Putz Looks Hurts

When the Mets acquired J.J. Putz from the Mariners in a three team, 472 player deal, they believed they had found the relief ace to bridge the gap in the 7th and 8th innings and help them hold on to late inning leads. Putz had been one of baseball’s elite closers for several years, and his power fastball/splitter combo made hitters look silly.

Unfortunately for the Mets, they apparently aren’t going to get the guy they thought they were trading for, because this version of J.J. Putz isn’t particularly good.

His average fastball is down to 92.5 MPH, 2.5 MPH slower than he was throwing last year while recovering from an injury. Those missing miles per hour have made a huge difference in his performance as well – he’s now thrown 11 innings while walking six and striking out just four batters. His K/9 is 3.27.

Huge decline in velocity and a massive drop-off in strikeout rate are two of the main red flags indicating that a pitcher isn’t healthy. Putz spent time on the DL last year with a ribcage injury, but clearly wasn’t himself all season, struggling with serious command issues and only occasionally flashing his previous form. That he is still trying to pitch through an injury would not be any kind of surprise.

The Mets are going to have to get him checked out. They can’t keep handing the ball to a guy who throws like a power pitcher but has lost his power. That’s a recipe for disaster, and it cost them a win today against the Marlins.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

32 Responses to “Putz Looks Hurts”

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  1. Mike says:

    As a Mets fan, all I can say is: ‘typical Mets,’ eh?

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    • joser says:

      It wouldn’t be the Mets if there wasn’t a late-inning bullpen meltdown to give up the win at least, what, once every series? Of course it might help if the Mets’ bats actually gave them a 9th inning lead a little more often, so that they could use their actual closer.

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  2. joser says:

    It’s just karma. Once he started saying nasty things about Ichiro in the press, his fate was sealed.

    More seriously, it may be an adrenal thing. Putz in Seattle said more than once he thrived on the excitement and pressure of the 9th inning save, and he was far less effective when he was brought in earlier or in non-save situations. Since that’s the only opportunities he’s getting this year, perhaps he’s just not excited enough and not throwing as hard as a result. Or maybe his elbow is bugging him again.

    (BTW: Endy Chavez and his .348 wOBA says hi)

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  3. Mike R. says:

    Put the blame where it belongs-not J.J. Putz, not Sean Green, not any of the players! BLAME OMAR MINAYA FOR ASSEMBLING THIS PATHETIC BUNCH OF CHOKE-UPS AND LOSERS!!!

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  4. Anthony says:

    putz was throwing 95-96 today, at least according to gameday and sny

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  5. Preston says:

    It’s a nitpick, but Putz was not one of baseball’s elite closers for several years – he was an elite closer for 2 years, 2006 and 2007. Last year he saved 15 games with a 3.88 ERA before getting hurt, and in 2005 he had 1 save with 3.60 ERA. Perhaps because they come in more frequently, we tend to get the feeling that closers in particular, and relievers in general, have been around longer than they actually have.

    On his performance, obviously the drop in velocity is concerning, but it is also early in the year, and he may not have built up his arm strength fully yet (especially if he’s being extra careful due to last year’s injury). 11 innings also seems a little early to hit the panic button for stats like K or BB/9. Certainly something to keep an eye on, of course.

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    • MPC says:

      What does “several” mean to you? 3 or more?

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      • Bodhizefa says:

        The very definition of several means 3 or more. The correct word usage would be “couple” in this case (which is another word that is often misused in the English vocabulary as it is only meant to define a grouping of two and no more).

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      • MPC says:

        *Your* definition of several is two or more. Looking at any dictionary gives a variety of definitions. Some say more than two, some say two or more.

        Wouldn’t it be great if everyone used the exact definition of every word (see: literally)? Nitpickers are incredibly annoying. By saying “it’s a nitpick,” you (not you, bodhizefa–I mean you in general) have hurt the credibility (or whatever you want to call it) of your comment. It’s petty and completely unnecessary. We all know what Dave meant. Saying “OMG HE WAS ONLY GOOD FOR 2 NOT 3 YEARS” is worthless. You (bodhifeza), being an intelligent person as far as I can see, understand my viewpoint on this.

