Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Closer Review: American League

Last year, I did a few closer write-ups. I typically like to wait until we're at the quarter pole (about 40 games) before doing this, but there have been so many role changes already that I thought I'd take an earlier look than usual.

Tonight I'll do the American League; tomorrow the National League.

Orioles: Kevin Gregg started the year as the closer and is 2-for-2 on save ops. Koji Uehara is being brought along slowly and will remain the set-up for the foreseeable future. Yawn.

Red Sox: All of the numbers guys had Jon Papelbon losing the job about two weeks before the season started, but he's been stellar. The whiffs are up, the walks are down and the saves are there. Daniel Bard had a couple of shaky outings early on and Bobby Jenks is probably next in line right now if Papelbon needed a rest.

Yankees: Mariano Rivera has blown a couple of saves but one thing they don't worry about in New York is Mariano Rivera. Meanwhile, Rafael Soriano has had outings where he can't find home plate.

Rays: Perhaps the biggest surprise of this young season is how great Kyle Farnsworth has been. Not only is he throwing a lot of cutters but he's also attacking the zone with it without fear, either freezing hitters or getting them to pound the ball on the ground. Conventional wisdom this spring was that Jake McGee would take over the closer's role at some point this year, but it seems unlikely the Rays would mess with such a good thing.

Jays: Jon Rauch is 4-for-4 in save opportunities but with Frank Francisco back I think they'll eventually flip roles. There is no indication when that might happen, though.

White Sox: Sergio Santos is about to take the job here and run with it. Matt Thornton started the 9th tonight but was then taken out and Santos picked up his second save in as many nights. Thornton certainly has the talent to win the job back, but Ozzie Guillen strikes me as someone who will play the hot hand.

Indians: Chris Perez is getting the job done, but the velocity has dropped two MPH on his fastball and the strikeouts aren't there this year. The sample size is too small to worry, but it definitely bears watching. Tony Sipp is the popular name in this bullpen, but Vinnie Pestano is the guy blowing hitters away right now and the one I'd take a flier on for $1.

Tigers: Jose Valverde has been fine for the Tigers, and he's even cut down on his walks. Joaquin Benoit has been solid in the set-up role, though the whiffs aren't there thus far.

Royals: Joakim Soria has struggled. He has a 1:1 K/BB ratio and also doesn't seem to have the velocity on his fastball. Blowing hitters away has never been his game, but watching him has become a nerve-wracking affair. The Royals won't make a change in the near future, though. Jeremy Jeffress is their closer of the future but can't find the strike zone. Aaron Crow has been electric.

Twins: Matt Capps took over the job from Joe Nathan earlier this year and it could be some time before Nathan gets it back. Nathan still doesn't look like he's all the way back and Capps has been his usual, serviceable self. Nathan struck out two in his last outing, but the velocity is still down around 90-91 MPH.

Angels: Jordan Walden took the job away from Fernando Rodney and thus far is running with it. Mike Scioscia hasn't ruled out Rodney winning the job back at some point, but my money is on Walden unless his control completely goes south.

A's: Brian Fuentes has been solid filling in for Andrew Bailey. Bailey could be back by early May, but I think the A's will be very cautious with him. I could see Fuentes getting another 5-10 save opportunities at least.

Mariners: Brandon League is closing while David Aardsma is on a rehab assignment. League has been OK but not great enough that the Mariners aren't going to give Aardsma a crack at the job again when he's back.

Rangers: Neftali Feliz is on the shelf with what sounds like a minor injury. Darren Oliver is the short-term favorite for saves, with Arthur Rhodes sure to get some looks too. Darren O'Day hasn't looked like himself, leading to some speculation that he might be hurt. Even if he isn't, recent performance almost definitely takes him out of consideration for high leverage work.

1 comment:

Ross said...

Great review of the current closer landscape. There are a couple of names on that list that I need to get more familiar with. It's good to stay ahead of the curve.