July 05, 2004

Gagne Blows: After 84 consecutive saves, LA's Eric Gagne streak finally ends against the Diamondbacks, His last blown save was August 26, 2002, also against Arizona.

posted by goddam to baseball at 11:05 PM - 17 comments

I knew his streak would end soon when I read the Tim Kurkjian piece on ESPN, which he started in this fate-tempting way: "This story was assigned a week before it would be used. How presumptuous. Was there no chance that Eric Gagne might blow a save in those seven days? Blown saves happen every night across the major leagues, they happen to the A's and the Indians all the time. Not Gagne. Never Gagne."

posted by rcade at 11:45 PM on July 05, 2004

Regardless, it was an awesome streak. Now he can just another.

posted by jasonspaceman at 05:26 AM on July 06, 2004

Now that Gagne's streak is over, I wouldn't be surprised to see fate strike twice and end Ken Jenning's streak on Jeopardy. (click on "Daily Update") Still, I'm glad that this artificial streak ("saves") is over. If he had gone those 84 appearances without giving up a run at all, then I'd be really impressed.

posted by grum@work at 06:29 AM on July 06, 2004

I don't think there's anything artificial about Gagne's streak, which unlike a lot of individual records contributes directly and undeniably to the most important stat: the W. Just because some save opportunities look easy doesn't stop most closers from blowing 1-2 a month. The effect of having a Rivera or Gagne in the opposing bullpen is huge, both practically and psychologically. When they're on, it's like one team only gets 8 innings to bat.

posted by rcade at 07:08 AM on July 06, 2004

Isn't the arm of a closer least likely to last as long as a starter's? Or is that something I just dreamt up?

posted by jasonspaceman at 07:43 AM on July 06, 2004

Saves are a very valid stat. Three runs suddenly doesn't seem as manageable a goal when you're staring down a guy who hasn't allowed 'em in eighty-four games. I managed to catch one of his performances (#76, I think). He was something else: he'd get a strikeout, then allow a home run, then another strikeout, then a base hit, then a groundout. Very aggressive in attacking the strike zone; very much a product of old Montréal hockey. Really exciting to watch. Still will be even without the streak.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 07:57 AM on July 06, 2004

Grum, Jennings will make it well over 40 before his run ends. It's going to take a phenomenal performance by someone else to get to him... in the ones I've watched there hasn't even been one person within striking distance (ie, more than half his total) before Final Jeopardy. Anyway, while I do think Gagne is a tad overrated (his performance against NY was less than impressive, and were it not for some foot outside strike calls he may have lost the streak at 81) you've got to be impressed that it went that long without him giving up a single lead. That's 3 or more outs of work each time, wihtout ever screwing up. I don't really get all excited about Rivera's #s like 42 of 47, or whatever passes for successful, but 85 in a row...

posted by Bernreuther at 08:39 AM on July 06, 2004

Grum, Jennings will make it well over 40 before his run ends. It's going to take a phenomenal performance by someone else to get to him... in the ones I've watched there hasn't even been one person within striking distance (ie, more than half his total) before Final Jeopardy. He's usually beaten them (psychologically) by the first commercial break. I don't know how many times I've seen him with over $5000 and the other two competitors have zero (or less)! They have that hang-dog look in their eyes and they start to become desperate. I think that he's playing with Trebek by not going for the single-game record ($52,000). Alex keeps egging him on, but he doesn't take the bait. Now...back to the original topic... Don't get me wrong. What Gagne did was very impressive (compared to other relievers) and I do appreciate the skill he has to maintain that streak. But like the good Dr. says above, there can often be a lot of wiggle-room for a closer with a 3 run lead in the 9th and no one on base. I'd be more impressed with these pitching performances.

posted by grum@work at 10:01 AM on July 06, 2004

A save actually doesn't require a full three outs of work -- a reliever can get credit for a save by coming in just to face the last batter, depending on baserunners and/or score. Here is the save rule:

