Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner Statistics and History –

He’s 38 years old. In a way, he seems younger — I mean, he goes by “Billy” and he’s short and I easily remember his entire career. (Then, I’m increasingly old.) On the other hand, it seems like he’d have to be older, as he’s accomplished an awful lot. With the exception of last year’s stint, coming off of surgery, as a setup man, he’s been closing since 1996, and he has saved 385 games, sixth on the all-time list. (He’s five behind Eckersley for fifth, and 39 behind John Franco for fourth and the lefthanded record.) There aren’t many relievers, ever, who have been better than Wagner.

Wagner was a starter, and a good one, in the minors, but (basically because he’s listed at 5-11, and I doubt he’s that tall) was shifted to the bullpen as soon as he arrived in the majors. (He had never relieved in the minors before his major league debut, but has never made a major league start.) He took over the Astros’ closer role late in 1996 and held it (with the exception of an injury-plagued 2000 season) until 2003. He was traded to the Phillies, as most Astros closers seem to be, after the season for three eventual washouts. He had two strong seasons there — his 2005 may have been the best of his career — before signing a big contract with the Mets, as most closers who are about to get hurt seem to. To be fair, Wagner had two good years for the Mets and was having another one in 2008 when he blew out his elbow. Wagner worked his way back, pitched in two games for the Mets, then went to the Red Sox on a waiver deal, after which he pitched very well. The Braves signed him to a one-year deal with an option this offseason.

Wagner struck out 22 men in 15 2/3 innings pitched last year. In other words, all signs point to him still throwing hard. Few have ever thrown harder. His walk rate was a little elevated from his usual, but that’s normal coming off of Tommy John surgery. Given my rules on older pitchers, he’s a great candidate for a one-year deal. He has had basically no platoon split in his career.

Wagner probably isn’t a Hall of Fame candidate under the current standards for relievers. However, the standards for relievers are pretty fluid right now, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he made it some day.

64 thoughts on “Billy Wagner”

  1. Reposted from end of last –

    IHMO Andy Marte is a bigger bust than Komminsk.

    Boy, I don’t know about that – Komminsk put up ridiculous minor league numbers through age 22. Obviously, we don’t have OPS+ to help contextualize them, but they were way off the scale for the early 80’s.

    Komminsk was also a 1st rd (4th overall) pick, so expectations were high for him from the start.

    /edit – having said that, it’s worth noting that Heyward’s are far superior given his age, even allowing for an increased offensive era.

  2. Wagner’s a pretty good test case for relievers in the Hall of Fame — you might even think about a Keltner. There are only 5 relievers in the Hall: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Hoyt Wilhelm. Mariano Rivera is currently viewed as a lock, and Trevor Hoffman has a strong sentimental case. It’s hard to imagine what other reliever on the current landscape is likely to make it.

    But he probably deserves to.

  3. Relievers in the hall is a really tough subject for me – I really don’t value “saves” any more than wins in terms of what they tell you about someones impact. Eck is still someone that typifies this for me. Above average starter, but nothing spectacular, becomes a reliever and has the good fortune to play on a TON of 95 win or better clubs. I mean, that’s gotta help boost the ol’ save total. I am not bothered by his induction, but I don’t see him as all that.

  4. I think that’s fair, Spike. But I do think the Hall should have representatives from every position, including the bullpen and DH. I don’t think Eck was all that either, but he had a hell of a second wind as a closer — the very innovation that he and La Russa devised of the one-inning closer who pitches 70-80 innings a year is probably Hall-worthy in itself, just for its influence on the rest of the game.

    A couple days after Hank Aaron was quoted about Jason Heyward, another former Braves right fielder had some advice for the kid. Don’t listen to Jeff Francoeur, Jason!

  5. Re: Billy Wags
    I like the deal for Wagner. If he falls apart, it’ll suck. But I don’t think it’ll happen. It’s tough counting on so many older players, but this year is a bit of a one-year dice roll, innit?

    Re: HoF Closers
    I, too, have a tiny bit of trouble coming to grips with relievers in the Hall. Outside of Rivera and, yes, Eck, and (perhaps, but maybe not) Hoffman, I don’t know about the rest of the guys who primed in the past 2 decades.

    Basically, my view: To get to Cooperstown, you better be amazing for a long time, and I mean damn-near unhittable in some seasons and post-seasons, not just proficient in piling up save numbers over time. (Eg. — Eck, yes; Franco, no.)

    Re: #42
    If Mariano Rivera got hit by a meteor today, he’d be enshrined 5 years later. He’s in right now.

    Probably more than any one Pinstriper, he’s the reason they’ve won 5 titles since ’96. Go look up his career post-season stats and just gasp, especially in the 7 pennant-winning seasons.

