Mets History: Recapping the ninth inning legacy Billy Wagner left in Flushing
By Allen Settle
Billy Wagner’s time with the New York Mets went by fast. Let’s look back at the legacy he left in Flushing.
It’s difficult to believe that it has been over a decade since Billy Wagner last suited up for the New York Mets! However, despite such a long absence, Wagner has managed to remain a relevant point of conversation amongst baseball fans.
Wagner’s four-year stint in New York may have been brief, but it was certainly productive. After nine dominate seasons with the Houston Astros (and a short stint in Philadelphia), Wagner agreed to a $43 million, four-year contract with the orange and blue. His career followed a similar path as several other Mets’ stars. At his best, Wagner was one of the most dangerous and dominant bullpen arms in the game.
He finished his Mets tenure with an incredible 101 saves in just 183 games, giving him a place in the top five save leaders in team history. He made two All-Star teams (2007 & 2008), and even finished sixth in Cy Young Award voting in 2006. The closer also played a key role in the team’s 2006 run to the NLCS.
Despite a variety of injuries plaguing what could have been an amazing career arch, Wagner was certainly worth the investment. While Tommy John’s surgery late in the 2008 season effectively ended his career with the Mets, it took him just over three seasons to carve out a permanent place in the history of the franchise.
In most cases, having a star free agent’s tenure end prematurely due to injury would be considered a failure by the front office. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that Wagner was worth the time and resources.
While many former MLB players fade in obscurity after their careers as athletes come to an end, Wagner is consistently making the news.
The 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame voting will mark Wagner’s 6th year as an eligible candidate. While his 17% vote share in 2019 puts him well below the required 75%, every year on the ballot is another opportunity for fans and analysts to remember his prime seasons. While it is likely that Wagner will never earn entry into the illustrious Hall of Fame, one thing is clear: his exclusion is based not on his dominance, but rather, his lack of longevity.
Behind the scenes, the 16-year veteran is also still contributing to the game of baseball. He is currently the head baseball coach for The Miller School of Albemarle in Virginia, a position he has held since 2013. In fact, Wagner’s contributions to the team as a sizable factor in the team’s Virginia Independent School Athletic Association’s Division II state championship in 2017.
While the Hall of Fame, unfortunately, seems out of reach, Wagner should be considered amongst the very best closers to ever play in the major leagues.
The advanced numbers show just how dominant he was throughout his career. According to Fangraphs Wagner has the sixth-highest K/9 of any reliever in baseball history (with 500+ IP). Wagner ranks fourth in MLB history among relievers in K% (33.2%), and K%-BB%, (24.9%). “Wagner is also sixth all-time in FIP, fourth in ERA, and fifth all-time in win probability added.”
Despite pitching only 903 innings in his career, it can be argued that Wagner accomplished as much with his innings as any closer in MLB.
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Regardless of his standing with the HOF, Wagner’s place in history is secure. In fact, many even consider him to be the best left-handed reliever in the history of baseball.