Why the save is a stupid stat

So, Oakland and Boston opened the baseball season with a game in Japan at what is, in the US, a ridiculous hour. The ten inning game just finished around 930AM Eastern. It gave us a good look at why the save is a ridiculous stat that tells nothing about the usefulness of a pitcher. Sure, good closers get a lot of saves. But that doesn’t make it a good measure of the quality of the closer. Take Jonathan Papelbon’s performance this morning. Now, I won’t argue that he’s not a good closer, because in his three seasons, he’s been utterly absurd. But this particular save he “earned” is absolutely in no way a reflection of a good outing. He came on to start the tenth, Boston leading by two. He began the inning by walking Daric Barton, who must have read Moneyball dozens of times. He then struck out Jack Cust (Who was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts. What a wonderful way to start the season). Then he allowed a double, scoring Barton. The hitter, Emil Brown, was thrown out at third trying for his 11th career triple in his 620th career game. Good job, clown. The next two batters singled, meaning that the game would have been tied if Brown had just held up at second. I didn’t see the game, so maybe he made the right call to try for third and it just didn’t work out, but I think that’s unlikely. Finally, Papelbon got out of the inning. Three hits, a walk, and only a baserunning mistake away from an eleventh inning or a loss. But he gets the save! Way to accurately measure the quality of a pitcher’s outing, save. Really. Nice job.

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