The era of Aroldis Chapman closing for the Reds is here. Like all Reds fans, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Chapman secure the last three outs today against the Yankees. But I can’t abide by the discouraging decision that put him there.

It’s a short-sighted move and borne from disregard or ignorance of modern analytics.

1. Sean Marshall has been great this year (really).  Sean Marshall is pitching more than well enough to keep his job as closer. He has the thirteenth highest strikeout rate (13.19 K/9) and the ninth best strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.0 K/BB) in all baseball. That’s this year and doesn’t take into account blowing away Robinson Cano on three pitches today. That’s elite stuff. His track record at getting important outs is longer than anyone else’s in the bullpen.

When you remove luck, Marshall and Chapman have pitched equally well this year. Chapman has a better K/9 but Marshall’s rate is also extraordinary. Marshall has a lower walk rate (1.88 vs. 2.95) and superior ground ball percentage (60% vs. 41%) than Chapman.

The main difference between the two has been luck. Advanced metrics offers statistics that measure luck – Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), home runs as a percentage of fly balls (HR/FB%) and stranded runners (LOB%) are three. Marshall has the second highest BABIP of all 349 pitchers in the major leagues. His HR/FB% and LOB% are also both extremely high.

What’s important for fans (and organizations) to understand is that all three of these factors are largely out of the pitcher’s control.  One statistic that evaluates pitchers and removes these luck factors is called “expected fielding independent pitching” (xFIP) which is calibrated to the same scale as traditional ERA.

xFIP – Chapman (1.43), Marshall (1.53).

Sean Marshall’s xFIP is lower than any other current closer in the major leagues.

If an organization is strongly committed to incorporating modern analytics into their decision-making, they would evaluate pitchers based on the parts of their performance they can control, not luck.

2.  Starters >> Closers.  Starters pitch 180-200 innings per year instead of 60-70. Closers enter many games with two or three runs leads, sometimes against the weakest part of the other team’s order. In those situations, research shows almost any pitcher can be effective.

My favorite statistic that demonstrates the relative unimportance of closers concerns Mariano Rivera. It’s pretty much uncontested that Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. From 1997, when Rivera became the Yankees closer, to 2008, the Yankees won 97.3% (!) of all games they entered the ninth inning with a lead. So obviously, having a lock-down closer makes a huge difference. Right?

Consider this: From 1951-62 (another 11-year period of dominance for the Yankees, in the pre-closer era, when many pitchers finished games for teams), the Yankees winning percentage when they entered the ninth inning with a lead — 97.3%.

Surprising, but revealing.

The Reds have other pitchers besides Chapman who could be the closer. Chapman has pitched the best so far, but both Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo have pitched brilliantly all year. They are also more accomplished than Chapman from the standpoint of pitching multiple days in a row.

Closers — at their best — simply don’t help a team nearly as much as a starting pitcher. In his 17 seasons with the Yankees, Rivera averaged 2.3 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Drew Stubbs and Mat Latos have averaged more than that. Rivera has posted four seasons with 3 or more WAR. Mat Latos has already achieved that twice.

The move to the closer role dramatically reduces Chapman’s value to the team. He’ll pitch mostly when the team is already ahead, in situations where other pitchers could essentially fill the same role. Modern analytics again, make this clear.

3. Mismanaging Chapman, Part III.  Moving Chapman to the closer role is probably the only decision that could actually worsen the organization’s mismanagement of Chapman’s talent.

As Dusty Baker’s closer, Chapman will pitch even fewer innings than he does now. So far, Sean Marshall has been used less than every other member of the bullpen, including Alfredo Simon. Last year, Coco Cordero threw 69 innings. Travis Wood, Edinson Volquez, even Dontrelle Willis threw more.

The move solidifies Chapman’s role in the bullpen, unfortunately moving him farther away from joining the starting rotation. At the start of next year he’ll be half way through his 6-year contract with the Reds having contributed a total of only 130 innings. To make matters worse, if the Reds do move him to the rotation in 2013, he’ll be on an innings limit.

—–

Moving Marshall out of the closer role after only fourteen, largely successful innings, gives off a whiff of panic that is surprising for Dusty Baker, who usually sticks with his closers through thick and thin. What happened to the manager who didn’t waver an inch in his support for Cordero even once in four years?

Maybe Baker is simply seizing a way to cement Chapman’s presence in the bullpen. That’s a struggle he’s waged with GM Walt Jocketty for at least a year.

Installing Aroldis Chapman as the closer is a rash decision based on obsolete metrics and flawed reasoning. It’s the opposite of smart, well-informed baseball decision-making. Use whatever adjectives you want for that.

My friend Mike Maffie, who helped me with this post, points out: As the thinking of baseball moves forward, the Reds move backward. Dustyball is the opposite of Moneyball.

The movie ‘Dustyball’ would undoubtedly be shot with a Super 8 camera on black-and-white film.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 133 Comments

  1. I can’t stand Dusty Baker. I think he’s easily baseball’s worst manager. I am sick of his existence as the Reds dugout master.

    With that said, I find myself intrigued. If Chapman was in the rotation, who wouldn’t be? Mike Leake. Mike Leake is really reliable and he he’s no longer restricted by an innings limit. Once we get to September and October(hopefully) Chapman may be our Wainwright or K-Rod. We don’t NEED Chapman in the rotation.

    With that said, I will never in my life support putting a pitcher in the pen who has the unbridled potential to be the elite of the elite. I wouldn’t put Randy Johnson in the pen. I wouldn’t put Roy Halladay in the pen. I don’t want Aroldis in the bullpen in any capacity. But I recognize the argument. And I acknowledge it is incorrect.

  2. So if Dusty is gone next year, do we expect anything different from Bell?

    If the organization is consistent, then one would believe that Bell would continue the Baker methods.

    • So if Dusty is gone next year, do we expect anything different from Bell?

      If the organization is consistent, then one would believe that Bell would continue the Baker methods.

      Is Bell the guy we want? Riggleman? KG Sr? DeShields? Speier?
      Or Browning?

      Of the group, Speier has the most insight into the current roster. He’s an old infielder, not a power hitter, could be a good choice.

      DeShields is a small-ball guy extraordinaire. Riggleman has big-league experience but may be old-school himself.

      I’d guess that if the Duster were canned in the near future, Speier would get the interim job.

  3. Ongoing: Chapman doesn’t fix the rotation this year enough to make moving him all that critical.

    But making him a closer is also unnecessary. The notion that injuries conspired to create this conundrum is absurd.

  4. Steve:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I really like the role of closer. First off, Marshall has done nothing to lose his job this season. Especially considering we have not reached the end of May. He’s truly an elite bullpen arm. I think this is just a move to rearrange deck chairs so we appear to be addressing issues seriously. Blah, blah, blah.

  5. As for Dusty this is what he has been angling for all along for the past couple of years. Starting this spring in particular, saying that he needed three lefties in the and now not sticking with Marshall after all the support he gave Cordero, it makes it pretty obvious. Now Chapman could wait days just pitch one inning, what a waste and the Reds are deprived of a Justin Verlander type starter, how short sighted.

  6. Could this be the beginning of the end for Dusty? Misuse of a valuable asset like Chapman is a serious mistake. Surely Jocketty is not going to let this go on – batting Willy Harris too often is one thing, but reducing a talent like Chapman to one inning in games where the team is already ahead – will he stand for that? Is he part of the process already? Has he signed off on it?

    I agree that being put into games in late innings while ahead, and asked to give up perhaps only two runs to be credited with a “save”, is something any competent pitcher can regularly do. Closers are overrated, the “saves” stat should nstead be called “DBI”, or “didn’t blow it.” That’s all a save is –

    But innings are innings, and using Marshall in other situations means he’ll be more valuable, perhaps holding in tied games, something he would not do as a closer.

  7. From Doc’s commentary in the Enquirer:

    “You can be a very good closer and have almost no impact on your team’s chances at doing anything worthwhile. Joel Hanrahan saved 40 games last year for Pittsburgh. Opponents hit .183 against him. The Pirates lost 90 times. Bob Castellini spent $45 million on four years of Coco Cordero. How much of an impact did Cordero really make? He didn’t even pitch in the 2010 NLDS.

    Take away 2010, the Reds were 24 games under .500 in his other three seasons. You don’t need a closer to do that.

    A closer often is nothing more than a manager’s crutch. He is a good excuse to manage by The Book. Ninth-inning, ahead by three runs or fewer? Closer time. That might not be the smart play. Smart isn’t the point. The manager can say he did what he was supposed to do. The closer blew it.

    Aroldis Chapman needs to be a starting pitcher, and he needs to be it soon. I’d rather see the ball in his golden left arm for six or more innings than for one inning, or less. In a short playoff series in October, I’d rather see him behind Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo than yawning in the bullpen, hoping his team carries no more than a three-run lead into the 9th inning.

    Meantime, the Reds will use Chapman as a closer. Sometimes. Apparently. It depends. The diamond might be out of the coal. He’s still in the rough.”

