Braden Looper was a successful closer with the New York Mets. Shortly after leaving the Big Apple, he finished off his career as a starting pitcher.
You may remember Braden Looper as a member of the New York Mets for two seasons where he worked as their closer. In 2004 and 2005, he combined to save 57 games while posting a 3.22 ERA.
The performance wasn’t anything remarkable. The numbers, however, suggest Looper was on his way to spending the rest of his career-saving games somewhere in Major League Baseball.
Looper left the Mets after the 2005 season to join the St. Louis Cardinals. While there, he spent the 2006 campaign as the main setup man for Jason Isringhausen.
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Isringhausen, as you should recall, was supposed to be one of the young stud starting pitchers in Flushing. Injuries and some bad performances convinced his coaches to move him to the bullpen. New life was breathed into him. Isringhausen spent several seasons as one of the best closers in the National Leagues—after leaving the Mets, of course.
Looper’s career, on the other hand, was more atypical. In a nod to Benjamin Button, he actually went from pitching in relief his whole MLB career to becoming a starter for the final three seasons.
Despite his success as a reliever with three different teams, the Cardinals decided to move Looper to the rotation beginning in 2007. The results weren’t magnificent. At 12-12 with a 4.94 ERA, Looper had a below-average year for the defending World Series Champions.
Looper pitched two more years as a starter. In 2008, he was 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA. The following season, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, he went 14-7 with a 5.22 ERA.
After failing to make the Chicago Cubs roster out of spring training in 2010, Looper hung up his cleats. He did it by doing something we rarely see in the game.
Years of working as a reliever and then becoming a successful closer with a total of 315 games finished and 103 saves, Looper transitioned backward.
The old adage says every relief pitcher is a failed starter. Not in Looper’s case. He’s a successful reliever that in the last three years became a starter. I hesitate to use the adjective “failed” because to even 97 big league games after all of those years hardly feels like a failure to me.
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Looper might be just a blip on the radar of Mets history. However, in baseball lore, I find his career one of the most intriguing.