DATA DEPENDENT: Comparing today’s top closers vs all-time greats when it comes to high leverage situations.

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Just a quick drive-by Data Dependent. The trade of Josh Hader, one of baseball’s premier closers, to the San Diego Padres got me thinking about how the current crop of saves leaders stack up against the all-time greats. And while there’s no shortage of new (and old) stats that allow you to compare players between eras (WAR, waaWL%, WHIP, WPA, cWPA, the list is endless), I was curious about how much pressure they were under while registering their save (or blown saves).

I turned to baseball-reference.com‘s handy Game Entering Leverage Index (gmLI) as my key data point. The definition provided by the site is as follows:

- Solely for relief appearances, this is the average of each appearances opening leverage index
weighted by the batters faced in that outing.
- The average pressure the pitcher or batter saw in this game or season.
- 1.0 is average pressure, below 1.0 is low pressure and above 1.0 is high pressure.

So here are the top 30 closers all-time according to total saves and their gmLI:

NAMESAVESINNINGSgmLI
Mariano Rivera6521283.21.81
Trevor Hoffman6011089.11.85
Lee Smith4781289.11.8
Francisco Rodriguez4379761.63
John Franco4241245.21.74
Billy Wagner4229031.65
Craig Kimbrel392667.11.71
Dennis Eckersley3903285.21.73
Joe Nathan377923.11.63
Kenley Jansen374745.11.6
Jonathan Papelbon368725.21.7
Jeff Reardon3671132.11.83
Troy Percival358708.21.8
Randy Myers347884.21.87
Rollie Fingers3411701.11.95
John Wetteland3307651.81
Francisco Cordero329824.21.58
Fernando Rodney3279331.52
Roberto Hernandez3261071.11.55
Huston Street3246801.62
Jose Mesa3211548.21.45
Todd Jones31910721.54
Rick Aguilera3181291.11.75
Aroldis Chapman3156301.64
Robb Nen3147151.66
Tom Henke311789.21.78
Rich Gossage3101809.11.56
Jeff Montgomery304868.21.68
Doug Jones3031128.11.58
Jason Isringhausen3001007.21.44

I even made a pretty chart to make things easier to digest.


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Back to Hader and today’s crop of Firemen and their career numbers. Here are the top closers and their gmLI:

NAMESAVESINNINGSgmLI
Josh Hader125318.11.85
Taylor Rogers783581.55
Edwin Diaz199382.21.82
Jordan Romano50134.21.72
Emmanuel Clase49139.11.51
Kenley Jansen374745.11.6
Daniel Bard54388.11.61
Liam Hendriks1006251.42
Ryan Pressly65511.21.37
Gregory Soto401831.43

And another nifty chart:

Surprisingly, there isn’t that much wiggle room between the top of the crop when it comes to how difficult the situation was when they entered the game. That said, if we’re going by gmLI (which we are), the winner’s trophy goes to Rollie Fingers, who was not only one of the game’s premier closers, but also had the best moustache of all time.

IMAGE CREDIT: mlb.com


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