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By Enrique Rivera (Dodgers Correspondent for MLB Reports) Follow @eriqwiththeq
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Dodgers haven’t had a very mary month of May and with halfway through the month, they are 4-9. This includes an eight-game losing streak that went from May 1st to May 10th.
During that losing streak, the Dodgers committed a Dodger sin by being swept against their Rivals the San Francisco Giants at AT and T Park.
Usually when this happens to a team with a lot of talent, fans begin pointing fingers and try to figure out what the issue is. Either that or begin giving up on the team’s season right away.
Fingers have been pointed at many different things-from Dodgers’ skipper Don Mattingly to the injuries themselves. The biggest blow for the Dodgers was the injury that made their expensive new pitcher Zack Greinke miss several starts.
ESPN analysts Manny Acta and Alex Cora analyse Zack Greinke’s comeback
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By Enrique Rivera (Dodgers Correspondent) Follow @eriqwiththeq
When the Dodgers acquired Outfielder Carl Crawford last year, they definitely didn’t know what they were getting, it was a pretty much a gamble they were able to afford. With the Dodgers’ new ownership willing to spend the big bucks on big players, this trade seemed like the ideal move to do for General Manager Ned Colleti.
Crawford wasn’t able to perform at all right away after he got traded to the Dodgers as he was rehabbing from his Tommy John Surgery but he was able to get healthy just in time for Opening Day. He has been healthy ever since.
Dodgers’ skipper Don Mattingly right away decided to make Crawford the leadoff hitter since Opening Day and has not disappointed. Through April 29th, 2013, Crawford is hitting .307 with OBP. of .390 (obviously doing his job as Leadoff hitter) with 4 SB and has been caught twice. He has also walked nine times but perhaps the most impressive stat is his team leading 4 HRs.
Slow motion video of Carl Crawford’s Home Run swing
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By Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst/Website Owner): Follow @chuckbooth3024 and welcome Jeff Kleiner (Salary, Roster and Depth Chart Expert for the MLB – visit his website here Follow @prosportsroster
You guys are all in for a treat. Jeff Kleiner recently contacted me about a partnership merge for the website. He has developed a site (prosportsrosters.com) that covers all organizational affiliates in the Minors for all of the Major League Baseball Clubs. We are going to combine efforts to bring you the best look at salaries, current 25 Man Player Rosters and Depth Charts for all 30 teams.
Jeff is going to provide the documents in form of spreadsheets and I am going to accompany the posts with deep analysis of what the numbers tell us from my perspective. If you can’t wait for all of my assessments for each club, go and visit Jeff’s website over at http://www.prosportsrosters.com.
In Speaking with Jeff, he is one of the more passionate fans I have come across towards the game of baseball. He spends enough time in updating his MLB Facts for it to be a Full-Time Job. So after the usual Video Clip and READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY button, you will find some serious &*!@?!#!
For a Full 3 year Salary Outlook plus last years Stats for every player in the Dodgers Organization click here
LA Dodgers Great Moments:
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By Enrique Rivera (Dodgers Correspondent): Follow @eriqwiththeq
The Los Angeles Dodgers franchise had an exciting 2012. From March, when Magic Johnson was announced as part of a group that had bought the Dodgers, to June, when Los Angeles gave Yasiel Puig $42 Million, this has been a wild year for the Dodgers.
After all of the hype surrounding the new Dodgers seemingly died down, they committed $147 Million to Zack Greinke. The N.L. West has been dominated by the Giants in the last couple years, but one has to wonder if the Dodgers recent moves make them the favorite to win the N.L. West in 2013?
Clayton Kershaw 2012 Highlights – Mature Lyrics So Parental Guidance Advised:
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Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Analyst And Website Owner): Follow @chuckbooth3024
I must say I am completely shocked at the Dodgers spending as much money as they are since the ownership change. I listened to Magic say how he ‘was not going to do anything stupid’, I will give him this much. However, the amount of payroll the team has taken on is enormous. The Dodgers are going to be over 200 Million Dollars in Payroll for years to come.
