“Closer” Inspection

by on January 14, 2011 · 2 comments

As the Cardinals go into 2011, there is concern among some members of Cardinal Nation that the closer, Ryan Franklin, won’t return to his 2009 form.  The planets seemed to align that year, and Franklin scored the one and only All-Star appearance of his career and totaled 38 saves.  Unfortunately, 2010 wasn’t so kind to Franklin, and he only notched 27 saves.  So, should fans be worried?  Well, it’s time to turn to the numbers (courtesy of baseball-reference.com). 

  • 2009 stats:    1.92 ERA, 214 ERA+, 7.2 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, 1.83 SO/BB, 0.3 hr/9, 61.0 innings
  • 2010 stats:     3.46 ERA, 113 ERA+, 7.9 H/9, 1.4 BB/9, 5.8 SO/9, 4.20 SO/BB, 1.0 hr/9, 65.0 innings

If anything, it looks like maybe Franklin was around the plate a little too much in 2010.  The opponents’ batting line against Franklin went from .220/.296/.296/.592 in 2009 to .230/.270/.391/.661 in 2010.  The change resulted in 97 total bases in 2010 versus 66 in 2009.  He also gave up 3 triples and 7 home runs in 2010 versus 0 triples and 2 dingers the previous year.  Franklin’s BAbip in 2010 was .250.  In 2009, it was actually .263 which is 13 points higher.

When looking at what I consider Franklin’s “peripheral stats” like strikeouts per 9 innings (SO/9), I think it’s worth noting that he was a starting pitcher for much of his career, so the stats are skewed a bit as a result.  However, it’s not necessarily a bad idea to look at some of the overall trends throughout his career.  After making the switch to St. Louis, his hits per 9 innings rate dropped to 7.9 after 3 consecutive seasons at 10.0 or higher.  He’s also improved his strikeout rate in St. Louis to well above his career average of 5.0 per 9 innings. 

However, the most important element here may actually be one that is not captured very well by the statistics.  It’s the element of perception.  In 2009, Franklin saved 38 games, but he was credited with blowing 5 save opportunities for an 88% success rate.  In 2010, he saved 27 and only blew 2 chances which translates to a 93% success rate.  So, the guy was actually more successful at his job, but he now faces the perception that he’s a shaky closer?  Now, I’m not here to judge or defend Franklin, but I am going on record as saying that maybe he needs a good PR team.

TIDBITS:  Having 7 blown saves in 2 seasons is really, really good.  The unfortunate part is the relatively low number of save opportunities.  In a good year, he should have a reasonable shot at 35-40.   

Like it?  Shocked that I’m not actually ready to blast Franklin to the moon?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and we’ll tweet about “peripheral stats”!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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cariocacardinal January 14, 2011

Amazing how there is not that great of difference in the 2009 to 2010 stats yet the ERA+ is double in 2010. I guess they must weight xbh’s heavily.

Dennis January 14, 2011

It’s actually his ERA in the formula that includes the league ERA that makes the difference so great. The really curious difference is how this example illustrates the fine line between a great season and a decent one for someone who pitches so few innings. If he keeps just a few of those home runs in the yard, the ERA comes down in a big hurry.

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