The column I wanted to write this Friday was going to be simple: Aroldis Chapman is amazing. Yes, we write a lot about the Cuban Missile here at Redleg Nation; I won’t claims it’s original, just entertaining.

Here’s how the column was going to read: it is fairly well established that winning one-run games is not a repeatable skill from year-to-year. For example, in 2012, Baltimore went 29-9 in games decided by 1 run. It was an incredible year that landed the O’s in the playoffs and made some believe they could consistently challenge the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. The following year the O’s went 20-31 in one run games and finished tied for third in their division at 85-77.

Yet Aroldis Chapman makes people think crazy things. I was sure that the numbers would support me in saying that Chapman has allowed the Reds to consistently win more 1-run games than other teams since 2010. Isn’t that what “elite” closers do? Isn’t that why we keep him locked in a dungeon in the bullpen until the game is on the line?

The only problem: that story is entirely false.

When Aroldis Chapman was installed as the full-time closer in 2010, we knew the Reds had a weapon. The 104 MPH fireball thrower was going to lock down the closest games for the Reds. The problem is that, since 2010, the Reds have had a losing record in 1 run games.


Now linking the Reds record in 1-run games to Aroldis Chapman is a little big of slight of hand. For example, better teams will win more 1-run games than worse teams because better teams win more of every type of game than bad teams. That is, by definition, what makes them better.

There are also lots of ways to lose 1-run games: for example, the Reds could lose 1-0 and never have a lead in the game (such as last year’s season opener to St. Louis). Teams normally win (or lose) in extra innings by 1 run. Since the Reds have not been a consistently good team since 2010, combined with games in which Chapman never pitches, it is easy to understand why the Cuban Missile would not move the needle on these closely fought contests.

Yet this is precisely the problem: this past week Chapman was brought in to “close” a game when the Reds were ahead by 4 runs. By the percentages, the Reds had over a 98% chance of winning that game. Despite this, we used our best pitcher to close the door on a contest that, in all truthfulness, was already over. Also this week: the Reds played 13 innings one day and did not elect to have Chapman throw a single inning. Why? Because of the “closer rules”.

The closer rules, however, are inning-blind: these rules only consider “save situations” as important and ignore how to create a “save situation”. Have a tie game with the other team’s heart of the order coming up? Can’t go with the closer, not a save situation. We saw this against the Pirates only eight days ago. Bases loaded, tie game in the sixth? Way too early to be using your best bullpen arm, what if there is an important matchup in the 9th?

This is much akin to only batting Joey Votto as a pinch hitter when the Reds have a lead.

It is true that when the Reds have a 1-run lead in the 9th, Chapman gives the Reds the best chance to win. But that’s because Chapman gives the Reds the best chance to win regardless of when he pitches. And while I’m happy to see Chapman light up the radar run in the 9th, I also know it would be fun to watch him slam the door in the sixth, seventh, or eighth as well.

35 Responses

  1. Tom Gray

    A closer is only a weapon when you win more games than you lose. The Reds did that under Dusty Baker from 2010 through 2013. The Reds haven’t done that (and won’t) under Bryan Price in 2014 or 2015.

    • tct

      Then why are you so opposed to trading Chapman? Why do you freak out and troll every thread that talks about trading Cueto, Leake, or Byrd if you know that the Reds aren’t going to win this year anyway?

      • Tom Gray

        Not opposed. Trade them all. The Reds aren’t ever going to win with Bryan Price.

    • docmike

      If you legitimately think the problem in 2014 and 15 is Price, and not a terribly flawed roster, then you just haven’t been paying attention.

      Dusty Baker would probably have the Reds with the worst record in baseball to this point. How do I know? Because I watched him manage the Reds for several years, and make countless dumb decisions.

  2. BigRedMachine

    Good lord. I’m all for replacing Price. But looking back at the Dusty Baker days with rose colored glasses is not the answer.

  3. Kurt Frost

    Huston Street says he can’t pitch unless he had a defined role.

    • Matt WI

      I read that article. Blew my mind.

      • Chris Miller

        My answer to that then would be to get the maximum for him. All it takes is one manager to manage with common sense when it comes to 1 run games in the 7, 8th, or 9th innnings, and this whole save crap will go away. and by the way, the manager who does that, will influence his team’s w/l record a whole lot.

