If you're a fan of closers, the first few days of the season weren't for you. When you look at closers, their total save percentage for the very young season so far is a less-than-robust 72 percent. Jose Valverde blew a save Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox; the eternally dependable Mariano Rivera dropped one to the Tampa Bay Rays; and the Cincinnati Reds dispatched Heath Bell with ease on Sunday. It started to look a little like the baptismal scene in "The Godfather," in which Michael Corleone's associates eliminate all the family's enemies.
The save has always occupied a rather awkward spot in baseball, that newfangled stat that seemed to be constructed out of an arbitrary series of conditions and events. The pitcher's win may be as strange as the save, but wins were at least developed in the early days of baseball -- if you suggested the win statistic today under the current definition, anyone in earshot would most likely summon immediate medical help. Dislike of the save also unites two very different classes of baseball fan, the statheads (myself included) who shriek in faux-agony when they see a team's best reliever used with a 3-0 lead, and those older fans who remember when relievers walked uphill 10 miles both ways to the park to throw 34 innings with only a liniment rub and a war ration.
The modern closer has the reputation of being the reliever most suited to handle high-pressure situations, but if we look at current bullpen usage we find out that is often not the case. Let's take a look at which teams are doing the best (and worst) job of deploying their relievers.