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Blown Saves and Loss Minimization

2012 May 4
by Phil Miller

Textbook economic models of firms typically begin with the assumption that firms make decisions in order to maximize profits.  When a firm realizes that it will incur losses no matter what it chooses to do, it’s best for the firm to act to minimize those losses.  Since losses are negative profits, profit-maximization and loss-minimization are two sides of the same coin.

Yesterday, going into the bottom of the ninth in Cinicinnati, the Cubs enjoyed a 3-0 lead over the Reds after another dominating performance by Ryan Dempster.  Dempster finished the bottom of the eighth, but since he was fresh off the disabled list, Cub manager Dale Sveum brought in struggling closer Carlos Marmol to pitch the bottom of the ninth.

Handed that three-run lead, Marmol immediately displayed what is becoming his trademark wildness, walking the first two batters.  He failed to record an out and left with the bases loaded, nobody out, and a run in.

At this point, Sveum inserted rookie Rafael Dolis, a ground ball pitcher and played his middle infielders back, hoping for a double-play ball.  That’s exactly what happened as Dolis coaxed Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco to hit a grounder to short that the Cubs turned for two, letting the tying run score.  Dolis got the next man out, but he gave up the winning run in the bottom of the tenth.

Blown saves are not an official statistic kept by (or even mentioned in the official rule book of) Major League Baseball.   I do not know why this is, but perhaps this game gave us an indication why:  this save opportunity was blown by the team.  Marmol couldn’t get anyone out, but this was in part due to an Ian Stewart error on a possible double play ball.  Had third baseman Stewart fielded that ball and started a double play, the Reds would have a runner on second (or first) with two out and no runs in.  Instead the Reds got their first run on that play and had men on first and second with nobody out.  After Marmol gave up a single and walked another man, Dolis was brought on and promptly minimized the damage when he let the run score on the double play grounder.

Perhaps the fact that the Cubs lost the game is enough of a stat to show who blew yesterday’s game.

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