The save speculator: Milwaukee Brewers revisited

At the beginning of the week, we discussed the Brewers’ closer situation after Eric Gagne blew his fifth save of the year. Saturday night, in his first appearance since then, he blew a tie game in the ninth as the Brewers lost 6-5. Let’s first look at some of the postgame quotes to see if we can discern whether he’ll keep the job.

Tonight’s quotes

Read some of the things Gagne said after tonight’s game and let me know what they remind you of.

I don’t deserve that ninth inning right now. It’s pretty simple.

I don’t need breaks. I need to keep going out there. I need results. I get myself in a situation, in a jam, every single time I’m out there. You can’t pitch like that.

Every time we get a little momentum, I come out there and kill that rally. It’s a matter of going out there and executing your pitches—not thinking results—and I’m thinking results. I’m going out there thinking three outs before I can even get one.

Hmm… sounds a lot like Jason Isringhausen Friday night, doesn’t it? It’s obviously not the same situation and needs to be analyzed independently, but anytime the closer is down on himself like this, saying he doesn’t deserve the job, there is a good chance he will be removed, if only temporarily.

Just based on my own observations, it seems a lot of managers think the ninth inning adds extra pressure and can affect a pitcher’s performance. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but I’d have to think Ned Yost doesn’t want a guy finishing games who doesn’t believe in himself.

It should be noted that after the fifth blown save earlier in the week, Yost had this to say:

This is a guy who has had a lot of success in this role. You allow him the time to work through it. Will he get on a roll? Yeah. He hasn’t been on top of his game, and he’s still at the top of the league in saves. When he gets on his game, he’s going to run off 15, 20, 25 of them in a row. You can’t do it if you start panicking on the guy and start talking about not letting him close anymore.

After his fifth blown save, Yost didn’t say anything after the game and waited two days before issuing this statement. Tonight, he did have a quote after the game, and it was significantly different than his last one.

I don’t sit here and make decisions five minutes after a tough loss. I’ll sit and think. You guys have known me long enough, I take a long time to analyze things and give everybody the benefit of the doubt and try to make the right decision.

Also, after the last blown save, General Manager Doug Melvin had this to say:

There’s no magic number (of blown saves). If they are consecutive, that’s when you get worried. … You stay with a closer as long as you can. If a hitter slumps for six weeks, you stay with him. Closers go in slumps, too. You give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Well, tonight wasn’t technically a consecutive blown save, but it’s pretty much the same thing, right?

So will he keep the job?

My guess, right now, is no. A manager simply can’t have a closer with a mentality like Gagne currently has and allow him to continue closing. Yost knows this, and I think after talking to Gagne, a change will be made. Even if he is given the job back in a couple of weeks, I think we’ll see something soon about Gagne being removed.

Prior conclusions

If Gagne is removed, here are the things we discovered last time about his potential replacements:

Reasons for Guillermo Mota:
1) Highest Leverage Index
2) Used late in the game more often than the other two
3) Used for multiple innings the least often
4) Comparable skills to Salomon Torres and better skills than David Riske
5) Lowest ERA of the group

Reasons for Salomon Torres:
1) Best skills (though not by much compared to Mota)
2) Given Gagne’s homer troubles, Torres’ low fly ball rates might look appealing
3) Mota’s high walk rate might push Torres past him (new addition to the list)
4) Most prior success closing games among the three candidates (although he wasn’t that good)

Reasons for David Riske:
1) Was considered Gagne’s primary insurance early in the season (so was Turnbow, though)

Concluding thoughts

If you need saves and Mota or Torres are still available, or were dropped after things settled down during the week, now is the time to pick them up. My choice would be Mota first. Even if you only hold them for a day or two, it is a pretty good percentage play right now.

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