DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 11: Joes Valverde #46 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park on September 11, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The save gives Jose Valverde 43 for the year, a new Detroit Tigers record. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Clack has talked about the role of closers and how Houston may benefit from moving away from a strict adherence to the "closer's role." Well, not too long ago, Houston had a reliever that embodied that #closermentality pretty neatly.
The man, the myth, the legend was El Papa Grande himself, Jose Valverde. One of Ed Wade's few successful trades, Valverde pitched in 126 games as a Houston Astro. He also threw 126 innings for the Astros. One game, one inning. That's the closer's role.
Valverde was very good in his first season in Houston and injured but effective in his second. He went to Detroit and has been a closer there, appearing in one more game than innings pitched. Of course, he hasn't been always particularly good in Detroit, but that's another point for another time.
No, here, we're just pointing out that Valverde was used in what is now a very traditional role. Did you know that Dave Smith, who was the Astros all-time saves leader before Billy Wagner took it from him, threw in 563 games but had almost 200 more innings than that in his 11 years in Houston? Or that Wagner himself had about 40 more innings than games appeared for the Astros?
There is no greater market inefficiency in baseball than chasing saves on the free agent market. Turning good relievers into closers? That's a gold mine. Jose Valverde netted Houston a pair of compensation picks, but how much value has he provided for Detroit? How much value can one inning of work have?
I liked Jose Valverde's time in Houston, but I also wish ace relievers could be used just a little differently. His situation reminds me of that, and takes away from it, just the tiniest bit.