Jordan Walden is a 25-year old right-handed relief pitcher. He throws in the upper 90’s, has a career K/9 inning rate of 10.8, and a 2013 salary of $495,000. In 2011, he was an American League All-Star, on his way to a 32 save season.
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about 2012.
Walden tied for the major league lead in blown saves in 2011 with 10, and he quickly lost the Angels’ confidence during a terrible April of 2012, when he was removed from the closer role. In July he went on the disabled list for 6 weeks, with a bicep strain and a nerve issue in his neck, according to Rotoworld. (The ESPN trade report said he had shoulder problems.) He managed only 39 IP in 2012, after having 60.1 in 2011.
Keeping in mind that it was just 39 innings, his strikeout per nine inning rate actually increased, from 10.0 to 11.1. But his average fastball velocity declined from 97.5 to 96.3, his ERA rose from 2.98 to 3.46, and his WHIP rose from 1.24 to 1.36. The increase in WHIP was driven by an increase in Hits/9 inning from 7.3 to 8.1. His walks per nine has been fairly consistent in each of his 3 major league seasons. It’s exactly 4.0, and that’s high, though not necessarily fatal for a guy who strikes out more than a man per inning.
If you’re hoping he pitched better after returning from the DL, he did. He went on the DL with a 3.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts against 18 walks in 28 innings. When he came back, he had a 2.45 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 0 walks in 11 innings. Maybe it was a real improvement — but it’s still just 11 innings.
The Angels figured that Walden was expendable as soon as they picked up Ryan Madson, and they were willing to ditch him as soon as Frank Wren called and offered Tommy Hanson. Interpret that as you will.
From a December point of view, logically, Walden would take Chad Durbin’s role, and likely prove to be an upgrade of the right-handed part of an already stacked bullpen. He seems capable of playing a larger role, if the Braves make more moves in the off season. And if he does nothing other than keep the Braves from paying another million dollars for another fungible reliever, that is already a victory.
It’s a shame Tommy won’t be a part of the next winning Braves team. The former top pitching prospect in all of baseball will end his Braves career 45-32, with a 3.61 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and an ERA+ of 110. Here’s hoping the other former top pitching prospect in all of baseball winds up doing that well.