Posted on 03 June 2011.
Joakim Soria has been the Royals lone, rock-solid, star presence over the past three seasons, and no one had any doubt he would continue dominating from the mound in save situations this season. The closer role was about the only thing on this year’s Royals team that did not have a question mark by it. Unfortunately, Soria has been downright awful through the first third of the season, and has lost the closer role to Aaron Crow for the time being. Now the crucial question becomes if this is a temporary slump or injury that Soria will come back from, or if he is done as an elite reliever. In the hopes of shedding some light on the answer, I will take a look at other closers in history who have racked up a large amount of saves at a young age. The following list shows all 11 players with over 100 saves before their age 27 season (which Soria is in now):
photo by Minda Haas
Rodriguez, Street and Capps are all still young and active, so the second part of their careers are still unfolding just like Soria’s is. I will take a brief look at the careers of the remaining seven pitchers from the list to see how some closers who racked up saves at an early age fared from age 27 on. The first number after their name is number of saves before age 27 season, and the second number is saves from age 27 to the end of their career.
Gregg Olson: 160 • 57
Olson suffered a torn elbow ligament at the age of 26 and was never the same. He bounced around in 10 transactions between 1994-2000, including two stops with the Royals. He managed one more big year as a closer after the injury, racking up 30 saves for Arizona in 1998.
Bobby Thigpen: 148 • 53
Thigpen started battling injuries at 26 also. After recording 30 and 22 saves at ages 27 and 28, he only posted one more save and was out of the majors at 30.
Chad Cordero: 128 • 0
Here is the worst case. Cordero posted all of his career saves before his age 26 season, then suffered a labrum tear. He has had a couple of failed comeback attempts but has been unable to stick in the majors since.
Rod Beck: 127 • 159
Here is a better looking career path. Beck continued to be a dominant closer at 28 and 29, and had a one year renaissance at age 34 when he converted all 20 of his save opportunities.
Mitch Williams: 114 • 78
Wild Thing stayed fantastic at 27 and 28 but was done after that, throwing less than 40 innings the rest of his career (including 6.2 with the 1997 Royals).
Ugueth Urbina: 110 • 127
Urbina remained fantastically effective until his career ended at age 31 with an arrest (and subsequent conviction and 14 year prison sentence) for a machete attack/gasoline dousing incident. Hopefully Soria can avoid that.
Bruce Sutter: 105 • 195
This I suppose would be the best case scenario, particularly with that Hall of Fame induction capping things off.
So we have four pitchers who recorded fewer saves after age 26 and three pitchers who piled up a greater number after that age. It is almost like we cannot predict the future. But this graph of the average number of saves the above pitchers posted by age does show how difficult it is to continue the level of performance Soria has held up in the last three years:
That looks pretty dramatic, but that is not surprising since I cherry picked guys who all were fantastic before turning 27. Some of them are going to flame out and tank the averages. In Beck, Urbina and Sutter, there are precedents for Soria carrying on as an elite closer. Only one of the above examples completely disappeared after turning 27 (Cordero). With a little time and luck, hopefully the Royals can fix whatever is ailing Soria, and he can get back to locking down Royals wins again soon.
Aaron Stilley also writes about Kansas City baseball at his blog here and on the tweeties.
Posted in Royals
Posted on 19 April 2011.
Joe over at Cards Droppings does a great job breaking down the series as they come up. We are glad to share that information with you here on I-70 and ask you to click the link at the bottom of the article to read the rest of the material on the home site.
Weather permitting, the 12-4 Cardinals take on the upstart Washington Nationals and their league-leading pitching staff tonight at Busch. Wait a second, the Cardinals aren’t 12-4? They’re 8-8? Oh, that’s right, our “closer” has blown four out of five save chances. Well, if our manager won’t make a change at closer, I am going to track the Cards’ record as if they actually did have someone who could close out games. I hate to pick on someone as nice as Ryan Franklin, but the bottom line is that he needs to get rid of the beard. He also needs to follow in Joe Nathan’s footsteps. Nathan, coming back from Tommy John surgery, actually asked out of the closer role in Minnesota. He knew he couldn’t get the job done and Ron Gardenhire replaced him with ex-Pirate closer Matt Capps. Granted, we don’t have someone as reliable as Capps to take over the role, but it’s time for a change. The team could have EASILY gone 9-1 on their ten game trip out west if not for Franklin’s follies. The team doesn’t have enough depth to where it can just throw away games left and right–it’s going to be a tight race in the NL Central this year, and every lead we have in the ninth inning needs to be protected. Here’s hoping the Mitchell Boggs era begins tonight at Busch.
The team took some more hits on the injury front during their series in LA, as both Allen Craig and Skip Schumaker suffered injuries. Craig has a groin strain and Schumaker has a tricep strain. No word yet on how long they’ll be out, but they were both placed on the DL today. Replacing them will be veteran infielder Nick Punto and power hitting first baseman Mark Hamilton. The Cardinals will definitely miss Craig’s right-handed pop off the bench, as Hamilton is a lefty. Punto is most likely being called up a little to early, as he is coming off hernia surgery and wasn’t able to go on a minor league rehab. It will definitely be an improvement defensively at second, and the team is pretty well-equipped to handle Schumaker’s absence (with Greene, Descalso and Punto). Needless to say, we have an abundance of light-hitting infielders. Hamilton will remind a lot of you of Chris Duncan–he’s a first baseman who will no doubt be asked to play a little outfield, but hopefully Craig will heal quickly. It would have been nice to see spring training sensation Matt Carpenter get the call to replace Schumaker, but he’s really struggled in Memphis so far this spring and is not on the 40 man roster.
Read the rest of the preview of this series at Busch Stadium by clicking here.
Posted in Cardinals