Just about every morning, I navigate over to Baseball-Reference's list of the day's baseball birthdays and give it a read. I don't really know why, but I've been doing it for so long that it's become a habit, and I guess sometimes I find funny names I'd never heard, or some kind of writing inspiration. That Luis Ugueto post not long ago was inspired by the birthday list. Believe it or not, I didn't get out of bed intending to write about Luis Ugueto.
Today is February 22, and it turns out that February 22 is an unusually significant day when it comes to Mariner birthdays. It's Carlos Peguero's birthday. He's 25, which is that awkward age in between being a prospect and not being a prospect. It's Don Wakamatsu's birthday. He's 49, and his first name is Wilbur. It's John Halama's birthday. He's 40, and he pitched in triple-A as recently as two years ago. It's Casey Kotchman's birthday. He's 29, and fuck him.
I wouldn't be writing about any of this, though, were it not for one thing. Or I guess were it not for two things. February 22 is J.J. Putz's birthday. And February 22 is Kazuhiro Sasaki's birthday.
I know, they're just birthdays. Birthdays aren't interesting*, and this is nothing more than a coincidence. But what takes this from being coincidental to being interestingly coincidental for me is that Sasaki ranks first all-time in saves in Mariners franchise history, while Putz ranks second. Brandon League isn't going to jeopardize that order in 2012 unless holy shit, holy shit you guys, the Mariners are good, the Mariners are so god damned good. Alternatively, the Mariners could always re-acquire Mike Schooler and try to get him four saves. I haven't checked to see if Mike Schooler is dead so hopefully I didn't just offend some people by accident.
* pay attention, ladies
There are some other eerie similarities between Sasaki and Putz, now that I'm looking at them. Beyond just being right-handed closers for thewithin the same decade, Sasaki posted a 3.14 ERA as a Mariner, while Putz chimes in at 3.07. Sasaki posted a strikeout rate of 27 percent, while Putz posted a strikeout rate of 26 percent. Sasaki posted a walk rate of 7 percent, while Putz posted a walk rate of 7 percent. Sasaki allowed about one home run per nine innings, while Putz allowed 0.9. And of course, both Sasaki and Putz leaned heavily on splitters. I guess you could argue that Sasaki threw a forkball and that a forkball is different from a splitter, but they're very similar pitches, and Sasaki and Putz used them as very similar weapons.
In case you've forgotten what Sasaki's forkball used to do, this is what it used to do:
That was a pitch worthy of a nickname, which it got. Putz's splitter was probably worthy of a nickname, too, but I guess it's better to have too few nicknames than too many nicknames. With these sorts of things, creativity is in shorter supply than panda bears.
So, Kazuhiro Sasaki and J.J. Putz. Two guys with more in common than the day of their birth. I'll close with a line from Sasaki's Wikipedia page:
He had a side recording career, with an album of his vocals over techno beats.