Oct 3, 2010, 8:00 PM EDT
How about ending your career with a season like this: 7 wins, 2 losses, 37 saves, 1.43 ERA, 104 strikeouts and 22 walks in 69 1/3 innings.
39-year-old Billy Wagner, who has maintained all season that this would be his last, ended his 16th major league campaign by striking out the last four batters he faced in a win that sent the Braves into the playoffs Sunday.
If he’s truly done — and it seems doubtful that he’s the type to flip-flop — he finishes his career with 422 saves, a 2.30 ERA and 1,196 strikeouts in 903 innings. A seven-time All-Star, he ranks fifth all-time on the saves list and sixth for strikeouts among relievers. Among pitchers to throw at least 300 innings, only Rob Dibble and Brad Lidge have stronger strikeout rates than Wagner, who finished with 11.9 K/9 IP, and Lidge will probably fall behind Wagner during the downside of his career.
Wagner will be an interesting Hall of Fame case. His numbers are remarkable, but he ranks as just the No. 3 reliever of his era and he’s struggled mightily in the postseason. It’d help him a bunch if he were a big part of a Braves run to the World Series this month. Wagner’s teams are 1-6 in seven postseason series, with the left-hander giving up 13 runs over 11 1/3 innings in 13 appearances.
And that’s a big negative. Since he’s a closer, it will probably be held against him more than a similarly poor postseason performance would be held against a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter. Wagner, though, was a big reason why most of those teams got to the postseason. In his 13 relatively healthy seasons, his worst ERA was a 2.85 mark.
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