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The Value of a Great Closer vs a Starter or Position Player

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  • The Value of a Great Closer vs a Starter or Position Player

    For a long time I've considered a Great Closer to not be the equal of a great starter or great position player, but recent events with the Milwaukee Brewers had me questioning that to a degree.

    If you could choose between (in their peaks), say, Mariano Rivera or Willie Mays or Warren Spahn, which player would you pick for your all-time team if you were building a franchise?

    Or another way to look at it: if you were building a team of all-time greats to compete against other all-time greats, would you emphasize hitting or pitching more?

    In the past I would have considered that a foolish question. But no matter how many extra runs Mays would provide, or how much value having Spahn in his peak every 5th day would add, would it really matter if the bullpen kept blowing the games? In terms of this years Brewers, Rivera might be the best choice

    But then that is too simplified a question. It still seems to me that if you have a solid but unspectacular bullpen, it is still more important to have great starting pitching or great position players. I'd rather have Warren Spahn with Hoyt Wilhelm in the bullpen than, say, Jim Palmer with Mariano Rivera in the bullpen

    What do you guys think? If you could add Willie Mays or Warren Spahn or Mariano Rivera to your team, which player would you add?

  • #2
    Originally posted by 3and2Fastball View Post
    For a long time I've considered a Great Closer to not be the equal of a great starter or great position player, but recent events with the Milwaukee Brewers had me questioning that to a degree.

    If you could choose between (in their peaks), say, Mariano Rivera or Willie Mays or Warren Spahn, which player would you pick for your all-time team if you were building a franchise?

    Or another way to look at it: if you were building a team of all-time greats to compete against other all-time greats, would you emphasize hitting or pitching more?

    In the past I would have considered that a foolish question. But no matter how many extra runs Mays would provide, or how much value having Spahn in his peak every 5th day would add, would it really matter if the bullpen kept blowing the games? In terms of this years Brewers, Rivera might be the best choice

    But then that is too simplified a question. It still seems to me that if you have a solid but unspectacular bullpen, it is still more important to have great starting pitching or great position players. I'd rather have Warren Spahn with Hoyt Wilhelm in the bullpen than, say, Jim Palmer with Mariano Rivera in the bullpen

    What do you guys think? If you could add Willie Mays or Warren Spahn or Mariano Rivera to your team, which player would you add?
    That's easy.
    1. Willie Mays
    2. Warren Spahn
    3. Mariano Rivera- well behind the other 2. No disrespect to Rivera, who is the greatest reliever. The other 2 generate too much value.

    Mays is one of the 3 or 4 greatest position players ever. Spahn is one of the 10 or o greatest pitchers ever. Rivera, is great as he is, maybe cracks the top 35 or 40 among pitchers overall.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by BigRon View Post
      That's easy.
      1. Willie Mays
      2. Warren Spahn
      3. Mariano Rivera- well behind the other 2. No disrespect to Rivera, who is the greatest reliever. The other 2 generate too much value.

      Mays is one of the 3 or 4 greatest position players ever. Spahn is one of the 10 or o greatest pitchers ever. Rivera, is great as he is, maybe cracks the top 35 or 40 among pitchers overall.
      Thanks for your response. Maybe my choices were wrong (I spose I consider both Spahn & Mays around #4 or #5 all-time, maybe I'm overrating Spahn

      What I'm mostly interested in is do you value pitching over hitting or vice versa? What if the choice was Walter Johnson vs Babe Ruth? Or Rogers Clemens vs Oscar Charleston?

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      • #4
        Um, I wouldn't mind having both Palmer and Wilhelm on my team. I'd win my fair share of games against Spahn and Rivera.
        http://gifrific.com/wp-content/uploa...-showalter.gif

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        • #5
          Personally, if I'm starting a franchise, the closer's one of the very last positions I consider. Pitching is important, though there is always that inherent risk of injury and defense up the middle is something I still believe in. Considering Mays is the least at-risk IMO, and provides monster offense as well as defense, this is an absolute no-brainer for me.
          "Chuckie doesn't take on 2-0. Chuckie's hackin'." - Chuck Carr two days prior to being released by the Milwaukee Brewers

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          • #6
            Originally posted by J W View Post
            Um, I wouldn't mind having both Palmer and Wilhelm on my team. I'd win my fair share of games against Spahn and Rivera.
            Does that mean you'd build your team first with great hitters? i.e. stock your team with as many of Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb as possible and go to battle against teams with Walter Johnson & Satchel Paige and Tom Seaver in their rotation (and Mariano as their closer) while your rotation is more like Jim Palmer, Whitey Ford, Steve Carlton with Wilhelm as your fireman/closer?

