Casey’s Statistical Follow-up Series: Do winning teams provide more save opportunities?

Source: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Source: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

By Casey Boguslaw

In part two of my statistical follow-up series, I take a look at a debate discussing if closers are more important to winning or losing teams. While the debate is largely beneficial for fantasy baseball players, it does have some relevance to the actual GMs making decisions.

In early April, I wrote an article about some specifics with the closer position. The article was inspired by the trade of Craig Kimbrel on what the correlation was between good teams and the necessity of a good closer. Here we are seven months later and guess what? Craig Kimbrel has been traded again. In April, he went from a rebuilding team to a wannabe contender. In November – he has been traded from a team planning a rebuild to a wannabe contender.

The summary of my article written in April was to look at whether a winning team allows more opportunities for a closer to thrive. I looked at the situation that if a team is a winning team, do they win by few enough runs to require when closers are most used? You can look back at my April article to see the exact numbers from 2012, 2013 and 2014. But here is how they ended up in 2015.

Team

     Wins

       Saves Rank

STL

100 1
PIT

98

4

CHC

97

6

KCR

95

3

TOR

93

30

LAD

92

8

NYM

90

5

TEX

88

11

NYY

87

6

HOU

86

22

LAA

85

10

SFG

84

17

WSN

83

17

MIN

83

11

BAL

81

16

CLE

81

23

TBR

80

2

ARI

79

14

BOS

78 20

SEA

76 11

CHW

76 24

DET

74 26

SDP

74 17

MIA

71

26

MIL

68

20

OAK

68

31

COL

68

25

ATL

67

14

CIN

64

26

PHI

63

26

To start off with, saves were up (1292) after normalizing the last three years (1261, 1266, 1264).The correlation between wins and saves is .66653, a fairly strong positive relation. Even upon a simple glance, it’s easy to see that the teams with the most wins ranked on top of the save list. An interesting side note there though; the Blue Jays were ranked 30th in saves and were well-known for having an outlier offensive season. So yes, a winning team will get more saves…unless your team is scoring 10 runs a game.

Now let’s look at the correlation between wins and save opportunities.

Team      Wins

 Save Opps Rank

STL

100

5

PIT

98 2

CHC

97 3

KCR

95 8

TOR

93

19

LAD

92

4

NYM

90

1

TEX

88

21

NYY

87

16
HOU

86

12
LAA

85

11
SFG

84

19
WSN

83

7

MIN

83

10

BAL

81

17

CLE

81

27

TBR

80

6

ARI

79

21
BOS

78

12
SEA

76

26
CHW

76

24
DET

74

29
SDP

74

12

MIA

71

27

MIL

68

24

OAK

68

31

COL

68

15

ATL

67

23

CIN

64

17

PHI

63

30

There is a very strong correlation for this in 2015 – 0.7252, a large jump from 2014 but more aligned with 2012 and 2013. In 2015, it can be said that a winning team provides their relievers more save opportunities. That makes sense because one criterion for a save opportunity is that you have to be winning. However, another criterion is the game has to be close.

Lastly, let’s take a look at how many one-run games each team were and see if there is a correlation there.

Team Wins

1 Run Game Rank

STL

100

4
PIT

98

7
CHC

97

4

KCR

95 28
TOR

93

24

LAD

92

11

NYM

90

11

TEX

88

11

NYY

87

16

HOU

86

10

LAA

85

8
SFG

84

16
WSN

83

20
MIN

83

27
BAL

81

9
CLE

81

30

TBR

80

3

ARI

79

20

BOS

78

29

SEA

76

2

CHW

76

1

DET

74

14

SDP

74

24
MIA

71

20
MIL

68

31
OAK

68

6

COL

68

20

ATL

67

19

CIN

64

16

PHI

63

24

For the fourth straight season, the amount of team wins does not correlate much at all (0.2889) although this year was by far the highest correlation. What this does show us again is that even though a team has fewer losses that does not mean their margin of victories are any closer.

For yet another year, we can correctly prove that winning teams provide more opportunities for a closer to do what they are being paid to do. The Padres were smart in making the trade last year and the Red Sox are doing the correct thing as well.

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