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If Jerome Powell moves to cut interest rates by midsummer as the market now projects, the Federal Reserve chair will be like a baseball manager calling for his best relief pitcher in the seventh inning to keep the game from getting out of hand rather than waiting until the ninth to close out a win.
As it happens, this is exactly the action today's analytically rigorous baseball wisdom advises — but runs counter to the typical conventions of the past few decades and the preferences and biases of many team managers.
Likewise, if the Fed were to shift from a steady tightening campaign to easing policy within eight months, before clear signs of pronounced economic weakness and without a chance to telegraph a smooth transition, it would mean Powell using his most potent weapon — an initial rate cut after a series of hikes — earlier than he'd planned or hoped, and before the Fed has typically done so in recent decades.
Since the 1980s, the job of a baseball "closer" was to seal a win by finishing a game his team was leading. Often this meant entering at the start of the ninth inning, with no runners on base and no threat underway, to earn a "save" — a statistic that brought closers enormous status and salaries.
This stat not only measured a reliever's value but dictated how closers were used: If a save was granted for finishing a game his team led by three runs or fewer (and under certain other circumstances) then the closer's role was defined as to appear only in "save situations."
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