Unconventional Wisdom: How good has K-Rod really been?
While all of the focus on Rodriguez has been on the column one to the left of that -- he's in line to set the record for saves in a season, currently held by
The need for certain circumstances to be met for a save to be available to a reliever is why the saves record stands a bit apart from many others in baseball. No matter how well
The Angels have been the Goldilocks of baseball teams this year, good enough to win a lot of games, but not good enough to win them by a lot of runs. With a good rotation, excellent setup relief and a mediocre offense playing in a league in which run scoring is down a bit, the Angels have created a perfect storm for save situations. Sixty-two of the Angels 88 wins have come by three runs or fewer, a 70% rate that compares nicely to Thigpen's White Sox, who had 74 percent of their 94 wins come in the "save range." That is why Rodriguez is in line to make history.
Without being too critical of an effective pitcher, what
That rate is also unimpressive when compared to other high-save closers; among the 11 50-save campaigns in baseball history, Rodriguez's 2008 season features the seventh-highest total of blown saves and the seventh-highest save percentage, the eighth-highest ERA and RA, the ninth-highest Reliever Expected Wins Added total, the 10th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio and the worst Value Over Replacement Player.
The fact is, Rodriguez's performance this season has not been special for any closer, and it's been below average for 50-save closers. Even among his peers in 2008, Rodriguez's run prevention has been ordinary; Rivera, Soria, and
Rodriguez's pursuit of the saves mark is comparable to
So when Rodriguez punches his glove and raises his arms to the sky for a 58th time, stand and cheer. Enjoy the moment, because baseball's record book is a sacred place, and the men who find their names atop the lists deserve to be honored.
When the moment ends, though, regard Rodriguez as exactly what he is: Not the most valuable player in the league, not the best pitcher in the league, not even the best closer in the league. He's a good player who landed in the perfect situation for him to build up one particular statistic.