(promoted from fanposts. --eric)
In July of 1999 the Mets handed the torch of "closer" from John Franco to Armando Benitez. His numbers in the three and a half years he spent as Mets closer are as follows:
By any evaluation these are very good numbers for a reliever. The BB/9 numbers are higher than you would like to see, but the WHIPs are reasonable given the high walk rate. The K/9 numbers are what you want from a bullpen ace. And if "saves" are your thing, Benitez did a good job of compiling them and not blowing them.
And yet the mention of the name Armando Benitez sends a chill down the spine of many a Mets fan. Why? The reason for this can be traced back to three games.
All three were soul-crushing losses aided by, in no small part, Armando Benitez.
So how can someone that was so effective overall be judged by so few bad performances? This phenomenon will henceforth be known as the "Armando Benitez Effect" (ABE)
The ABE occurs because the failures of good relievers are magnified by the high leverage situations in which they most often pitch. We become so used to seeing a star reliever put up good numbers and succeed in most situations that their success becomes mundane. Our brains cannot recall all of the good things an ace reliever does because these events occur so often. However, when this reliever fails, it becomes a memorable event. We can hold on to that information because it was unique. Since any "Blown Save" represents a lost opportunity for our team to win, these failures become even more magnified. When this type of failure happens in a "clutch" situation, (pennant race, playoff game) it becomes a catastrophic event that anyone can easily recall.
In short, good relievers' successes are ordinary and get repressed mentally, while their failures are extraordinary and become highly memorable. This is what happened to Armando Benitez during his tenure with the Mets.
I bring up the ABE because of the situation with Billy Wagner. Wagner has put up excellent numbers with the Mets since joining the team in 2006. Yet his failures in key situations have led many fans to question his value. Now that his career as a Met is likely over, the debate will rage over whether or not to sign Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod is on the verge of setting the record for saves in a season and he is widely perceived as being one of the best closers in baseball. Here are his numbers since becoming a closer:
They are eerily similar to the numbers Benitez put up as a Met except with six more blown saves. So why isn't he perceived as a failure they way Benitez was? Simply put, he doesn't matter to Mets fans. His failures have not been important enough to garner widespread attention and since we, as Mets fans do not have anything invested in him, his minor failures don't matter to us.
If the Mets do sign him to a long-term deal he will likely put up very good to great numbers. (He will certainly put up better numbers than anyone on the team or in the organization could put up) And everyone will love him because he "gets the job done". Until he blows that first big save, in a key situation, in a game the team "has to have". And he *will* fail. All relievers fail at some point. At that point he will go from being a conquering hero to a guy who is not worth the paper his contract was printed on. And everyone will complain about another overpaid, under performing player who doesn't come through in the clutch.
This is the "Armando Benitez Effect"
I wanted to add a simplified working definition to further clarify what the ABE is all about. How does this sound?
The "Armando Benitez Effect" - 1. A specific lack of confidence fans of a team have in their closer/relievers, in spite of statistical evidence that indicates the closer/releiver will succeed most times. 2. A feeling of intense nausea brought on by hearing "Who let the dogs out?" by the Baja Men