Great blogpost over at Royals Authority. Should Joakim Soria start?
Am I Mexican Tough enough to make thirty starts a year?
From Royals Authority
Personally, I'd like to see Soria moved into the rotation as the fourth starter. Here's my rationale:
-- He's started before with great success. Yes, the Mexican League isn't on par with the AL Central, but his performance last winter (including his perfect game) is a sign that he has the stamina, the ability to go deep into games and the potential to dominate.
-- Besides, the closer role is overvalued. Consider the games Soria saved last year: In 6 of his 17 saves, he entered the game with a three run lead. That's not meant to demean his season - it's just a fact that the save stat is misleading when measuring the value of pitchers who traditionally pitch in the ninth inning.
But my reason for bringing that nugget to your attention is that it often doesn't matter who pitches the ninth inning - if you have the lead that late in the game, you often get the W. For example, last year the Royals lost four games in which they held the lead in the ninth inning. The Cleveland Indians also lost four games where they led after eight innings. And that was with Joe Borowski (5.07 ERA) as their closer. Yet the Indians won 96 games while the Royals only won 69. Why? Because most ballgames are decided well before the ninth inning. In other words, the majority of the time it's the starters who decide games.
You want more proof? The worst Royals team in history (2005) lost only three times when leading after eight. In 1999, the Royals bullpen had a 5.77 ERA, yet they only lost six games when starting the ninth inning with a lead.
I think fans think the closer job is so important because a ninth inning loss is so dramatic. But as Craig rightly points out, blowing a ninth inning lead doesn't happen very often, even if your closer blows. So wouldn't it be more valuable if Soria was at the front end of games?
And can Soria handle it?