(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - Baseball is a numbers game, and within those numbers, we can all dream. As former Vancouver Canadians RHP Roberto Osuna makes fans of the Toronto Blue Jays dream about another spot in the post-season, the numbers make you believe that the native of Sinaloa, Mexico could be on to something bigger.
At just 21 years of age, Osuna is quickly becoming one of baseball's top 'closers'. You know, the guy who a manager brings out of the bullpen when the game is on the line and needs that one arm that can come in and put out the fire. Osuna is that pitcher for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons.
So far in 2016 (as of September 25), the former Canadians arm has gone 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 69 innings of work. What makes him more important statistically is that Osuna has racked up 35 saves this season, and has 55 career saves already. To put this into perspective, and again, here is where the numbers can make you a dreamer, this is where we think Roberto could become one of the game's greats.
Former New York Yankees closer RHP Mariano Rivera didn't register his first MLB save until his was 26 years old. RHP Dennis Eckersley didn't reach 55 saves until halfway through his 14th season (1988). At 21 years of age, RHP Lee Smith was still toiling in the Minors and didn't reach a 35 save season until his 8th season with the Chicago Cubs. RHP Trevor Hoffman recorded 601 career saves but didn't manage his 1st until he was 25. Simply put, should Roberto Osuna continue this pace - and remain a closer with comparable numbers, he could become one of the game's great closers - again, if you're willing to dream a little.
What makes the thought fun to imagine, is that Osuna has started in this role at such a young age. Most pitchers have their hearts set on a role as a starter, whereas the hard-throwing right-hander has been completely open to maintaining this role as Blue Jays closer. Should he maintain his current pace (35 per year), he could jump into the top 10 greatest closers of all-time (Jeff Reardon ranks 10th with 367 saves) by the time he is just 30 years old! For perspective - the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera only had 165 saves at the age of 30, whereas Osuna could hit that mark at just 23 years of age.
Oh, the possibilities.
If you look at today's closers, some are putting up good saves per season numbers, but no one is doing it at Osuna's age. Actively, RHP Francisco Rodriguez is 4th all-time in saves with 430, and would have to pitch until he was 43 to mathematically catch Rivera. That is even with his record-setting 62-save season back in 2008. RHP Aroldis Chapman is considered to be one of the most feared closers in the game but hadn't recorded a single save until he was 23. Osuna could have more than 100 by that time.
It's rare that a player gets the ball in the types of situations that Roberto Osuna does at such a young age. It's only been eight months since a bartender in the United States would have even offered him an alcoholic beverage. Yet, the numbers quietly grow. Save after save, win after win, Roberto Osuna is subtly putting himself into a unique position of becoming one of the game's next great closers. The numbers don't lie, and the fact that he started so early makes you wonder if maybe, just maybe, we can all continue to dream.
Editor's Note: Roberto Osuna currently ranks 7th on the Blue Jays All-Time Saves list (55)... Tom Henke recorded 217 saves in 254 opportunities (85.4%) and leads all Toronto closers in franchise history... Duane Ward (121) ranks 2nd... Osuna has recorded 55 saves in 62 opportunities (88.7%) and is the only Blue Jays closer of the Top 10 in franchise history to keep opposing hitters to a batting average of less than .200 (.194) and a WHIP under 1.000 (0.910).