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Billy Wagner dominating on verge of 400th save, but Braves are riding him awfully hard

Jun 21, 2010, 3:45 PM EDT

When the Braves signed Billy Wagner this offseason there was some thought that they’d have to be cautious with the 38-year-old’s workload in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
Instead he’s on pace for 70 appearances and 67 innings, which is pretty standard for a modern closer, and the Braves ramped up the workload last week by using Wagner for an inning Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Rarely do teams have a reliever work four straight days, let alone a 38-year-old reliever not that far removed from major surgery, but Wagner tossed a scoreless inning each time, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out five.
He also notched a win and three saves in the four appearances, and as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes Wagner is now one save away from joining Trevor Hoffman (596), Mariano Rivera (542), Lee Smith (478), and John Franco (424) in the 400-save club. I’d say that would increase his Hall of Fame case in the eyes of voters, but as the greatest left-handed reliever of all time his case should be obvious anyway.
Wagner has said that he plans to retire after the season, so there isn’t much long-term risk to running him out there on back-to-back-to-back-to-back days, but with the Braves sitting atop the NL East with the league’s best record there should be plenty of incentive to keep him healthy and sharp for the stretch run and playoffs.
So far so good, as Wagner is 5-0 with 14 saves and has been amazing with a 1.23 ERA, .168 opponents’ batting average, and 43/12 K/BB ratio in 29.1 innings, but it’ll be interesting to see if Bobby Cox loosens the reins a bit after leaning on him so heavily last week.

  1. walk - Jun 21, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Bobby knew they had today, monday, off or i doubt he would have run him out 4 days in a row. Kk’s short outing took a bit of a dump on bullpen as well making a careful use of the relievers problematic, but wags is definetly getting enough work to make me a bit uncomfortable as a fan.

  2. Jonny5 - Jun 21, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    Billy Wagner doesn’t throw the ball. The ball escapes his grasp and obeys him to retire to the catchers mitt. Billy Wagner doesn’t blink, ever, blinking is for mortals. Billy Wagners cleats never get dirty. Billy Wagner’s facial hair only grows when he wishes it to grow. Billy’s glove is the luckiest glove on the planet ,and knows it.

  3. Rusty Shackleford - Jun 21, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    Bobby Cox overwork a reliever???
    Surely you jest.
    Peter Moylan

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