In 2011, nine different relievers collected saves before Jason Motte was tried in the closers’ role with a month remaining in the regular season. After a strong performance in September and during the run to the World Series title, Motte strengthened his hold on the job.
Motte tied for the National League saves lead with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and finished 58 games, second in the NL. The elder statesman of the Cardinals bullpen at the age of 30, Motte finished in a tie for third in saves across MLB.
He became fourth Cardinals pitcher (and sixth time overall) to achieve 40 saves or more. Motte was the first Cardinals pitcher since Jason Isringhausen in 2004 (47 saves) to lead the league.
The right-hander amassed 86 strikeouts and walked just 17 batters in 67 appearances, covering 72 innings. He added four wins, along with five losses and seven blown saves and finished with a 2.75 ERA.
Motte was consistent all season long. He was a key contributor to the Cardinals’ early start, becoming just the fifth pitcher in team history to reach 20 saves before the all-star break.
He finished well, too, setting career monthly highs with nine saves and 19 strikeouts in September. Motte was recognized by being named the NL Player of the Week for the period of September 17-23. It was the first such award for any league closer in more than three years.
Motte also picked up a win and three saves in the post-season. He allowed two runs in 8 1/3 innings for a 2.16 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a less than one baserunner per inning (0.96 WHIP).
As Motte is arbitration-eligible in 2013, his salary will surely rise. However, the Cardinals control his services through 2014 before free agency could become a factor. 80-plus more saves in the interim seem quite possible.