  8. Marshall has allowed a lot of balls in play, and a lot of those have been hits. Chapman is mostly unhittable and so it would follow that there would be fewer balls put into play when he pitches. I don’t think this is luck. That actually seems like a qualitative difference in their abilities.

    Cherry picking past statistics is also lazy. So what if the Yankees have won a similar percentage of games with Rivera than they did in the past? This means nothing. Today, roles are specialized. Starters don’t throw as many complete games. They are preserved. There emerges a need for somebody who can be as dominant as the most dominant SPs to come in a pitch the final inning. A specialist. That is how things work now. Perhaps what we should do is say that, while the winning % is the same, the modern late-inning specialist is a natural bi-product of an era of bullpen specialization and the preservation of starters’ arms. The winning percentage similarity would indicate that teams have figured out how to maintain success even though SPs don’t go as late into games as they used to. Thus, the closer. I think it’s very important to consider the qualitative and cultural developments in baseball through the years. I think they help put quantitative analysis in context.

  9. I agree completely with what is written. Will Chapman be excellent as a closer? Sure, but as mentioned, this is such an overrated job anyways when compared to the value of an elite (or even good) starting pitcher. Moving him to the closer role essentially cements his status in the BP for the rest of this year (and possibly his Reds career).

    What happens now when we have an inevitable injury to the starting rotation? Francis, Tomko, LeCure? … Those options aren’t very appetizing.

    This makes the Madson injury hurt even more. I would like to know Walt’s feeling on the issue. Perhaps he’ll trade for a closer if a need for a starter arises allowing Chapman to move back.

  10. At 150 inning limit which I seem to see being mentioned in articles around spring training, I’d think the most amount of starts they would probably give AC and to have him still around to pitch through the playoffs would be a 1/2 season so like 16 starts.

    Brantley has alluded to it a few times in broadcasts and I think it would be logical that Chapman might not start until after the Allstar break.

    Considering he has like 20 innings now, under current use, you would have about maybe 35 by the break in the pen. That would leave about a 100-115 for the second half. If you start 15-16 games and can average 6 innings a start, that’s around 90-95 innings.

    Knock wood, hopefully by the time the break comes up, the Reds might also be lucky and have Bill Bray back. It could all line up OK and I would think somewhat depends on how Leake does and any injuries that might happen.

    Taking all emotion tied to Dusty over the past few years out of the equasion, this would seem possibly logical setup, if it happens.

    Nationals are a similar situation with Strasborg, as they are going to have to figure out how to stretch him out for a pennant run and at some point, if true to their plans take him out of the rotation for a month or so. That’s going to be a hard thing to do with your club already in a neck and neck battle and really the first playoff chase in that town since the 40s.

  11. I hate the position of closer… I understand that there is some psychological benefit for a team to have defined roles and it takes the pressure off the manager and the other bullpen guys to have someone who is designated for the 9th. But as we all know, the most crucial outs towards the end of games often come in the 7th or 8th, especially when a reliever comes in with men on. I am willing to bet our starters are a bit more relaxed in the 6th or 7th inning knowing that if they let a man or two on, that Chapman (and the other bullpen guys) will come in and clean the situation up. By defining Chapman as the 9th inning guy, you decrease the likely hood of him getting two innings of work in or stranding inherited runners.

    If the Reds had lots of blown saves and lacked other guys who might be capable, then fine, use him there to hopefully allow the other relievers to relax. But that is not happening. Every guy they call on is doing their job for the most part.

    I still am hoping Walt is just playing this close to the vest and is intending to start Chapman for the second half of the year but wants to limit his innings. If that is the plan, then I am a 100% on board. Time will tell. I just fear if Chapman continues as he has all season in the new closer role then Baker and whoever else might have a say will argue that they can’t lose their closer it is too valuable of a position.

    Finally, for a team that is desperate to rebuild a fan base and generate excitement, it seems really short sighted not to start Chapman. My girl who really does not care to watch baseball has asked me on multiple occasions to get her when Chapman is pitching, he has star power for a team that is lacking it. Can you imagine the atmosphere down at the Banks before a Chapman start. Please figure out a way to make him a starter by July!

  12. This debacle of signing Chapman to a six year deal and then through his third year not developing him as a starter is one of the worst things I can remember going all the way back to the 1970s in terms of opportunity lost. They have him through 2014?

    Here are some comments when Chapman signed in 2010:

    ESPN/Keith Law
    Aroldis Chapman is an outstanding addition to an already-improving Cincinnati pipeline of young players and sets the Reds up to have one of the National League’s best rotations in 2012 if more than a few of their young arms develop as hoped.

    Yahoo sports/Jeff Passan
    The 22-year-old Chapman’s value has steadily climbed since a Dec. 15 workout in Houston in which he wasn’t throwing at full speed and still hit 97 mph. His potential as a front-of-the-line starter intrigued teams from coast to coast… Chapman immediately becomes the top prospect in the Reds’ system and could join a dangerous young rotation if Edinson Volquez returns healthy from Tommy John surgery and Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey develop.

    SBNation/Dan Levy
    The Reds did more than solidify their pitching staff with the signing of Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman today… But the Chapman signing is bigger than all of that. It’s a huge signing for the franchise – some even suggesting the biggest Reds free-agent signing since Dave Parker in 1984.

    It’s more than 2 years later, of the young pitchers they had back then only Cueto has “developed”. But with Chapman the Reds didn’t even try. It’s just mind-bendingly stupid organizational management.

  13. I guess it’s a five year deal, not six?

    • I guess it’s a five year deal, not six?

      The Redleg Nation Salary Chart says he is signed for ’13 and ’14, with a player option for ’15 ($5M).

      All I’ve been hearing is that the Reds and everyone else this year are saying he’s on board for three more years. Which is it?

      This article clarifies things. The Salary Chart is correct.
      http://cincinnati.com/blogs/reds/2010/01/12/chapman-contract-details/

      Within five days of the 2014 World Series, he must decide whether to exercise a $5 million player option for 2015.

      • The Redleg Nation Salary Chart says he is signed for ’13 and ’14, with a player option for ’15 ($5M).All I’ve been hearing is that the Reds and everyone else this year are saying he’s on board for three more years. Which is it?This article clarifies things. The Salary Chart is correct.http://cincinnati.com/blogs/reds/2010/01/12/chapman-contract-details/Within five days of the 2014 World Series, he must decide whether to exercise a $5 million player option for 2015.

        My understanding of his contract is that he still is under team control for 6 years of major league service time. His contract outlines what he would get paid instead of the major league minimum, and if he becomes arb eligible prior to the end of his original deal, those annual salaries convert to a bonus and he goes through the arbitration process.

        I believe at the beginning of this year, he had 1 year of service time…so if doesn’t go to the minors again, he’s not arb eligible until the 2014 season…Reds would have team control until the end of the 2016 season.

  14. The way closers are used today limits their value. As for the comparison between the value of a closer and of a top of the rotation starter, imagine if the Reds moved Cueto to the closer role. I understand that if Chapman were starting right now, he would not necessarily be a top of the rotation starter, but isn’t that the goal ? And this move impedes progress toward that role, as he won’t be developing his slider and changeup.

    Price talked about how when Chapman was starting in spring training, he made excellent progress with command of his secondary pitches, especially his slider.

  15. Mr. Mancuso and Mr. Maffie, thank you for a flawless article. It is revealing that Rivera had such a low contribution to his team winning.

    The only thing, as I think I mentioned earlier, is that theoretically, Marshall could be a high BABIP pitcher. The past contradicts that, of course. But it seems to that any pitcher who posts such a high strikeout would *not* be subject to a high BABIP, if there were a certain type of pitcher who had a higher than average BABIP.

    The thing with Baker is, he didn’t panic here. He hasn’t wanted Marshall to be the closer, ever. (Because he’s clueless.) The only reason Chapman wasn’t the closer from day 1, is that Baker thinks that you have to have some special God-given stamp that says you are a closer, and Chapman hadn’t “graduated” yet.

  16. @Mark Tokar: Marshall won’t be more valuable when he comes in to get one out per game, though.

  17. I thought the Reds had the best performing bullpen in the NL. Why tinker with the part of the team that is performing the best? Chapman was pitching high leverage 7th & 8th innings. He could throw two innings when needed, which is a current benefit.

    I thought it was all part of the plan – maybe stretch him out to 3-4 innings out of the bullpen before moving him into the rotation later this year. It doesn’t appear that is even a consideration any longer. I’m disappointed.

    • I thought the Reds had the best performing bullpen in the NL. Why tinker with the part of the team that is performing the best? Chapman was pitching high leverage 7th & 8th innings. He could throw two innings when needed, which is a current benefit.I thought it was all part of the plan – maybe stretch him out to 3-4 innings out of the bullpen before moving him into the rotation later this year. It doesn’t appear that is even a consideration any longer. I’m disappointed.

      Yeah, I thought this was the plan; and it makes a little sense to have him strong for the rotation come August and beyond. But things are becoming clearer and clearer that the plan is what we used to say to the new sailors who reported aboard my boat in my submarine days: “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” This tinkering with the pen right now is just silly. Keep stretching out Chap and allow the almost assured injury or ineffective starter to show itself and drop him in the rotation.