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      • Bodhizefa says:

        I absolutely agree, MPC. I only mentioned my knowledge of the definition because I had an English professor that was very adamant about the misuse of the English language, but for the most part, I don’t think we should be discussing language in a forum like this unless it is something that is excruciatingly and egregiously wrong.

        And since I’m an M’s fan, I’d like to mention that Putz hasn’t been the same since he got hurt while facing Josh Hamilton early last year. It’s been a pretty stark difference watching him soft toss his stuff up there versus what he was throwing in ’06 and ’07. He doesn’t even remotely resemble the stud he was back then. I hope for his sake and for the Mets’ sake that he recovers, but this is a case where small sample size and scouting combine to say there’s definitely something wrong with Putz right now.

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    • ThundaPC says:

      Well, as long as we’re nitpicking, last year Putz saved 1 game with a 0.00 ERA before getting hurt.

      He really hasn’t been the same since.

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  6. Dustin says:

    Perfect job by JZ. Selling an injured closer for valuable organizational depth, only to see Putz flame out in NY…

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  7. Ron Gammel says:

    J.J. Putz is a sexy bitch.

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  8. NadavT says:

    “Huge decline in velocity and a massive drop-off in strikeout rate are two of the main red flags indicating that a pitcher isn’t healthy.”

    So is that what’s wrong with Joba Chamberlain?

    2008 FB Velocity: 95.0 MPH (starting & relieving combined)
    2009 FB Velocity: 92.1 MPH (starting only)

    2008 K/9: 10.2 (starting only)
    2009: K/9: 6.65.

    I don’t know how to get his fastball velocity for just the games where he started in 2008, so that comparison might not be robust, but the K/9 dropoff is pretty stark. Further, the Plate Discipline data show that his ability to both miss bats and pound the strike zone has taken a big hit so far this year. Then again, it sounds like his velocity was up in his latest start, so maybe it’s just a matter of working out some early-season kinks.

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  9. trippstar says:

    Please get your info correct, it wasn’t a save situation, so yes he blew the lead, but it was the 8th inning. How about some fact checking before you just write random observations.

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    • Top2124 says:

      Get a better understanding of useless stats before you flame one of the better baseball writers on the planet. Via official box score:

      J.J. Putz (L, 1-2; BS, 1)

      Correct me if my “fact” are wrong, but I believe BS stands for blown save. You can blow a save in the 8th inning.

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  10. Tee says:

    Sounds like youre just a bitter Mariners fan

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    • ThundaPC says:

      Why would he be bitter?

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      • joser says:

        Yeah, that makes no sense (though the evidence suggests that’s not necessarily a requirement for the folks posting comments here). From what I can tell — and as you can see in this very comment thread — when it comes to JJ Putz, the only bitter people are Mets fans. Mariners fans (after years of tasting the bitter fruits of Bavasi’s trades) are reveling in the sweet, sweet ambrosia of a deal with nothing but upside for them.

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  11. big baby says:

    I just want to say this is a massive amount of garbage from somebody who isn’t doing their homework. Putz’s velocity started off poorly this year, as he says it does every year. In his outing yesterday, and in all of his other recent outings, he’s been hitting 95 regularly. Many people’s velocities start off a tick low in April. Let’s see what his average velocity is when the sample size evens out.

    To Cantu – 93/94/93
    Hermida – 93/94/93/91/94/95/95/95/95

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    • joser says:

      …assuming he actually accumulates a significant sample size with the Mets this year.

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      • big baby says:

        Maybe he is injured/over the hill/whatever, but the entire premise for this article is article is looking at his fastball velocity for the entire year with absolutely no analysis beyond that. And the person who wrote the article waited until Putz had a bad outing to bring up the point; not exactly going out on a limb. Didn’t see this when his WHIP was 1.1 and his only bad outing was a result of a misplayed ball by Dan Murphy.

