The same thing can be said about the save statistic. All a pitcher has to do to get a save is get the last out of the 9th (or deciding inning) with a lead of 3 runs or less. We all know that relief pitchers used to have to earn it by pitching 2 or more innings, sometimes with a 1 run lead the entire time. When determining who the better late game relievers are, it is silly to judge based solely on the save statistic. Relievers in the game today are judged by dominance, power and in most cases, moxy. Strikeouts, WHIP and Ks/ 9 IP are more important than wins and saves.
Former Orioles and current Athletics RHP Jim Johnson has stood out over the past two seasons as he has become a top closer. Based on the save statistic he has. Johnson become only the 10 pitcher in the history of MLB to get 50 saves in a season and in 2013, became only the 2nd pitcher in MLB history to net 50 saves in consecutive seasons (Eric Gagne 52 saves in 2002 and 55 in 2003).
Jim Johnson is an example of a relief pitcher who has gained too much notoriety because of the amount of saves he has accumulated. It is funny that the Baltimore Orioles saw that, but the Oakland Athletics have not. His trade to Oakland to be the closer has him making $10 million this season. The Orioles are looking to use Tommy Hunter as the team's closer and he will be making $3 million this year. Hunter is getting his shot the same way Johnson got his a couple seasons ago.
The most puzzling thing about this from the Athletics perspective is the fact that they let a more capable closer walk as a free agent to trade for Johnson. Johnson has the saves, but that is it. Despite his 50 saves in 2013, nothing else stands out. His WHIP went up to a career high 1.280. He averaged 7.2 Ks/ 9 IP, a number that is very low for a late game reliever. He also averaged over a hit an inning. I look at the thought of Johnson being one of the game's top closer as overrating. Balfour will get $12 million over 2 years from the Tampa Bay Rays. I understand Balfour is a little older (36-31), but he is more of a strikeout pitcher who stands out from other numbers than just saves. Based on 2013 alone, Balfour had a slightly lower WHIP (1.197), but much better Ks/ 9 IP (10.3) and hits/ 9 IP (6.9).
The Athletics like to go to the numbers in the evaluation of their players. I do not think they did a good job here, especially at $10 for this season. Uncharacteristic, yes. The team would have been better off using Ryan Cook or even Eric O'Flaherty as the closer and allowed the Orioles to either keep Johnson or trade him to another team.