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Closer vs. Set Up

The Tigers, and Ugueth Urbina, lost yesterday. The final score was 4-3. With the score tied 2-2, Urbina gave up a two run shot to Aaron Boone, and while the Tigers tried to stage a comeback in the eighth, they fell just short.

A lot was made by the announcers about Urbina no longer being the “closer,” and I specifically remember last year Urbina saying (at least the announcer said he said it) that if it’s not a save situation, he struggles because he needs the pressure. Now I’ve never played professional sports, and I topped out at about Open League Softball (and our team was pretty sad). But isn’t every out important. Why should it matter if we have a four run lead or a one run lead in the ninth. Shouldn’t the pitcher pitch the same, i.e. to get the batters out.

Now we fast forward (from last year, I guess from today we’re rewinding) to yesterday. Isn’t coming into the game in the eighth with the game tied about as high pressure as you can get? Getting those three outs are almost as important as getting the three outs in the ninth. But Urbina came in and dropped the game. Hopefully he’ll be better next time, but in the first “real” test of what’s supposed to be a vastly improved bullpen, we came out on the losing end.

And this all gets back to how relievers are measured, and the current measurements are poor. If you want a great read on relievers, and a ton of very cool, and very quality, statistics on relievers, be sure to check out the Hardball Times Bullpen Book.

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