  4. i71_Exile

    While I generally agree with your article, cherry picking that stat about Aroldis pitching with a four run lead last week is ridiculous. Aroldis pitched that game because he hadn’t pitched in three days and only once in the previous week. Yes, this demonstrates the absurdity of the so-called closer rules, but it also reveals just how much second guessing a manager can expect when he deviates from those rules—and too much second-guessing leads to unemployment.

    Heaven forbid that Aroldis not be available when the Reds need him.

    Yes, the Reds would strongly benefit from relaxing the “rules” for when they use Aroldis Chapman. We might benefit from letting it go.

    • Indy Red Man

      That’s the thing….with Price and Jocketty you don’t have to 2nd guess. Your first guess is GOOD TO GO…..i.e. Kevin Gregg and Jason Marquis.

    • Vicferrari

      Definitely right in calling out the cherry picking, Chapman absolutely needed the work that game but could have called out the fact he was not used Sunday- preferably for 2 innings. Though it may not have made a difference had he been brought in 8th-12th inning, you might have had a little more flexibility in choosing a pitcher that could make an opening day roster.
      The rules are just bizarre but it is not like just Price follows them. Watching the SD- Cards extra inning Costas had to point out that Kimbrell would not be available until the Padres got the lead when their relief pitcher ran into trouble in the 9th or 10th. Kimbrell got the save in the 11th- just like you draw it up.

      • Vicferrari

        I wanted to add that people seem to be calling out Price but I would like to start a debate on who would actually use Chapman in high level situations in the 6th or 7th.Just out of curiosity which games could Chapman have affected this season that the Reds did not pull out. I really only thought the Sunday game against the Cards the first week he should have come on in the 8th- I am sure there were some others as well, but in what scenario does his arm not get blown out? I would think somewhere in the 90 innings range seems realistic and I am not sure this would cover most people’s idea of high leverage situation.

      • Carl Sayre

        The plus side to putting Chapman in a “high level” situation that you put out a fire that maybe the other in the pen can’t and also we might get a second inning or at least more than 1 inning. We might get beat in the ninth if he was rolled out there in the 6th or 7th but if he holds a lead or keeps the team even then you deal with the 9th when you get to it.

  5. Indy Red Man

    Since everyone plays more 1 run games now…wouldn’t it make sense to quit playing with a short bench? Why do we need 13 pitchers? Price has absolutely picked up all of the idiotic tenets of Dustyball without any of his people skills or leadership? BP or whoever will be on the roster…or 2 guys…but can’t go that night? Leake is now a key pinch hitter or they’ll have Byrd on 1st in the 10th and can’t pinch run for him? Its beyond stupid? Irving Falu can run a little bit….he’s a switch hitter and he’s only K’d twice in his last 10 games while hitting .395. I also couldn’t believe it when Disco came back out for the 7th the other night? The crowd even clapped for him after the 6th…correctly assuming that he battled without his good stuff for as long as he could. I have no faith in Jocketty either?

    • tct

      Yes, it’s freaking stupid to have 13 pitchers and 12 position players. Has Price never heard of a long man? They need to make one of their former starters, like Contreras or Smith into a long man. Every team used to have a guy like that who could pitch multiple innings in relief or make a spot start. That could be a good role for Moscot in the future if the Reds find five starters that are better.

      • Tom Gray

        Agreed. The Reds roster is upside down right now.

        Then again, so is Bryan Price.

    • Vicferrari

      Just harping on the Leake comment, he is probably their worst hitting SP this year, he should take his hitting seriously if he is going to be relied on as realistic PH, the past 2 season he has turned into a hacker when he looked like he knew what he was doing the first 3 seasons or so.

  6. kmartin

    Excellent article. Above you state: “… better teams will win more 1-run games than worse teams because better teams win more of every type of game than bad teams.” Yes, exactly! I have had countless debates with friends who think the entire key to success is winning 1-run games. People seem to fixate on 1-run games. Here is something I have always wondered about. Consider a team and look at a large sample size of games for that team, perhaps 10 years. This is over 1600 games. Shouldn’t the overall winning percentage, winning percentage in 1-run games, winning percentage in 2-run games, etc. be approximately the same? For a large sample size it seems like winning percentage in n-run games should be approximately constant for all n. I would love to hear someone say: “the only reason we didn’t win the division this year was we lost too many 3-run games.”

