September 14, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I love four game winning streaks. I love any kind of winning, but when they involve streaks of multiple games they’re extra special. Never mind that two of the Angels victories came after 30 innings, which is basically the equivalent of 3.3 games. It’s still good. Too bad the Angels didn’t receive 3.3 wins for their efforts. Never-the-less – winning is always fun.

That being said, the question remains; is this too little, too late? On one hand I’d like to enjoy the victories at a basic level and appreciate the fact that the Angels played well enough to win. On the other, I can’t help but wonder if they have any chance what-so-ever at catching the Texas Rangers?

I know strangers things have happened and it’s only natural to speculate about the possibility. However, the reality is the odds are against the Angels. I just hope they finish strong.

Look, the Angels have 19 games remaining and their elimination number is 10. Any combination of Ranger victories and/or Angel defeats adding up to ten over the next 19 games and the Angels are mathematically eliminated.

You can run all the scenarios through your head. When you do the math; again, the odds are stacked against the Angels. And when you factor in the Oakland Athletics also being ahead of the Angels the water really becomes murky. Let’s just say the fat lady is warming up.

I know I know who am I to rain on the parade? Let’s just say I’m trying to keep a little perspective. Right now, my immediate hope is that Texas doesn’t roll into town next week to clinch the division. The idea of watching them celebrate in our stadium is enough to make me projectile vomit. Just saying.

Speaking of the nauseating… let’s talk about the role of the closer on the Angels. In my opinion, the much maligned Brian Fuentes was doing a pretty good job. Yes, he made some games interesting, but he had come to the point of being pretty consistent. He had saved 17 of his last 18 opportunities. His ERA had dropped considerably from June 20th on.

Never-the-less, Angel fans clamored for Fernando Rodney to be inserted into the closer role and wished to see Fuentes sent off to parts unknown. Well, be careful what you wish for.

Since August 30, Rodney has blown three out of eight chances. Despite that the Angels did win two of those games; but even with that, Rodney has given Angel fans more to moan about.

Personally, I don’t really have a beef with Rodney and I didn’t really have a problem with Fuentes. The way I see it – closers are basically a hit or miss deal. If your closer isn’t named Mariano Rivera, you don’t know what you’re going to get from year to year.

Look at who has struggled this year. Jonathan Papelbon has blown seven saves and so has Billy Wagner of the Braves. Francisco Cordero has blown 8 saves for the division leading Cincinnati Reds. Jonathon Broxton has six blown saves and has basically lost his role as the Dodgers closer.

Closers can be great one year and a total bust the next and vice versa. I venture to guess that if you ask just about any fan base about their closer – none are entirely pleased with theirs. Even the great Mariano has blown three opportunities (not that Yankee fans are complaining). Nobody is perfect; at least not this year. In fact, only a handful of guys have been even close to perfect. The best of the bunch? Joaquin Soria of the Royals who has 37 saves in 39 chances; Rafael Soriano who has saved 42 out of 45 games; Heath Bell of the Padres with 41 out 44 and Neftali Feliz of the Rangers who has saved 36 out of 39.

Brad Lidge is the only guy in recent memory (not including those suspected of steroid use – hello “Game Over”) who has had a perfect season (Lidge saved 41 of 41 in 2008 for the Phillies). Keep in mind he blew 8 saves the year prior in 2007 with the Astros and then blew a mind boggling 11 games in 2009 with the Phillies.

When you think about it... or at least when I think about it - Brian Fuentes didn’t look so bad.

Think about this – There are 34 closers who have at least ten saves on the year (as of 9/14/10). That group has saved 868 games and blown 145. That’s an 85% success rate (think of someone saving 34 out of 40 games). Most people would consider that a horrible percentage. The percentages dip even lower for those who have save totals between 3 and 9. That group which includes 22 pitchers has only saved 112 out of 174 games for a horrid 64% (think of approximately 26 saves out of 40).

That’s a lot of anxious moments for fans throughout baseball. Something else to think about - there are 30 major league teams and 121 different players have at least one save and even more who have had "save opportunities."

How many times has one guy started the year as the closer only to be replaced by someone else? I don't have that answer handy - but Angel fans should think about the year K-Rod walked and how many assumed Jose Arredondo would become the closer. Whatever happened to him you ask? Exactly...

My point is that everyone wants a "shut down" closer who is perfect night in and night out while the reality is - that pitcher simply doesn’t exist. Before you start booing your closer or wishing for someone else to take on that role, you’d better realize how volatile the role is to begin with and just having a guy who can handle that kind of rollercoaster ride is not a bad thing even if he blows 5, 6 or 7 games in a year now and then. We all have to temper our expectations when it comes to closing games.

Fuentes would have been fine. Rodney will probably be fine, all things considered.

You watch - when Rafael Soriano hits the free agent market this year - some team, some where will over pay for his services. In my opinion, he doesn't have the track record to warrant a long term deal, but someone will give him one. It will be a move that team will more than likely regret in the long run.

Wishing for win streaks = good thing. Wishing for someone else to close your games for your team = a dangerous proposition.

1 comment:

  1. I think fans need to stop kidding themselves about these silly win streaks. There is valuable time to give our younger guys right now. Lets build a fan base. We don't have a Strausberg or Harper.