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January 26, 2004

Premium Article A Study in (Near) Perfection: Eric Gagne's Historic 2003

by Blake Kirkman

To say that Eric Gagne's adjective-inducing 2003 performance was just another season would be akin to the notion that the Beatles were just another rock band. The truth of the matter, at least in the case of Gagne, is that his season's performance was one for the ages. The all-world reliever was not merely good, he was "Nintendo." Traditional metrics alone, such as his 55 saves and sporty 1.20 ERA, showed enough to make the goggle-wearing Dodger closer the sexy pick for the National League Cy Young Award, while he further impressed by striking out an astronomical 137 over-matched batters in only 82.3 innings. Further proof that his performance was from another world (and no, I don't mean Canada) was his limiting opponents to an eye-popping .133 batting average against. As is most often the case, the traditional metrics prove to be only the tip of the iceberg in discussing Gagne's 2003. For all the strikeouts and saves, the bottom line may best be seen through the realization that Gagne was the best reliever in baseball in terms of preventing runs. His 32.6 Adjusted Runs Prevented, based on the analysis of Michael Wolverton at Baseball Prospectus, represents the idea that Gagne prevented approximately 33 runs more than what would have been prevented by the average major league reliever during the course of his specific 82.3 innings pitched. That's an incredible difference of 3.6 runs for every nine innings pitched.


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