Good day friends, it is your buddy BeefLoaf and I heard something on the broadcast today that sounded a little counterintuitive and even got some push back from Jason Benetti. Steve Stone said…
“For Closers, ERA doesn’t matter.”
Jason Benetti seemed to be taken aback by this statement, but I don’t think it was because he’s never heard it or anything, this is a long time Stone-ism if you will. I think Benetti is starting to come into his own with challenging his analyst in certain spots when warranted and when the audience might learn something from the exchange. Benetti battled back a bit noting that he thinks it does matter in how closers get paid and Stone just sort of shrugged it off and said he disagreed.
I think what Stoney meant in this situation is that the closer’s job is very binary and that ERA can be misleading when evaluating this specific job. What is the job of a closer? In general, they enter the game in the final inning and are required to get 3 outs without relinquishing the lead. That’s it. Imagine a scenario where your closer has 10 outings so far in the season, 8 save opportunities, in which he’s converted all of them. 8 for 8 in saves, but he had 1 close call in a 3 run lead situation where he gave up 2 runs and 1 outing that wasn’t a save situation where he didn’t have it and gave up 3 runs and left the game without recording an out. Our closer, our hero, would have a 5.00 ERA (5 ER in 9 IP) but would be perfect in situations where protecting the lead was the job. I think this is what Stoney meant. ERA’s can swing wildly when innings pitched sample sizes are small.
Over longer treks of time, run related metrics (ERA, FIP, xFIP, etc) become more valuable to identifying the closer’s value, but over shorter time frames things can be blurry. As always with everything you read or hear YMMV