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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