Don’t know if you heard this, and because it happened one the West Coast we’ll assume you didn’t, but Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez tied the all-time record for saves in a single season Thursday night with his 57th in a 7-4 win against Seattle.
The record, which is sure to be broken soon, was formerly held by White Sox reliever Bobby Thigpen, who set it at the age of 26 in 1990.
Don’t even get us started one what a bogus, overrated statistic the save is, but there is something worth noting about Thigpen’s career arc. Most notably, 1990 was the peak of his career. You might be saying, “No shit, he set a record.”
But the funny thing is that by 1994 — at the ripe old age of 30 — Thigpen had thrown his last Major League pitch. He bounced around to three different teams in two years and ended up out of baseball. At age 30.
Irony: K-Rod is the same age.
K-Rod has had a fantastic career. Nobody will forget his contributions to the Angels team that won the World Series in 2002 when he was a 20-year old rookie. Since then he’s established himself as one of the game’s most consistent and dominant closers.
He has already said he’s going to test free agency after the season is over. He’s going to make himself a ton of money.
We can’t help but wonder, given what happened to Thigpen and the general volatility of relief pitching, how K-Rod’s career will progress from here. We think it’s pure genius the Angels are riding him like a busted mare all season knowing he’ll likely be overpaid by somebody next season and his future arm problems won’t be their issue.
Come free agency time, it’s going to give teams something to think about. Has his arm been abused to the point (and don’t forget his violent motion) where injury is practically inevitable? Is it possible he’ll end up just like Thigpen?
We’d like to say no. But the list is long of relief pitchers who went from dominant to doormat within a couple seasons.