The Case for Wagner
Mike Axisa of CBS Sports compared Wagner’s rate stats to the relievers already in the Hall of Fame and found that he blew all of them away. He had the highest save percentage and K/9, lowest ERA and WHIP, and second-highest strikeout-to-walk ratio.
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Axisa also explained why Wagner trails in the counting stats:
"“Modern closers throw one inning a time. Maybe they get four outs on occasion, but not often. That’s just the way the game has evolved. Wagner threw way fewer innings than the five Hall of Famers not necessarily because he couldn’t throw more innings. That’s just the way managers use relievers now.”"
Faulting Wagner for something out of his control, like his innings count, is a poor way to judge him.
If you are a believer in JAWS and are a Trevor Hoffman supporter, you better support Wagner as well because Wagner and Hoffman have the same JAWS score. Wagner has just 0.3 less WAR over his career and makes up for it with 0.3 more WAR in his seven-year peak. He also has a higher JAWS than Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers and potential candidate Francisco Rodriguez.
When you look at Wagner’s career compared to other lefty relievers with 100 or more innings, he just looks even better. Only Aroldis Chapman has allowed a lower career wOBA than Wagner. He is third in strikeout-to-walk ratio and second in WHIP. Wagner is also the leader among all lefty relievers in strikeouts and is second to John Franco in saves.
Lefty closers are far and few between, and Wagner was one of the best.