Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News reports that Billy Wagner is expected to return from the disabled list and rejoin the Mets’ bullpen Sunday, assuming that his final minor-league rehab outing goes smoothly Friday at high Single-A. Wagner is ahead of schedule in his recovery from Tommy John surgery last September and has thrown five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and zero walks during his rehab stint.
Wagner is making $10.5 million this season, but because the Mets are all but guaranteed to buy out the final year of his contract for $1 million rather than exercise their $8 million team option for 2010 the 38-year-old will likely be auditioning for a new team. In fact, there’s some speculation that the Mets could look to pass Wagner through waivers and trade him before the end of the month.
While in Washington, D.C. last month for the annual Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention, my dorks friends and I had a debate about the greatest left-handed relief pitcher in baseball history while eating sushi one afternoon. Lots of names were tossed into the mix and compelling cases were made for a handful of guys, but at the end of the day the consensus was that Wagner reigns supreme.
If that strikes you as unlikely you’re not alone, but it turns out that the vast majority of elite relievers throughout baseball history are right-handed, whether because of random chance, platoon effects, or teams being less likely to convert an effective southpaw to the bullpen. Whatever the case, here are the top adjusted ERA+ marks from left-handers who totaled at least 600 career innings and worked primarily as relievers:
IP ERA+ BILLY WAGNER 818 180 John Franco 1246 137 John Hiller 1242 134 Steve Howe 606 129 Sparky Lyle 1390 127 Jesse Orosco 1295 125 Gary Lavelle 1085 125 Steve Kline 682 124 Ron Perranoski 1175 123 Randy Myers 885 122
No one even comes close to Wagner on a per-inning basis, but perhaps a decent argument could be made for guys like John Franco, John Hiller, Sparky Lyle, and Jesse Orosco based on their throwing significantly more innings. Still, it would be tough not to pick Wagner, who checks in with a 180 ERA+ while the rest of the top 10 are bunched between 122 and 137, ranks sixth all-time in saves, and has six All-Star appearances. Now we’ll see if he can add to that resume.