Stump for Cruz
In the comments section yesterday, Goat Reader Sman invited us to Meet Juan Cruz:
Sman wrote: "For his career, that means 352.2 IP, 1.392 WHIP, 188 Runs and 53 IRS
(average 6.2 Rc/9) with 11 Blown Saves in 14 opportunities. (And that's
with 194 of his 310 appearances coming when his team was trailing, so
mainly low leverage)
It is hardly small sample size with Cruz - its par for the course..."
Actually, Sman, when you put it that way, I am all that much more excited and hopeful that the Cubs will pursue Cruz. I appreciate the time you took to collect the statistics, although I'm going to argue that the '02 and '03 numbers are pretty irrelevant to Cruz's ability, partly because he was still a jobber rookie, and partly because he kept flipping between starting and relieving. But looking at the past six seasons, we can identify the following stats pertaining to Inherited Runners:
2009 - IS% 37%; league average 34% (22 inherited, 8 scored)
2008 - IS% 44%; league average 36% (27 inherited, 12 scored)
2007 - IS% 26%; league average 31% (27 inherited, 7 scored)
2006 - IS% 0%; league average 32% (4 inherited, 0 scored)
2005 - IS% 25%; league average 30% (16 inherited, 4 scored)
2004 - IS% 31%; league average 33% (13 inherited, 4 scored)
As Sman noted, Cruz allowed roughly 32% of his inherited runners to score. The non-precise league average over that time is close to 33%, which means that Cruz is average or slightly above average. Sman also posted Cruz's earned runs numbers -- Juan's career ERA as a reliever is 4.14, and his WHIP is 1.39. I'm glad Sman pointed that out because the non-scientifically calculated league average for reliever ERA over the past 6 seasons is 4.73 -- Cruz is nearly 0.70 points better. Also, the league average for WHIP tends to fluctuate around 1.40 - again, putting Cruz dead in the center of what you'd expect from a better-than-bad relief pitcher.
I also appreciate Sman noting Cruz's blown save issue. If I had seen that on its own, I would have panicked a bit -- nobody wants a setup guy who blows saves! But, in a round-about (probably unintentional) way, Sman makes a valid point: middle relievers blow lots, and lots, and even more saves. It's the nature of the beast.
Just last year, the 10 pitchers with the most holds had 32 saves and 45 blown. That's a 42% save ratio, while we expect our closers to save minimally 80% of their chances. Even worse, that ratio dramatically drops if you remove 11 of Marmol's saves from that list -- he had 4 saved and 4 blown when he was given the gig to close. That 42% save ratio quickly becomes 32%. Therefore, Sman's observation that Cruz also has a crappy save success ratio just basically lumps him in the middle of the pack. He's not one of the elite hold-getters in the league, they're 32% successful at saving games; he's more in the middle of the pack with the 20 percenters.
Therefore, Sman has clearly demonstrated that Cruz is a middle of the pack reliever. Some fans might worry and think Cruz is above-par and below-average, but the numbers as presented by Sman demonstrate that he's actually probably the guy we'd want pitching in the 7th inning of a good team, or the 8th inning of an insanely desperate team like the Cubs.
Sman has shown us that Cruz's Inherited Allowed percentage is not mediocre, but instead is average, his WHIP is typical, not abnormal, and his blown save ratio is nothing to lose sleep over.
In this case, the numbers don't lie. Cruz won't put out your barn if it catches on fire, but he'll usually keep it from sparking up. On a team whose only reliable setup man is a converted, under-30 starting pitcher earning nearly 18 million in 2010, taking a low-risk chance on an available pitcher like Cruz makes way, way more sense. He's not elite, but he's not mediocre. That's good enough for me, for now, and hopefully the Cubs will pick up Cruz, use him to buy time so they can get a more reliable 8th inning pitcher, and move Zambrano back to the rotation.
Thanks then, to Sman, for setting us all straight. I now fully endorse the pursuit of Juan Cruz.