    I know people hate the Yankees—and I get that in a big way—but when you’re watching him, remember that you’re watching genuine greatness. When it comes to his job description, he’s a once-in-a-lifetime player.

  6. ububba,

    And once in a lifetime as in my father was born about when Babe went to New York (1920) and died in 2004.

    Once in his lifetime.

  7. Looking at Wagner’s career, it seems the only thing to worry about will be health because he has never (other than in 2000) been ineffective and for the most part he’s been unhittable. Postseason is a different story as he’s given up 13 ER in 11.1 innings there. (I know it’s a small sample size). Actually he’s been in 6 different postseasons and only pitched 11.1 innings mostly because his teams have only won one postseason series (2006 NYM over LAD). He got ousted by the Braves thrice.

  8. Second period starting. The U.S outshot (on goal) the Swiss 18-4 in the 1st, but we’re scoreless.

  9. Although I don’t have the numbers handy, I remember that Chipper never hit Wagner too well—but he did get to him for a big 3-run HR in the ’01 NLDS.

    That’s quite a set of dates. Was your dad a Sawx fan?

    My mom was a BoSawx fan, my dad was a Cubs fan and, as a Braves fan, I always thought I was destined to have to root for a lousy team.

  10. U.S.A



    Zach Parise(GO SIOUX!) puts it on ice with an empty net goal with seconds left in the game….2-0 U.S.A over the Swiss. Into the medal round we go!

  11. USA 2
    Switzerland 0

    We dominated the game, but could not score until the 3rd. Hiller was tough.

  12. Guys, I had to delete a couple of plugins that were causing server issues. They were the “top commenters” and the “theme switcher”. I also had to delete most of the themes. Sorry.

  13. ububba,

    No. We are southerners through and through (6 or more generations in Georgia on all sides, then down the Piedmont Road from Virginia through the Carolinas, etc.)

    My Dad was a great small town “dead ball era” type ball player. My mother made him stop playing a few years before I was born when he broke his leg sliding into second base the SECOND time (at 32 or so). When the Braves came south, he was a fan through and through.

    Interestingly, the player he respected most as I remember was Joe Morgan. He had played second base and Daddy loved the all around skill set. Although he was a Braves fan he really appreciated the overall abilites on the Big Red Machine and on Weaver’s Orioles.

    Any of you guys who never got to see Morgan play and know him by his weird expressions as a commentator don’t know what you missed. Tremendous fielder. Great base stealer (high percentage). Always would take his walks. Could hit doubles and homeruns like no second baseman. He was really something.

  14. The theme switcher was buggy for me. Sometimes I would visit this site and it would have a random theme set as default and my browser would crash when I tried to change it. Can’t say I’m disappointed to see it go.

    I just thought about this, and it made me laugh.

  15. Is the Braves plan to hope the Cardinals run away with the Central?

    If they do, Berkman and Derrek Lee enter the market and will have $4m-$6m left on their deals for the year.

  16. @5:

    I hate the Yankees as an institution. I don’t hate individual players. Gotta lot of respect for Mo.

  17. Does anyone else have just the thread as a skinny column in the center that’s hard to read with the brown taking up most of the screen, or is that just me?

    I’d prefer if you could switch to another theme, Mac, but that’s just my one vote.

  18. 21 — Firefox

    What is showing up now is the same default one when the old theme switcher existed. I also previously used the Cutline 3 column split.

  19. #18, would that matter?

    “You could either stay here for 2 months or you can go play for Bobby Cox in his final year chasing the pennant”

  20. Woo, Canada was scary on the ice tonight. They completely humiliated Russia, and they got a bit of a break with Sweden losing, too.

    If the US can get past Finland (not at all easy), they’re gonna have their hands more than full in the final. They’ll almost certainly get Canada & they’ll need another huge game from Ryan Miller in goal.

    Not gonna say it’s impossible, but Canada’s really in great shape now.

  21. I saw Wagner pitch in the Dome shortly after he was called up. My grandfather and I were sitting around and the guys on sports radio were talking about how hard this Wagner kid brought it. So we went out and he got in the game. Damn, he throws hard.

  22. I too would have the random theme thing every once in a while… don’t mind the switcher going away.

    I’ve used the cutline on one or two of my sites (and liked it), but I also have a plaintext one (I think that’s the name) that I’m using on several sites that I like as it’s REALLY simple visually and reminds me of a newspaper look (you can click on my name on this post and it should take you to one of the sites using it).

  23. Three Column Split! Three Column Split!

    Coach Hank’s Suggested Batting Order:

    Glaus (until he gets hurt)
    Melky or Heyward

    You like?

  24. Just thinking, the Braves line of right fielders will include Babe Ruth (sort of), Hank Aaron, David Justice, eventually Jason Heyward–and Jeff Francouer. What’s wrong with this picture? (Admittedly, mentioning Justice with Aaron is more than a stretch and Heyward has yet to play.)

