Monday, June 14, 2010

Holds and Saves

The Cardinals - Diamondbacks game on Sunday was a perfect example of how screwed up the Holds, Saves and Blown Saves are calculated. One pitcher, Chad Qualls, probably the games most unreliable closer at this point in time, actually blew a save opportunity, but got a Hold and the guy who took his place, Esmerling Vasquez, came in and saved the game for the Diamondbacks, but got a blown save. Here's how it happened...

Chris Carpenter started for the Cardinals and got a "quality start" (another discussion we need to have) by pitching six innings while giving up three runs. In what is really rare for Carpenter, he had trouble with his command and walked five batters which caused him to have to exit earlier than normal for him. His replacement, Dennys (does Denny have multiple personalities?) Reyes, gave up two more runs in a third of an inning to give the D-Backs a 5-2 lead heading into the top of the ninth.

Edwin Jackson started for the D-backs and held the Cardinals to only two runs, but he too walked on the wild side and threw 115 pitches in six and a third innings. That meant that the porous D-Backs' bullpen needed to get seven outs to win the game. That's a scary thought. Heilman came in and gave up three hits in an inning and a third, but didn't give up any runs (give that man a Hold!) and then closer, Qualls, took over in the ninth.

Lopez was the first batter and he doubled. Rasmus then hit a slow comebacker to Qualls and the pitcher threw badly to first for an error and made it first and third with no outs. Pujols singled and Lopez scored and the score was then 5-3 with sill nobody out. Matt Holliday just missed a homer and flew out to deep center. Rasmus tagged and went to third. Randy Winn--picked up by the Cards after the Yankees dumped him--singled to drive in Rasmus. Pujols went to third on the hit to again make it first and third with only one out. The score was then 5-4.

Here is where it gets messed up. A. J. Hinch had seen enough of Qualls and called for Esmerling Vazquez to get the Diamondbacks out of that mess. Vazquez then threw a wild pitch which allowed Pujols to score and the game was tied. Remember now that Qualls left the game while the Diamondbacks were still officially ahead in the game. So since the Diamondbacks never actually relinquished the lead while Qualls was in the game and eventually went on to win the game, Qualls blew the lead but was still credited with a Hold. All the runners that scored were guys he put on base. We won't even talk about the unearned run he received because of his own error.* Vazquez had one misguided pitch that went astray and allowed Qualls' last base runner to score. Qualls still got his Hold and Vazquez, who still at that point hadn't actually recorded a single at bat against, is lumped with a blown save. But Vazquez did his job and ended the threat by getting a ground out and a line out to end the inning.

*Posnanski asterisk ripoff: The Fan still thinks it's ridiculous that a pitcher is not given an "earned" run when the error was his. He certainly earned the run by making the error, right? It just doesn't make sense.

At least Vazquez got a win for his job well done as Chris Young hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. But here's the thing. The casual fan and the general manager using the stats at contract time will look at this box score and see Esmerling Vazquez with a blown save and a win. That usually happens when a guy blows the lead but then his team rallies back to win the game. The implication here is that Vazquez didn't do his job and simply got the win because his teammates saved his butt. But he did save the game. It was Qualls that blew the lead, but again, the casual fan and Qualls' agent and contract time will point to this event as successful, because Qualls got the Hold, which means that he held the other team from getting the tying or winning run. But he didn't do that.

Put this in the same category as the reliever that gets a Save when he comes into a game with a three run lead, gives up two runs, but records three outs so his team wins. That wasn't a Save. That was a Whew! The Fan recommends that we modify the Save rules so that such events can't be considered Saves and create a new category called Whews!

And these scenarios are the exact reason why the stats of Saves, Blown Saves and Holds are discounted by sabermetric people everywhere. The Fan thinks those relief appearances that preserve wins should get positive statistics. It's just too bad the rules are so screwy that it takes away from what is a very tough job to do.

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