From Yahoo.Sports: (from Forbes.com)
BaseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s free agent shopping season opened Friday, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unlikely to show any effects of the economic slump. Led by New York Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, teams are signaling a willingness to spend.
But if general managers are looking to save a few bucks, there is one smart tactic they can take. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s resisting the urge to improve their relief pitching by spending big on the Ã¢â‚¬Å“closersÃ¢â‚¬Â out there on this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s market Ã¢â‚¬â€œ those one-inning relief pitchers whose jobs are mostly limited to finishing out games in which their teams build a lead after eight innings of a nine-inning game.
Last year, 20 of baseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 30 teams increased their spending on the closer spot. The result? Those teams won no more games than they did the previous year, on average (in fact, the average victory total went down by a fraction of a game per team). Meanwhile, the nine clubs that decreased spending on the position won more than they did in 2007, by an average of two games apiece.
Those stats vary some from year to year, but stretching them back to 2004 shows a virtual dead heat between those clubs that put more of their budget into the closer spot from the previous year and those that put less. Over the past five seasons, the victory totals for both groups have fluctuated by about one win per team. That means the closer plays a relatively small roll in the ups and downs of a clubÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fortunes. Yet GMÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seem increasingly infatuated with them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the average closer made $4.3 million last season, up from $2.7 million in 2004.
True, teams with higher-paid closers usually win more than those without them. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because those teams tend to have higher total payrolls; theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re spending more all over the field. On a percentage of payroll basis, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s little difference. The 10 winningest teams of 2008, including the champion Philadelphia Phillies, devoted an average of 5.2 percent of their budgets to the closer spot. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a hair above what the leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bottom 10 teams invested.
The article goes on to contrast the Brewers closer situation and by extension their payroll situation and the Reds.
Data shows that when it comes to pitching, depth is the real key. This past season, Milwaukee Brewers closer Salomon Torres (3.49 earned run average, 28 saves) didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have quite as good a year as veteran Francisco Cordero did in 2007 (2.98 ERA, 44 saves), but Torres made $2 million less than Cordero, who went to Cincinnati after the 2007 season. But the Brewers won seven more games and made the playoffs, thanks largely to managementÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ability to swing a midseason deal for star starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who went 11-2 down the stretch, spurring a flurry of ticket buying for the games he started. No doubt, shedding Cordero played a role in the BrewersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ ability to take on a portion of SabathiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $11 million contract.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, won only two more games than they did in 2007 (74 vs. 72), despite lavishing $8.6 million on Cordero.
Which again raises the issue, was the Cordero contract worthwhile?