Originally Posted by edinatlanta
No because "the last chance" can happen at literally any point in the ball game
. Vin Mazarro was the "last chance" in the fourth inning in 2011. Plenty of games are lost in the 7th inning, games are lost in the 12th inning. The batters coming up in the 9th aren't the best.
That's what you're missing. There are better places to use your "closer" than only in the final inning of the game if the team has a lead. There are far too many variables in baseball to say "well its the 9th so its more important."
In 02-04 when Gagne saved 84 consecutive games, he probably could have had a greater impact had he come in during hairy situations in the 7/8 inning but the quest for the save was an gross inefficiency in their rotation. And considering they made the playoffs once in that time frame it further suggest the unimportance of a save.
I think that, in part, there is a distorting psychological effect from the "finality" of whatever happens when the closer comes in. Retire the side with the bases loaded in the 9th to preserve a one-run lead, and the game is over. Do the same in the 7th or 8th, and the game could still be lost in the subsequent inning(s), leading to the perception that the effort was "wasted".
I vaguely recall that Bill James once argued that, at least from a sabermetrics perspective, an NL team would be well-served by having a staff made up entirely of relievers and pinch-hitting every time the pitcher's spot in the batting order came up.