StrategyAugust 17, 2012

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Bottom of the 9th: California Closer Quandries

By R.J. White

The two most volatile closer jobs in baseball this week are on the West Coast. Actually, that’s not true. The most confusing ninth-inning puzzle is in Milwaukee, but we’re going to take a break talking about the Brewers this week (at least, until the end of the column). Instead, we’re headed to San Diego and Oakland.

In San Diego, Huston Street is on the disabled list with a calf injury and won’t be back for a few weeks (and maybe not at all). I was of the mind that Luke Gregerson would be the first man up, since he hasn’t allowed a run since July 3. However, Dale Thayer successfully converted the first post-Street save, and now he’s posted five straight perfect outings, allowing no hits or walks since Aug. 1. Thayer’s obviously on top right now, but I’ll point out that Gregerson has a 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 15/2 K/BB ratio since the All-Star break. Thayer’s 1.17 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 8/3 K/BB ratio aren’t bad by any means.

The A’s have stated that they are giving Ryan Cook a temporary relief from closing, saying at the time that his next two appearances would not be in save situations. In his first, he pitched 1.1 scoreless innings and picked up a win. So far, so good. Grant Balfour, the once and current closer, came in and picked up a save. In his second, Cook gave up a hit while getting two outs (Balfour again picked up the save). Looks like Cook is ready to jump back into things, but I wouldn’t cut bait with Balfour just yet.


ARI J.J. Putz
ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
CHC Carlos Marmol
CHW Addison Reed
CIN Aroldis Chapman
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
DET Jose Valverde
HOU Wilton Lopez
KC Greg Holland
LAA Ernesto Frieri
LAD Kenley Jansen
MIA Steve Cishek
MIN Glen Perkins/Jared Burton
NYY Rafael Soriano
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
SEA Tom Wilhelmsen
SF Jeremy Affeldt/Sergio Romo
STL Jason Motte
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan
TOR Casey Janssen

Safe … For Now

BOS Alfredo Aceves
Andrew Bailey has been activated, so that makes Aceves’s status as closer rocky. If you can move him at your trading deadline for someone with a firmer grip on a closing gig (see: Safe), do so.

MIL Jim Henderson?
Yes, that’s a question mark. This bullpen is a mess, but I’ll guess that Henderson gets the next save and John Axford gets the most saves over the next six weeks.

NYM Frank Francisco
Francisco was called upon to notch a save in a 6-1 game with the bases loaded. He proceeded to walk two guys and allow a hit before taking a seat. He then melted down in a non-save situation on Thursday. “Safe … For Now” may be a little much for him at this point. Have Bobby Parnell on speed dial.

WAS Tyler Clippard
Clippard had a nice little week, going 2-for-2 in save opportunities, so we’ll take the co-closer tag away and call him safe, for now. Drew Storen makes it easier after imploding Tuesday.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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