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Evaluating Closers: A Staturday Challenge

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In 2006, two closers underscored how difficult it can be to measure success at this specialized position. First you have Joe Borowski, he of the 5.07 ERA, 1.43 WHIP...and league-leading 45 saves. Then you have Huston Street, he of the 2.88 ERA last year and 0.98 WHIP...but who has, despite terrific peripherals, converted only about 75% of his save chances each of the last two years - with a league-leading 16 blown saves over that time.

ERA is too simple, WHIP too simple, saves and save percentage too simple - and here, simple is another word for downright misleading. One complexity is that not all save chances are alike, and in fact they just aren't that similar. You can convert a save by giving up two runs in one inning, and you can blow a save by coming in to give up a sacrifice fly. Some saves require you to get five outs over two different innings, while others ask you nicely just to please retire one batter before giving up, say, back-to-back HRs?

So my Staturday challenge, posed here on a Striday, is to establish the best measure of a closer's effectiveness. What is the simplest paradigm that when used, will rank closers pretty much in the order that we agree they should be ranked - certainly with Borowski and Street neither at the very top nor bottom of the pile?

Oh, guess who has the 9th inning tonight at the Coliseum? That would be Street and Borowski. See you at 7:00pm!