[UPDATE: More on this from Matthew Leach]
Now, Cardinal Nation has always had an uneasy, at best, relationship with Sir Jason Isringhausen. I can understand it on some level--he has a proclivity for creating pointless drama, as is well known to anyone who has watched Cardinal baseball in recent years. In a post at Cap'n Obvious last year, I looked at Baron von Izzy's various situational splits, which went from a relatively shaky performance with empty bases to absolute shutdown might with the bases loaded. That, however, has little to do with his overall performance.
Today, we're going to look at Izzy's performance over the past three years (IMO, taking a shorter timeframe than this doesn't make much sense, as reliever stats are the screwiest thnings in the world--one horrible outing will skew most of the rate stats for the rest of the year) as compared to the other six relievers that I could think of that were capapble of, barring injury, holding down a MLB closer's job for 2004-2006--Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, Eddie Guardado, and Armando Benitez. Let's take a look at what these guys have done:
[Editor's Note]: Forgot about Joe Nathan, somehow. He's now on the table. Glad I looked at him, I didn't realize quite how absurd he's been--better than Rivera over this two and a half year span. Thanks to KEN31415 for pointing this out
Clearly Rivera is vastly better than the others, and clearly Guardado is the worst of the lot. Note how good Lidge was the previous two years to guard against his struggles this year.
Also, note that there is some merit to the complaints about Isringhausen walking too many batters--his WHIP is the second highest of the group, despite having the second lowest hit rate of the group. Clearly this is not good, but it also reflects strategy on his part and on TLR's part--he's pitching around some of the better hitters, offering them something to chase, and if they don't chase, he's not worrying about it, and getting the next guy out.
He also really does have an ability to strike hitters out--his K rate is right in the middle of this pack of very good relievers, ahead of Rivera and Hoffman.
The big negative against him is his percentage of saves converted. That, however, is skewed downward by his horrible stretch at the beginning of the season--this year his save percentage is at 78%, but four of his seven blown saves came before June 3, and the fifth was him coming in to a jam yeilding a hit, and then shutting down the side to finish the game. Before his blown save two nights ago, he hadn't allowed an ER since the second of July.
The other big negative against him has always been his salary. I always thought that he was getting paid more than he apparently is, but after looking it up, and looking up the salaries of the other closers around the league, and considering when he was signed to the team, his salary isn't horrible--he's probably making $1.5M more than he should be (and Hoffman is probably underpaid, and is definitely underrated), but it's not egregious--he's not making more than the Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen trio, and he's contributing solid value to the team.
He's not Rivera or Hoffman, but the again, he's not Ricky Bottallico or Dave Veres. He doesn't create that sense of "game over" when he comes into the game, but he doesn't exactly create a sense of "meltdown" for me, either. And I don't understand why others would get this sense from him.