Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Jose Valverde: Prepare For a Return To Form
No, Not the 49 of 49 pitcher that he was last year, but prepare for a 2.80 ERA, with 85 to 90% save opportunities converted. Valverde just isn’t as good as his stats last year. He won’t suddenly, after 9 years in the majors, have become some type of huge lock as a closer, he’ll have an above average save percentage, and a respectable ERA, but to think that after having seen 75 outings last year, ignoring the postseason, he’s just not likely to be the same guy he was last year.
There’s nothing about Valverde that suggests he’s going to be the class of the closers, and after having already blown a save (So has Mariano Rivera for what it’s worth) but he’s simply not any better now than he was 2-3 years ago, aside from having a notable streak of uninterrupted saves. Sure confidence and the ability to stay cool under pressure are what defines a closer (aside from you know, not blowing a 3 run lead in the 9th very often) but, he didn’t just come into that makeup, he wasn’t going out in Arizona or Huston praying he didn’t get shelled, he was going out there to close games, and with some pretty solid reliability he did that and he’s been doing so for the majority of his career.
If I were putting together an expansion team today, would I take Valverde? If he was available, sure! That doesn’t mean he’s the greatest closer in the league, definitely very good, but he’s much more Isringhausen than Hoffman, and at age 34, isn’t likely to start really refining himself and getting better, he had his peak year last year, and to expect anything like a repeat would be foolish. He may not fade much over the next year or two, but Valverde isn’t going to be sniffing the all times save record by his 18th season unless he starts getting a good handful of 50+ save seasons under his belt in a hurry. He started closing games at the same age as Trevor Hoffman (25), but he has not amassed near the same number of closes over the first 9 seasons that Hoffman had 314 vs 242 (Mariano Rivera has 336 between ‘96 and ‘04). It should be noted that over the first 9 year as closers both Hoffman and Rivera threw over 100 more innings than Valverde, but that only serves to drive the difference in reliability and trust that the teams controlling each pitcher had in them throughout their first 9 seasons in the ‘pen.
Again, it’s not to say that Valverde isn’t a very good closer, he is, but it is to say that he’s currently overrated, and expectations should start coming down to earth in a hurry.