Why no love for Mike Gonzalez?
When the Braves pulled the trigger on acquiring Mike Gonzalez, many applauded the move as good bullpen depth play. Heâ€™s–at least to this point– been tabbed as Bob Wickmanâ€™s set-up man. My question is why?
Letâ€™s get the controversy out of the way right now. If someone told me that Gonzalez was the best closer in 2006, I may object, but not too loudly. He had a stellar 2.17 ERA, a highâ€”for a closerâ€”WHIP of 1.35, and struck out 64 in 54 innings. His claim to fame? He was the only to have a 100% save success rate, going 24 â€“ 24. In an article written a few months back (BJ Ryan & Chris Ray), I argued that save success rate was more important than a pretty ERA & WHIP for a closer. I still feel this way, although 8th inning dominance is certainly a great added bonus.
Now Wickman was great in his Atlanta stint, with a 1.04 ERA & 18 â€“ 19 in save opportunities. So I can understand using him until he falters. But how much rope will he be given? In his last season and a half with the Cleveland Indians, Wickman was 60 â€“ 68 in save situations, for an 88% conversion rate.
All-in-all, I feel sorry for Gonzalez. He posts a 100% conversion rate and is rewarded with a trade and a demotion in position. He will surely have a greater chance at winning in Atlanta, and should be first in line for the job when–not if–Wickman falters. But he certainly isnâ€™t getting the recognition he deserves from the baseball media.