        It’s just cherry picking and superficial analysis. Maybe Putz is overthrowing the ball and IS injured; this article doesn’t address that at all. All he is doing is looking at the numbers, ignoring the sample size, and not pointing out the relevant circumstances of the outing in question (the fact that he was throwing plenty hard yesterday). All in all you get a huge load of garbage.

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      • ThundaPC says:

        The article also points out Putz’s strikeout rate which, as of right now, pretty much blows.

        If he’s not striking people out, he’s nothing like what the Mets traded him for. His K/BB is lower than last year when he was injured and no where near the levels in which he was good.

        It’s something the Mets are going to have to keep an eye on. They wanted the Putz of 2006/2007 and they’re nowhere close to getting it.

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  12. big baby says:

    absolutely. his k rate is poor. but a couple of sharp outings and it’s back on track. i’m not saying he’s guaranteed to be great and his performance up to this point isn’t somewhat concerning. i’m saying that this article is predicated on a lot of poor arguments and faulty reasoning.

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    • joser says:

      And yet here we are: Dave was right, and the only sign of “a massive amount of garbage” is the scent wafting in from your direction. Of course I’m quite sure you have neither the class nor the cojones to return to this thread and concede that, but perhaps you’ll surprise us.

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  13. OregonJunco says:

    Big baby, how can a 12-sentence post that concludes that Putz might be hurting due to decreased velocity and poor command be “a massive amount of garbage” and full of “a lot of poor arguments”? Dave makes a pretty simple, harmless observation. This isn’t some piece of investigative journalism he’s been slaving away at for years; it’s not a graduate thesis. It’s a freaking blog post, one of dozens that he and other Fangraph bloggers are writing every day on multiple websites. If you and dudes like Wally think you can write better and construct more well-researched arguments, get your own blogs. Please, I would really like to see what kind of engaging, readable content you guys would produce 5-6 times a day.

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  14. big baby says:

    TOLD YOU SO!

    god dammit.

    god god dammit

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  15. Dr. Remulak says:

    I’m sure this will catch a lot of flak and the dreaded “thumbs-down” votes but maybe, just maybe, J.J. was like a lot of other major-leaguers and experimented with PEDs…

    Not saying he did and I have no proof to support it, but we can’t overlook that perhaps he “juiced” for a couple of years, had great results, then went through some of the complications that many “juicers” experience (several unusual injuries) and did not come back using PEDs. (Hello, Eric Gagne!)

    In 2005, Putz had a nice spike in mph of about 2 mph in his fastball and slider. A year later he “putz” it all together and has one of the more spectacular seasons ever by a closer. Sometimes pitchers do gain spikes in mph, but at 29-30 years old?

    Don’t kill me for providing a real rationale as to why J.J. went from a mediocre nobody to elite closer to mediocre ex-closer in a span of 4-5 years.

    Talk amongst yourselves…

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    • joser says:

      Right, because no pitcher in the history of baseball had a good couple of years and then got hurt. Koufax must’ve been on ‘roids.

      As was fairly well-documented at the time, Putz learned a new pitch — the splitter — from Guardado sometime in 2004-2005, and that helped him “putz” it all together. As for the speed…. throughout 2004, he was used as an ordinary reliever, and often pitched more than one inning (sometimes as many as 3 or 4). Coming into the 6th or 7th inning with potentially several innings to go, pitchers tend not to throw as hard as an 8th or 9th one-inning specialist. And throwing harder can lead to injuries a year or two down the line.

      I’m not saying Putz didn’t dope — clearly, we don’t know — I’m just saying there are alternative explanations. Considering that’s the timeframe when testing began, it would be kind of an odd time to start, but given how toothless the early regime was perhaps it’s not that strange.. If that “list of names” ever gets out perhaps we’ll know.

      But it is a little tiresome to go through this every time a player gets hurt. That may be the worst legacy of PEDs — not that records are tainted, but that every health-related development of any player will immediately bring on this endless and rather fruitless speculation.

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