Question: How does a person miss a 6-5, 250 pound closer with over a 150 career saves? Answer: When that closer’s name is J.J. Putz and his best seasons have been with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Putz did have a nice year with the Chicago White Sox in 2010 primarily as a setup man but his 2009 season with the New York Mets was a disaster as injuries limited him to 29 games and a messy 5.29 ERA. If Arizona is to repeat as National League West Champions and win a playoff series or two, they need J.J. Putz to almost match his 2011 stats.
When Opening Day hits on April 6th, Putz will be 35 years, an age where most closers begin to experience a performance dropoff. If you factor in his injury history, there is some concern that Putz won’t be able to repeat his outstanding 2011 season. There are two views when it comes to examining 2012 for the big reliever. The positive take is that he has only thrown about 460 innings in his Big League career. That is a small number compared to most pitchers at his age. You can compare Putz’s situation to that of former New York Yankees standout Jorge Posada. He became the primary catcher for the Yanks at the age of 26 and was still a productive player at his position at 35, a time when most catchers are platooning, looking for another spot or retired. The negative view is that Putz has never strung together three consecutive productive and relatively healthy seasons. Well, 2012 is year number three and at 35 with all of the Disabled List history, he will miss significant time by season’s end.
I am an optimist by nature so I will say Putz will earn 38 saves with a 2.65 ERA in 2012. That is not quite the season of 2011 but those numbers are playoff-worthy. In order for the D-Backs to contend, he just can’t be the J.J. Putz of 2009.
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