Saturday, September 13, 2008

Congratulations Frankie

Let's be honest. The saves record isn't the most impressive record in baseball. It's incredibly team dependent, and as a measure of who is truly a great reliever, single season saves don't show you very much.

But, it's not every day you see records that have stood for more than 10 years get broken. This will not go down as Frankie's best season. This will not go down as the best relief season in history. Frankie has arguably not been the best reliever in baseball this year. But he is a very deserving holder of this record. Probably, when careers are accounted for, more deserving than Roger Maris was when he set the single season home run record.

Maris had three seasons with more than 30 home runs, and the only one with more than 40 was the record breaking year. He was a good hitter, a 127 career OPS+ is nothing to sneeze at. But without those 61 homers in a park that played easy for lefty sluggers, he's an afterthought in MLB history.

Frankie is still early in his career. He's only 26, but he has over 200 saves. He's been one of baseball's best relievers from the day he was called up into the big leagues. He's been one of baseball's best closers since he took over for Troy Percival four seasons ago. It's the type of record where you may pick out three or four guys who are deserving, and he's certainly in the picture.

There will be a lot of talk about Frankie this winter. My thoughts are fairly clear. I think that the closer role is somewhat overrated, but Frankie Rodriguez is unfairly maligned because of his status as a closer. Look around at how many relievers have been dominant over a similar stretch of time. Baseball is littered with reliever who looked great for a year or two at a time. Very few have done it year after year after year. You would be hard pressed to find four or five relievers who have been better than Frankie since he came into the league.

As for next year, you can argue all you want about opportunity costs. What position is the most valuable, and how important is it to go after a reliever when you have a first baseman and possibly another starter to sign. But the market, imperfect as it is, is the market, and Frankie will have a few teams willing to offer him what he wants. Personally, a 15MM per contract is simply a raise over what he's currently making (it's not 15MM over their current payroll), and they're financially successful enough to sign Teixeira and re-sign Frankie. He's on pace for another excellent season. He's added a pitch to his repertoire, and he's even starting to throw that change up against righthanders with success. And I have no doubt that he'll learn a splitter or cutter (or both) over the next five years. On top of that, he's an Angel lifer, and 10 more solid seasons makes him a nearly automatic hall of famer, and he'll go in with an Angels cap, something you currently can't find in the HOF.

So congratulations, Frankie. You've earned it. Now you can rest and get ready for the post-season.A

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