#21 - TROY PERCIVAL, P
The role of closer evolved late in the history of baseball. A closer is a ninth inning specialist. He is derided by older alleged purists because relief pitchers once tossed two or three innings to close out a game. This like of machismo reasoning ignores the fact that most relievers of the era were salvaged from the starting pitcher scrapyard and few ever really lasted long at the job, fading out form pro ball with the bullpen as the final act. The idea of bringing up someone from the minor leagues specifically to pitch out of the pen is a younger idea than the designated hitter in baseball history.
It describes Tory Percival to a T. He appeared in 579 Games as an Angel and pitched 586 innings. He was a specialist, and he had this role because he did it better than any Angel before him and with few peers at it in baseball history.
Troy Percival was the first great closer in Angels history, was the longest lasting and will remain the club's greatest for the foreseeable future. The Angels have been blessed with a relief pitchers who closed games well for stretches of a few years, but in ten seasons with the Halos, Percival failed to get more than 30 saves only twice. In his first year in the bigs, 1995, he was used primarily as a set up man under the tutelage of Lee Smith, brought in for the season expressly to teach young Percy the finer points of the role. He got three Saves that year. In 1997 he missed almost all of April and half of May with a forearm strain and finished the year with 27 Saves.
Three of his ten seasons as a Halo featured an ERA+ over 200, including a 232 ERA+ in 2002, the season he got votes for the league MVP. But 2002 didn't start out looking that great. He wanted desperately to go to a winner and had made noise that he would be bolting in free agency after the season. In December of 2001, the President of Disney Sports, Paul Pressler stopped a trade that would have sent Darin Erstad to the White Sox for prospects. The rebuilding was over and to increase the value of the franchise the Angels were put on a "win now" mode. Keeping Erstad and signing free agent pitcher Aaron Sele was evidence enough the team wanted to win and would do what it took. He signed a two year contract extension for over $16 Million before Spring Training started and the dominoes fell properly for the club from that point on - he would save two of three ALDS victories over the Yankees, 2 of 4 wins over the Twins in the ALDS and 3 of four World Series games including Games 6 and 7.
In the record books, Percival is everywhere. Troy had 586 IP as a Halo.
The pitching categories where he ranks first: WHIP (1.01), Hits Per 9 Innings (6.02), K/9 (10.4), Games Played (579), Games Finished (466), ERA+ (157), and of course... SAVES (316).
For Angels pitchers with at least 500 Innings Pitched his 2.99 ERA ranks third and his 16.9 WAR ranks tenth.
And all of this while being the glue that kept the clubhouse together. He called out Mo Vaughn for not joining his teammates in a brawl during the 2000 season. He could stand the heat because no Angel had stood the heat at closing time more times than he. Many statistical analysts believe that a closer is not the most efficient use of a pitcher and that the best arm needs to appear in the highest leverage situations when they arise throughout the game. Percival personified the theory that an eight inning game is easier to win than a nine inning game and that one pitcher could take away that final chance. That pitcher is dubbed the closer and Troy Percival brought Angels fans great relief for a decade.