StrategyMay 29, 2013

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Bottom of the 9th: Future AL Closers? - 2 comments

By R.J. White

Injuries and ineffectiveness have swept through the bullpens of the major leagues, so much so we had to discuss five bullpens in this week’s Cafe Pod. All the uncertainty around the league has led to a host of potential closers emerging (as they tend to do every season). Who are worth your fantasy attention?

TB Joel Peralta

After earning two votes of confidence over the weekend, closer Fernando Rodney has bounced back with two scoreless innings and one win over the past two days. While he’s earned a little bit of leash, he’s still walked 19 batters in 21.1 innings this season. Last year, he walked just 15 batters in 74.2 innings. Historically, the high-walk Rodney may be closer to his true talent, as he had walked 6.7, 4.9, 4.6 and 7.9 batters per nine innings during his four seasons previous to his magnificent 2012 performance. Joel Peralta has been excellent as usual, though his walk rate is slightly elevated. Joe Maddon may want to keep Peralta in the eighth, especially with Jamey Wright cooling off after a hot start (seven of his nine earned runs and five of his nine walks have come in his last six appearances), but Rodney won’t be allowed to melt down in the closer role forever. The best strategy for the Rays may be to promote one of their top starting pitching prospects to work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the year as a setup man and use Peralta as the closer, provided Rodney’s rebound doesn’t last.

CLE Cody Allen & Joe Smith

On the podcast, I guessed that Joe Smith would be the team’s top option to replace Chris Perez for as long as he’s out. However, they stuck with their long-term second option, Vinnie Pestano, instead. With Perez possibly not suffering too serious an injury, there might not be many saves for Pestano, or for Smith should Pestano falter. But even with how good Smith has been (1.06 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 18:5 K:BB ratio in 17 innings), the key name to remember long term is Cody Allen, who picked up his first career save a few weeks ago. He rushed through the minors for good reason, posting a 1.74 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 128:23 K:BB ratio in 98 innings in 2011 and 2012. He’s been excellent for the Indians this year while putting together a 2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 31:7 K:BB ratio in 24 innings. Though he’s probably third in the pecking order behind Pestano and Smith, Allen could end up being the best of the bunch over the next five-to-ten years.

BAL Darren O’Day

After bouncing back from a rough week with two scoreless outings, Jim Johnson was terrible again Sunday, allowing four earned runs to suffer a blown save and a loss. He’s now given up 12 earned runs in five innings over his last six appearances, and it seems unlikely manager Buck Showalter can stick with him much longer. In fact, Johnson has at best one more shaky appearance before he’s pulled, in my mind. The job would then probably go to Darren O’Day, a submariner who has excelled this year, posting a 1.88 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 26:9 K:BB ratio in 24 innings. Despite his good numbers, he’s actually walking batters at a higher rate than normal, and he could be even better if that rate regresses. Lefties have had him for lunch this year (.324/.429/.529 in 43 plate appearances), so if he were to close, it would likely be in tandem with another reliever, possibly even Brian Matusz, who has been great against everyone but particularly against lefties (.128/.171/.231 in 41 plate appearances).

TOR Steve Delabar

Casey Janssen is dealing with a bothersome shoulder that made him unavailable for Tuesday’s game. Steve Delabar pitched the ninth inning of a tied game instead, holding the Braves scoreless, though they would go on to win in the 10th. If Janssen’s shoulder issues are more serious than a day-to-day thing, Delabar could be called upon to serve as closer. He has a suspect walk rate this season but has worked around it to post a 2.33 ERA. It’s unlikely he’d be a threat to Janssen’s job when the latter is healthy.

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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2 Responses to “Bottom of the 9th: Future AL Closers?”

  1. jonasjack222 says:

    How does Neil Wagner change Delabar’s value?

  2. User avatar daullaz says:

    @jonasjack222: It doesn’t in the short term. Delabar’s value is basically pretty close to zero now anyway with Janssen pitching Wednesday. If he suffers another injury down the road, Wagner could be in the mix, but he has to first prove himself at the MLB level.


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