10.20 Credit a pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following conditions: (1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club; and (2) He is not the winning pitcher; and (3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions: (a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or (b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); or (c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

posted by holden at 01:06 PM on July 06, 2004

If Gagne's streak is so easy - everyone would be doing it. Is it easier being a closer these days with the strict regime of one inning only? Sure. But I'm sorry Dennis Eckersley and others just didn't ride the juice ball era. Gagne's numbers are absolutely silly. Put's theirs to shame. Having him is a huge psychological egde and he's downright nasty - 68 curve, 84 change, 98 fastball. Now if he can maintain the performance level for another 6-10 years he will be the greatest closer ever.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:14 PM on July 06, 2004

Now if he can maintain the performance level for another 6-10 years he will be the greatest closer ever. I assume you mean for him to pass this guy as the best "closer" in history. But in terms of pure relief pitching, he's got a LONG way to go before I consider him better than this guy. Either way, asking a pitcher (especially a closer) to maintain his effectiveness for another 6 to 10 years is quite a request. I'd be surprised if we are still talking about him as a premiere closer even just 3 years from now. Nowadays, closers tend to flame out (Thigpen), get injured (Ward), or just plain suck for years at a time (Mesa). It's rare that true stud closer (Rivera) can hang on for even 7 years anymore. As a fellow Canadian, I'd love to see him continue his success for years to come, but I'm not rushing to the bookies to put money down on it...

posted by grum@work at 03:25 PM on July 06, 2004

Holden, this is true, and I've seen some BS 1 pitch saves before. And I do think he's been overrated in the media a ltitle bit, but at the same time, even if some of the 84 aren't legit (I tend not to count 3 run games as impressive - I'd like to see a chart of how many of what size leads he's gotten, how many runs he's allowed, etc), he absolutely buried the next longest streak... even the best like Rivera screw up once every 20-30 tries. Back to Jennings, the worst part is that the couple of people who have been both smart and quick on the trigger have not had the balls to really take risks, which are necessary to challenge him. You're not going to win by wagering 2000 on a daily double when you're down 5k. Bet the farm and double up- it's your only shot. So far, noone has done this. As a little gambling insider info to anyone here (in case you have coworkers like mine), a friend of mine was recently at the taping for his 44th show, which is technically next season I guess. That's about double what he's at now. I've got two five dollar bets that he goes past 40.

posted by Bernreuther at 03:28 PM on July 06, 2004

Bernreuther -- I certainly wasn't intending to take issue with Gagne's accomplishments, and he certainly has earned his saves (most of the one full inning variety, I'm sure). Just wanted to point to the rule, which is interesting to me because there is such thing as the one pitch save (lame), but one pitcher can't pitch himself into a save situation (good). Here's a listing with details of his saves through the end of last year. By my count, only 2 of 63 (at that point) were less than one full inning. I also count 13 of 63 as him having struck out the side.

posted by holden at 03:58 PM on July 06, 2004

As rcade pointed out 84 Saves = 84 Wins...really nothing else matters. Wins, 84 of them. While the 3 run save may or may not be impressive, many teams would kill for some bullpen help that could hold 3, 4, 5 run leads late in the game. Toughest 3 outs are indeed the last 3. I'll take 84 consecutive saves from my closer over a 56 game hit streak any time. How many of Dimaggio's 56 did they win? 56 game hit streak may be tougher, but 84 saves is more important.

posted by pivo at 04:58 PM on July 06, 2004

The closer doesn't seem important until your team has a bad one. A's fans are so relieved to be rid of Arthur "Go Nine Innings" Rhodes, they're practically fellating Octavio Dotel.

posted by dusted at 05:39 PM on July 06, 2004

Anyone named Octavio is destined for greatness. On that note, never name your child Jeeves.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:02 PM on July 06, 2004

Stark has some typically non-useless Useless Info about Gagne. Particularly interesting are the percentage of 'quality saves' and some comparisons against Smoltz and the rest of the best closers of the current game. I'd really like to hear what Neyer has to say... really, his writing will probably be what drives me to take the Insider plunge again.

posted by tieguy at 07:31 AM on July 07, 2004

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