Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Eric Gagne's trail of woe

On July 31, the Red Sox acquired closer Eric Gagne from Texas, adding to a strength, as they already had the most effective bullpen in the AL. The idea was to bolster the bullpen, shorten the game, and give Okajima and Papelbon a little more rest. The move was universally praised. I thought that it was a smart move - I still think that it was a smart move. There will be second-guessers mocking the front office for this one, but I won't be one of them. You judge a move based on what you know at the time. It looked like a good idea.

But it has been a disaster. A complete and total disaster. The magnitude of the problem can be understood when you say that they'd have been far better off had Gagne gotten hurt before ever taking the mound for the team. While it's rare that you can ever blame one player for a loss, a late inning reliever has to take that responsibility when he blows it. This team has four losses for which Gagne is directly responsible.

  1. Friday, August 10 - Boston's bats rally in the 8th at Baltimore, and they take 5-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th. Gagne comes in and allows 4 runs while retiring one batter. Boston loses, 6-5.

  2. Sunday, August 12 - Two days later, Boston takes a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th. Gagne comes in, walks the first batter, gives up a 2-run homer to the third. Boston loses in 10, 6-3.

  3. Friday, August 17 - Five days after that, poised to take a double-header from the Angels after the Red Sox batters against score 4 in the bottom of the 8th, Gagne comes out to protect a 5-4 lead. He gives up 3 runs after retiring the first batter, and Boston loses 7-5.

  4. Tuesday, September 18 - An excellent performance by Jon Lester brings the Red Sox to the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead. Gagne retires the first two Toronto batters in the bottom of the 8th. Walk, single, walk loads the bases. Walk ties the game. Double drives in two more. Boston scores one in the 9th, but loses 4-3.

And the magic number is still 9, and the lead is down to 2 in the loss column, and there are four games which they almost certainly would have won had they not made the deadline trade for Gagne, and there aren't any games to point at on the plus side, games where he has made a positive difference.

He has allowed at least one run in 7 of his 15 appearances. He has allowed the tying or go-ahead run in 4 of his 15 appearances. He has allowed one or more baserunners in 14 of his 15 appearances. He has allowed 30 baserunners in just 14 innings. He's allowed 14 runs, for an ERA of 9.00.

He has, in short, been a disaster.

Update: Baseball Crank emails: "Eric Gagne is French for Calvin Schiraldi."

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