Baseball Prospectus Backs Leyland’s Decision to Pull Porcello

I was very surprised that there was any debate about this, actually, but some Tigers fans believe that Jim Leyland’s decision to pull Rick Porcello in the ninth inning in favor of Jose Valverde last Sunday was the wrong move.

I’m not sure if opponents of the decision simply wanted to see Porcello attempt a complete game, or if they thought that Rick, who had only allowed one hit, gave them the best chance to win the game. Perhaps some simply hate Leyland and think all of his decisions are immediately wrong.

Jeremy Greenhouse, of Baseball Prospectus, came out with a post today showing that Leyland’s decision gave the Tigers the best chance to win the game.


Between 2000 and 2010, there were over 1700 instances in which a starting pitcher completed eight scoreless innings. In nearly two-thirds of those instances, the starter came back out for the ninth. The team allowed an average of 0.45 runs in those innings. Conversely, when the starter was pulled, his team allowed an average of 0.35 runs in the ninth.

It might be more intuitive to look at those numbers in ERA form. Starting pitchers who had brought a shutout into the ninth had an average ERA of 4.05 (in the ninth inning). Relief pitchers who entered ninth inning after the starting pitcher had worked eight scoreless innings had an average ERA of 3.15.

I’ve never thought of Leyland as a saberist, but he certainly made the correct decision in this particular instance.

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Tags: Jim Leyland Rick Porcello Sabermetrics

  • John Parent

    From what I’ve seen and heard, I think there are a whole bunch of people out there who simply hate Leyland and will be against any decision he makes, regardless of the outcome.

    It’s not as if Jose Valverde has blown a half dozen saves this year. This isn’t Brian Fuentes or Brad Lidge out there, it’s a guy who has been incredibly good when the game is on the line.

    While I am a fan of allowing a starting pitcher to finish what he starts whenever possible, in this case, given Porcello’s still very young age and that Valverde has been virtually automatic in save situations, I had zero problem with Leyland making the move. Like you, I was shocked when there was so much second-guessing happening afterward. I can’t imagine what would have happened had Valverde blown the save.

  • wilsonm24

    coming off a 5 game losing streak, in a save situation, with a guy in the pen making 8 million dollars a year specifically to save games…. Yeah lets leave the starter in there.

    The move made complete sense to me, and I have to go with option three for why people are complaining about it