Short Nerd Chief

Stat of The Day: Who Should Close For The Tribe Now?

Posted by Fred on April 15, 2008

In what will come as a huge relief to Cleveland Indians fans everywhere (though perhaps not to their cardiac surgeons), the Tribe placed embattled closer Joe Borowski on the 15 day DL, supposedly with an injury to his triceps.  It was clear that he had lost some velocity this year, which is not a good thing when you don’t have much velocity to begin with.  Manny Ramirez says he still doesn’t know if the pitch he hit last night to win the game was a changeup or a fastball.  I have extreme doubt about two things: (1) that JoBo is actually injured and (2) that he will ever close a game again in the majors.

Borowski’s troubles last year were well known.  yes, he saved 45 games, but he did so with an ERA over 5.00, constantly pitching out of trouble of his own creation.  His other stats show just how bad he was.  I ran some quick numbers on closers during this decade with more than 45 saves and ERAs under 2.00.  There are more than 25 of these, but here are the top 10, plus JoBo in 2007:


  Year Sv ERA BB/9 K/9 WHIP HR/9 OPS
E. Gagne 2003 55 1.20 2.19 14.98 0.69 0.22 .375
M. Rivera 2004 53 1.94 2.29 7.55 1.08 0.34 .567
E. Gagne 2002 52 1.97 1.75 12.46 0.86 0.66 .537
M. Rivera 2001 50 2.34 1.34 9.26 0.90 0.56 .516
F. Cordero 2004 49 2.13 4.02 9.92 1.28 0.13 .594
J. Valverde 2007 47 2.66 3.64 10.91 1.12 0.98 .611
F. Rodriguez 2006 47 1.73 3.45 12.08 1.10 0.74 .609
C. Cordero 2005 47 1.82 2.06 7.39 0.97 1.09 .554
A. Benitez 2004 47 1.29 2.71 8.01 0.82 0.78 .477
J. Isringhausen 2004 47 2.87 2.75 8.48 1.04 0.60 .584
Average 2.00 2.62 10.10 0.99 0.61 .542
J. Borowski 2007 45 5.07 2.33 7.95 1.43 1.23 .768

Clearly, then, Borowski gave up too many hits and the hits he gave up were often for extra bases.  27% of JoBo’s hits were doubles or HR.  of the above list, only Valverde and Rodriguez are comparable, and they made up for it with strikeouts.  Borowski’s OPS was a full 150 points higher than that of any closer with a truly great performance.  As a closer, you can’t get away with allowing one and a half baserunners per inning if you’re not coming with heat.

The question then becomes who should close now that the Borowski era appears to be over.  Among current relievers, the leading candidates appear to be Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and Masahide Kobayashi (who was a closer for the Chiba Lotte marines in Japan).  Here are their 2007 stats for the same categories (Kobayashi’s are actually for 2006, as I couldn’t find complete stats for 2007):

  Year Sv ERA BB/9 K/9 WHIP HR/9 OPS
R. Betancourt 2007   1.47 1.02 9.08 0.757 0.45 .485
J. Lewis 2007   2.15 3.07 10.40 1.229 0.31 .616
M. Kobayashi 2006 34 2.68 1.34 8.05 1.062 0.67  

Kobayashi’s OPS is unknown because the Japanese stats don’t report 2B or 3B so I couldn’t calculate slugging percentage.  Opponents hit .246 against him, as opposed to Borowski’s .289.  Statistically, Betancourt should be your closer. his WHIP of 0.76 is lower than any of the above closers except Gagne’s superhuman 2003.  His .485 OPS is better than everyone except Gagne and Armando Benitez in 2004.  He gave up HRs at a better pace than 7 of the 10 closers.  Lewis, on the other hand, had a higher WHIP than any of the 10 (although still lower than Borowski) and an OPS higher than any (still lower than JoBo by 152 points).

Despite all this, I’d still consider closing with Kobayashi instead of Betancourt. He has proven success as a closer, his stats in Japan were pretty good, and his performance this year has been above average (2.08 ERA in 4.1 IP).  More importantly, it would keep Betancourt in the setup role in which he excelled in 2007, particularly important given the subpar 2008 for Rafael Perez (8.31 ERA in 4.1 IP).  Kobayashi’s .683 OPS is a bit troublesome, but he’s trending in the right direction – over the last 3 appearances, it’s .398.


One Response to “Stat of The Day: Who Should Close For The Tribe Now?”

  1. Ben Keeler said

    who should close for the Indians? Anyone else.

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