A 10-Fingered Antonio Alfonseca

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Leo Nunez converted his 16th save in as many chances Friday night as the Marlins defeated Tampa 5-3. He retired all three hitters in the ninth in succession for only the seventh time in 23 appearances. In five of those seven times, he earned a save. 22 of his 23 appearances have lasted a single inning. The one outlier, a 2/3 inning save on May 1 in Cincinnati, occurred when he entered a 9-5 game with one out in the ninth inning and runners on second and third (he walked one batter but recorded the final two outs while holding the Reds scoreless).

In contrast to those 7 1-2-3 innings, Leo has amassed 10 Alfonseca saves.
Alfonseca Save (n.): recorded when a pitcher enters the game at the start of an inning in a save situation, allows multiple runners on base and/or gives up runs, but still manages to record a save. Pioneered by the twelve-fingered Antonio Alfonseca, whose tenure with the Marlins (1997-2001) featured many such saves.
No two Alfonseca saves are alike, so let's take a look at each one.
  1. April 6: Enters ninth inning with a 7-4 lead against Washington. Strikes out Pudge Rodriguez, induces a groundout from Alex Cora. An Ian Desmond single is followed by a Jayson Werth walk. Representing the tying run, Ryan Zimmerman strikes out swinging. This is a sterling example of an Alfonseca save.
  2. April 8: Enters ninth inning with a 4-2 lead @ Houston. Brett Wallace homers to lead off, halving the lead. Nunez retires the next two batters, but then gives up a single to JR Towles. With Jason Bourgeois pinch hitting for the pitcher, pinch runner Joe Inglett is caught stealing by catcher Brett Hayes. This is an even better Alfonseca save than the first, since Nunez reduced the Marlins' lead to one run.
  3. April 14: Enters ninth inning with a 6-5 lead @ Atlanta. Alex Gonzalez leads off with a single, but Leo retires the next three batters in 9 pitches. In a one-run game, a single baserunner earns you the Alfonseca save.
  4. April 15: Enters ninth inning with a 4-3 lead @ Philadelphia. Nunez issues a one-out walk to John Mabry, then induces 2 flyouts with 3 pitches.
  5. April 29: Enters ninth inning with a 7-4 lead @ Cincinnati. Leo gets so close to meltdown the dugout had to put on radiation suits. Back-to-back one-out doubles cut the lead to 7-5. Nunez strikes out pinch hitter Chris Heisey swinging, then gives up an RBI single to Drew Stubbs, who steals second with two outs. Nunez strikes out Jay Bruce looking though, and a crisis is averted. His most death-defying feat of the season thus far.
  6. May 2: Enters ninth inning with a 4-3 lead @ Cincinnati: Nunez walks the leadoff batter, and follows it up with a good defensive play to nab the runner at second on a bunt attempt for the first out. Nunez strikes out Allen Craig swinging for out number two. Against Ryan Theriot, the runner advances to second base on a wild pitch, then gets to third on a single. Leo cuts the rally short by inducing a fielder's choice from Colby Rasmus, though. Very close call.
  7. May 4: Enters ninth inning with a 4-2 lead @ St. Louis: A one-out home run by Jon Jay cuts the lead in half, with Albert Pujols on deck. Nunez walks him on four pitches, and things are getting dicey, when Matt Holliday improbably grounds into a game-ending double play. Fun fact, Leo threw 10 balls and 13 strikes that inning.
  8. May 10: Enters ninth inning with a 2-1 lead against Philadelphia. Leo works around a one-out walk, getting two straight ground outs.
  9. May 14: Enters ninth inning with a 1-0 lead against Washington. The first two batters reach on a walk and single. A fielder's choice puts runners at the corners, but a pop-up followed by a flyout quell the Nationals. He very nearly spoiled an Anibal Sanchez gem.
  10. May 16: Enters eleventh inning with a 2-1 lead @ New York. Leo retires the first two batters, but Jonathan Niese a pitcher pinch hitting (!), legs out a triple. Nunez strikes out Jose Reyes to end the game, ensuring Burke Badenhop's heroics was not all for naught.
That's ten appearances in which the tying run reached base. Six of those (April 6, 8, 29; May 2, 14, 16) were quite hair-raising. You can view a spreadsheet of his saves here, Alfonseca saves are highlighted, and I'll keep it updated as the season progresses. We'll update you occasionally. Should be a wild ride.


Ted May 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM  

As long as he doesn't have any Greggorians I am fine with him.

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