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Are the Cardinals Properly Using Franklin?

March 13, 2010

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 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.

Frankin 2006-2009 PA wOBA
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.

Franklin Career PA wOBA
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.


  1. FlimtotheFlam permalink
    March 13, 2010 11:16 PM

    Some splits for Ryan Franklin for the 2009 season

    Fastball Velocity by month:

    April May June July August September
    90.4 91.0 91.1 91.3 91.5 91.4

    BABIP by month:

    April May June July August September
    .154 .207 .241 .281 .171 .536

    Now he might of gotten tired in Sept. But his fastball was the same speed and he just had monster bad luck with BABIP also.

    I am not so sure it is worth it to add John Smoltz or anyone else to the bullpen when I did some spreadsheet math

    • March 14, 2010 1:57 PM

      Monster good luck became monster bad luck. I don’t really know without looking at all of his pitch f/x stuff, maybe there’s something to it other than velocity, like movement on his pitches or what.

      I’m using ZiPS, installing Smoltz as the closer using Sky’s sheet and I get Smoltz adding an extra win.

    • March 14, 2010 3:00 PM

      That September wasn’t all bad luck: his LD% in September supported a .410 BABIP (as meaningful as these sample sizes are.) He was unlucky, but there’s also evidence that he was throwing “hittable” strikes.

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