Sausage King of the ‘pen

So I’m in the middle of writing a post about Toronto’s three candidates for closer when I decide to take a gander at Twitter. I was greeted by the above tweet. If you’re the type of person who believes a team’s best reliever should be the team’s closer, then you might have to say that Cito is doing something right here. The explanation (or what I had written before I saw this tweet) follows:

A few days ago I slapped together a post about why I don’t think it’s so bad if Kevin Gregg becomes Toronto’s closer. I wrote it in such a way that assumed all 4 of my readers can read my mind. A commenter (Cole!) called me out and I briefly tried to explain myself in the comments. In the process of calling me out, Cole did raise another good question that made me stop and think:

Are Scott Downs and Jason Frasor actually better pitchers than Gregg?

Seems like everyone (myself included) is just assuming that Gregg’s the pits. I don’t feel like assuming things right now, so let’s take a look at some stats.

Career numbers:

ERA IP K/BB WHIP FIP
Frasor 3.78 355 2.13 1.28 3.8
Downs 3.92 509.1 2.05 1.4 4.23
Gregg 4.10 476.1 2.26 1.32 4.00

Over their careers, the three seem to be fairly even, although I’d put Frasor ahead slightly based on his WHIP and his FIP. But what a pitcher did years ago doesn’t really factor into how he’s pitching now, so let’s take a look at last year’s numbers.

2009:

ERA IP K/BB WHIP FIP
Frasor 2.50 57.2 3.5 1.02 2.99
Downs 3.09 46.2 3.31 1.26 3.33
Gregg 4.72 68.2 2.37 1.31 4.93

Frasor’s clearly got the best numbers of the three and Gregg’s clearly got the worst. Add in the fact the Frasor and Downs pitched in the A.L. East and Gregg got eaten up in the N.L. Central and the difference in the numbers seems even worse.

Based on the above, I’d say Frasor’s definitely the best of the three. But since the fireman/closer debate figured so prominently in the debate, let’s take a look at how they fared in high leverage situations.

Before I get to this, let me say that I’m no sabermetrician, so if I’m making a mistake with the stats here or using them in an inappropriate way, don’t be surprised. Basically what I’ve done is look at each pitchers’ WPA and how high the leverage of the situation was when they entered games*. I chose game leverage because to me, a fireman/closer/whatever should be entering at high leverage situations. If he does his job properly, the leverage should go down after that (right?).

Anyway, I took those stats and then I did some division.

Career:

WPA gmLI WPA/gmLI
Frasor 5.77 1.19 4.849
Downs 1.28 1.27 1.009
Gregg 0 .09 0

Last year:

WPA gmLI WPA/gmLI
Frasor 2.62 1.43 1.832
Downs -0.31 1.55 -0.2
Gregg -1.07 1.45 -0.3

And there you have it. Assuming I’ve handled the numbers correctly, Frasor is by far the best pitcher of the three when thrust into high leverage situations.

I don’t necessarily think that should make him the closer, but that’s just my take on Richmond’s Dilemma. Which I’ll explain later, if you haven’t read the comments on the previous post already.

*I based this on gmLI, which is, according to Tom Tango, “the Leverage Index when the reliever enters the game. Its use is mostly to show a manager perspective, as it indicates the level of fire that the manager wanted his reliever to face.”

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Toronto fire services

When the Jays signed Kevin Gregg, I didn’t think it was a very good move. Overspending on a reliever who’s been declining for a couple years — in the N.L. Central no less — and counting on that guy to be your closer in the A.L. East? Seems like questionable decision making at the very least.

Then I read Tao’s great post about the Jays’ closer carousel. It reminded me of some thing I’ve said in the past about what teams should be doing with their best relievers — use them when the game’s on the line, not just in the ninth when the most useless of counting stats is at stake. Taking this view, the signing of Gregg is still not a great one, but it’s not as bad as I once thought.