  18. Excellent post. Thoroughly convincing.

    Despite my frustration with the Reds brass, you still have to credit them for even landing such a talent. Listening to the Yankees broadcast today reinforced that. I mean, how is it we beat out the big market teams in the first place??

  19. If there’s a silver lining, I think it’s that the issue is still unsettled. Until the door is slammed shut on Chapman starting (meaning–it comes straight from Walt), I’ll keep hoping. Is it telling Walt hasn’t weighed in on it yet?

  20. Baker is quoted as saying that this move has been in the works for a week. It’s got nothing to do with Marshall’s performance, really, and more with Dusty Baker’s inability to understand baseball.

  21. Everyone on this blog realizes that using Chapman for only 1 inning at a time is a big waste.

    It would seem that it would be time to go REAL old school before the roles of the bullpen personnel became so specialized. Back in the Goose Gossage era there were many occasions that the person that relieved the starting pitcher finished the game. 2+ innings.

    Chapman has shown the need to recover and pitches better after rest. Going back to back days has seen a drop in performance and control. If you’re going to bring him in, leave him in. 2+ innings. Finish the game.

    This saves the rest of the pen from over use after short outings from starters which if you read the starter’s report from earlier today is a problem with Latos and Leake. Latos left the Mets game with a 4-0 lead. Perfect time for the long relief. I guarantee the Red’s would have held on to that game if Chapman had pitched from the 7th inning on to the end.

    This regulates work for the rest of the pen knowing when Chapman’s available or the situation calls for it. Also, this could be used to stretch him out if the time comes to make him a starter. Marshall can close the rest

    • It would seem that it would be time to go REAL old school before the roles of the bullpen personnel became so specialized. Back in the Goose Gossage era there were many occasions that the person that relieved the starting pitcher finished the game. 2+ innings.

      Chapman has shown the need to recover and pitches better after rest. Going back to back days has seen a drop in performance and control. If you’re going to bring him in, leave him in. 2+ innings. Finish the game.

      This saves the rest of the pen from over use after short outings from starters which if you read the starter’s report from earlier today is a problem with Latos and Leake. Latos left the Mets game with a 4-0 lead. Perfect time for the long relief. I guarantee the Red’s would have held on to that game if Chapman had pitched from the 7th inning on to the end.

      This regulates work for the rest of the pen knowing when Chapman’s available or the situation calls for it. Also, this could be used to stretch him out if the time comes to make him a starter. Marshall can close the rest

      I was telling a buddy today that one of my favorite stipulations of the save statistic is that if a reliever pitches the final three innings of a game and holds the lead, he earns the save. You wanna make Chapman your closer, and possibly stretch him out for starting after the break? He’d better start getting some 2 and 3 inning saves.

    • George Culver: Everyone on this blog realizes that using Chapman for only 1 inning at a time is a big waste.

      It would seem that it would be time to go REAL old school before the roles of the bullpen personnel became so specialized.Back in the Goose Gossage era there were many occasions that the person that relieved the starting pitcher finished the game. 2+ innings.

      Chapman has shown the need to recover and pitches better after rest. Going back to back days has seen a drop in performance and control.If you’re going to bring him in, leave him in.2+ innings.Finish the game.

      This saves the rest of the pen from over use after short outings from starters which if you read the starter’s report from earlier today is a problem with Latos and Leake.Latos left the Mets game with a 4-0 lead.Perfect time for the long relief.I guarantee the Red’s would have held on to that game if Chapman had pitched from the 7th inning on to the end.

      This regulates work for the rest of the pen knowing when Chapman’s available or the situation calls for it.Also,this could be used to stretch him out if the time comes to make him a starter.Marshall can close the rest

      I REALLY like this post, it hits the nail right on the head. What’s generally needed, and in particular for this Reds team, is a more flexible and situational use of the closer, and so of the whole pen. In the 1960s, when the closer role became more prevalent, closers were used in a highly flexible way. For example, in 1961 Freddie Hutchinson used lefty and right co-closers, who had 16 saves each. The righty Brosnan would be used to face 1 batter or pitch 3-4 innings in an extra inning game. Less so in the 70’s, but closers were still used for more than 1 inning at a time.

      Dusty can’t just put Chapman out there every time a save opportunity rises. He even says how he’s reluctant to use him 2 days in a row and even more reluctant to use him 3 days in a row. So there’s going to be an element of “primary closer” backed up by a core committee (Ondrusk, Marshall, Arredondo, I imagine).

      So that part is forced upon Dusty. Another side of Chapman in the pen is that he can usually easily pitch 2 innings, he’s so dominant. I’m afraid Dusty won’t take advantage of this.

    • Everyone on this blog realizes that using Chapman for only 1 inning at a time is a big waste.

      It would seem that it would be time to go REAL old school before the roles of the bullpen personnel became so specialized.Back in the Goose Gossage era there were many occasions that the person that relieved the starting pitcher finished the game. 2+ innings.

      Chapman has shown the need to recover and pitches better after rest. Going back to back days has seen a drop in performance and control.If you’re going to bring him in, leave him in.2+ innings.Finish the game.

      This saves the rest of the pen from over use after short outings from starters which if you read the starter’s report from earlier today is a problem with Latos and Leake.Latos left the Mets game with a 4-0 lead.Perfect time for the long relief.I guarantee the Red’s would have held on to that game if Chapman had pitched from the 7th inning on to the end.

      This regulates work for the rest of the pen knowing when Chapman’s available or the situation calls for it.Also,this could be used to stretch him out if the time comes to make him a starter.Marshall can close the rest

      I agree with this. If they are going to do this then Chapman needs to come in in the 7th inning and pitch the last three innings. If they need bullpen help the next day use everybody else. Saving him just for the 9th is stupid. We don’t need a closer, we need somebody smart enough to use the bullpen correctly. If that means you use Marshall in the 7th against tough lefties you do it.

  22. I have a question or two on the statical analysis. Is the HR/FB percentage really out of a pitcher’s control? In my non-expert, non-professional baseball player, but huge fan’s opinion, it seems that a pitcher’s control, velocity, movement, location, etc. have a huge effect on whether a fly ball is a homer or a fly out. I’m not sure that stat corrects for luck or random error, per se. BABIP, if I understand it correctly, does correct for random error, as pitchers with a high or low BABIP suggests flukey performance (which may be good news for Marshall, by the way).

    Look, I agree completely that the stats have to be carefully analyzed before you make a roster move. Similar to investing money. But, the stats never tell the whole story. What have your eyes told you so far about the effectiveness of Chapman and Marshall thus far? Is Marshall the guy you feel more confident about turning the ball over to in the 9th inning, up by only one or two runs, against the top teams in the league? Or would you rather have Chapman (assuming of course, that the choice is only between those two; maybe the answer, as we all probably agree, is to put Ondrusek in the closing role)?

    Would the Yankees have put together so many playoff teams and World Series wins in the since ’99 even if Rivera wasn’t their closer? Note that Mo was the ’99 World Series MVP.

    Then again, if the Reds win as many World Series as the Yankees did between 1951 and 1962 (6), I don’t care if DB himself decides to pitch a few innings. Bring home the rings.

    • Food for thought– Are the Reds only up 1 or 2 runs in the 9th because Chapman pitched his butt off in the 8th against the heart of the order?

      Is Marshall the guy you feel more confident about turning the ball over to in the 9th inning, up by only one or two runs, against the top teams in the league? Or would you rather have Chapman (assuming of course, that the choice is only between those two; maybe the answer, as we all probably agree, is to put Ondrusek in the closing role)?

  23. My blood boils here. Best case at this point… Chapman finally becomes a start after the All-Star break and Dusty goes Marshall/Ondrusek and maybe even Arrendando every now and then if he doesn’t feel he can trust Marshall alone. Nick Masset, where are you?

    Also fascinating to me… all the leash that CoCo got putting runners on and giving up walks/hits at a much higher frequency than Marshall, but because he was “poven” he stayed and stayed and stayed and got the hook all but once or twice.

  24. What a wonderful, thorough and insightful post, Steve.

    It’s hard to figure Walt Jocketty’s role in all of this. What we know is that this was the owner’s hire. We know he spoke of locking up Baker to a contract extension during the winter caravan when everyone was fixated on Brandon’s contract status. It seems logical that as long as the Reds are going to keep paying Baker his substantial contract, as GM, there is little else Walt can do other than let Dusty make the managerial moves he wants and refrain from interfering as long as the owner wants him on the job.

    All Jocketty can really do is voice his disagreement with the owner. It’s Castellini’s who has the final say.

    And not everyone believes an inning count is the answer. There are a lot of people who believe that pitchers injure their arms not when they pitch an excess of innings, but that they pitch when their arms are tired and haven’t gotten sufficient time to recover. That is almost certainly what happened to Harang in 2008 when Baker brought him back to throw 67 pitches on short rest, then started him again on short rest. If Chapman were to get plenty of rest between starts, especially after those starts when his pitch count is high, he might just be fine and able to pitch into the playoffs.

