(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
Grant Balfour is one of the A’s most interesting players – as most closers are.

by Jim Turvey

Grant Balfour has been absolutely lights out in the ninth inning this year, and has earned himself some time in the spotlight in our next installment of A’s Player Profiles.

Stats

2013 Statistics: 0-3, 2.59 ERA, 37 SV (7 th in MLB), 55.2 IP, 62 SO, 1.186 WHIP

2013 Advanced Statistics: 49 GF, [1] 95 SV%, 146 ERA+, 1.0 HR/9, 2.70 SO/BB, 1.2 WAR, 2.9 WPA [2] (8 th in AL), 83 IS%, [3] 25 LD% [4]

Career Statistics: 27-17, 3.28 ERA, 456 G, 162 GF, 71 SV (Oakland A’s record 44 consecutive saves from 4/29/12 to 7/23/13, good for 6 th all-time), 128 ERA+, 1.185 WHIP, 9.7 SO/9, 2.48 SO/BB, 9.5 WAR, 12.1 WPA, 80 SV%

That’s a lot of numbers; so let’s take a closer look at some of them. The advanced statistics actually show that while Balfour made his only All-Star appearance of his career this season, it may have been due in part to a little bit of luck. The number that really stands out is his 83 IS%. This number means that when Balfour comes in to pitch and there are runners on base, they come around to score 83% of the time. This is an incredibly high number that may be not be as big a deal as it seems since closers rarely come in with runners on base, but this number is still disturbingly high. The 25 LD% is also the highest of Balfour’s career, meaning that opposing batters are hitting well struck balls at a higher percentage of the time than any other season of Grant’s career. It’s hard to argue with the consecutive save streak, and the fact that he has closed out 95% of his save opportunities successfully is certainly of great importance, but the high inherited runner and line drive percentages may be something to keep an eye on going forward.

Surface Info

Name: Grant Balfour

Position: Right-handed Closer

Height/Weight: 6’2” 200 lbs.

Background: December 30, 1977; Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Contract: Third year of 3 yrs/$12.25M

Twitter Handle: ; also worth a follow, while not technically his – @BalfourRage

When He Was a Young Warthog

Draft: Signed by the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted 19-year old free agent

Minor League Balfour: Balfour toiled in Rookie ball for two seasons before spending one season each in Low Class A and High Class A.  He began his career as a starting pitcher, but the move to the bullpen helped him dominate AA in 2001, and led to his first call up to the big leagues that season.

Scouts’ Pluses and Minuses Coming Out of the Draft: Like Colon, Balfour was undrafted, didn’t go to college, and was a foreign import, so the amount of scouting reports from his youth are very limited. Current scouting reports say that his extreme high energy (we’ll get to this in a bit) can be both a plus and a minus at times.

Baseball America Ranks : [5] Twins 15 th ranked prospect in 2000; Twins 11 th ranked prospect in 2001; Twins 19 th ranked prospect in 2002; Twins 9 th ranked prospect in 2003

Fun Stuff

Walk-in Music: “One” by Metallica

Balfour Rage: Balfour has long been known to be one of the most intense dudes in the league, and one who is not afraid to use profanity to get him self going.  It should come as no surprise then that his warm-up music has led to the new, for lack of a better word, rage in Oakland – the Balfour Rage.  The bleacher creatures of Oakland have decided to channel Balfour’s attitude into a two-minute Metallica grungefest.

Best Balfour Rage Video: One can easily spend a good half hour perusing YouTube videos of Balfour Rage, but this one is my personal favorite. The way the dude right next to the cameraman hijacks the video even though he’s not in the bleachers is great. I get the feeling that dude didn’t even know Balfour Rage was a real thing, he was just doing what had to be done.  Also, love the point made in the comment box that Balfour Rage is better than Brian Wilson’s beard. Wilson sucks.

In-Game Habits: Balfour is basically the antithesis to Colon. He stomps around the mound, curses a bit, wipes sweat off, curses a bit, takes his cap off four or five times, curses a lot, plays with the rosin bag, drops an f-bomb so loud you can hear it back in Australia, and finally throws the pitch in a herky-jerky motion that often seems out of control. It clearly is working for him, however.

Relevant Articles:

http://blog.sfgate.com/athletics/2013/07/16/grant-balfour-is-all-about-mo-in-his-all-star-appearance/

http://thebaseballdigest.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/an-interview-with-grant-balfour/

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1735874-grant-balfour-is-so-awesome-even-his-f-bombs-are-amazing

http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/09/08/oakland-athletics-cannot-afford-to-have-grant-balfour-falter/

Best Tweet about Balfour : @MLB, “Of course this is Grant Balfour’s daughter:” Note: You need the link to see the picture.

Best E-Bay Item: More Raging!

This Raging Balfour gnome bobblehead was the A’s promotional item on July 16 th this year, as their Father’s Day promotion. [6] It certainly is an awesome idea, but I must say I haven’t been able to look at it the same way ever since Jeremy Dorn pointed out that it looked an awful lot the gnome’s “oh face.” Regardless, this is excellent.

Interesting Tidbits: He has overcome the very serious malady that his name sounds like, “Ball Four,” to go on and become a successful pitcher. His father was also a professional athlete, playing the national pastime of Australia – rugby.  Among players born in Australia, only Joe Quinn, who played from 1884 to 1901, and Craig Shipley, who played from 1986 to 1998 have more years of experience in Major League Baseball than Balfour.

“A” Rating: Balfour may not be a homegrown player, and has been on the field less than seven whole games – 55.2 innings – so far this year, [7] but Balfour has clearly been adopted by A’s fans. He’s been such a lock in the closer’s role that he has made it so that A’s fans could turn off their TVs when leading through eight; but then again, who’d want to miss Balfour Rage?



[1] Games Finished

[2] Win Probability Added

[3] Inherited Score Percentage

[4] Line Drive Percentage

[5] Each year represents Baseball America’s rank at the end of that season

[6] How is anybody not an A’s fan?!

[7] Cue the “value of the closer” debate

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