    • Vicferrari

      Was there not an article that showed there was almost no positive correlation with winning 1 run games and being successful. About as many playoff teams had losing records in 1 run games as those with winning records that did not make the playoffs. I do not recall if the quantity mattered.
      Saw something recently that scoring first typically results in winning 75% on a team’s games.

  7. Tom Gray

    Mid season trades have not yielded much for the Reds except when getting the veteran for MiLB prospects. Examples include Foster in 1971, Seaver in 1977, and others more recently.

    Examples of poor trades by Reds mid year include Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey (Jr), Jeff Shaw, and others.

    Mid year trades have always been a crapshoot. The occasional Lou Brock (for Ernie Broglio) or Ferguson Jenkins (for a couple of Cubs veteran starters) are rare indeed.

    • Vicferrari

      But we are going to get all these high level prospects this year because last year the Cubs got Addison Russell.

      • i71_Exile

        True. The stars aligned perfectly for that heist: desperate for pitching ADD Billy Beane and the stupid Cubs with a roster of semi-productive, overhyped veteran pitchers on a team going nowhere. Add a bottomless wallet and Lester waiting to replace “the Shark” in free agency and you have a win-win recipe for the Cubs.

        Sadly, that deal looks so bad now that’s it’s a warning buoy for every other GM.

    • Indy Red Man

      We got Masset for Griffey and Junior was 99% finished by then. Masset had outstanding stuff but got hurt

      • Vicferrari

        Ahhh for all the years that Masset lead the Reds to important victories, I can’t wait for this mythical prospect that will do the same in 2017 or 2018 or the amazing year of 2050

      • Vicferrari

        I am sorry you actually made a good point but my point is the prospects probably will not lead you anywhere since you were in the soecific position to acquire them…have to get rid of all the loser mentality before the rebuild can actual happen…start at the GM then …..

    • Michael Smith

      Adding to your list of years and trades for vets and giving up milb talent (that didn’t really come thru for the other team)

      1995 The reds in separate trades brought in Mark Portugal, David Wells and Dave Burba and gave up next to nothing.

      The Shaw trade should have been great since the reds got Konerko but sadly he played roughly 8 innings for the reds before being traded.

  8. Carl Sayre

    Part of being a baseball fan is second guessing the manager even the good ones will have someone question why they did something. This thing about Price is not just fans questioning a manager it has become apparent that he is not up to the task. Why haven’t Mr. C and or WJ seen this? Deshields as interim for a half a year would give a good indication if he is the answer long term. The waiting till the season over won’t give them that chance.

    • i71_Exile

      I don’t yet believe that Brian Price is not up to the task of managing the Reds. You have to have players to win. Look at Ned Yost—run out of Milwaukee for his nincompoopery and almost wins it all in KC. Besides, DeShields is as old school as they come. The Reds would need to look elsewhere.

      • Carl Sayre

        I threw that out because he is already with the Reds and his name comes up often in the rumor mill. I think that the injuries last year blinded some to how he seemed lost in his decisions. Sparky Anderson himself could not have won consistently with the injuries he dealt with. He did however had me scratching my head a lot. He is a professional and i am but a fan but common sense will work for baseball managers. I like having a second lead off man by having Hamilton hit behind the pitcher but that seems to be the fad this year. The other decisions he comes up with makes me wonder are we watching the same game. I will close with this man makes a living at this and I am just an overzealous fan. I would love for him to prove me wrong I feel bad calling for anybody to lose their job.

      • docmike

        Awesome use of the word “nincompoopery”.


    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      One thing with Price, I like his style better than Baker. These teams have played with much more energy than Baker’s teams. Price will actually umpire’s calls; Baker will still be picking his next toothpick. I don’t doubt there is someone better than Price. But, I’ve definitely been happy with Price.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        “Price will actually argue umpire’s calls.”

  9. Adam S.

    Deshields should never be reds manager.

  10. Steve Schoenbaechler

    The thing is, successful closers close games. That means the team is in the lead. You would have to look Chapman’s save percentage. Simple explanation for the rest, the Reds have been behind but 1 run in a lot of games, more than they’ve been ahead.

    If Chapman comes in during other games, it’s been to be able to stay loose. You don’t keep any reliever in the pen until their exact spot. You have to get them some game time.