    We know, however, that the Reds aren’t likely to endeavor themselves of this kind of forward thinking.

  25. @Matt WI – Yeah, I remember CoCo blowing a fair number of saves last year too and always feeling very nervous every time he took the mound. I thought Chapman should have been the closer last year too. I feel the same way about Marshall this year as I did about CoCo last year. I do think Marshall is a good bullpen guy, as long as he’s not the closer. On the other hand, I don’t feel nervous when Chapman, Ondrusek and Arrendondo get up there. To me, and only to me (clearly), I think the three of them coming up in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings nearly every game will mean a whole bunch of wins for the good guys this year. And it’s wins that we’re all after anyway.

  26. The closer is handed the ball with his team in the lead and in need of three outs to win the game. Thus there is only one way to evaluate the performance of the closer. Does he get those outs for his team to get the win? That is it purely and simply.

    In 10 tries Marshall had failed 3 times. That is all we really need to know about him in that role. The other ratios don’t really matter in this case because by definition the job is to get the 27th out with his team still in the lead. Marshall’s success rate is about 25% below (according to the post) what a team might expect to achieve by sending no one in particular out to pitch the 9th inning

    As for statistics that define and quantify “luck”, another way to look at them is that they are statistics which also define and quantify the error rate of other statistics. And are we to assume that Marshall is only the victim of bad luck and that good luck played no role in his ratios which look so positive? Of luck, Bill Russell, of NBA fame, not the former Dodger SS, probably said it best, “its better to be good than lucky because the good make their own luck”. I suspect the inverse hold just as true.

    • The closer is handed the ball with his team in the lead and in need of three outs to win the game. Thus there is only one way to evaluate the performance of the closer. Does he get those outs for his team to get the win? That is it purely and simply.

      That’s one way to look at it, and it is simple. But if the location of ground balls is random, and there is substantial evidence that it is, why judge a pitcher on if those ground balls find holes. If Jason Nix hits his ground ball a foot or two to either side, it’s a double play and Marshall is out of the inning, with his job in tact.

      You can evaluate pitchers on (a) strikeouts, because this prevents the ball from going in play. On this criteria, Marshall is in the top 13 of 369 pitchers in the major leagues. He’s one of the best at that. (b) How often a pitcher lets someone on base with a walk, where the batter doesn’t have to put it in play to get on base. Marshall is also elite in that category. His ratio of strike outs to walks is in the top ten of 369 pitchers. Finally, you can measure how often a pitcher causes a hitter to hit a ground ball instead of a line drive or fly ball. Ground balls are substantially more preferable. Marshall has induced SIXTY percent of the hitters he has faced this year to hit ground balls. That’s really amazing, and something you should definitely covet in a pitcher.

      Ten save opportunities isn’t enough to judge a pitcher, even assuming it’s fair to say he failed in three. We only know for sure he failed in one. He might have saved the other two if given the chance.

      Marshall has been exceptional in doing the things pitchers can control. That’s what the Reds should have been saying and acting upon.

    • The closer is handed the ball with his team in the lead and in need of three outs to win the game. Thus there is only one way to evaluate the performance of the closer. Does he get those outs for his team to get the win? That is it purely and simply.

      In 10 tries Marshall had failed 3 times. That is all we really need to know about him in that role. The other ratios don’t really matter in this case because by definition the job is to get the 27th out with his team still in the lead. Marshall’s successrate is about 25% below (according to the post) what a team might expect to achieveby sending no one in particular out to pitch the 9th inning

      As for statistics that define and quantify “luck”, another way to look at them is that they are statistics which also define and quantify the error rate of other statistics.And are we to assume that Marshall is only the victim of bad luck and that good luck played no role in hisratios which look so positive? Of luck, Bill Russell, of NBA fame, not the former Dodger SS, probably said it best, “its better to be good than lucky because the good make their own luck”. I suspect the inverse hold just as true.

      To be precise, Marshall converted 7 out of 8 save opportunities. To say he converted 7 out of 10 is incorrect.

      Dusty Baker couldn’t have said it any better himself. This is exactly the thinking of Walt Jocketty, Dusty Baker, and the entire dysfunctional, old school, non thinking Reds organization.

  27. FWIW, I liked Dusty’s handling of the bullpen the last two games. On Saturday, with the heart of the Yankee bats coming up in the 8th, I wanted to see Chapman pitch, which he did (1-2-3). Today, once Cueto was out of the game, I would have closed the game the same way Dusty did – get Cano out with Marshall, then bring in Ondrusek to pitch the 8th and Chapman to close it out.

    The point is flexibility and doing what needs to be done to win today’s game. I’d generally like to see the best pitcher in the pen in the highest leverage situation, which may or may not be the 9th inning. But it’s not even that simple, one could point out that today the 8th was higher leverage for the pen than the 9th, with a runner on, nobody out, and the big bats coming up. But I had no problem with Marshall facing one tough hitter he could get out, and then letting Ondrusek and Chapman finish things off, given for one thing that Marshall would be a little weary (mentally and physically) after yesterday.

    So I don’t object to Marshall being used as a LOOGY and Chapman as the closer for today’s game. But to limit them to those roles would diminish the value of both.

  28. @OhioJim: I like your point about how the closer has a particular job and analysis of effectiveness should not ignore how he performs at that job. But that doesn’t mean peripherals should be ignored. For example, CoCo had a pretty good save ratio (as well as WHIP for that matter) last year and I argued that he’d had a good season. At the same time his vanishing K rate worried me, I didn’t want to see him as the Reds closer this season. So to me, anyway, evaluation of (past) performance and (future) projection are related but separate.

    One way to view your statement is that you’re pointing out the importance of the game situation: i.e. when a closer comes in the situation is that he
    the game is won if he allows less than a certain number of runs. Sabermetrics is still young, it has a long ways to go. As it evolves, situational data (i.e. what’s needed to win that particular day) will be increasingly taken into account.

  29. Someone made the comment Walt hasn’t been saying anything yet.

    I think this is revealing. I think Walt may bring an ultimatum to Bob, Dusty or Walt, but I’m not sure the two can coexist. If another manager that isn’t already on the Reds staff is brought in, you may see a working back towards making Chapman a starter.

    It really blows my mind-what manager in their right mind would keep a pitcher like Chapman out of his rotation? Who wouldn’t want that? Why doesn’t Dusty want that?

    These questions are more difficult to answer than trying to figure out quantum physics(hooray for liberal arts majors).

  30. @hermanbates: Ultimatum to Bob: Walt says “it’s him(Dusty) or me.”

  31. @Steve Mancuso: Steve, based on your post I did a little more looking into what’s gone on with Marshall this season. It supports your post and your point immediately above.

    Let’s look at Marshall’s performance from 2010 thru 2012.

    WHIP
    2010: .210/.279/.290 1.112

    2011: .234/.282/.284 1.097

    2012: .344/.373/.500 1.744

    Based on this, wow, looks like he’s having a terrible season. But you’ve taken a closer look, looking at BABIP

    BABIP
    2010 .297
    2011 .322
    2012 .488

    (My numbers are from Baseball Reference.)

    But BABIP alone is a crude measure of luck. It can and will be refined. For starters, hit trajectory stats should be taken into account – there’s a big difference between line drives, fly balls, and ground balls. A look at BABIP numbers that take trajectory into account demonstrates this.

    BABIP with Hit Trajectory

    Ground Balls Fly Balls Line Drives

    2010 .153 .262 .651
    2011 .263 .073 .707
    2012 .480 .286 .667

    A lot of variation here, it takes a large sample size for things to even out. But what stands out the most is the remarkable 2012 .480 ground ball BABIP rate. The fly ball average is in line with 2010 and the line drive average is in line with 2010 and 2011.

    The other thing to look at is his frequency of ground balls, fly balls, and line drives.

    Line Drive rates:

    2010 23%
    2011 20%
    2012 21%

    Marhall’s line drive rate has not gone up.

    Then there’s the ratio of ground balls to fly balls:

    GO/AO

    2010 1.85
    2011 1.81
    2012 1.63

    Here 2012 is pretty much in line with 2010 and 2011.

    The main difference with Marshall in 2012 is that ground balls are finding holes. The other difference is that he’s already allowed 2 HRs (higher HR rate). One would expect both of these differences to diminish as the season goes on.

  32. Chapman’s contract is for the rest of this year and 2 more years, not 3 more years. Then Chapman has a 5 million buck option on 2015. There are only two possibilities. The first: Chapman blows out his arm and is out of baseball. The second: Chapman declines the option because his value far exceeds 5 million dollars, especially to an organization that long ago extracted its head from its rear end and will start him. An organization that doesn’t believe that a guy (Marshall) who dominates 8th innings is incapable of dominating 9th innings.

    The Reds had Chapman for 5 years, and they are completely wasting him. What a sad story this is, not just for the Reds, but for any baseball fan. Jocketty should resign, tomorrow. He is pathetic.

