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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Frankie First To 60 Saves?

Tim Marchman in the New York Sun thinks so:
The main reason to think Rodriguez will actually set a new record is his pace. At his current rate, he'll end up with 66 saves. That's partly a result of his excellence, as he's converted 93% of his save chances, but it's also partly a result of his environment. Half of the Angels' games so far this year have offered a save opportunity, much higher than the typical team's rate, because they play a lot of close games, having only outscored their opponents 429-396. (This is, incidentally, eerily close to the 420-381 margin the White Sox enjoyed through 98 games in Thigpen's record season.)

While this likely won't continue, the point is that it doesn't have to. If the Angels present Rodriguez with save chances in a perfectly normal 37.5% of their remaining games, and he converts 80% of them, he'll end up with 59 saves. Those are conservative assumptions: The Angels have a shabby offense (they're 21st in runs per game) but an excellent pitching staff and defense (they're fourth in runs allowed per game), and so will presumably continue to play a lot of tight games, and Rodriguez is a genuinely excellent reliever. Even if circumstances suddenly turn dire, though, Rodriguez will still have a great chance at the mark. If the Angels were to present him with a save opportunity in an unrealistically low 28% of their remaining games, for instance, but he converted all of them, he would break Thigpen's record. Basically, so long as K-Rod stays healthy, he should set a new record sometime this September.

Marchman goes on to note the usual problems with Frankie: "declining velocity, a declining strikeout rate, and an increased walk rate" are symptoms of a pending collapse. He's 26, so there's that, but I've been skeptical he'll be able to keep this going and so far, he hasn't fallen off the high wire.

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