The 10th inning comeback by St. Louis on Sunday softened the blow of Cardinals closer Jason Motte having allowed a game-tying home run to Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. It was Motte’s sixth blown save of the season.
That stumble led me to look into Motte’s 2012 a bit more, his first in the role after taking over as St. Louis’ closer about this time last year. After a relatively rough start to the season – three blown saves and two losses through May – Motte has just three blown saves and two losses since June 1.
In other words, this is clearly not a panic situation.
But how does his season stack up compared to other top closers across Major League Baseball?
MLB 2012 save leaders, through September 9
First of all, Motte is currently eighth in MLB in saves with 33.
However, when looking at the 18 closers with at least 25 saves to-date, Motte’s six blown saves tie him for second-most, after Boston’s Alfredo Aceves, who has eight.
Over his 39 opportunities, Motte’s save conversion rate of 84.6 percent is 14th – the fifth worst of this group.
Motte’s ERA of 2.90 is 10th but the OPS of his collective batters faced is seventh-best at .592.
(Note the names in this second table are listed in the same order as the one above.)
One of Motte’s trouble areas this season appeared again on Sunday, with the long ball given up. This trend is a bit concerning as it was his fourth home run yielded in his most recent 11 outings and ninth overall this season. Motte’s total of nine ties Aceves for the most home runs allowed among the top 18 closers.
Further, Motte’s rate of one home run allowed per 27 batters faced is dead last among this group.
Certainly, Motte has upper-90’s velocity, which when contact occurs, could lead to an immediate bad outcome. On the other hand, he isn’t the only hard-thrower among this group.
Is it because Motte’s secondary offerings might be less effective than others’? I don’t know.
I began to wonder about strike-throwing. At the far right of the second table above, you can see that Motte registers the highest percentage of strikes of any of these closers, except for Atlanta’s wildly-successful Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is just one-tenth of a percent higher, at 41.2 to 41.1 percent.
However, Motte is not ringing up strikeouts at an unusual rate for this group. In fact, the numbers are just the opposite. 11 of the 17 others have a higher strikeout rate than Motte’s one K per every 3.4 batters faced (see first table).
So, in summary, Motte throws almost the most strikes but doesn’t strike out all that many, while giving up the most long balls (tied) and has a fairly-high rate of blown saves.
Could Motte be throwing too many strikes or it is just that too many of them are getting hit hard enough to leave the park?
What do you think? Let’s continue this discussion below…
(Thanks to researcher Tom Orf for supplying the data in the tables.)