  33. Wow, blanks got deleted and the format of my comment got screwed up. Hope it’s still readable.

  34. @pinson343: Maybe some of these stats go over my head, but anyone who’s played ball knows that if the pitcher strikes out half your lineup, he’s not a guy that’s easy to rip line drives off of. It’s just impossible. I don’t care if he throws high heat, nasty hooks, a splitter, or kicks the ball to home plate. I sure didn’t go to the plate against some guy who just struck out the side in the last inning thinking I was going to take the guy deep. It was more like, just get on base any way you can.

  35. Everyone expects the Reds to stay in house if Dusty departs but I would like to suggest there are other candidates available that are better. Greg Maddox is easily a better manager than most mentioned and would be exactly what the Reds need because he knows winning baseball. I have been lucky enough to see some of his interviews for the Rangers (he is a special consultant. The Reds would do well to include him in any consideration.

  36. @Racine Red: That was the bottom line, that Marshall is not giving up any more line drives than in 2010 or 2011.

  37. Also, Chapman is the BEST young pitching talent the Reds have produced since Don Gullett (apologies to Cueto but he learned a lot once he got here). Chapman can win now. Dusty is obviously sensitive to the complaints about his handling of Wood and Pryor even thought they were already starting to show signs of of over extending before Dusty’s mismanagement. Moneyball and analytics are valuable but in this case I believe my own lying eyes. I have been watching Reds baseball since 1962 and Chapman once he learned to dial it down and PITCH is as dominant as any pitcher since Randy Johnson. There are differences of course but when I think of Chapman I see a lefty as good as Steve Carlton. Dusty, Walt please wake up!!!!!

  38. Looks like I’m in the minority but I’m very comfortable with Marshall as LOOGY & Chapman as our Closer. I want my Closer to have a mystique, mojo but best of all, throw with power and hard cheese. This man brings it! I thought Arroyo’s comments on Chapman were succinct. If he doesn’t think Chapman’s a starter right now, that speaks volumes. Let’s face it, he has the experience while most of us manage from our widest side.

    • I felt that those comments were coming from a defensive angle from Bronson. While he’s arguably been the Reds’ 2nd-best starter this season, he entered the year with many folks begging for his removal from the rotation. If Chapman gets a spot, there’s a chance (at least in the back of his mind) that it is his spot that will be given up to Chapman. Additionally, leaving Chapman in the bullpen might preserve a few extra Arroyo wins throughout the year.

      Team-wise, I think this club is better with Chapman in the rotation (starting after the AS break), but it is more advantageous to Arroyo’s job security (and possibly his statistics) to have Chapman finish up games.

      I thought Arroyo’s comments on Chapman were succinct.If he doesn’t think Chapman’s a starter right now, that speaks volumes.Let’s face it, he has the experience while most of us manage from our widest side.

  39. Marshall held RHH to .218 in 2010 and .248 in 2011. Quit calling the guy a LOOGY. If he is used as one, then the Reds are idiots.

    The true test of how bad the Chapman decision is will be how he is actually used, title or not. If there are 2-3 outs needed to win a game and he’s in your bullpen, those are the outs the Reds should be using him on–unfortunately these outs could be in the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings.

    Don’t be surprised when the Reds’ bullpen suddenly starts losing games in the 7th or 8th innings, while Chapman rots on the bench waiting to be “handed the ball with his team in the lead and in need of three outs to win the game.”

    • Marshall held RHH to .218 in 2010 and .248 in 2011.Quit calling the guy a LOOGY.If he is used as one, then the Reds are idiots.

      The true test of how bad the Chapman decision is will be how he is actually used, title or not.If there are 2-3 outs needed to win a game and he’s in your bullpen, those are the outs the Reds should be using him on–unfortunately these outs could be in the 7th, 8th, or 9th innings.

      Don’t be surprised when the Reds’ bullpen suddenly starts losing games in the 7th or 8th innings, while Chapman rots on the bench waiting to be “handed the ball with his team in the lead and in need of three outs to win the game.”

      I called him a LOOGY, and I think that’s now stupidly his role. Also, there is no way that Chapman will be getting outs anywhere but the 9th. And even if they used him to get key outs elsewhere, it is still a horrible decision. Any decision other than Chapman starting is idiotic.

      And to those who want their closer to throw hard cheese, the best Reds closer I remember was John Franco, who did not throw hard at all. He had a specialty pitch, the circle change, just like Marshall has a specialty pitch, that hook. And I’m happy to know that Arroyo is certain that Chapman should be the closer. Arroyo should focus on pitching.

      Another thing is that if it’s the case that Marshall will get better and his pitched well because of his FIP or xFIP, it might be good to consider that Baker’s pet Ondrusek has an ERA of 2.55, a FIP of 3.70, and a xFIP of 4.68. So don’t be surprised when Marshall comes into get a lefty out, and then Ondrusek comes in and gets blown up by a righty.

  40. Steve, I had a completely different view before reading your post. Thanks.

  41. Btw – why do people assume David Bell is the next manager for the Reds? Seems like Rick Sweet is in the prime position, ready to step in at a moments notice without disrupting any of the current coaching.

  42. Who said this was Dusty’s decision?

  43. @pinson343: I beleive that there is a stat called xBABIP that factors in batted ball mix minus the fluctuations in location of the batted ball…I wish I could find it. I thought it was on Fangraphs, but I’m terrible at navigating websites. Off of the top of my head, line drives fall in for hits 50% of the time, ground balls 24% of the time, and fly balls 18% of the time. Marshall’s mix this year is GB 60.6%, FB 20.9% and LD 18.6%. Factoring in league BABIP averages for that mix gives him a very back of the envelope xBABIP of .276. Which is 212 points lower than what he has now. So…I’d bet the farm that there is serious (positive) correction on the way.

  44. Amazing post and excellent follow-up comments. What a treat! The comment that sticks in my mind is the person who mentioned that, if the role of closer is so important that Chapman’s talent should fill it, then perhaps it would make sense to put Cueto in that spot sometime too.

  45. In a dream world, Jocketty has been planning all along for one of the starters to get better and trade for a left fielder who can hit the godforsaken baseball at least 1/3 of the time and can bat cleanup. Chapman can then elevate into a starter.

    In my opinion, we are spoiled in the bullpen. Ondrusek and Arredondo have finally developed into great pitchers, Marshall is highly capable, and LeCure is a great guy for long relief and emergency starting. That’s just the cream of the ‘pen without Chapman.

    I am more than confident that the number one bullpen in baseball is still the number one bullpen in baseball without Aroldis Chapman in it. Starting pitching, as displayed on this website, is decidedly average. You have an ace, a to-be ace, and old ace, and two guys who “work” as starters, but are by no means as solid as Chapman can be.

    In the meantime, we have Votto, Jay “Epic Slump” Bruce, and whoever decided to show up at the plate that day. Hitting is probably the biggest variable in any sport, but it’s the only obvious area of struggle. I’d rather hope the Reds can trade for a really reliable bat than hope everyone syncs up in September and October.

  46. I suppose I will come down again on the side of “mellow” about Chapman. I agree that it’s a lot of money to invest in a closer until you have to hire one for about the same amount of dough.

    Chapman going to the rotation is desirable but it’s currently NOT the Reds problem, so fixing something for the future makes sense — if you can win without fixing it now.

    The Reds can win now but pitching rotation issues are lower on the problems list.

    We need to repair our hitting problems.

    I think we’ve fixed left field if Dusto realizes that Heisey is the man.

    We still don’t have a quality hitting coach, so no matter who’s in the rotation, the Reds continue to make the same mistakes over and over again on offense.

    Chapman is a nice piece to the pitching puzzle but his being in the rotation isn’t what the FO sees as vital yet.

    You can argue that we saved the barn door to spite the barn … or whatever that saying includes.

    We need to score enough runs to make a closer useful.

    THAT is the Cincinnati problem.

  47. You could say that coaching isn’t very valuable, but the elite defense the Reds infield plays is as much coaching and drilling as it is talent and coordination.

    Why isn’t that the case for hitting?

  48. @lookatthathat: Thanks, I’ll look into xBABIP.

  49. @Mark Tokar: Thanks Mark, I made the Cueto comment. Nice to know that one of my comments sunk in for somebody.

  50. Someone probably made this point above, but another frustrating thing about this is that if Chapman was going to be in the bullpen, the way he was being used made sense. He’s got the best arm in the pen and he was generally used in the highest leverage situations. Now he’ll just pitch 9th innings which are more often than relatively low leverage.

  51. Sorry but I think some here are making a mountain out of a mole hill. I just don’t see what the big deal is of Chapman pitching the 9th over say the 7th or 8th. We all need to come to the understanding that Chapman is not going to be a starter under this present leadership of the Reds, and continually going on and on about it seems to me to be getting old. The Reds have 5 starters right now and for whatever reason Chapman isn’t part of that. So with that said what is the big deal if he is the “hold” guy in the 7th or 8th or the closer in the 9th.