After I put their top ten salaries on the board, I will break down the rest of the roster to analyze some more projections for salary. The Dodgers have about 218 Million Dollars in signed contracts.
If you can believe this next part, they even are paying Manny Ramirez 8.33 Million Dollars still in 2013, Andruw Jones 3.375 Million and Huroki Kuroda 2.0 Million. That is roughly 13 Million Dollars on guys that are no longer in your organization.
Back to the trades that have brought in several players. I do agree for the mentality of it. The Dodgers fans were given a raw deal by the past management and the new guys are showing the rest of the MLB that they intend to be the big dog.
With Cole Hamels re-signing with the Phillies, their coveted starter was no longer available in Free Agency. Gonzalez was there to be had if they would take on the Carl Crawford/Josh Beckett contracts.
The team went out and signed Zack Greinke (15 – 5 with a 3.48 ERA split between the Brewers and Angels) instead.
Here is a nice highlight clip of Carl Crawford below. As a side note: The only inside the park Home Run I have ever witnessed at a game live was hit by Carl Crawford at Us Cellular Field in 2008. He was one of the best lead-off hitters back then.
Carl Crawford Highlights – Mature Lyrics So Parental Guidance is Advised:
Thursday November 1st, 2012
Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer)
The St. Louis Cardinals came into 2012 as the defending World Series Champions. In 2011 they just eked their way into the post season on the final day of the regular season when they defeated the Houston Astros and the Braves, who were tied for the wild card spot with St. Louis, ended up losing to the Phillies in extra innings. Coming into the 2011 postseason, the Cardinals were huge underdogs. That didn’t stop them from going for what they wanted: to win it all.
While most analysts amongst the sport would not have guessed St. Louis would even make it to the World Series, yet alone win it, the Red Birds emerged to show their true colors. The current team that the city of St. Louis has assembled and gets to watch for 81 games a year is, undoubtedly, a team that plays on all cylinders and the highest octane fuel. They play with the intensity of a little league team that wants nothing more than the coach to bring them out for ice cream when they win. Watching the Cardinals brand of baseball is to watch baseball again as a game, and not just as a competition played by millionaire athletes with tremendous talent.
Watching the scrappiness of St. Louis native David Freese in the 2011 playoffs is the perfect example. His David Eckstein-like approach to the game reminds us all of one of our teammates back in middle school. The one at the sandlot that always slid hard, tried to steal home, and complained when the rest of us wanted to go home because “it was getting dark”. In 2011, David Freese and his 39 teammates played baseball together as a true team and sent Tony LaRussa home with a World Series title in his final year managing. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday October 30th, 2012
Sam Evans: The 2012 Major League Baseball season featured more no-hitters than any season since 1991. Of the seven no-hitters thrown in 2012, only one of them involved more than one pitcher. While pitching has regained its presence since the Steroid-Era has started to dissapear, the amount of no-hitters and perfect games in Major League Baseball has certainly taken off. Here’s a look back at the seven games in 2012 where one team was held hitless:
April 21st, Philip Humber, White Sox Vs. Mariners: Philip Humber finished the 2011 season with a 3.58 FIP in twenty-eight starts. In 2012, Humber pitched in twenty-six games, sixteen starts, and posted a 6.44 ERA. However, on one day in April, everything clicked for Humber as he struck out nine and finished with a perfect game. Putting aside a debatable strike call with a full count against Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the ninth, Humber truly was perfect. His slider and changeup both were tremendous pitches in this one outing and against a weak Mariners offense, Humber was able to dominate the game. Read the rest of this entry
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer): Follow @chuckbooth3024
I love the new era of baseball. One thing the 2nd Wild Card team enabled this year was a flurry of transactions right near the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, plus we even saw a bunch of trades between Aug.01-31 as well. I am not going to breakdown the trades for who went the other way (unless both teams were in contention) since we have a dedicated page for that here. What I am going to do is see who made out well with their new player. I will tell you right now that the hands down winner was the San Francisco Giants for picking up Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. Marco Scutaro hit .362 for the Giants and smacked 90 hits in 61 games. He has parlayed another 19 hits in 59 AB during the playoffs (.322).
