Coming into 2013, Edward Mujica had saved four games in eight years and was considered, at best, a decent middle reliever. Now, thanks to the struggles of Mitchell Boggs and the injury to Jason Motte, Mujica is another data point demonstrating that closers are made, not born. After his first five save opportunities, Mujica is a perfect five-for-five in save chances, and he hasn’t allowed a run in five innings.
Mujica isn’t suddenly a better pitcher because he found the right role for him. He wasn’t wandering in the desert, searching for the Holy Land that is the 9th inning. Mujica was available, and he was a live arm, and he got plugged into a role. And by the time Motte comes back—if he comes back at all this year—Mujica will be a Proven Closer™.
By the way, that’s the same career path taken by guys like Glen Perkins, Sergio Romo, Joe Nathan, Rafael Soriano, JJ Putz, Jonathan Broxton, Aroldys Chapman, Rafael Betancourt, Mariano Rivera, and more. Guys who started their careers as starters or middle relievers, who washed out or got promoted into the role, respectively. Before Mujica, the Cardinals’ closers were a 30 year old converted setup guy (Motte), a 26 year old out of AAA (Salas), a veteran former starter given his first shot at 35 (Franklin), and a failed starter prospect (Isringhausen),
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for Mujica. It’s great when one of the guys on baseball’s margins takes a step forward and guarantees himself and his family a paycheck for the next four or five years. Why wouldn’t you root for a guy like that? But Mujica is a reminder that, for every guy who gets a shot, there are two or three capable candidates who never get that chance, and that closers are much more fungible than we think they are.