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Some love for Billy Wagner

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.

  1. walk - Oct 3, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    I had the privelige of watching him pitch in person a couple times this year and i was very impressed by him. He definetly had a presence you could feel. Well done Billy, congratulations on an amazing career.

  2. SDelMonte - Oct 3, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    His presence in NY is greatly missed, issues with his successor aside. He had his adventures in relief, like everyone not named Mariano, but he was a fiery competitor here as elsewhere, outspoken and fearless. And his determination to return from injury last year only cemented his place in my mind as someone you want around.
    While it’s not easy for me to root for Braves (unless they play Phlly), it is very easy to root for Wagner. Between him and Cox, it might be hard not to applaud if the Braves make it to the Series.

  3. adam - Oct 3, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Has there been a better left handed reliever in the history of the game?

  4. Glenn - Oct 3, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    I’ve never known what to think about Billy Wagner – he seems to confuse one from any angle of analysis – old school or sabermetric. He looked great in Boston last year and I was sorry to see him go. He was even better this year. I would think that he has a few years left in him.

  5. katienimora - Oct 4, 2010 at 5:12 AM

    I have seen him playing many times and he is awesome. We are gonna miss his play. He is a great player and has a impressive career. You can feel his presence whenever he is on the field . Congrats for the amazing game you played in your career and all the best for the new off field life.
    Acai Reduce

  6. BC - Oct 4, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    Only 7 wins? Obviously he doesn’t know how to win games. ;-)

  7. BC - Oct 4, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    Third in his era? I’d put him second. Much more dominating than Hoffman, just happened to get injured a bit more.

  8. Mahoney - Oct 4, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Didn’t Wagner blow a couple games down the stretch for the Phillies in 2005, I believe against Houston? They were in the hunt for the division / wild card and he blew two or three in a row? And didn’t he contribute to the Mets epic collapse in 2007 with several blown saves in the last three weeks? Feel free to correct me, I probably misremembered.
    Thats how I will remember Wags. Dominate the first 3/4 of the year, unreliable for the playoff push and the post season. I haven’t followed his career very closely, so as I said, I could be wrong. But when I hear his name that is my first reaction.

  9. adam - Oct 4, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    I think the postseason may have impacted your memory a bit too much. Wagner’s career ERA by month: April – 2.04, May – 2.68, June – 2.92, July – 2.09, August – 2.49, September – 1.71, October – 1.54 (granted only 11 games).

    Postseason, not so much. 10.32 ERA

  10. maybellwasham - Oct 8, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    its very sad that he is retiring so early. He can still play couple of more years smoothly. But if he decided this then all the best for him. We greatly missed his presence in NY. Thanks for the game you showed and career record you made is fabulous.
    NO3 Max Pump

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