Picking up J.J. Putz’s $6.5 million option at the end of the 2012 season was a smart move by the D’backs. It was a relatively easy decision for general manager Kevin Towers as the right hander finished his season posting an ERA of 2.84 with 32 saves. The news released earlier this week announcing that Putz had also been signed through 2014 brought on a few different emotions.
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher J.J. Putz (40) celebrates after defeating the Washington Nationals in the ninth inning in 2012. Image: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
I would believe these are the two initial thoughts in people’s heads: ‘yikes, we’re bringing Putz back through 2014? Isn’t he getting old and injury prone?’ and the second thought would be ‘heck yeah, Towers has finally made a move that makes sense by locking up one of the more consistent closers in baseball for the next two seasons.’
Let’s first address the injury prone and old thought process as I have a feeling that may be the majority. Putz will be 36 years old for the 2013 season. He’ll be 37 at the end of his new deal in 2014. Seems a little old in baseball terms, no?
Well, over the last three seasons, Putz has pitched in 60, 60, and 57 games accumulating a total of 80 saves and an ERA of 2.60 while averaging 10.6 SO/9 innings. Pretty solid right? Since 2004, Putz has appeared in 50+ games in seven of nine years, failing just twice in 2008 (47) and 2009 (29). According to Fangraphs, Putz owns the sixth best WAR of all major league relievers at 11.2 during that time. It sure seems like he has held up pretty well into his 30’s. Also, considering he just got stronger as the season went on in 2012- 1.03 ERA, .835 WHIP during the second half of the season- it is safe to say the man with a nasty split finger pitch has the closer role on lock down.
Also worth mentioning since we’re discussing aging closers is that over the last ten years, closers that were thirty or younger have saved 30+ games on 78 occasions. Those pitchers that were thirty-one and older accounted for 76 seasons with 30+ saves (Courtesy to Jim McLennan of SB Nation). Pretty even on this front and obviously helped along by guys like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman in the plus thirty range.
Now, while many of the above listed stats help prove the value that Putz brings to the D’backs, another great point that Jim McLennan made in his article on Putz showed a comparison between him and recently signed Rafael Soriano of the Washington Nationals.
As you can see by the chart above, the two have posted nearly identical stats over the last three seasons with Putz leading in both strikeouts and walks while trailing in saves during that time period. True, Soriano was the setup and middle relief guy for the Yankees in 2011(2 saves) but Putz was also a middle reliever with the White Sox in 2010 (3 saves). The major difference that Towers is clearly well aware of? Putz’ salary through 2014: $13.5 million. Soriano’s salary through 2014: $28 million.
As of now, it certainly would appear that the D’backs have put themselves in good shape both in baseball terms as well as financially with their closer for the next two years.