I’ve been watching this year’s NCAA Tourney, and it has really got me thinking about modern sports terminology, specifically one word:
What is intangible, or as we know the term – “intangibles”. Aside from its existence as a popular sports colloquialism, the definition of intangible is:
Intangible: adj. 1. Incapable of being perceived by the senses. 2. Incapable of being realized or defined. 3. Incorporeal
So, in a nutshell, something that is intangible is something that you can’t hold in your hand or taste with your tongue – it’s something that you can’t quantify. Put an “s” on the word, and the definition becomes completely ambiguous.
“So what the Hell is he talking about?” Asks the reader. “Well,” I would answer, “I’m talkin’ bout intangibles.” The reason: relief pitchers, closers especially, need to have “it”. By “it” I’m referring to “intangibles.” Relief pitchers have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, unlike starting pitchers who can get into a routine and know days in advance when their next start will be. When that moment’s notice comes, that relief pitcher better hit his spots and get some outs or he will soon be an afterthought. The shelf life of a reliever is equivalent to the shelf life of a jagermeister bottle in that Lohan chick’s freezer. Unless the reliever can prove that he’s got “it”.
On a long enough timeline, a reliever will prove whether or not he has the “intangibles” to be an effective late inning savior for his team. Billy Wagner has “it”. The Braves brought in Wagner after the departures of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. Wagner is old and has battled injuries as he aged – but the guy has proven that he has what it takes mentally to turn a lead into a win. For his career, Wagner has 385 saves against 33 blown saves. “IT”.
BILLY WAGNER, CP Age: 38 Pitches: L
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Change
2009 stats: 15 IP, 1 W, 1.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26 K
Wagner is basically a two-pitch pitcher, but those two pitches are like leather-bound Rob Zombie songs hurtling towards hapless batters; they’re nasty. The one concern I have is that Wagner’s fly ball rate has increased over the past two seasons. However, Turner Field could prove to be a great equalizer for that trend, as there is plenty of outfield for the Braves’ rangy outfielders to work with. Another plus – I read on ESPN this week that Wagner was hitting triple digits on the radar gun this spring. 100 mph is definitely tangible.
TAKASHI SAITO, SU Age: 40 Pitches: R
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Curve
2009 stats: 55 IP, 3 W, 2 Sv, 2.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 52 K
Saito’s velocity and K rate are in decline, but he could still be an effective set-up man in the Braves’ bullpen. Saito allowed career highs in walks and hits last season. We will probably know early on in 2010 if those 2009 numbers were a trend or an anomaly. At his age, I hope that his problems are the result of “intangibles”, and his “tangible” body is still able to perform at a high level.
PETER MOYLAN, SU Age: 31 Pitches: R
Repertoire: Fastball, Two-Seam, Slider, Curve, Change
2009 stats: 73 IP, 6 W, 2.84 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 61 K
Moylan is Bobby Cox’s go-to reliever, and it’s pretty obvious; Moylan made 87 relief appearances in 2009 after returning from Tommy John surgery. Throwing a multitude of pitches that sink, Moylan is a ground ball inducing machine. My favorite stat from 2009: ZERO HOME RUNS ALLOWED. What’s not to like about that? The absence of homers is another thing that I would consider “tangible.” The fact that Moylan is Australian makes me want to call him “Master Blaster”, but this is just an “intangible.”
Others to keep an eye on: Eric O’Flaherty, Jesse Chavez, and Kris Medlen. Unless Wagner or one of his set-up men falter or get injured, I don’t see much value in the rest of the pen. Chavez is heralded as the “closer of the future” due in part to his mid-90’s fastball. If he harnesses his stuff, he would be worth owning.
The Braves will need a lot of “it” this season out of their bullpen. Wagner, Saito, and Moylan are all equipped with the necessary “intangibles” that keep relievers employed. Braves fans will be hoping for the rest of the relief corps to produce, lest they be left with the very “tangible” feeling of nausea after another playoff absence.
Intangible: my desire to smoke a cigarette
Tangible: Lung Cancer
Though it’s hard to weigh quantifiable objects with those of no value, I must admit that there’s something to be said about “living in the now.” Especially when you’re addicted to an “intangible.”