Billy Wagner Is Still Good

Billy Wagner turns 40 on the 25th of this month. His left arm, attached to a 5’10” frame, has tossed more than 870 innings and more than 8,300 pitches since 2002. The used car of free agent closers, the Braves allowed Mike Gonzalez to walk and traded Rafael Soriano for a crack at Wagner. Further, they even gave up their first round pick to sign Wagner to a one-year deal with a club option for 2011. A year ago, it would not have been the least bit surprising if Wagner retired. Right now, he could be fishing or resting that arm for good. Instead, Wagner is shining with the opulence of a newly christened game-saving prince from the nicest of Bobby Cox’s ninth inning dreams.

Velocity is a measure of speed that holds no grasp on age. That much is apparent from Wagner’s mid-to-upper 90 MPH heater. Depowering batters since the middle of the 1990s, Wagner is 39 appearances into the campaign and holds the best ERA through that mark of his career. ERA is hardly the best earmark of a good pitcher, but it works for a trivial purpose like this:

1997: 1.54
1998: 2.79
1999: 2.18
2001: 3.00
2002: 3.14
2003: 1.85
2004: 2.55
2005: 2.23
2006: 2.59
2007: 1.52
2008: 2.25
2010: 1.17

FIP supports that Wagner has pitched extremely well. His 2.12 figure would actually be the second best seasonal total of his career, which is a bit breath-taking within itself. Wagner gets lost in the shuffle with Mariano Rivera doing his thing as the premier salt-and-pepper whiskered closer, but he’s right there with him. Evidently Wagner is talking about retiring at season’s end.

Braves fans should convince him to reconsider given how he’s pitching.




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19 Responses to “Billy Wagner Is Still Good”

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  1. Chris says:

    Rate stats?

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  2. cantregister says:

    ERA is such a poor stat. Why didn’t you do the analysis with FIP or xFIP and leave ERA out of it?

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    • Steve says:

      Charlie: Yeah, Episode 25, that’s where you and the crew of the Enterprise get attacked by these spores? And started acting real weird, like hippies and stuff?

      William Shatner: [ smiling ] Oh oh, yeah right, I remember, okay uh… what’s the question?

      Charlie: Well um, I was wondering if you could settle a bet for me and my friends, okay? Um, like, when you… um, left your quarters for the last time? And you opened up your safe? Um… what was the combination?

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    • Evan Kirkwood says:

      “ERA is hardly the best earmark of a good pitcher, but it works for a trivial purpose like this”

      Because it was a just-for-fun article highlighting a guy who’s been really good for really long.

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  3. Robert says:

    Braves’ fans, players, and coaches have tried to convince him to not retire at season’s end. The players have even started chanting it on the bus from hotel to stadium. But sounds like the guy wants to spend time with his kids, and it’s hard to hold that against a guy. Especially when so many players try to hold on just a little too long (see Griffey Jr., Ken).

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  4. Andy S says:

    Should have just named this article “duh.”

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  5. bigfun says:

    “Velocity is a measure of speed that holds no grasp on age.”

    Found this sentence confusing. Was the intent to say “In Wagner’s case, speed doesn’t drop with age”? Or “no matter how fast you throw, you’re going to keep getting older!”

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  6. Steve C says:

    Billy Wagner : Mariano Rivera :: Tim Raines : Rickey Henderson

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    • Kevin S. says:

      If Rock went to Oakland and tried to steal Rickey’s at-bat music, that is.

      And yes, I know Wagner used the song first. Doesn’t matter what he was doing off in the hinterlands. /New York snob

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      • Steve says:

        I think it’s a solid analogy: Billy Wagner would probably be considered a lock for the HOF if he didn’t happen to perform his job while a contemporary of the best ever at that particular job.

        The 800 lb Gorilla in the room, of course, is Billy’s spotty postseason record. People at this site can understand SSS and the likes, but the average HoF voter?

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      • Kevin S. says:

        It’s a very good analogy, I just felt like making bad jokes.

        And you’re right about Rivera, but I’m not entirely sure his postseason failings will be held against him all that much. Hoffman didn’t exactly do much in the postseason either, and while Rivera gets elevated above him, that’s probably a combination of New York and his own postseason success more than anything Hoffman did wrong.

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      • Steve says:

        Hoffman is the OTHER guy that will possibly keep Wagner out, and it’s probably the much more interesting conversation. Put Rivera aside, dude is a robot, he’s first ballot, he’s on another plane.

        Now let’s compare the mortals….Hoffman is widely regarded as a lock for the Hall, he is the all-time saves leader and i don’t see any circumstance where he doesn’t make it. Are the voters really going to vote in 3 relievers in the span of a few years? Maybe, but if not, Wagner is going to be the odd man out. But should Wagner really get bumped in favor of Hoffman? Hoffman pitched longer, but Wagner has actually accumulated more WAR over a shorter period.

        Don’t have the answer, but it’s an interesting argument anyway….

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  7. Ron A. says:

    “Instead, Wagner is shining with the opulence of a newly christened game-saving prince from the nicest of Bobby Cox’s ninth inning dreams.”

    That might be the worst sentence ever written.

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  8. kamikaze80 says:

    “Velocity is a measure of speed that holds no grasp on age.”

    “Instead, Wagner is shining with the opulence of a newly christened game-saving prince from the nicest of Bobby Cox’s ninth inning dreams.”

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    • DRed says:

      “The used car of free agent closers, the Braves allowed Mike Gonzalez to walk and traded Rafael Soriano for a crack at Wagner.”

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