Well, I did say “probably,” and I did say “statistical.” Compared to Eck, Gagne had 7 more saves and blew two fewer, had a much lower opponents’ average, way more strikeouts, more innings, fewer hits, etc. Other than the win/loss record, the walks, and ERA, Gagne’s got the edge or is comparable in every official statistical category. Plus, if you take out two blowout games in May, his ERA drops to .56, lower than Eckersley. It’s an impressive statistical season, that’s all I’m saying.
But a batting title is an average, so that’s a little different, isn’t it? I mean, there’s no minimum at-bats to win an MVP. If you have the best season, ostensibly, you get it. I just wonder if maybe Gagne’s season was the best.
But Schmidt got to rest four out of five days, and he got much more room for error, too. Schmidt still “only” pitched in 29 games. What if I was to say that makes Gagne’s numbers that much more impressive because he had to be ready to pitch almost every night and because he didn’t get to make a mistake and overcome it?
Even if that second statement was true, which it isn’t (what about Derek Lowe? John Smoltz? Kelvim Escobar? Even Eckersley won 20 games at one point), why does it matter how he did as a starter? I understand that closers pitch fewer innings. But there’s something to be said for the value of those innings, and for a team like the Dodgers, a closers’ appearances are almost always important innings. How many of Jason Schmidt’s innings and wins could have been rendered moot if Tim Worrell hadn’t closed so well, or the Giants hadn’t scored runs? And yes, that goes both ways, but that’s what I’m saying. Again, I’m not trying to argue that Gagne absolutely needs to win it, I’m just saying there’s no good reason to exclude him from the conversation.