By Todd Farino, www.thecloserreport.com
This has been without a doubt the worse year on record for major league closers. The amount of closers lost to injury times the number of closer with terrible starts, divided by the number of closers who have just lost the job is a formula even a Sabermetrics wannabee with a degree from MIT couldn’t compute. Since spring training has wrapped up, at least 17 closer jobs have changed hands due to any of a number of reasons, even vertigo.
Besides the fact that closers tend not to get much time to throw in spring training, I think another reason for the terrible start is a different approach by hitters in the ninth inning. I’ve noticed many hitters being far more patient with pitches they see i the ninth, rather than looking to tee-off for a game tying home run. In fact, there has been 56 blown saves by pitchers with two or more saves. 56 and it’s only May! Four of those are proudly owned by Heath Bell, considered one of the best in the game. Now, this trend will change. Closers will change their approach to the ninth inning and adjust accordingly to what the hitters are doing, and that will create a decline in blown saves and some stability in the ninth inning. The only problem is, who will be standing to pitch in the ninth inning when that time comes?
Lets check out the latest report on the Carousel grapevine.
The A’s are at it again. Grant Balfour has finally been disposed as the closer for the A’s and has been replaced by stand-in faux closer Brain Fuentes. If anyone knows Fuentes’ history, then they must know it won’t last long. Grab Ryan Cook and get ready for a carousel trip Billy Beane style.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Monday, Manager Don Mattingly finally listened to The True Guru and in fact most of the nation when he cut loose Javy Guerra from the closer role and placed Kenley Jansen in the role he was built for. Don’t go cutting Guerra too fast. Jansen has health issues and bouts of inconsistency, so before I anoint him closer, I’d like to see him save 10 games.
Heath Bell isn’t closing for the Marlins, right now. He will probably get the job back in a week or less. In the mean time, Ozzie Guillen has considered Steve Cishek and has used Edward Mujica in the role while Bell finds his groove.
San Diego Padres
Huston Street has made his annual trip to the disabled list. With that brings the opportunity to one of the young guns in the Padres bullpen to step in while he heals. I figured that would be Andrew Cashner, who is clearly a closer of the future. Instead, Bochy has gone with 200 career save man Dale Thayer. 200 saves in the minors that is. While he has the experience and good stuff, Cashner is the better pitcher.
New York Yankees
Mariano Rivera is out for the year with a torn ligament in his knee. Just in case you haven’t heard. David Robertson has taken over the role and rightly so. Robertson has closer stuff and will likely be Rivera’s replacement once he retires. Robertson can light up the speed guns and has a great out pitch with his slider. If he messes up at all, Giradi can go to Rafael Soriano to finish off the ninth inning. Soriano closed for the Rays and Braves, but hasn’t pitched well since being with the Yankees.
Since stepping into the closer role for the Nats, Henry Rodriguez has been pretty good. 8/10 in saves and a 2.45 ERA. He is keeping the seat warm for Drew Storen and Brad Lidge. Once one of those guys return, who knows if Rodriguez will keep the job.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants lost Brain Wilson to Tommy John surgery and replaced him Santiago Casilla. Casilla has been a weak replacement for the bearded one. He is 8/1 in saves with a 5.14 ERA. The Giants don’t have many options after Casilla, but keep an eye on Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt.
Chicago White Sox
Hector Santiago was manager Robin Ventura’s closer to open the season. That fell apart quite quickly, and now Addison Reed has taken the helm for the White Sox. Of course that was after Matt Thornton and Chris Sale saw action in the role. Reed is the best choice and will likely remain the closer for the White Sox until further notice.
Carlos Marmol has had a dreadful start to the season. He opened the season 2/4 in saves with a 6.35 ERA and 16 walks in 11.2 innings. Rafael Dolis has taken over for him and isn’t fairing much better. He is 3/5 in save chances with a 3.38 ERA. However, Dolis isn’t walking many batters. James Russell could sneak in some saves and/or take over if Dolis continues to stumble in the ninth inning.
After Ryan Madson was lost for the season, Sean Marshall took over as the closer for the Reds. While Marshall has been decent, 5/6 4.91 ERA, Arnoldis Chapman is threatening his job as the closer. Chapman has struck out about 45% of the batters he has retired and so far in 2012, no one can hit him.
John Axford has only blown one save this season,b ut it has been a brutal season regardless. He only has six saves in seven chances and an ERA over 6.00. Still, it’s his job to lose. Granted his wife went into labor the night he blew his first save after 49 consecutive saves, he still didn’t pitch well. Francisco Rodriguez would take over for Axford if he were to lose his job, but KROD isn’t pitching that much better.
Los Angeles Angels
Jordan Walden was quickly yanked from the closer role when he just didn’t seem as though he had the control for the job. He was 1/2 in save chances and has since been replaced by Scott Downs. While Scott Downs has pitched well, he is not a closer. He can better serve the Angels in the setup role or as a left-handed specialist, and not the closer. Walden has looked much better lately and will likely get the closer job back by June.
Toronto Blue Jays
After trading for Sergio Santos, the Blue Jays thought they had their closer. Then he blew three saves and hit the DL. They then tried aged-veteran Francisco Cordero. He promptly went 2/4 in save chances and was removed. The next on the carousel is Casey Janssen, who so far is 1/1 in saves, but hasn’t had the best season either. Santos should return in three weeks, ending this mess.
Boston Red Sox
Alfredo Aceves is the Red Sox closer since Andrew Bailey tore a ligament in his thumb before the season started. He’s been serviceable, going 7/9 in save chances, but has an ERA of 6.14 and a WHIP of 1.57. He always has runners on and rarely has a smooth inning. While there has been rumblings about Daniel Bard getting moved back to the bullpen, it hasn’t happened yet. Also, Mark Melancon is still serving time in Pawtucket for a terrible start.