Astros closer Jose Valverde regressed a bit in 2008, but still led the League in saves. His ERA, however, went from 2.66 in 2007 (with Arizona) to 3.38 last season. He also set career highs in home runs and hits allowed (10 and 62, respectively). So what happened? Let's look:
Valverde's K/9 ratio has dropped in each of the last three seasons (12.59, 10.91 and 10.38 from 2006-2008), but so did his BB/9. So this would indicate, to me, that batters are making more contact if his ERA is rising.
He's getting more batters to swing outside of the strike zone (33%, the highest of his career) and according to FanGraphs, batters are taking more cuts off his pitches in almost every single category.
What was it, specifically, about 2008? Valverde appeared in 74 games, a career high, in 72 innings, also a career high. In those:
-He got 4+ outs in five of those appearances
-He was perfect in 26 appearances
-He did not give up a homer from July 21 through the end of the season
-He walked batters in 20 appearances. 12 straight walk-less appearances from 8/27-9/25.
-He gave up hits in 40 appearances (in each of his first eight, as well).
-Converted 15 straight saves from August 9 to September 10
-He gave up runs in 14 appearances. 2+ runs in seven of them.
Of those 10 home runs:
(1) April 4 at Chicago. Mark DeRosa, batter #6, 0 on, 1 out. Previous batter popped out.
(2) April 15 at Philadelphia. Chris Snelling, pinch-hitter, 0 on, 0 out.
(3) April 15 at Philadelphia. Pat Burrell, batter #5, 1 on, 1 out. Previous batter struck out.
(4) April 17 at Philadalphia. Chris Coste, batter #7, 1 on, 2 out. The previous batter doubled.
(5) June 12 vs Milwaukee. Gabe Kapler, pinch-hitter, 0 on, 0 out.
(6) June 20 at Tampa Bay. Dioner Navarro, batter #8, 0 on, 1 out. Previous batter flied out to right.
(7) June 24 vs Texas. Ramon Vasquez, batter #8, 1 on, 1 out. Previous batter walked.
(8) June 28 vs Boston. Mike Lowell, batter #5, 0 on, 1 out. Previous batter struck out.
(9) July 21 vs Pittsburgh. Jason Bay, batter #4, 0 on, 1 out. Previous batter flied out to left.
(10) July 21 vs Pittsburgh. Adam Laroche, batter #6, 1 on, 1 out. Previous batter singled.
5 homers away, 5 at home.
1 HR to B4, 2 HR to B5, 2 HR to B6, 1 HR to B7, 2 HR to B8, 2 HR to PH.
5 HR with the bases empty, 5 HR with 1 on. No HR with 2 or 3 on.
2 leadoff homers, 5 homers where the previous batter was out, 3 homers in which the previous batter got on base.
With one day of rest, Valverde's ERA shot up to 7.40 with three blown saves in 19 opportunities - and eight home runs.
On consecutive days, Valverde's ERA was 0.83 with a .190 BAA and a 22:9 K:BB ratio.
April, June and July were terrible (ERA 5.00+). Though, to be fair, Valverde gave up runs in one appearance in July. There just happened to be six runs in 1/3 of an inning. August and September? ERA under 1.00 and 1.20 in May.