2011 MLB CLOSERS- AN INSIDE LOOK
MLB reports: As readers know from my previous articles, the closer position in my opinion is the most volatile one in all of baseball. While I love the idea of a 9th inning hard thrower coming in to blow away the other team to get the save, the identity of the closer on each team can change day-to-day and week-to-week. Some teams came into the season with a set closer in place, while other teams are still working by committee. After completing opening weekend, let’s take a look around baseball to see how some closers have fared thus far.
1) Pittsburgh Pirates- Joel Hanrahan: After some talk of Hanrahan and Evan Meek sharing the closing duties for the Pirates, Hanrahan has taken the role and run with it. In three games, Hanrahan already has three saves and is yet to give up an earned run. His 5/1 K/BB ratio is great. With Meek getting blown early and often (21.60 ERA), it looks like the Pirates have their closer for the foreseeable future.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers- Jonathan Broxton: With three saves of his own, Broxton looks strong to start the season. Until you notice that he also given up two homeruns and has a 1/0 K/BB ratio. This means that Broxton is giving up runs and not striking guys out despite being handed early season leads. A recipe for disaster, Broxton will need to shape up in a hurry or risk losing his job in the next week or two. Monitor this situation closely.
3) New York Yankees- Mariano Rivera: The only other closer with three saves on the season, Mo is just being Mo. He is as automatic as closers come and requires no further explanation.
4) Atlanta Braves- Craig Kimbrel: Another possible closer-by-committee situation has turned into Kimbrel having the job exclusively to start the year. With two saves, five k’s in two innings thus far, Kimbrel has been lights-out. As long as he stays consistent, the job is his for now and possibly the next few years.
5) Chicago Cubs- Carlos Marmol: After signing a big contract, much was expected from Marmol. The other closer besides Kimbrel to have two saves, Marmol has been hit and miss to start the year. With few options on the horizon, expect Marmol to be good and finish with 20-30 saves for a middle-of-the-pack Cubs team.
6) Anaheim Angels- Fernando Rodney: With a 13.50 ERA and 4/2 BB/K ratio, Rodney is on a very short leash at this point. With one or two more rocky outings, expect Scoscia to turn to other options until Rodney straightens himself out. I see Rodney being the closer for the majority of the year, but April has not been kind to him thus far.
7) Minnesota Twins- Joe Nathan: I was at the Jays/Twins game on Sunday and got to watch both Nathan and Capps pitch. I cannot say at this point which pitcher has the advantage, although Nathan looked very rusty after a year off. If Nathan does not come together, I can definitely see Capps taking the job for the foreseeable future. Coming back from injuries is tricky and I would not be relying on Nathan at this point yet.
8) Arizona Diamondbacks- J.J. Putz: So far, so good in Arizona. With one save under his belt, Putz had 2 k’s in his first opportunity. After a horror of a bullpen last year, Kirk Gibson will enjoy a year of Putz as his closer in Arizona.
Remember, it is still early and much can change over the course of this month. Closers are often one home run or blister away from losing their positions. They are a nightmare for fantasy players and even bigger stress sources for baseball fans. Keep your expectations in check and remember to judge the players on the totality of their work: one bad inning will rarely make or break a person’s career.
Around the Majors: Players of Note from Monday April 4th
1) Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis led the surging Orioles to another victory. Roberts had a three-run home run for the O’s and Markakis chipped in with three hits of his own.
2) Jake Arrieta got the win for the Orioles over the Tigers, pitching six innings and only one earned run. On the flipside, Porcello gave up five runs in five innings, with 9 hits allowed. The Tigers pitching has been weak out of the gate.
3) Martin Prado and Dan Uggla both homered for the Braves in a win over the Brewers. Nice to see Uggla getting on track.
4) Ricky Weekes continued his torrid start to the season with his third home run. Highly touted for years, if he stays healthy, 2011 could be his year.
5) Beachy was outstanding in his first start of the year. Only one earned run over six innings, he had a 1/7 BB/K ratio. Kimbrel dominated for his second save by striking out the side in the ninth.
6) Saito was bombed in the 8th for the Brewers, giving up two earned runs and three hits in the 8th. With Axford’s struggles to boot, the closing situation in Milwaukee remains murky.
8) A-Rod and Posada both went deep for the Yankees as they beat the twins. The Yankees bats have been on fire.
9) Ivan Nova had a quality start for the Yankees, with three earned runs in his six innings pitched. He finished with a 1/3 BB/K ratio.
10) Texas remained undefeated as Nelson Cruz hit his fourth home run in four games. Always a power threat, Cruz can break forty bombs if healthy.
11) Elvis Andrus also went deep for Texas and is hitting .385 on the season.
12) Derek Holland continued to show the Mike Maddux magic by having a quality start, seven innings, three earned runs and a 1/5 BB/K ratio. Maddux is the new Dave Duncan.
13) Milton Bradley hit third for the Mainers and finished with three hits. With a .353 average, Milton is surprising a lot of people. Let’s see if he can keep it up.
14) Erik Bedard in his first start of the season after a long layover from injuries returned and pitched ok. Three earned in five innings, Bedard gave up two home runs in the loss.
15) McCutchen and Walker continued to lead the Pirates as they upped their record to 3-1 by defeating the Cardinals. McCutchen hit his second home run of the year and Walker finished with three hits.
16) Charlie Morton was the next Pirates pitcher to star. One earned over six innings, though of concern was his 5/2 BB/K ratio. Morton better watch those walks if he hopes to be successful this year. A decent fifth starter, I wouldn’t expect much from him yet on a young Pirates team.
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