In a text book explanation of why the save statistic is practically meaningless, not to mention the pursuit of the save record, tonight John Smoltz practically stole defeat from the jaws of victory (with pointy pointy teeth). In the process he earned his 46th save and is just 11 behind the all-time record.
Smoltz entered the game in the bottom of ninth with two men on, no outs, and his Braves leading 5-1. Set-up man Kerry Ligtenberg had done just that. He had set the table for Smoltz to walk right into a save opportunity. Witha 4-run lead and 2 men on, Smoltz was guaranteed the save (add the men on base, the batter, and the on-deck batter and if that number exceeds or matches the lead you've got yourself a save. But you do have to finish the game, and Smoltz did his darnedest not to. He gave up a double (scoring two), an RBI grounder, and a walk. He then had a man on first and third with one out and a two-run lead. He got Pokey Reese to strike out after running a 3-0 count. Abraham Nunez then singled, scoring Kevin Young and moving Hyzdou from first to third. So with men at first and third, a one-run lead, and two out, Smoltz got Jason Kendall to hit a weak fly to right on the first pitched offered to end the game. Smoltz's line doesn't even look that bad: 1 inning pitched, 2 hits, 1 run (earned), 1 walk and 1 strikeout. 13 of his 24 pitches were for strikes. His ERA only goes up seven points. And he gets the save. Funny how I haven't heard his name mentioned when the NL MVP is discussed lately. I wonder why that is?
Along the same lines, I just read that the Indians are converting soon-to-be 25-year-old Danys Baez (a man who refers to himself in the first person plural) into a closer. He did pitch much better last year as a reliever (more strikeouts, lower ERA) than this year as a starter, but...A) Baez has been the Indians' best starter (sadly) since Bartolo Colon and Chuck Finley were traded. B) Cleveland's rotation now consists of second-year man C.C. Sabathia (the last man left from the April rotation), three rookies with 20 games (and two wins as starters) among them, and a scrub to be named later when the rosters get expanded. That's a starting rotation with 27 career wins as starters, barely more than 5 per man. C) How valuable will Baez be as a closer as opposed to a starter, even if he is a very good reliever and just an average starter? Who knows maybe he will be breaking John Smoltz's all-time save record next year. Of course, that would mean that their rotation will have to win at least 57 games for him to do it. I wish him luck.