It is not uncommon for a famous or successful closer to either hang around too long or accept a lesser bullpen role as he gets up there in age. Eddie Guardado, however, has gone from starter, to reliable reliever, to famous and successful closer, to a “he’s still pitching??” guy, to a forgotten entity, all the way to a big part of the Texas Rangers’ early relative success. I say relative success due to their current performance vastly exceeding pre-season expectations.
In 24 games this season, Guardado has pitched 20.2 IP, giving up 15 hits, while walking six and striking out ten. Just one of those hits has been a home run. His performance has garnered a 3.05 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.02 WHIP. Of those 24 games, just three have resulted in an overall negative WPA, and one of them was a miniscule -0.007. In fact, when we look at what I am officially calling The WPA Slash (WPA/WPA-LI/Clutch) Guardado has a very productive 1.18/0.58/0.53.
His K/9 of 4.35 is abnormally low when compared to his past rates; in fact, the last time it dipped this low in a full season was 1993, his rookie year, when he actually started 16 of his 19 games. A strikeout rate that low suggests hitters are making plenty of contact off Guardado, meaning the majority of his outs have come from balls put in play. We may expect pitchers with a high percentage of balls in play to in turn have high BABIPs—more balls in play would provide more opportunity for those balls to fall in for hits—however Eddie’s is currently a miniscule .225. While it has been speculated that elite relievers may consistently post lower BABIPs it is not very likely he will sustain one this low while simultaneously sustaining that low of a strikeout rate.
Still, the man with the rubber arm has helped stabilize an otherwise suspect bullpen, in turn helping the Rangers to a 34-34 start.
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