Sunday, January 23, 2005

January 23rd, 1970

Alan Embree Born

2004 saved Alan Embree from being remembered as "The Guy Who Should've Come in For Pedro" in Game 7 of 2003, if I'm correct in assuming this past season purged the memory for Sox fans. Now he can be remembered for something slightly more obscure: As a type of pitcher who did not exist in the first 75 years of baseball. Embree is a middle reliever. This may seem like a silly concept, but the idea of a pitcher who came in after the starter but doesn't finish the game is an essentially an invention of the 1980s. These are the pitchers for whom the hold statistic was invented (A quick aside: The hold is a terrible, terrible, statistic. If the save is Police Academy, worthwhile but flawed, then the hold is Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, purposeless and painful.)

For his career, Embree has 28 wins, 28 losses, 7 saves and a 4.38 ERA averaging 61 innings over eleven career seasons. Until the 1980s, a player would never have a career line like that. For a long while of course, relievers were simply starters who weren't pitching that day or the next or rookies not good enough to start. That evolved into players like Luis Arroyo for the 1961 Yankees and evolved further into the "Firemen" of the 1970s. But in almost every case, it was assumed that once a reliever entered a game, he was going to finish it. Rollie Fingers averaged 49 games finished and 23 saves during his career, while Embree has 46 and 3 over his last three seasons and has averaged just 16 game finished and less than one save a year. Some old-time baseball players complain about being "born too soon" speaking of the salaries for modern players. For Alan Embree and his skill set, he was born at exactly the right moment.

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