Having sufficiently mourned the loss of Endy Chavez. it's time we recognize how good the guy we got for him is. Before 2006, J.J. Putz was a good reliever with a good fastball. In 2006, he was a dominant closer with two great fastballs. His strikeout rate rose 5 points, his walk rate dropped 2, and no matter who you are, that's the fastest way to become incredible. He seemingly improved upon his success in 2007, albeit with some luck.
Last year Putz missed time with an elbow nerve and a rib cage injury. Likely as a result of these injuries, his control suffered. He also threw more splitters, although it's hard to say what impact, if any, that had on his performance. Most projections, assuming a middle-ground between his 2008 and 2006-2007 control, predict a modest bounce-back in 2009. Assuming he's healthy, however, his control could almost fully rebound. If that happens, watch out: the 2007-version of J.J. Putz is almost certainly better than Francisco Rodriguez. It's hard to foresee him overtaking Rodriguez as the closer, but Manuel seems willing to employ him as a high-leverage bullpen ace.
Up Next: Frank the Closer