    • Sorry but I think some here are making a mountain out of a mole hill.I just don’t see what the big deal is of Chapman pitching the 9th over say the 7th or 8th.We all need to come to the understanding that Chapman is not going to be a starter under this present leadership of the Reds, and continually going on and on about it seems to me to be getting old.The Reds have 5 starters right now and for whatever reason Chapman isn’t part of that.So with that said what is the big deal if he is the “hold” guy in the 7th or 8th or the closer in the 9th.

      I agree.

  52. @lookatthathat: Off topic, but on that site did you see the article about Madden 2013 to have “Tebowing” in it? That’s a little ridiculous.

    Maybe Tim Tebow can play 3B?

  53. @rfay00: Nah, he’s a lefty. It’s illegal and punishable by law to have lefty infielders that aren’t 1B.

    I wish they would have made TO sign the camera after touchdowns on a couple of the old games.

  54. @dn4192: I don’t know how big a deal it is, but it’s a concern if you want to see him starting for the Reds at some point. And people aren’t going to stop talking about that. We talk non-stop about lesser issues, like the current 25th man.

  55. I’m looking forward to the day Dusty Baker gets fired. If Jocketty thinks this is a good plan he should get fired.

    • I’m looking forward to the day Dusty Baker gets fired. If Jocketty thinks this is a good plan he should get fired.

      How can he not think it’s a good plan. Do you really think if he was against this move that it would happen? I really don’t feel the Reds see Chapman as a starter, especially with the loss of Madsen and the SP so far pitching well enough. I think this “fasination” with Chapman as a starter lies in the minds of the fans, not Dusty or Walt.

      • I really don’t feel the Reds see Chapman as a starter, especially with the loss of Madsen and the SP so far pitching well enough. I think this “fasination” with Chapman as a starter lies in the minds of the fans, not Dusty or Walt.

        Jocketty has said several times he wants Chapman to start. He started all through spring break (he was our best starter). He’d have probably begun the year as a starter without the injuries to Madson, Masset and Bray.

        • Jocketty has said several times he wants Chapman to start. He started all through spring break (he was our best starter). He’d have probably begun the year as a starter without the injuries to Madson, Masset and Bray.

          Walt can “say” all he wants. Where is Chapman now? This idea that Chapman is the only person whom is good enough to close, or that the bullpen will fall apart with him not in it, is almost laughable. Just like any politican, I refuse to accept anything Walt says, show me with actual actions.

  56. @CaptainTonyKW: It’s Dusty’s decision. There, I said it.

  57. I pretty much agree with Steve on Chapman, but I don’t think this year’s sample size on BABIP, etc., is sufficient to conclude that Marshall is just a victim of bad luck. My observation is that he’s getting his fastball up too much, and it’s getting hit hard. The fact that he has a higher number of fly balls that are homers likely means he’s throwing some lousy pithes that are getting smoked, not that he’s having some bad luck. And BABIP can be a bit crude, too; I wish it was BA (on hard-hit balls), or BAHHB. I think he’s had more balls hit hard than usual, perhaps because he’s leaving his fastball up or it has less movement. And I don’t see any reason why he should continue to have a jump in K/9, so more balls will likely be put in play once his K rate normalizes.

    The BABIP skeptic in me arises because it holds that on a day when the wind blows in hard at Wrigely Field, the only difference between Chris Welch (love him, but couldn’t strike out Drew Stubbs from 45 feet) and Greg Maddux is that Maddux strikes out more guys. I don’t believe that.

    I’d ditch the closer role altogehter, and use the theory that if a pitcher is effective, then leave him in. It worked for Casey Stengel, Whitey Herzog, Sparky Anderson, etc.

  58. @Big Ed: read pinson343’s post above that break’s down marshall’s numbers even more, past BABIP. There is more that goes into it, you’re right, but Marshall has mostly just been victimized by grounders finding holes.

    He hasn’t given up more line drives, despite people thinking that he must be getting his fastball up and getting hit hard.

  59. Using sabermetrics to say Marshall has been just as good as Chapman is one reason why I hate sabermetrics. I meant, what kind of statistic would actually try to use “luck” as a reason someone is succeeding while another isn’t?

    Chapman is just better than Marshall. Ignore the stats. Use your eyes.

  60. @dn4192: Well, Brian Price seemed to be pushing pretty hard to put him in the rotation. And Walt was behind Chapman starting in spring training. And then the other day Walt said we might have to be “resigned” to having Chapman in the pen all year.

    It doesn’t sound like Walt has wanted him in the pen to me. What i think is that Dusty has been pushing for him to be the closer for some time. Brice wanted him to start, and Walt at least wanted to give him a chance to start.

    But then Walt’s big closer signing (which was supposed to be the end of the Chapman debate, remember?) blew up, and Masset and Bray went down, and then Walt’s other reliever looked shaky.

    So Dusty got his way.

    • @dn4192: Well, Brian Price seemed to be pushing pretty hard to put him in the rotation. And Walt was behind Chapman starting in spring training. And then the other day Walt said we might have to be “resigned” to having Chapman in the pen all year. It doesn’t sound like Walt has wanted him in the pen to me. What i think is that Dusty has been pushing for him to be the closer for some time. Brice wanted him to start, and Walt at least wanted to give him a chance to start. But then Walt’s big closer signing (which was supposed to be the end of the Chapman debate, remember?) blew up, and Masset and Bray went down, and then Walt’s other reliever looked shaky. So Dusty got his way.

      Walt can say all he wants about Chapman as a SP, but actions speak louder then words. You can’t tell me that if Walt wanted Chapman in the SP role he wouldn’t be there. The Reds have other options to “close” out games. This I believe was the plan from day 1 after Madsen was lost by all parties involved.

  61. @CI3J: No one is saying Marshall is Better than Chapman, why don’t you use your eyes to read the post and comments?

    The point people are making is that Marshall is very good, even though he’s given up a lot of hits in a small sample size.

    The Reds management is using a few hits in 3 games to change how they are using one of their most valuable assets. Moving Chapman to the closer role definitely reduces the chances that he’ll be in the rotation, and probably reduces the amount of innings that he’ll pitch even compared to when he was a set up man.

    Reducing the number of innings that your best pitcher (probably) pitches based on a few more grounder finding holes against one of your other best pitchers is asinine.

  62. Would you rather (in his prime) have Randy Johnson or Billy Wagner?

    • Would you rather (in his prime) have Randy Johnson or Billy Wagner?

      Wouldn’t it be better to say Randy Johnson or Marino Rivera? Also we know Chapman can be dominate for 1-2 innings, we don’t know what happens when he has to pitch 6+ in a game.

      • Wouldn’t it be better to say Randy Johnson or Marino Rivera? Also we know Chapman can be dominate for 1-2 innings, we don’t know what happens when he has to pitch 6+ in a game.

        Sure, insert any dominant reliever in there. Regardless of who you name as your closer, you’d rather have the potential starter throwing 200 innings a year.

        And we only know that Chapman can be dominant for a 6-7 week stretch out of the bullpen. He also had a very strong stretch in the middle of last summer.

        We don’t know what happens when he closes over a full season (2 career saves), and he hasn’t yet shown the ability to work effectively on back-to-back days. IMO, he has just as many questions out of the bullpen as he does in the rotation.

      • Wouldn’t it be better to say Randy Johnson or Marino Rivera?

        Johnson career WAR: 114.7
        Rivera career WAR: 39.4

        Johnson seasons over 3.0 WAR: 15
        Rivera seasons over 3.0 WAR: 3

        Johnson seasons over 5.0 WAR: 10
        Rivera seasons over 5.0 WAR: 0

        Chapman is likely not going to have the career of either Johnson or Rivera. But there’s no comparison whether a starter or reliever – even the greatest – is more valuable.

  63. @CI3J: Don’t lose the forrest for the trees though… over six weeks, of course our eyes tell us Chapman has been better than anybody. What the stats suggest though is that over the season (of which there is PLENTY to go) that both of them would be highly effective in the role. And, if Aroldis is better, it makes even poorer sense to use him less often as a closer than they might as a set-up man. Obviously the stats can’t manage any portion that is psychological to the player in the closer situation, so we’ll see.

    I’m all for using Champan 2 to 3 innings at a time and going committee style to rest him up in between. I know some of this is just a recency effect of seeing relievers going down, but I cringe thinking of the day Aroldis comes up with “inflamation” or whatever after going a couple days in a row.

  64. @al: Exactly. Beat me to the keyboard with similar thoughts.

  65. What I don’t understand is why Dusty, a supposedly “old school” baseball guy who learned from Hank Aaron has to use his closer in such a “new school” establishment way. It’s like he can’t think for himself at all and has to do everything the current baseball way of doing it.

    If dusty was managing in the 70’s instead of playing in the 70’s, would he be running a closer out there for 3 outs? Or a lefty out there to get one out?

    I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s worth remembering.

    The Nasty Boys (Appearances; Innings; Saves)
    Myers – 66 86.2 31
    Dibble – 68 98 11

    The rest of the pen had 8 saves, meaning that the closer Myers only got about 60% of the saves. And look how many more innings than appearances they have. Both pitched multiple innings almost as much as they pitched single innings.

