As I am on vacation in a place with no television, I have been unable to watch the last two games of the world series. But I have seen that the Yankees have lost both games, by a total of three runs, and in neither game have they pitched their best reliever, Mariano Rivera - arguably, the greatest reliever in the history of baseball.

Rob Neyer, who writes one of my favorite columns over at, talks about it here. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the situation, as Neyer does an excellent job, but I do want to talk about the use of closers in general in baseball.

Ever since the institution of the save rule in baseball, managers seem to be obsessed with not using their "closer" unless it is a save situation. To earn a save in baseball, the pitcher has to come into the game with a lead of 3 runs or less, and not give it up, while finishing the game. They have to pitch at least one inning. A pitcher can also earn a save by pitching 3+ innings to end a game. Typically, this means they pitch the 9th inning with a lead, and will not start the 9th unless the team has a 3 run or smaller lead.

The practice of managers saving their best pitchers for some of these situations is ridiculous. While I will not do the math here, it seems obvious that you do not need your best pitcher to protect a 3 run lead for one inning. It also seems obvious that, in a tie game, you may want to use your best pitcher anyway to prevent your opponent from scoring, and you may want to use him even if you are losing if it's the world series and he has all winter to rest. Managers, however, seem hamstrung by the save rule itself, as if it was designed to tell them how to use their closers. Joe Torre, the manager of the Yankees, very often uses Mariano Rivera for more than one inning to get the save, which is a rarity today, but I can't remember seeing him in a game-tied situation, and I've often seen him pitch with a large lead when he was unneeded. While I am unfortunately not a big-league manager, even if you feel the need to follow tradition in the regular season for closers, you have to treat the world series differently. Torre does it, but he does not go far enough, and in this case his reluctance may have cost the Yankees the title.



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