Keep up with the latest news, notes and developments with Fungoes, a daily journal for all things baseball that will last all season long.
AL West: Putz Pwns
The AL West boasts two legitimate candidates to start next Tuesday's All-Star Game in Oakland's Dan Haren and Los Angeles' John Lackey, but neither one has been the most dominant hurler in the division. No, that title has to go to Mariners closer J.J. Putz, and Wednesday night served as yet another example why.
After baffling the Kansas City lineup for eight shutout innings, Seattle's Jarrod Washburn yielded a base hit and a walk to open up the bottom of the ninth, forcing new manager John McLaren to make a call to the bullpen. Enter Putz (pronounced "puts," as in, "puts it on a shelf"). As the Mariners' closer warmed up, TV cameras concentrated on the blissful Washburn, who was high-fiving teammates throughout the dugout, not the least bit concerned about a potential Royals rally. And for good reason. Just two pitches and two groundballs later, Putz earned his 26th consecutive save (dating back to last year) and Washburn could officially begin celebrating.
In his first full year as Seattle's closer, Putz has quickly become one of baseball's most imposing pitchers. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has converted all 24 of his save opportunities this season (making him the only opening-day closer without a blown save), posting a 0.90 ERA, 0.57 WHIP and .125 batting average against (right-handed hitters are hitting just .098 against him). The 30-year-old consistently pounds the strike zone with high-90s gas and a biting split-finger fastball. In 40 innings, he has struck out 43 hitters, while walking just seven. At his current pace, Putz will challenge Kazuhiro Sasaki's Seattle record for most saves in a season (45 in 2001).
Putz made his first All-Star Game Sunday and was named June's AL Pitcher of the Month. During the month, Putz earned 11 saves with a 0.59 ERA and 19 strikeouts to three walks.
J.J.'s last blown save occurred on Sept. 27, his first year in the closing role. Putz replaced "Everyday" Eddie Guardado as Seattle's closer in May of 2006 and finished the season with 36 saves (in 43 opportunities), a 2.30 ERA and 104 strikeouts to just 13 walks.
For the majority of his 14-month tenure as Seattle's closer, Putz's accomplishments have been largely overlooked. But recently, folks around the league have started to recognize the brilliance of Joseph Jason.
"Man, that closer," San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds said. "He throws 98 MPH then he drops that split on you. See you later."
The Mariners signed Putz to a three-year, $13.1 million contract prior to this season. At this point, this deal's obviously a steal. As we all know, there's no sure thing when it comes to closers, but Putz's resilient arm and durable frame should instill confidence in the Mariners faithful.
Labels: AL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)