    And this was about 20 years ago.

    If you are going to use Chapman out of the pen, he should be pushing 100 IP if not more. If the starter comes out after 7, let him finish the hole thing. If that means that sometimes he’s not available, let one of the other very good relievers get the next save.

  66. And just to follow up, in his 4 years with the Reds under Dusty Baker, Francisco Cordero made 283 appearances, and pitched 279.1 innings. Just a little less than 1 IP per appearance.

  67. @dn4192: the conspiracy theory is the least interesting part of this because it’s all speculation. if that’s what you believe, so be it.

    • @al: the conspiracy theory is the least interesting part of this because it’s all speculation. if that’s what you believe, so be it.

      No conspiracy..Walt and Dusty have had a plan since Madsen went down, and it never involved Chapman in the starting rotation.

  68. @al:

    @Matt WI:

    To both of you guys, I for one do want Chapman in the rotation. However, Marshall has struggled in the closer role. You can look at sabermetrics, but the bottom line is he has already blown one save and had to be rescued from potentially blowing 2 more.

    I hate Chapman as the closer. I think it stinks. I prefer to give Ondru The Giant a shot, or Arredondo. I do think Dusty loves having Chapman in the bullpen; to Dusty, Chapman is the “secret weapon” and I think he loves dangling Chapman over other teams’ heads. Purely childish and stubborn.

    However, Marshall is NOT the answer at closer. I have seen enough. Like I said, no matter if it’s “luck” or whatever you want to call it, Marshall has not been getting it done. He has 7 saves and could have 3 blown saves by this point. You think 70% is good for a closer?

  69. @al: You left off one point about the Nasty Boys. That is: Norm Charlton was moved to the rotation for a lot of the year. He wasn’t nearly as good in the rotation as he was as a reliever, if you go by stats other than ERA. But Pineilla realized that they needed a starter. And that Charlton starting was more valuable than the lore of the three nasty boys. He was only moved back to the pen for the postseason because the Reds went with a 3 man rotation.

  70. @CI3J: all i can say is that using bad statistics leads to bad decisions, and the save is a bad stat. i’ll take the guy who has lots of strikeouts and ground balls, rarely walks people and rarely gives up HRs. I’ll give you the guys with lots of wins and saves. I think I’ll have the better staff.

    Remember when Jimmy Haynes started on opening day because he won 15 games? Remember when CoCo had 40 saves in 48 tries with a 3.84 ERA? Stats like wins and saves actually serve to hide the real value of the players, which is the opposite of what a stat is supposed to do.

    So asking me if I think 70% (which is BS by the way and you know it, but that’s beside the point) is good for a closer is largely just a meaningless question. The answer isn’t yes or no, it’s that I don’t care. What I care about is how the pitcher is pitching, and from everything I can tell, Marshall has been pitching pretty damned well.

  71. @dn4192: If you would rather have Rivera than Johnson, both in their primes, then I don’t know what to say.

    • @dn4192: If you would rather have Rivera than Johnson, both in their primes, then I don’t know what to say.

      It would depend on the makeup of my team and what I needed. I don’t believe you can say I would take one over the other without knowing more information.

      • @dn4192: Your overstating that… everyone here wants to know what would happen if he were a starter. If the worst thing that happens is that we find out it didn’t work, then you have a bullpen guy. But you have to, have to, try to see what would happen.

        • @Matt WI: Your overstating that… everyone here wants to know what would happen if he were a starter. If the worst thing that happens is that we find out it didn’t work, then you have a bullpen guy. But you have to, have to, try to see what would happen.

          I agree 100%, but I believe there are some here who believe that right now Chapman is our best starting pitcher on the roster and there is zero numbers to support that. Should we have those numbers by now, of course, but we don’t and to assume the Reds have their best starter in the pen isn’t supported by any numbers.

  72. @CI3J: 70% (even though that’s not true) over a short period doesn’t mean anything to me yet. I guess I’m just not as comfortable using a mere 6 weeks to make a final determination on Marshall’s capabilities in the role compared to his career (and current) numbers. Stats help take a step back from the emotion we’re all given to attaching to a situation. But I agree with you on the idea that if it isn’t going to be Marshall, at least let somebody else try. Don’t waste Chapman this way.

  73. As for Jocketty, I don’t care whose decision it was to move Chapman to closer and not the rotation. If it’s Jocketty’s, Jocketty should be fired. If it’s Baker’s, Jocketty should resign.

  74. @Greg Dafler: You’ve already hit on the point I was going to make today, which is: Randy Johnson would have made a *fine* closer. What a shame some manager didn’t see his potential and make him one. Would’ve changed his career.

    “Wouldn’t it be better to say Randy Johnson or Marino Rivera? Also we know Chapman can be dominate for 1-2 innings, we don’t know what happens when he has to pitch 6+ in a game.”

    No, we don’t know, and by all means, let’s never find out. It might not work.

  75. Let’s step back and look at what one of the most backwards organizations in the major leagues had done.

    1. Moved Marshall, their second-best FIP reliever, to a LOOGY role.

    2. Moved Ondrusek, their second-worst FIP reliever, to the key 8th inning role.

    3. Moved Chapman, possibly the teams’ best starter behind Cueto, a guy who hasn’t proven he can pitch effectively in back-to-back days, to closer, a role that the way Baker will manage means he comes in based on leads in the 9th inning. Don’t kid yourselves, there will be immense pressure on him to pitch every time the 9th inning lead comes around.

    It just is amazing.

  76. @RC: Thanks for that. I was drinking root beer and it almost went through my nose. Quite funny.

  77. @al:

    It is not BS to say that Marshall has struggled. This is where looking at stats can blind you. Watch the games. You call it “bad luck”. I call it “throwing hittable balls that hitters can drive exactly where they want them to go.” Contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to direct where you want a batted baseball to go. That has nothing to do with luck, it’s all skill. And if a pitcher is giving up a lot of hits, well, when does he take the responsibility for it?

    The guy has an ERA around 5 and a WHIP of 1.70. For a closer, that is not going to get it done. You can blame luck, but I look for results. He has already blown 1 save and had to be rescued from blowing 2 more. That is not getting it done.

    Chapman should not be closing because he would be more valuable starting. But neither should Marshall, because he hasn’t shown he can do it.

    • Contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to direct where you want a batted baseball to go.

      I strenuously object (Oh, if you strenuously object…)

      If so, why would anybody ever hit it near a fielder? There is general sense of control (e.g. pull or go opposite field) and then there is specific control. Sometimes a ball goes through the hole, sometimes the SS gets it… that’s not a choice. If you think even Joey Votto can stand at the plate and calculate putting a ball six inches past somebody on purpose, then I don’t know what to say. It’s not any more true than saying Cueto holds the ball a certain way to get people to hit it to Phillips because he likes to watch him flash his glove.

  78. @CI3J: I’ve watched every game Marshall has pitched in. I’ve seen him struggle in 2. He’s looked dominant a lot more often. Pitchers get hit. From what I’ve seen, I have a lot of confidence that his ERA and whip will get a lot better. A .438 BABIP is not sustainable for anyone.

    I’m not just going by stats, I like to scout guys too. What I see with Marshall looks very good to me. Good fastball (bad location in NYY), great slider, and maybe the best curve I’ve seen in years.

    • @CI3J: What I see with Marshall looks very good to me. Good fastball (bad location in NYY), great slider, and maybe the best curve I’ve seen in years.

      That is my point, Al, that Marshall’s lack of effectiveness now is more the result of “bad location in NYY [and elsewhere]” and not luck. In NY, he got ahead throwing curves, then threw hittable pitches, mostly fastballs, that got hit by a left-handed Raul Ibanez (double to right center on 1-2 count), Nick Swisher (single to shallow center on 0-1 count), Andruw Jones (single to center on 1-2 count), and Jason Nix (single to center on 1-2) count. That ain’t Carl Hubbell against 5 hall of famers, although he did strike out the .170 hitting Russell Martin. Marshall couldn’t put hitters away when he was ahead in the count.

      There is no reason that he won’t revert to his usual form, but I don’t think he is pitching very well now, and I’m guessing that Marshall would agree.

      Here is who Marshall has fanned in the month of May:
      Robinson Cano, LH
      Rusell Martin, .170
      Mike Nikeas, .179
      Michael Bourn, LH
      Martin Prado
      Rick Ankiel, LH
      Tyler Moore, .176
      Aramis Ramirez, .219
      Corey Hart
      Brooks Conrad, .000

      The statistical sample size is too small to conclude he is pitching well.

      • That is my point, Al, that Marshall’s lack of effectiveness now is more the result of “bad location in NYY [and elsewhere]” and not luck.

        The statistical sample size is too small to conclude he is pitching well.

        First off, how do you explain a .480 batting average on ground balls? A guy with a very high K rate who gets hitters to put 60% of balls in play is probably going to be great. But if almost half of the grounders turn into hits… well, he’s not getting very lucky now is he.

