By Mark Ashby Vaughan
Letting Albert Pujols take a walk over the off-season was received with mixed reviews in Saint Louis. On the one hand, the Cardinals offered Albert more than they had ever offered any player, but the Angels swooped in and snatched him up with another year, more total dollars and a 10-year “personal services” clause which kicks in after his playing days are over. Largely, the Cardinals were viewed as having gone out on a limb to keep Pujols. On the other hand, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak should have locked up Albert two years earlier and never allowed him to get to free agency. All in all, however, the Cardinals came off as the scorned lover in the Pujols/Cardinals break up. And the team made up for some of the loss by quickly signing Carlos Beltran. That helped to lessen the sting of Albert leaving for the West Coast.
But did anyone really think that the team that had 26 blown saves could really go into the 2012 season with Jason Motte as their closer? Going into this season, Jason had just 9 career saves against 4 blown saves for a career 69% success rate.
Mozeliak must take the blame for not making a run at Jonathon Papelbon, Heath Bell or Francisco Rodriquez, all of whom were available as free agents.
Let’s compare Papelbon to Motte.
Papelbon has a career 88% success rate in save opportunities with 219 saves compared to just 29 blown saves. That means that Jason Motte would need 317 save opportunities to reach 219 saves, by which time he would have blown 98 games in the process. That’s 69 more blown saves than Papelbon.
Let’s compare the two from another angle. By the time Motte will have blown 29 games he should have saved a grand total of 65 games. In other words, by the time that Motte will have the same number of career blown saves as Papelbon, he will also be 154 saves short of reaching Papelbon’s save numbers.
Here are the raw numbers:
Papelbon: 219 saves/29 blown saves.
Motte: 219 saves/98 blown saves.
Papelbon: 29 blown saves/219 saves.
Motte: 29 blown saves/65 saves.
If the Cardinals had been able to save just half of the 26 blown saves in 2011, they would have had 103 wins which means that they would have handily won the NL Central by 7 games over the 2nd place Brewers.
Letting Pujols get away was one thing. But taking a pass on the available, proven closers is likely to cost the Cardinals a lot of wins in 2012. For that, Mozeliak should not be given a shoulder to cry on.