Wishy-washy peripherals aside, Ryan Franklin is the closer for the unforeseeable future. Cardinal fans are left feeling apprehensive about their 37-year old closer, because out of two out of his three seasons, Franklin has fell apart in the second half. With no clear contingencies in place (sign Smoltz!), the club seems undisturbed about Franklin’s fades down the stretch. Are they right? And is Franklin a 1st half pitcher? I went to Baseball-Reference.com to check out his splits, here’s what I got. First I looked at his when Franklin began to be used primarily in relief, which was 2006.
|Pre-All Star Break||691||0.293|
|Post-All Star Break||561||0.352|
That’s a 59 point split in wOBA against, scary stuff. But because we’re not talking about a lot of plate appearances, I took a look at his career numbers.
|Pre-All Star Break||2566||0.317|
|Post-All Star Break||2150||0.331|
Now we get a 14 point split, not nearly as significant, but I think it establishes the pattern of Franklin as a 2nd half fader. So what can the Cardinals do to save Franklin’s arm from wear and tear? Let’s check Franklin’s workload compared to other closers around the majors.
|Days of Rest||0||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||Other (days rest listed)|
|Bobby Jenks||9||13||13||4||5||2||4||1||99 days|
|Matt Capps||9||16||5||17||5||1||3||99 days|
|Jonathon Papelbon||11||21||16||10||4||2||1||99 days|
|Ryan Franklin||13||15||12||13||3||3||2||99 days|
|Joakim Soria||13||6||11||3||6||2||1||9, 26 and 99 days|
|Frank Francisco||13||15||6||4||4||2||2||15, 16, 22 and 99 days|
|Trevor Hoffman||16||13||8||7||3||1||4||1||99 days|
|Francisco Rodriguez||17||19||19||6||4||4||99 days|
|Andrew Bailey||17||21||10||9||5||4||1||99 days|
|Brian Fuentes||18||14||13||8||7||2||2||99 days|
|Brian Wilson||19||14||16||9||6||2||1||99 days|
|Mariano Rivera||20||14||12||10||4||3||2||99 days|
|Brad Lidge||21||18||14||6||1||2||3||19 and 99 days|
|Heath Bell||22||16||10||10||1||5||3||99 days|
|Joe Nathan||22||19||9||10||2||5||2||99 days|
|Huston Street||22||16||8||6||7||2||1||20 and 99 days|
|Francisco Cordero||22||21||8||5||3||4||2||9 and 99 days|
|Fernando Rodney||23||18||19||5||2||4||10 and 99 days|
|David Aardsma||25||16||13||13||2||2||9 and 99 days|
|Jonathon Broxton||26||19||8||10||4||4||1||99 days|
|Rafael Soriano||29||19||11||8||6||3||99 days|
Franklin pitched on 0 and 1 days rest quite often. I’m of the persuasion that relievers could handle a much bigger workload then they typically do now, but based on what we know about Franklin’s low-gas mileage, throwing him out there with in so many of those situations might not have been the greatest idea. On the other hand, he did have many times when he had 3 days rest, so I’m not trying to draw any hard conclusions.
Here’s are a few scenarios where I have real trouble with the Cardinals using Franklin on shorter rest. These are wasted uses of their closer. The Book says:
The three-run lead is almost a sure thing, with a 2% difference in the odds of winning between a great pitcher and an average one. Be careful on cashing in on that 2% today at the risk of losing even more tomorrow.
- On April 21st and the 22nd against the Mets, the Cardinals used Franklin in save situations, but they were easy saves. 9th inning, no runners on. On the 21st they had a 2-run lead. On the 22nd, a 3-run lead. The average leverage index for those games were 1.04 and 0.48, meaning they already had the game in the bag.
- The same scenario played out on May 6 and 7 against the lowly Pirates.
- Franklin threw 21 pitches on the 20th in a nail-biter of a game in which he got the save. Good usage. The problem is, the next game the Cardinals took the ball away from Wainwright, who was one out from a complete game. Derrek Lee singled and Wainwright was pulled. It took Franklin only two pitches to get Bradley to fly out to end the game, but they still had to warm him up when he could’ve rested.
- Franklin pitched three days in a row to start the month of July. The first time was an extra inning tie against the Giants where he pitched the 10th. No qualms there. The next game he came in with no outs, 9th inning, 3 run lead. average LI of 0.48. A one-legged chicken could’ve saved that game. The next day against Cincinnati, it took 30 pitches to finally retire the Reds, another game where he entered with a 3-run lead. He finally struck out Brandon Phillips with the bases loaded.
- August 10th, 12th and 15th Franklin was brought in for saves, the 9th inning, no runners, no outs, 3 run lead variety. More fail.
You can see Franklin’s full game logs here, complete with average leverage index and base/outs states.
I’m sure this is typical closer usage, although I’m not about to take the time and look at all of them. The point is, there were many times Franklin could have rested but instead was brought in for an easy save. I’m sure there were other opportunities where McClellan or Motte were given high leverage innings in the 7th or 8th that probably belonged to Franklin, so I’m not trying to drawn a firm deduction, but I think Franklin could have been managed better. He should never be brought in games on back-to-back days or on one day’s rest for the sake of netting an easy save. Keeping him from such wasted innings might better save his arm for when he’s truly needed.
SMOLTZ SMOLTZ SMOLTZ.