Appreciating the historic, unhittable greatness of Billy Wagner

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Billy Wagner’s phenomenal career ending with him leaving a save situation and limping off the field before being replaced on the playoff roster due to an oblique injury is all kinds of not fair, but the diminutive flame-thrower remained a badass until the very end, agreeing to a pair of injections for the slim chance it would allow him to pitch again because he “didn’t care about the risk of long-term injury.”
My hope is that the unfortunate manner his career ended doesn’t take anything away from how spectacular he was for 15 seasons. Wagner is a seven-time All-Star who ranks fifth all time with 422 saves, but a deeper look at his career numbers reveals his true dominance.
For instance, among all the pitchers in baseball history with at least 800 career innings Wagner has the highest strikeout rate:

                     SO/9
BILLY WAGNER        11.92
Randy Johnson       10.61
Kerry Wood          10.35
Pedro Martinez      10.04
Nolan Ryan           9.55

That’s a pretty amazing list to sit atop. Not coincidentally, he’s also the all-time leader in fewest hits allowed per nine innings:

                     H/9
BILLY WAGNER        5.99
Herb Score          6.39
Nolan Ryan          6.56
Sandy Koufax        6.79
J.R. Richard        6.88

Wagner is also the all-time leader in adjusted ERA+ among all left-handed relievers with at least 800 innings:

                      ERA+
BILLY WAGNER          187
John Franco           138
John Hiller           134
Sparky Lyle           128
Jesse Orosco          126

The degree to which Wagner blows away the rest of the lefty reliever competition in ERA+ is ridiculous. To put those numbers in some context, consider that the difference between Wagner at 187 and second-place John Franco at 138 is bigger than the difference between Franco at 138 and, say, Scott Schoeneweis at 92.
And here’s how Wagner ranks in ERA+ among all relievers with 800-plus career innings:

                      ERA+
Mariano Rivera        204
BILLY WAGNER          187
Hoyt Wilhelm          147
Dan Quisenberry       147
Trevor Hoffman        141

Highest strikeout rate of all time, fewest hits per nine innings of all time, best ERA+ ever by a left-handed reliever, and second-best ERA+ among all relievers behind only Mariano Rivera. I really hope everyone who saw Wagner limp off the mound Friday night realizes they saw the end of one of the most extraordinarily dominant reliever careers in baseball history.
In his final season, at age 38, he saved 37 games with a 1.43 ERA, .159 opponents’ batting average, and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings. I hope Wagner enjoys his retirement, because I know National League hitters will.

Zack Greinke named the Dbacks’ Opening Day starter

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Pitcher Zack Greinke #21 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Not a surprise, but a news item on a slow news day is a news item on a slow news day: Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has named Zack Greinke as the club’s Opening Day starter.

Greinke’s first season with the Diamondbacks is not exactly what the club hoped for when he signed a six-year, $206.5 million deal in December of 2015. He dealt with oblique and shoulder issues while struggling to a 4.37 ERA over 26 starts. Greinke hasn’t pitched yet this spring, but will make his spring debut on Friday. He and the club are obviously hoping for a quiet March and a strong beginning to the season.

Either for its own sake or to increase the trade value of a player who was acquired by the previous front office regime.

“La Vida Baseball,” celebrating Latino baseball, launches

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A new website has launched. It’s called “La Vida Baseball,” and it’s all about celebrating the past, present and future of Latino baseball from a Latino perspective.

The site, produced in partnership with the Hall of Fame, has four general areas of focus:

  • Who’s Now: Focusing on current Latino players;
  • Who’s Next: Focusing on top prospects here, in the Caribbean and in Central and South America;
  • Our Life: Off-the-Field stuff, including player’s lives, lifestyles and hobbies; and
  • Our Legends: Focusing on Latino baseball history, Hall of Famers and overlooked players.

As the site has just launched there aren’t yet a ton of stories up there, but there is one about Roberto Clemente, another about Felix Hernandez and some other stuff.

The site is much-needed. Baseball reporters for American outlets are overwhelmingly white, non-Spanish speakers. Reporters, who, generally, gravitate to the players who are the most like they are. Which is understandable on some level. When you’re writing stories about people you need to be able to communicate with them and relate to them on more than a mere perfunctory level. As such, no matter how good the intentions of baseball media, we tend to see the clubhouse and the culture of baseball from a distinctly American perspective. And we tend to paint Latino players with a broad, broad brush.

La Vida Baseball will, hopefully, remedy all of that and will, hopefully, give us a fresh and insightful depiction Latino players and their culture.