Wagner on His Postseason Past: ‘I Sucked’
|10.07.09 at 6:15 pm ET|
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Billy Wagner does not hide from the numbers or his history. He has pitched in 11 postseason contests, recording just 10.1 innings. In that time, the left-hander has allowed 18 hits (15.7 per 9 innings, more than double his career regular-season rate of 6.1), 11 runs and three homers. He has a 9.58 ERA in the postseason.
But for a game in the 2006 NLCS when he entered a tie contest and gave up a pair of runs in a loss to the Cardinals, he might have had a World Series appearance; instead, the Mets ended up losing in seven games. Wagner is aware of this history. He does not pretend that it is something other than dismal.
He is asked about his personal postseason history.
“Pretty much sucks? You can say sucks. It does. It ain’t no secret,” Wagner admitted. “Most of my games have been in blowouts. I think I’ve only had five save opportunities in six postseasons. Your numbers get skewed in certain ways, but I still sucked.”
Wagner has no real explanation. He feels that his velocity and life have both been there in the postseason. He did notice that opponents went to the opposite field against him more, recalling an instance when Jim Leyritz, then of the Padres, went down and away on a 98 mph fastball and golfed it over the fence in right field.
Of course, the Red Sox acquired Wagner in part because of the postseason impact the team believes he can make. Boston always gives more weight to the track record of a full career than a small sample of a few postseason games.
To date, the left-hander has shown an ability to be an impact arm. Of all major-league hurlers to throw at least 10 innings this year, Wagner had the highest strikeout rate, having punched out 14.9 batters per nine innings. He produced a glimmering 1.72 ERA.
If he sustains that presence as a set-up man for Jonathan Papelbon this October, he will have a chance to achieve a measure of playoff redemption. That, of course, is the reason why Wagner agreed to waive his no-trade clause and come to the Sox. If he can reverse his history of postseason failure, then perhaps he will be better positioned to garner the World Series ring that he covets.
“I’d like to go out there and pitch better,” said Wagner. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Wagner also weighed in on a few other topics, among them:
WHETHER HE IS CONCERNED THAT THE ADRENALINE OF THE POSTSEASON MIGHT CREATE RISKS TO HIS RECOVERY FOLLOWING TOMMY JOHN SURGERY
This is all new. I never went through a surgery like this and came back and been on a playoff contender. So far I haven’t had any setbacks,” Wagner said, pausing to knock on wood. “Things are going smooth, but you never know.”
JONATHAN PAPELBON’S 0.00 ERA IN THE POSTSEASON
“That says I think he’s pretty darn good. That’s pretty self-explanatory. When you go out there and pitch as many playoff games as he’s been in and been that dominant, his legacy and stuff is being built,” said Wagner. “Pap, he’s taken advantage of his opportunities and done great things so far. I hope for my sake and my team’s sake, he continues to do it.”
“I’ve been thoroughly impressed with how he goes about his business. He is probably one of the most intense guys I’ve ever met as a closer. All the other guys I’ve met, the Francos and Hoffmans, you get more of a laid-back, not out of control. He’s heart on his sleeve. What he feels, he says. He backs it up. As long as you can back it up, he doesn’t have much to worry about.”
WHETHER THE RED SOX MIGHT BE IN THE ANGELS’ HEADS
“When I was in the National League [with the Astros] playing against the Braves all the time, there was an advantage that they showed up and we didn’t. I don’t know how that’s worked with this series. I haven’t been a part of it,” said Wagner. “They’re intense, tough games. It goes down to one bounce or one call in those games. Hopefully you’re on the right side of that call. I don’t think it’s anything to do with guys not doing well. It has to do with that one lucky bounce.”
ON DANIEL BARD’S CLAIMS THAT HE WAS INSPIRED WHILE GROWING UP BY WATCHING WAGNER THROW 100 MPH
“If he said it to my face, I’d probably tell him to shut up. But that’s a great compliment, to have been around long enough that somebody like him would say they watched me with the Astros,” said Wagner. “He hasn’t said it to me. He always makes fun of me being old, asks me about Babe Ruth and stuff like that.
“What a talent. Very laid-back kid. He doesn’t seem to get too caught up in anything. He just does what he does. He’s naïve to a lot of situations because he hasn’t been in them enough. That’s a good thing. He’s got all the makings to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. In time, he will be.”
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