(all stats are through Saturday, May 28)
Closer – Kevin Gregg
Next in Line – Koji Uehara
Gregg has gone 8-for-11 in save opportunities and appears to be skating on thin ice. He’s been walking batters at an alarming pace, with a current BB/9 of 6.98. In three of the previous four seasons he had posted BB/9 of 4.29 or worse, so it’s not like he has had elite control in recent years. The problem is, when you couple the walks with a reduced strikeout rate (currently at 6.98 K/9), it looks that much worse. He’s never been considered one of the elite closers in the league and right now it feels like he has one foot out the door. With Koji Uehara picking up right where he left off in ’10, he could easily step in and run with the closer’s role. While Gregg is walking too many and striking out too few, Uehara is sporting an 11.12 K/9 vs. a 1.99 BB/9. He’s not overpowering (88.5 mph fastball average), but it’s the same stuff he used to produce an 11.25 K/9 in ’10. Sure, you can point to a .216 BABIP and 90.3% strand rate for some of his success, but the bottom line is that he has proven that he can produce at the Major League level. If you are looking for saves, stashing him makes a lot of sense.
Boston Red Sox
Closer – Jonathan Papelbon
Next in Line – Daniel Bard
People have been talking about his demise, but all Jonathan Papelbon had done heading into Sunday was go 9-for-10 in save opportunities to go along with a 2.91 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. That doesn’t even mention that he had a K/9 of 12.05, his best mark since 2007, to go along with pinpoint control (1.25 BB/9). You could even argue that he’s been unlucky, with a .364 BABIP. He’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark (4.8% HR/FB) and at this point there is no reason to think that his job is in any sort of jeopardy. Bard may be the closer of the future for the Red Sox, but the future does not appear to be in 2011.
New York Yankees
Closer – Mariano Rivera
Next in Line – Joba Chamberlain/David Robertson
They have a bit of a hole in the eighth inning due to the injury to Rafael Soriano, but all that means is that Rivera won’t get as many days off as he may have. For those who keep predicting the decline of Rivera, it certainly doesn’t appear like it will ever come. At 41-years old all he has done is post a 2.11 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 21.1 innings. Granted, the strikeouts aren’t what they once were (K/9 of 7.17), but it doesn’t matter. The guy is a machine.
Tampa Bay Rays
Closer – Kyle Farnsworth
Next in Line – Joel Peralta
There is no clear-cut second in command for the Rays, especially with the return of J.P. Howell, though Joel Peralta would likely get the call if needed. However, for a team that had a ton of questions at the backend heading into the year, Farnsworth has seized the opportunity and emerged as their closer. He is 2-0, as well as 9-for-10 in save opportunities. He’s sporting a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Sure, his 0.53 BB/9 (1 BB in 17.0 innings) may be unrealistic, but he is going to improve on his 4.76 K/9 (he’s at 8.96 for his career). It is interesting to note that he’s throwing his fastball just 51.7% of the time (for his career he’s at 66.2%), but it doesn’t really matter. He’s getting the job done and has entrenched himself as the Rays closer. He should be considered a #2 option in all formats for now, but don’t consider him a lock to hold the job all year long. The Rays are trying to win the division, so if he stumbles he is going to be yanked. That means this is a scenario we should be watching closely. Don’t rule out Jake McGee, despite his continued struggles at Triple-A (4.26 ERA). He has finally gotten his strikeouts up (12 K in 12.2 IP) and he easily could eventually step into the role.
Toronto Blue Jays
Closer – ?
Next in Line – ?
This is one of the most fluid situations in baseball, because whoever gets the opportunity seems to fall flat. Jon Rauch had pitched well early, but stumbled big time (4 ER over 2.2 innings) and lost his hold of the job. Frank Francisco seemed to inherit it, but he’s 0-2 in his last four outings while allowing 6 ER over 2.2 innings. Now, the Blue Jays appear to be considering both of them, as well as Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor when the game is on the line. Who will ultimately win the job? That’s the million dollar question, but it really could be a situation-to-situation decision for the foreseeable future. If you have the room to stash them, it certainly wouldn’t hurt, with Rauch and Francisco still the favorites (and the other two on the periphery). However, none of them are recommended at this point until we can get a better handle on the situation. Rauch did get the last opportunity, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to get the next one.
What are your thoughts of these situations? Who do you think will lose their job? Who is worth stashing?
Make sure to check out these other great articles from Rotoprofessor: