Closing Situations: Looking at the Closers of the NL East

Over the next week or two I will be taking a division-by-division look at every team’s closer situation.  Who is closing now?  Who is next in line?  Who could get a look down the line?  Let’s kick things off with the NL East:

Atlanta Braves
Closer – Billy Wagner
Waiting in the Wings in 2010 – Takashi Saito
Closer of the Future – Craig Kimbrel
There’s no controversy here, as Wagner has been dominant all season long.  Not only is he sporting a miniscule 1.74 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, but he’s posted 72 strikeouts over 51.2 innings.  Saito will get an opportunity now and then, when Wagner needs a rest, but that’s about it.  Given the age of both Wagner & Saito, Kimbrel is an integral part of the Braves’ future bullpen.  He has been dominant at Triple-A (1.50 ERA, 68 K over 48.0 innings) and in a brief stint in the Major Leagues (1.08 ERA, 15 K over 8.1 innings) this season.  Control could be an issue, but his pure stuff certainly portrays closer ability.

Florida Marlins
Closer – Leo Nunez
Waiting in the Wings in 2010 – Clay Hensley
Closer of the Future – Alejandro Ramos?
Nunez gave up 4 ER over three innings in his first three outings of August, but has been clean for his last three outings (allowing just one walk over three innings) prior to last night.  If Nunez struggles again, Hensley could get a look, but at 30-years old, he’s not likely a long-term solution.  The fact is, the Marlins don’t have a clear-cut closer of the future.  Single-A closer Alejandro Ramos has posted 26 saves with a 3.83 ERA and 75 Ks over 56.1 innings over 56.1 innings, but he turns 24 in September, clearly pitching against younger competition.  It’s certainly more likely that they look outside of the organization for a 2011 replacement.

New York Mets
Closer – Hisanori Takahashi
Waiting in the Wings – Bobby Parnell
Closer of the Future – Bobby Parnell
It’s quite the void that Francisco Rodriguez and his off-the-field antics have created at the backend of the Mets bullpen.  While Takahashi is currently getting the chance, all signs point to Parnell potentially being a long-term solution for the Mets.  With K-Rod’s future unknown, look for Parnell, who reportedly was clocked at over 100 mph on the gun last night, to get a look.  He’s well worth stashing, just in case.  Chances are Rodriguez will be back in 2011, but at this point anything is possible.

Philadelphia Phillies
Closer – Brad Lidge
Waiting in the Wings – Ryan Madson
Closer of the Future – Ryan Madson
Brad Lidge is not the closer he once was, but the Phillies continue to lean on him.  He’s pitched just 27.1 innings, with a 4.28 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.  Madson is perennially the second in line, when healthy, though both he and Lidge have been on the DL at times this season.  While he has not always been lights out when given the chance to close games, Madson has been good, overall, for four years running now.  At 29-years old, it is safe to think that he could be the solution, if given the chance.

Washington Nationals
Closer – Drew Storen
Waiting in the Wings – Tyler Clippard
Closer of the Future – Drew Storen
The deadline deal of Matt Capps allowed the Nationals to get a look at their future closer today.  Drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft, he has been solid thus far.  He’s had one bad outing in August, but he has posted a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in six appearances (seven innings).  He’s the long-term solution, so take your shot with him.

What are your thoughts on these situations?

4 comments

  1. Nick Tenaglia says:

    One thing to note about the Braves situation….
    Wagner’s contract has a 2011 club option for $6.5M, witn a $250k buyout. HOWEVER, the 2011 option is guaranteed if Wagner accrues “50 games finished.”

    I am unsure of how the term “game finished” is defined. Right now Wagner sits at 29 saves and 7 Wins – so maybe he has finished 36 games?

    So all that being said, if Wagner’s option does get picked up (or is guaranteed) then Kimbrel’s role will probably be comparable to that of Daniel Bard’s in Boston. He will be the #1 8th Inning guy, and be the #1 choice to save games when Wagner is unavailable. If Wagner’s option is not picked up (or not guaranteed), then the Braves may start the year with either Saito as closer or a “closer-by-committee” scenario.

    Kimbrel supporters should hope for the former over the latter, because it will allow Kimbrel to ease his way into the closer role, thus giving him more sustainability as a closer. These days, with the fickle fans, any early failures of a young closer may cause him to lose his role.

  2. JaDude says:

    Wagner has said many times he is going to retire. And we all know Wagner is no Brett Farve…Also I think Johnny Venters closes next season, with Kimbrel waiting in his wings.

  3. Nick Tenaglia says:

    Venters has been a starter for most of his career in the Minors. Its an interesting thought, though

  4. blue says:

    Think Venters will likely be the next closer. He’s been dominating hitters at the major league level. Kimbrel has good stuff, but he’s too young and too inconsistent, walks way too many batters (BB/9=5.7 in AAA Gwinnett this season)

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