Scott Downs and Jason Frasor free to pitch in high leverage situations that aren’t the ninth inning? Sign me up!

Some other stuff

In case it wasn’t obvious from the above, I don’t have a whole lot to add to the discussion right now. So here are some links!

• Roundtable time and I’m in two of them! Mop Up Duty’s got the first part of their massive 2010 preview roundtable up and Cardinals blog C70 At the Bat has a Jays roundtable up as well. Check them out and marvel at my inconsistency in picking a breakout player for this year!

• Shaun Marcum gets the nod for opening day and the fan club rejoices.

• Star investigative reporting guru does a nice little feature on Toronto’s sabermetrics adviser Tom Tango. It’s a good read and includes the opinion that it’s not always the worst thing in the world if a batter lays down a sac bunt. Heresy!

• Deadspin heaps some disgusting love on Cito, highlights a video of a man in a Cito mask snorting coke and gives some much deserved and undisgusting love to GROF.

Red Sox, who are ya?

This picture isn't really relevant, but I want to remind any Boston fan who stumbles upon this of a painful moment.

This picture isn't really relevant, but I want to remind any Boston fan who stumbles upon this of a painful moment.

Sure, Sunday’s loss was a bit of a downer, but the Jays took two of three from the big bad Bostons, proving once again that a good chunk of Toronto sports fans are too emotional and too short sighted.

Getting swept in Boston with rookies starting two of the three games for Toronto does not mean that the Jays can’t compete with the Red Sox. It just means it was a bad series (that set up two more bad series in a row, but that’s over with now, so I won’t dwell).

Doc’s not the only cyborg on the team

Scott Downs has a strained hamstring, and all he needs to be nails again is one day off? That’s pretty robotic right there.

I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about Downs being more valuable as an old school fireman than as a modern day closer and, while I still think it’s true, watching League and Downs work the 8th and 9th of the Friday and Saturday games brought back some fond memories of a certain back-end combo that secured games roughly 20 years ago.

I can’t really think of comparisons between Downs and Tom Henke (except they’re good at closing), but am I completely off base thinking that League’s stuff is somewhat reminiscent of Duane Ward?

OK, I’m really basing the League/Ward thing on anything other than a wicked fastball. And obviously League would have to put in a hell of a lot more than two good appearances in a row to seriously draw a comparison, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Trippin’ the Jays blogosphere

• Over at Ghostrunner, Drew talks crimes against bandwagon jumpers and Brandon League awesomeness.

• The Tao says more about the series with the Sox than that the Jays took two of three. That’s why he’s the Tao and I’m me.

• The Mockingbird breaks down the ridiculous calls that once again went in Jon Lester’s favour against the Jays.

• Eyebleaf sums up the month of May and makes a plea to FREE JEREMY ACCARDO. I believe in Jeremy Accardo.

• This is a bit staledated now, but the Blue Jay Hunter’s guide to hitting a knuckleball is definitely worth a look. Even with the rematch against Wakefield long over with, it’s an interesting read about one of the most interesting pitches out there.

• This one’s even older, but it ain’t never going to lose it awesomeness. If you haven’t read Mop Up Duty’s story of Doc Halladay’s reinvention, do it. Right now. Or whenever’s convenient for you, so long as you, you know, read it.

Another one bites the dust

bj-ryan

Jays beat reporter Jordan Bastian is reporting that B.J. Ryan has been placed on the 15-day DL with left-trap tightness.

Let’s hope this “tightness” explains the increased wildness in Uncle B.J.’s ride this season. Two blown saves in four attempts ain’t exactly what one would expect from a closer making eight figures.

So who’s going to replace B.J. in the closer’s role while he’s out? Based on his stellar performance so far this season, I’d say Jason Frasor would be the best choice.

Scott Downs will likely get some consideration, but I’d rather him keep being used as is. I’m a big fan of the best relief pitcher throwing in the most important situations. That’s the old school fireman’s job, and that’s the way it should be.