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Wagner versus Graves

The Reds designated Danny Graves for assignment, which means some desperate NL team is probably going to claim him and his magical proven closer tag. But I'm not here to talk about that unlucky team, I want to discuss the new closer, Ryan Wagner. Wagner was expected to get his shot last year as the closer but it did not happen. Let's take a look at his and Graves stats from the past two seasons:

Danny Graves 2004
IP: 68.3
ERA: 3.95
DERA: 4.77
K/BB: 3.08
K/PA: .138
K/9: 5.27
BB/9: 1.71
HR/9: 1.58
BABIP: .305

Ryan Wagner 2004
IP: 51.7
ERA: 4.70
DERA: 5.01
K/BB: 1.37
K/PA: .153
K/9: 6.44
BB/9: 4.70
HR/9: 1.22
BABIP: .331

In 2004 Graves appeared to be the better pitcher, except for a few things. Wagner's BABIP was way above league average, so alot of those runs were most likely not his fault. His strikeout rates are all better than Graves, but his control appeared to be much worse. Fast forward to 2005:

Graves 2005
IP: 18.3
ERA: 7.36
DERA: 7.90
K/BB: 0.667
K/PA: 0.081
K/9: 4.43
BB/9: 5.90
HR/9: 1.97
BABIP: .381

Wagner 2005
IP: 23.0
ERA: 3.91
DERA: 3.82
K/BB: 3.00
K/PA: 0.219
K/9: 8.22
BB/9: 2.74
HR/9: 0.391
BABIP: .332

Wagner has a .332 BABIP but due to his lower walk rate, higher K rates and very low HR/9 (especially for baseball in Cincy) he has succeeded thus far. Graves on the other hand...he does have a .381 BABIP, which is extremely high. Here's the culprit:

CIN Reds Deffensive Efficiency 2005
0.6706
Worst in NL (16th place)
Second worst in majors

Is it the defenses fault Graves caved in? Not entirely...his DERA is 7.90 after all, somehow worse than his real ERA of 7.60. Graves has suffered due to an extremely high walk rate and a low K rate. If he could bring it back down to 2004 levels he could atleast do something useful for a team with a bullpen void. Inconsistency is Graves game though, so look for more of the same (or don't...I'm not really sure anymore.)

If Wagner is available in your fantasy league you might want to snatch him up for any saves he might bring in. Brandon Lyon was my Opening Day closer (I know that seems hard to believe, and trust me I was hoping for bloated save totals with an ERA in the low 4.00's when I snagged him...I'd like to pretend I had an epiphany prior to the season starting but I did not) so I already added Wagner to my roster.

Wagner should continue his success as long as he keeps his walk rate and homerun rate down. If Cincinnati starts to play some defense behind their pitching he could improve even more, even if his walk rate goes up a tad. The good news is he most likely will never be as bad as Graves was for almost 19 innings in 2005.

Graves has been a serious enigma for this team; seemingly brilliant out of the bullpen (but never actually was) and basically awful at other times (he actually was awful though). Graves is the posterchild for why saves as a statistic are awful for analysis. I don't think I should have to say anything more than that on the subject, because Reds fans already know what I mean.