(Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press)
Following John Axford’s uninspiring outing against the Rockies on Wednesday, Ron Roenicke said something we’ve heard some version of before – that for whatever reason closers do not perform well in non-save situations. I wondered how true that is, so I did a little research.
It probably wouldn’t be fair to compare Axford to guys like Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. Axford has been his team’s closer for three seasons, so I think it makes sense to compare him to his peers: guys who have been in the closer role for two to four seasons. Looking at earned running average, opponent batting average, and walks/hits per inning pitched, here is what we find.
2.80 / .200 / 1.19 Save
3.86 / .248 / 1.43 Non-Save
Whoa. Axford is remarkably less effective, including a whole ‘nother earned run in non-save situations.
3.35 / .170 / 1.29 Save
2.73 / .176 / 1.23 Non-Save
I didn't realize players hit so poorly against Marmol overall.
1.59 / .149 / 0.83 Save
1.19 / .149 / 1.02 Non-Save
Lights out. Interesting that, like Marmol, Kimbrel’s ERA is higher in save situations.
2.47 / .191 / 0.96 Save
2.64 / .197 / 1.07 Non-Save
No big difference for Mariano Rivera's 2012 stand-in.
2.76 / .216 / 1.19 Save
3.81 / .238 / 1.39 Non-Save
Hanrahan seems to share Axford’s tendencies in allowing earned runs.
3.18 / .222 / 1.22 Save
3.29 / .195 / 1.14 Non-Save
For what it's worth, Perez has almost the same number of career saves as Axford, 108 to Ax's 106.
3.53 / .238 / 1.31 Save
3.97 / .228 / 1.41 Non-Save
Based on this modest sample size, it seems clear that calling on Axford (or Hanrahan) in non-save situations is a dubious proposition. However, there does not appear to be a general pattern of closers significantly underperforming in these roles. Hopefully Rick Kranitz can work some magic here.