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            • #7
              Well, we've done drafts like this before on the Fantasy boards. Generally speaking, I prefer to draft from positions where the top players are that far ahead of say the 4th-5th place players respective to their position. People like Honus Wagner, who is way better than anyone who ever played shortstop except perhaps the baggage-laden Alex Rodriguez. Or Babe Ruth, who has a similar contemporary with Barry Bonds. If Negro League players are involved I would target Josh Gibson, because by projection he puts any other catcher in history to shame.

              But every such draft is a different animal. It depends on what the values are of the various participants and the idea is to find relative value where you can. Sometimes I might end up with better relative hitters and sometimes I might end up with better relative pitchers. More often than not, I am one of the first to draft a closer because nobody else wants to.
              http://gifrific.com/wp-content/uploa...-showalter.gif

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              • #8
                easily the starter as he throws about 3 times as many innings.

                however you need a great BP to nowadays to win it all. the last WS was basically won by the BP. BP is still not as important as starting since it only makes up for 1/3rd of all innings but the time were you can win without a really dominant BP are long gone.
                I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by 3and2Fastball View Post
                  Thanks for your response. Maybe my choices were wrong (I spose I consider both Spahn & Mays around #4 or #5 all-time, maybe I'm overrating Spahn

                  What I'm mostly interested in is do you value pitching over hitting or vice versa? What if the choice was Walter Johnson vs Babe Ruth? Or Rogers Clemens vs Oscar Charleston?
                  Score more runs than the opposition and you'll win more games than you lose. Give up more runs than the opposition and you'll lose more games than you win. Take your choice. BUT, a very strong pitching staff attached to a mediocre offense probably will keep you in a lot of close, low scoring games. Close games can be won/lost by little things, sometimes fluke things. That, to me, is the only advantage of good pitching over good hitting.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dominik View Post
                    easily the starter as he throws about 3 times as many innings.

                    however you need a great BP to nowadays to win it all. the last WS was basically won by the BP. BP is still not as important as starting since it only makes up for 1/3rd of all innings but the time were you can win without a really dominant BP are long gone.
                    How have the Phillies done the past 3 years with arguably three top-15 pitchers in the game? There has to be a balance IMO.
                    "Chuckie doesn't take on 2-0. Chuckie's hackin'." - Chuck Carr two days prior to being released by the Milwaukee Brewers

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ben Grimm View Post
                      How have the Phillies done the past 3 years with arguably three top-15 pitchers in the game? There has to be a balance IMO.

                      I way just talking BP vs starting. hitting is of course important too.
                      I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Is there a context where a team could benefit more from Mariano Rivera instead of Willie Mays? I would think even a great team would be better off adding a Mays to an already explosive lineup and just going with a Wilhelm or Hoffman as a closer, wouldn't they?

                        Also I agree strongly about the value of a Walter Johnson or Warren Spahn, i.e. pitchers who can pitch complete games and even come in out of the bullpen in the 9th inning on their "off" days... especially Spahn....
                        Last edited by 3and2Fastball; 08-02-2012, 04:12 PM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dominik View Post
                          I way just talking BP vs starting. hitting is of course important too.
                          Gotcha - my bad
                          "Chuckie doesn't take on 2-0. Chuckie's hackin'." - Chuck Carr two days prior to being released by the Milwaukee Brewers

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                          • #14
                            The original poster does have a pretty god argument. I'm not really following the Reds but I would have to think this Aroldis Chapman is a big reason why they keep winning. He's been lights out these last few weeks.
                            "(Shoeless Joe Jackson's fall from grace is one of the real tragedies of baseball. I always thought he was more sinned against than sinning." -- Connie Mack

                            "I have the ultimate respect for Whitesox fans. They were as miserable as the Cubs and Redsox fans ever were but always had the good decency to keep it to themselves. And when they finally won the World Series, they celebrated without annoying every other fan in the country."--Jim Caple, ESPN (Jan. 12, 2011)

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                            • #15
                              The modern game has made the bullpen a lot more important. But that's the issue when comparing all-time teams across generations. It isn't easy to get 200 IP out of a starter now whereas 300 IP was attainable then. That's 50% more season -- and on top of that, less games were played (154 vs 162).

                              Because of this change in the role of pitchers, among other things like integration, all-time teams have a high degree of subjectivity. Thankfully we have advanced stats that attempt to cross the boundaries of position and era.

                              Now if you narrow your parameters to, say, a free-agency era team you can make a better comparison. Let's say one team has Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman vs. another team with Tom Glavine and Mariano Rivera. Lineups are the same, average across the board for their position (league average left fielder, league average shortstop, etc). Someone could actually simulate that pretty effectively. Say, 100 games for ease of %. The starter would have to go eight innings and the closer one inning.

                              My guess (just a guess) is that team Maddux/Hoffman would win about 60% of the time. Anyone care to run this through a program?
                              Last edited by J W; 08-02-2012, 10:27 PM.
                              http://gifrific.com/wp-content/uploa...-showalter.gif

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