A Rational Alternative To Saves

HOUSTON - JULY 25: Pitcher Arthur Rhodes #53 of the Cincinnati Reds throws against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning against the Houston Astros on July 25 2010 in Houston Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

As you know, our friends at FanGraphs do great work, and one fantastic example is their invention of -- and efforts to popularize -- Shutdowns and Meltdowns, which in a perfect and just world would quickly replace Saves and Blown saves in the minds (and box scores) of baseball fans everywhere. Because Shutdowns and Meltdowns tell us more about what a relief pitcher actually did, in terms of winning and losing games. For a quick primer, here is FanGraphs' Steve Slowinski:

But how do we determine if a relief pitcher helped or hurt his team? Using Win Probability Added (WPA), it's very easy to tell exactly how much a specific player contributed to their team on a game-by-game basis. If a player increased his team's win probability by 6% (0.06 WPA), then they get a Shutdown. If a player made his team 6% more likely to lose (-0.06), they get a Meltdown. These cutoff points put Shutdowns and Meltdowns on a similar scale as Saves and Holds, meaning that 40 shutdowns is roughly as impressive as 40 saves. While the WPA aspect can take a bit to explain to saber newbies, having Shutdowns and Meltdowns on the same scale as Saves makes it much easier for new people to accept and understand.

I think this is a great idea ... for us. You're never going to get the mass media to give up Saves and Blown Saves and adopt Meltdowns and Shutdowns. Not in this decade, anyway. Because the explanation -- and yes, I know it seems simple to you -- is just too convoluted to explain to a TV audience in 15 seconds.

And yes, I know the save rule is pretty convoluted, too ... But because most save situations are obvious, the components that make the save rule convoluted are easily ignored.

That shouldn't stop us from using Meltdowns and Shutdowns, though. Like I always say, links are our friends. If you see Shutdowns -- and I should mention that metric is particular useful for relievers who don't get the save opportunities -- you'll see it linked to an explanation. We won't leave you hanging. Promise.

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