Jim Margalus from South Side Sox with a good piece about Chris Sale and the best way to use him in the bullpen in 2011. The piece compares Keith Foulke’s effectiveness in 1999 when he was used not as a closer, but in the middle innings. The best part of this piece though is Margalus talks about the “proper” use of relief pieces. He is in the minority of those that get it:
However, Manuel’s unusually aggressive usage of Foulke does illustrate the value of advancing a game with zeroes, even if they come in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings instead of the ninth (1999 was also Foulke’s best year according to WPA/LI). Foulke did an amazing job of allowing the Sox to win games, and he would have been far less useful if reserved for traditional save situations.
Sabermetricians have figured it out by now. Your best relief pitcher should be used at the most important time of the game, not saved for the 9th inning when three outs could be easy to come by.