and the rest of the crew managed to keep leads from time-to-time. Just look at how the Phillies pitching collapsed Sunday against the Pirates: while Kyle Lohse bears the responsibility for allowing the bases to be loaded, Romero and Alfonseca were the Phillies pitchers who saw the Pirates eight runs cross the plate. If the Phillies make the playoffs, I bet Brett Myers steady relief work will be 40-50% of the Phillies success.

More on Monday.

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