Note: terrifying elbow stiffness not taken into consideration.
H: 62 (7.3 H/9)
HR: 5 (0.6 HR/9)
BB: 16 (1.9 BB/9)
K: 99 (11.6 K/9)
Fewer strikeouts, more homers, and "way" more walks (+26%) - and a 2.22 FIP. Yeah, JJ Putz is good at pitching. Granted, the majority of closers have historically shown pretty short career peaks, but it's hard to envision someone with JJ's arsenal running into too much trouble as long as he throws enough splitters. There's a raw stuff threshold above which the pitcher's just in complete control, and JJ's definitely up there. Quite simply, if you're a hitter trying to guess between a 97mph fastball and a 90mph split, you're not going to make contact, much less get on base.
The danger, of course, is that throwing 75-80 max effort, high-leverage innings can take its toll on an arm, and once a closer loses a few miles, it's hard to maintain the same level of effectiveness. Following a natural path towards deterioration, JJ should have a bunch more years in him before that becomes an issue, but injuries can change the picture at the drop of a hat, and that always has to be a concern with these kinds of players. We're already seeing the red flags now, as JJ's come up with a stiff elbow. The hope is that it's nothing, just the result of throwing bullpens again after an offseason of rest, but there's always the chance that it's more, and you have to be wary. As much as it sucks, JJ could go at any second and never be the same pitcher again. Which only makes it all the more important to appreciate everything he's done and how incredible he looks on the mound when he's healthy, because he's the best closer we've ever had, and it's not particularly close.
JJ Putz is a phenomenal closer, one of the best in the league. It might not last very long, but given a choice between (say) three years as an elite closer or eight years as a reasonable setup man, I take the former without thinking twice. JJ Putz is an experience, and easily the most electrifying player on the team. He provided more thrilling moments last season than anybody else on the roster, and if by some stroke of bad luck that's all we get from him, I'll still be forever thankful.
Putz in. Game over.