  25. sdp,

    I haven’t seen a picture so I can’t say it wasn’t a crime.

    As Mr. Justice Potter Stewart wrote in his opinion in a published Supreme Court case (paraphrase unfortunately after all these years), “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.”

    And if barrista does about 250 or more, that is pornography. If she is right and tight, that is art.

  26. DOB tweets.

    ajcbraves: Heyward BP carnage update: B. Cox said Braves plan to hang netting to protect cars after repeated Jason Heyward projectiles to exec. lot

    ajcbraves: Cox said Heyward not only busted sun room of asst. GM Bruce Manno’s car, but bent the frame around it. $3,400 repair, $2,500 deductible

  27. Couldn’t find any photos of the perp, but her peers that were interviewed certainly qualified as art.

  28. Spike,

    I was actually born in India, so I’m a huge fan of the sport. Don’t know if you have been keeping up, but India played S.A. yesterday, and Sachin Tendulkar set the record with 200 runs in an ODI innings (first time that double century has ever been done).

    In terms of baseball, think hitting five home runs in one game.

    BTW, there is an ‘insider-only’ article on ESPN on Jeff Francouer giving Jason Heyward advice:

    Could somebody with a subscription please summarize it? I’m dying to know what ‘fatherly advice’ Jeff can crap up for Jason.

  29. Tendulkar has been a certified badass for some time, but a double century is ridiculous. He’s always been sort of a fave of mine, as one of the engineers we had was named Sachin, and I didn’t have too many defined rooting interests at the time.

    /Tendulkar is Barry Bonds hiding in Freddie Patek’s body, for the uninitiated. A double century would be something on the order of six HR in a game: possible in theory, but not very likely.

  30. On a trip to the UK many years ago, I tried to watch & understand cricket, but I failed. Not that it’s keeping me up nights, but it’s one of those sports that has to be explained to me as it’s going on—kinda like curling in Canada.

    In terms of reporting actual news, NY Post is easily the most ridiculous major metropolitan daily in this country. It’s the newspaper that US journalism schools use as an example as “what not to do,” if you want to be considered a responsible journalist.

    Reading the Post (with its idiotic items on the front page & preposterous coverage for all things celebrity) is sort of like watching “Jersey Shore” (trainwreck TV).

    Its sports page & some of its sports columnists certainly try to be provocative, but it doesn’t really compare to rest of the paper for sheer sleaze factor. (FWIW, I usually enjoy Phil Mushnick’s sports media column.)

    To me, that Kernan column was just another Francoeur love-fest. People like him. Good for him. Let’s just see if they like him as much after another 550 PAs.

  31. desert at 39,

    It is more about dealing with the media and people’s expectaions. Kind of “don’t be afraid to say “no”, be true to yourself” dah dah, dah dah, dah dah.

    HardBall Talk (formerly NBC circling the Bases) has an accessible version where Craig Calcaterra quotes a ocuple of paragraphs of it and analyzes it (the Francoeur statements).

  32. #39, basically Jeff going “I’ve been there, Jason. I was an exceptionally talented hometown hero once, but I started too well and the only place to go from there was down. Don’t start too well!”

  33. ububba, thanks for the link. I’ve read a few of Glanville’s pieces now. Definitely enjoyable.

  34. I ate at Fogo de Chao in Atlanta tonight–it was AMAZING!

    I’ve never been so glad to pay $110 for a single meal.

  35. @39, here you go, courtesy of Buster Olney

    Takes one to know ‘The One’

    Jason Heyward was born in Georgia, was a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, was seen as a hometown-kid-makes-good star since high school, has been given high marks for his makeup and is on the verge of breaking into the majors amid outsized expectations.

    Jeff Francoeur knows something about all that. He was born in Georgia. He was a first-round pick of the Braves. He was seen as a hometown-kid-makes-good-star, was given high marks for his makeup and broke into the majors amid outsized expectations.

    So Francoeur, traded to the Mets last season, has some sense of what Heyward is going to go through, and sometime this spring he intends to take Heyward to dinner and give him some advice.

    “The thing I would say to him is this: ‘Just enjoy it, and learn to say no,'” Francoeur said. “I’m not saying that he should say no to everything, but he should say no to some media things, to some charity things. I would tell him ‘Make sure you make time for yourself.’

    For Jason Heyward, expectations are already off the charts.

    “Jason will find out this spring that if he tries to do everything — if he tries to do every interview — he will be there until 4 or 5 o’clock every day. And if he goes to the big leagues and gets off to a great start, the same thing will continue to happen.”

