Posted by Andy on May 26, 2009
I heard a bit on ESPN radio about how Eric Gagne was historically much better in save situations than in non-save situations.
That's easy to see from his splits.
In 216 games comprising save situations, he had an ERA of 2.31. In 138 games comprising non-save situations, he had an ERA of 3.06. While both numbers are good, that's a pretty significant difference. Note that the non-save situations excludes game starts which, although clearly a situation in which a save can not be earned, doesn't really apply to what we're looking at. Early in his career, Gagne was a starter, and it's helpful that the "non-save situation" already excludes game starts.
As a reliever, his career OPS against was .573, which is excellent. In save situations, that figure is .524 while in non-save situations it was .639. Again, both figures are good but that is a very large difference over so many innings (over 370 total.)
Eric Gagne's highest similarity score is to Bobby Thipgen, who had an even more stilted set of splits in favor of save situations. Thigpen's ERA was more than 1.5 runs higher in non-save situations.
I wonder why this is. I've heard managers reference that their closers do best when pitching one inning (the 9th usually.) But is this cause or effect? Clearly Gagne and Thigpen both did better when pitching in save situations, but was it their mentality or the hitters' mentality, or something else?
I also notice that the K/BB ratios for all these guys are significantly higher in save situations. I wonder if that has to do with eagerness of the batters, knowing that they need runs and perhaps are more likely to swing, and therefore more likely to swing and miss.
Thoughts on this?