There are certain things in baseball that no matter where your allegiances lay, you applaud. Normally this is the justification for fans of other American League East division teams to harbour secret man crushes on players like Curtis Granderson and Adrian Gonzalez. However, it can also apply to statistics.

I don’t like the way that the save statistic dictates a manager’s use of his bullpen. It’s a ridiculously arbitrary way of deciding what’s valued and what’s not. And I think it’s had a negative effect on the game of baseball, ruining many games that might otherwise be closer.

For the record, Rule 10.20 in the Official MLB Rule Book states:

Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions:

  1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and
  2. He is not the winning pitcher; and
  3. He qualifies under one of the following conditions:
  • (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or
  • (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces; or
  • (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

Why? Why? Why? Why do we even care about a counting stat that’s dependent on a pitcher entering a situation that’s completely out of his control? Especially when, as we’ve discussed on this blog numerous times, there are better ways of looking at a reliever’s contribution to a game, and to a season, that can take into account the actual leverage of the situations in which he’s appearing.

Yes, all of this ire is easy to defend, but in the same fashion that we kind of roll our eyes at hitting streaks, and yes, save streaks too, we can also give some credit to a player who accomplishes something remarkable, even if it is accumulating a flawed statistic.

Fortunately for our moral compasses, Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel not only set the rookie save record last night, but he’s also a very good reliever. While certainly, a lot of praise should go to setup man Jonny Venters for ensuring to such a wondrous degree that Kimbrel even has the chance to finish out so many games, the 23 year old right handed closer isn’t falling blindly into saves.

Kimbrel is striking out 41.6% of the batters he’s facing (more than 5% higher than the next closest reliever), and walking less than 10%. He’s almost an entire win above the second highest reliever in wins above replacement and he’s also tops in the league in FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA. And did I mention that this is his first full season in the big leagues?

So, sure, we can snicker a little bit at the big deal being made out of him collecting the 41st save of his initial season in the league last night, but that doesn’t discount him from being absolutely incredible. Well done, Craig Kimbrel.

And The Rest

Speaking of absolutely incredible young pitchers, the San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner embraced the role of stopper, went out and pitched his [Getting Blanked]ing [Getting Blanked] off, striking out eleven over eight innings, with the help of 15 swinging strikes, eight of which were induced by a slider that hovers around 90 mph.

The ugly side of the wild card: it’s sort of hard to care about this Yankees / Red Sox series we got going on.

Speaking of which, John Lackey has been fined for plunking Francisco Cervelli. But Lackey is such a nice guy!

Look out, playoff teams, the Boston Red Sox acquired Conor Jackson from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Triple A reliever Jason Rice.

In addition to Matt Diaz, the Braves picked up shortstop Jack Wilson from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. Sorry, Brooks Conrad.

I’m assuming that the Mariners acquired one of the many young starting pitchers in the Braves system because SeattleĀ extended the contract of GM Jack Zduriencik yesterday as well.

From HardBall Talk, I’m pretty sure two solo home runs, one of which wins the game in extra innings, is still no excuse to show this video. Ever.

Oh, Ryan Braun. So close, and yet, so far.