    Francoeur read some stories about Heyward online the other night and saw how much buildup is developing. He hasn’t seen the stories this morning yet, about how Heyward dented a truck and smashed a window during batting practice. “He’s as strong as an ox,” Terry Pendleton told David O’Brien. Bobby Cox said the sound of the ball coming off Heyward’s bat reminded him of Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

    Said Francoeur: “There is so much pressure on this kid to come to camp at age 20 and almost be a 4-hole hitter. I believe he can play in the big leagues, and he can start in the big leagues this year. You just hope people give him the time to make adjustments, the time to learn.”

    Francoeur dealt with those kinds of expectations, after his career began with a rush of hits and power. “My biggest thing was that I came out so hot, and did what I did, that there was nowhere to go but down,” Francoeur said. “And then once you start doing that, I started second-guessing a lot of stuff that I was doing. I think he’s ready. For his sake, maybe if you bat him lower in the order, maybe not put too much pressure on him; if you face a tough lefty, maybe give him a day off.

    “He’ll be fine. But it’s going to be a tough thing, because everybody is going to expect so much out of him. … When you’ve got Hank Aaron talking about you the last couple of days, he’s got everything in front of him. At the same time, he’s got to take it step by step and don’t get too high with the highs and don’t get too low with the lows.”

    Heyward and Francoeur share the same agent and have gone to dinner together, and after Francoeur had thumb surgery in the offseason, Heyward sent him a text message. “He’s a great kid,” Francoeur said. “He comes from a great family.”

    The fact that Heyward will be playing in his hometown can become part of the daily equation.

    “I enjoyed my time in Atlanta,” Francoeur said. “It’s not like I didn’t like it there. But sometimes you need a change. The first three years, it was great; you couldn’t ask for anything better. But then all of a sudden, the last year-and-a-half was just a nightmare for me.

    “It got to the point where every game, I would analyze it; every game I would analyze every 0-for-4, every 1-for-4. When I came over [to the Mets], I finally relaxed, and if I went 0-for-4, I would tell myself ‘I’m getting three hits tomorrow night.’ And I would. And there’s a big difference when you do that.”

    Francoeur approached Mets manager Jerry Manuel the other day and told him how good he is feeling about himself. “I’m a whole new person this spring than I was last spring,” Francoeur said. “Now down here, I know exactly what I’m expected to do, and I feel comfortable.”

    Jason Heyward might not see it yet, but there is a gauntlet he will have to run, as Francoeur will tell him.

  36. The only person Francoeur is qualified to analyze is Greg Norton.

    I love how Tommy Hanson looks like he’s blowing a raspberry in every picture I’ve ever seen of him.

  37. Hiawatha, Nick, and Cliff- Thanks for the summaries/ actual article. I don’t remember who it was about (I think it was Hanson), but last year when asked about the player, Francouer said ‘player will sure look good in a Yankees uniform in six years’. The headline kinda made me a little angry, but I thought the actual article might put things into context.

    Spike- Yeah. Growing up in India during the ’90s meant that Sachin was a demigod, as was Michael Schumacher. Both are my idols to this day, especially in wake of the whole Tiger controversy. I hope nothing like that ever happens to either of those two. Number 1 qualification for long-term relationship: she must allow me to name my first son Sachin. That’s a dealbreaker.

  38. desert…

    as a guy with 12 tattoos and an “almost” sleeve on my right arm, that Hinske tattoo looks like it was over 50 hours and it must have hurt like $#%$ing hell.

  39. desert,

    Microsoft sent me a brand new XBox after I sent mine in for repairs. That seemed like a pretty good deal until I realized that I couldn’t read anything on my hard drive without reformatting it. Lost tons of save files. Ugh.

    I don’t get on too often any more. What are you playing these days? Dante’s Inferno might be next for me…though MLB 2K10 comes out in a week.

  40. Horrible? The only thing I don’t like is the Banana Republic band around his waist. Maybe he can get that covered up.

  41. Rob,

    Sucks about the save files; last semester, my roommate and I spent 30+ hours beating and getting all of the achievements in Modern Warfare 1. It would kill me if I lost that data. I’m mostly playing Modern Warfare 2- I just cannot get enough of that game; it’s like a drug (although I must say, I suck). To be honest, I’m not too much into baseball (or sports of any kind) video games; I prefer to go outside and do stuff if I’m in the mood for sports. Love Fallout 3, though- absolute masterpiece of a game. Halo 3 is always a classic with friends. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had a lot of time lately to play, owing to Organic Chemistry (Anybody here taken it? Would love some help!). What about yourself? Do you play MW2?

  42. Strange… from home last night I couldn’t get the site to reload/refresh… latest post was Kris Medlan and clearing cache and using a different browser made no difference.

  43. I don’t care about the tattoo one way or the other – I’ve got a few, but am pretty neutral about them now. I was very surprised by the negativity in the comments section. A lot of Braves have them, and I don’t recall anyone making a big deal out of it before. Andruw had a spiderweb on his elbow (used to mean you had been in prison) for goodness sakes, and I never heard that ever discussed.

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