        Second of all, if you’re going to bring up sample size, then the reverse (the sample size is too small to conclude he’s pitching poorly) is also true. Small sample size doesn’t go one direction.

        • A guy with a very high K rate who gets hitters to put 60% of balls in play is probably going to be great.

          This should read: A guy with a very high K rate who gets hitters to put 60% of balls in play on the ground is probably going to be great.

  79. Interesting how with zero data, everyone here feels Chapman would be a better starter then say closer.

    • Interesting how with zero data, everyone here feels Chapman would be a better starter then say closer.

      I think the basis of most criticism of the organization in this situation is that, here in his 3rd contract year, we have zero data.

  80. @al: And if there was any sense of fairness in the strike zone, that homer to the Mets (Pagan, right?) should have been a strike out. There’s luck related to that too. The Mets got a gift and they cashed in. Good for them.

  81. It would depend on the makeup of my team and what I needed.I don’t believe you can say I would take one over the other without knowing more information.

    Lol no. If you have a rotation of 5 Randy Johnsons and 0 closers, and are offered 1 additional Randy Johnson or 1 Mariano Rivera, you take the 1 Randy Johnson. It isn’t even close.

    • Lol no. If you have a rotation of 5 Randy Johnsons and 0 closers, and are offered 1 additional Randy Johnson or 1 Mariano Rivera, you take the 1 Randy Johnson. It isn’t even close.

      No, if I had a quality SP rotation, and was losing games in the later innings I would go with the closer.

  82. @Big Ed: I actually went back and watched Marshall’s Saturday appearance on Sunday, and you’re right – nobody touched his curveball, every hit came off either a slider or a fastball, both of which looked immenently hittable when they were anywhere near the strike zone.

    (I did this because I made the mistaken comparison Saturday with DR Herrera, whose curve was tough to handle, but hitters were able to foul them off and wait for a mistake. Marshall’s hook is much sharper, and nobody really laid a finger on it.]

  83. @Big Ed: another point is the pitch calling. that’s what i was upset about Saturday. Take the Jones AB. he got ahead with 3 curveballs outside, either on the plate or just off.

    Then on the 4th pitch he throws a good fastball, low 90s, down and away, but jones punches it to the opposite field for a single.

    Now tell me this: do you think Jones hits that fastball if he’s not looking away away away? I said right away that it was a bad call, not a bad pitch. If you’re going to throw a fastball there, you want to change the hitters perspective. A fastball in on the hands probably freezes him for strike 3, but at worst it gets him looking in. Then you go back away with the curve.

    I don’t know if that was called from the dugout, the catcher, or Marshall, but it wasn’t the right thing to throw there.

  84. The main problem I have with Marshall being in the closer role is that his go to stuff is off speed. We all know what happens when the command isn’t fully there and you leave one out over the plate. Even though I salivate to see Chapman in the starting rotation I feel either way its not gonna happen this year. So he mine as well be the Closer. He’s blowing batters away and even if he misses his spot with a 97mph fastball I like his chances better than missing with something off speed.

  85. @dn4192: Yeah, we know you would. And respectfully, it’s incomprehensible.

  86. @Big Ed: Fine, it’s a small sample. It’s also a small sample to remove him on, and he’s got two years behind him saying that he’s an elite reliever. No one else in the bullpen has that.

    • @Big Ed: Fine, it’s a small sample. It’s also a small sample to remove him on, and he’s got two years behind him saying that he’s an elite reliever. No one else in the bullpen has that.

      But I’ve been clear I think he should revert to his elite form. I just think the sample size can’t be used to conclude that he is pitching “great,” which was the point of the original post. I don’t think he is, and I doubt Marshall thinks he is.

    • The move solidifies Chapman’s role in the bullpen, unfortunately moving him farther away from joining the starting rotation. At the start of next year he’ll be half way through his 6-year contract with the Reds having contributed a total of only 130 innings. To make matters worse, if the Reds do move him to the rotation in 2013, he’ll be on an innings limit.

      Yep, if he doesn’t pitch more than a regular reliever this year, he won’t have a full season in the rotation next year, either. Hopefully, the secret plan is to stretch him out to start mid-season.

      However, as I noted above, I do think he entered the 2012 with 5 more years of team control. I believe that Chapman is arbitration eligible after 3 years of ML service time (at beginning of ’12 he had 1 year), and the club would have him for 3 years of arbitration eligibility.

  87. @al: If I remember “Ball Four” correctly, somebody said something to the effect of “That’s how you pitch God–breaking balls away, and fastballs in.”

    A veteran like Marshall has to take full responsibility for the pitch, whether it was a bad call or missed location. He threw it, and it’s his fault if he left it where Jones could handle it.

    But if all we have to complain about is this particular bullpen, we’ll be OK this year.

  88. @Steve Mancuso – I think that someone who places such emphasis on modern analytics, this Reds organization may drive you completely insane. Baker looks at matchups and places a strong emphasis on platoon-splits but unfortunately, he uses AVG, HR, RBI to do so and also has little regard for sample size. We also know that one of the reasons for Jocketty’s departure in StL was his “old-school” style and he sure doesn’t seem to place much stock in modern analytics. Add in an owner that brought in Jocketty and clearly likes Baker and you have to think he doesn’t concern himself with bb/9, BABIP, OPS, k/9, FIP, etc.

    This all adds up to an old-school approach that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. I wonder if the Reds even have an analytical analysis team? Does anyone know?

    I am primarily an “old-school” guy and I truly believe that stats can’t tell the whole story but it seems that this organization disregards the modern analytics completely. The tools are there for anyone to see, why not take advantage of all the info that’s available? It drives me nuts sometimes so I imagine for the “stats guys” out there, this management team is going to drive you bonkers.

  89. Frankly, I’d like to see them evaluate Marshall a starter, though not at the expense of Chapman’s not being a starter. Marshall has three plus pitches, and I think the Cubs gave up on him too quick as a starter.

  90. A name to watch for those who prefer the test of six weeks against the haul of a season. Derek Lowe is pitching like an All-Star right now. 6-2, 2.15 ERA, 58 IP. He’s doing well. BUT… the man has only 15 K’s in all of those innings and his WHIP is 1.415. If his ERA is south of 4.00 in Sept, I’ll be surprised.

  91. @Big Ed: Marshall first year in Chicago (and worst as a SP) was Baker’s last year in Chicago. I seriously doubt Baker has many found memories of that 2006 team and the roles those guys had. I would expect that he is not so petty as to continue to hold that over Marshall to this day, but he has never emphatically been on the Marshall-as-closer train.

  92. @Greg Dafler: Remember when Dusty said that he was skeptical about naming Marshall the closer because he “heard” from people in the Cubs that he can’t go a couple days in a row effectively? Don’t the Reds basically know that about Chapman?

    • @Greg Dafler: Remember when Dusty said that he was skeptical about naming Marshall the closer because he “heard” from people in the Cubs that he can’t go a couple days in a row effectively? Don’t the Reds basically know that about Chapman?

      Yes I remember that and we’ve seen over the last 2 years that Chapman tends to struggle in those situations. I don’t know how good Chapman will be as a closer.

      A couple other thoughts:
      I think that Dusty was so patient with Coco as a closer becuase Coco was signed to be the closer and because he had the track record that said he could do the job. I think he’s less patient with Marshall because he has never been sure Marshall can close games and so far Marshall hasn’t shown him he can do the job.

      As far as Chapman starting, we don’t know if he can or can’t. Maybe the Reds feel that experimenting with him as a starter is dangerous if it doesn’t work for some reason? All I know is that management seems to feel the team is better served with him in the pen right now. We as fans may not agree but I’m sure they have reasons.

  93. @LWBlogger: I’ve never quite been clear on how an “old-school” analysis would have Chapman closing. Old-school would have a bunch of has-beens in the bullpen that never even pitch, right? Or maybe that’s old-old school?

  94. […] During the road trip, Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker ignited a firestorm of controversy when he designated Cuban flamethrower, Aroldis Chapman, as the ballclub’s new closer. Though few question Chapman’s ability to succeed as closer, many see that as just another attempt by Baker to delay Chapman’s insertion in the starting rotation. I have no idea whether or not Baker is right, but I found these two arguments, for and against, to be interesting: John Fay, Cincinnati Enquirer, “Few Thoughts on Chapman, Lineup,” and Chad Dotson, RedlegNation, “The Chapman/Marshall Mistake.” […]

  95. […] Redleg Nation calls the Reds’ decision to make Aroldis Chapman the closer a mistake. […]

  96. […] has transpired the past few weeks backs up the point of my previous post, that moving Aroldis Chapman to the closer role was a mistake. Sean Marshall continues to be an […]

  97. […] has transpired the past few weeks backs up the point of my previous post, that moving Aroldis Chapman to the closer role was a mistake. Sean Marshall continues to be an […]

  98. […] in the ninth. What can we say? He’s been worse as closer than Sean Marshall ever was, but we told you from the beginning that putting him in the closer’s role was a bad […]

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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2012 Reds, Dusty Watch, Editorials

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