I am going to be writing a series of payroll breakdowns for each MLB team in the offseason. I have already compiled reports for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals. These reports can be found in my author archives here. In addition to this, I am going to write another piece on Payroll Strategy specifically geared towards making runs at trades near the deadline. Look for those in the coming weeks. The work never ends here, and we will have you game ready for spring training when it comes to all of the clubs. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday August 2nd, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Now that each team is for the most part set going into the final stretch, the NL West is up for grabs. The Dodgers were the most prominent buyer this year and the Giants didn’t stand idly by. Los Angeles acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League, and the Giants got Hunter Pence. Before any deals were made, I would say the Giants had a better overall team. But after getting some of the best talent that was made available at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers might have grabbed a slight edge. Both teams may still make more moves before the year is done, but at this point the N.L. West race will be coming down to the wire.
With arguably the best pitching staff in the whole National League, the Giants have a great advantage in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. This year with Tim Lincecum in a bit of a funk, Matt Cain leads the strong staff including Ryan Vogelsong, Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito. Heading into this season, Barry Zito was the weak link, going 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA in 2010, and 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA in 2011. Zito was left off the playoff roster in the Giants’ World Series-winning season in 2010. This year has been a good one for Zito—he’s 8-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 20 starts. The weak link in the pitching staff this year has been Tim Lincecum. He is 5-11 with a 5.62 ERA, but has shown some signs of coming out of his season-long slump. If he can replicate some of last season or his performance in the 2010 playoffs, the Giants will have no problem making the playoffs. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday July 31st, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: What a busy day! Here are the last of the major deals that led up to the 4:00 p.m. eastern time deadline:
Hunter Pence to the Giants
The Giants and Dodgers are in a tie for first in the NL West as of today. Leading up to the deadline, the Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League. With the Dodgers making such big moves to add to their offensive lineup, the Giants needed to get a big bat. Hunter Pence is the solution the Giants were looking for, hitting .271with 17 homers and 59 RBI. For Pence and cash considerations, the Giants sent outfielder Nate Schierholtz, minor league catcher Tommy Joseph, and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin. This year, Schierholtz hit .257 in 196 plate appearances. Joseph hit .260 in 335 plate appearances in Double-A, and Rosin held a 4.31 ERA in 56.1 innings in Single-A. I love this move for the Giants. Already with Pablo Sandoval (on the DL now but expected back soon), Melky Cabrera, and Buster Posey in the lineup, the Giants look good. Now with Hunter Pence, they will put up some serious competition to the Dodgers for the NL West crown. The Phillies also get some good talent. Nate Schierholtz never really made it with the Giants, so hopefully he will get a fresh start in Philadephia. Tommy Joseph also was a highly regarded prospect in the Giants organization, and he looks like he will be the catcher of the future. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday July 31st, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Monday night and Tuesday morning turning out to be a busy one for MLB General Managers! Here are the flurry of deals before the MLB Non-Waiver Trading Deadline:
Brandon League to the Dodgers
With the Giants talking to the Mariners about League, I think the Dodgers traded for him just so the Giants wouldn’t get him. They really don’t have a reason to get him other than that. Their bullpen has been solid this year with Kenley Jansen holding it down at the back and Josh Lindblom highlighting the other relievers. League would’ve been key for the Giants. They lost Guillermo Mota at the beginning of the year for 100 games due to his second failed drug test, Sergio Romo has been a bit shaky lately, and Santiago Casilla hasn’t been the best closer. Not to mention Brian Wilson went down with an elbow injury after only a few appearances. Although League hasn’t been the best this year (0-5 with a 3.63 ERA) he will definitely help strengthen the already strong Dodger bullpen. After acquiring Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Dempster, the Dodgers are definitely ahead of the Giants in my mind. For League, the Mariners get OF Leon Landry and RHP Logan Bawcom. Landry this year in Single-A Rancho Cucamonga has hit .328 with eight homers and 51 RBI, and Bawcom has gone 3-3 with a 2.60 ERA in 27 games with Double-A Chattanooga. League was removed from the closer’s role in Seattle in favor of Tom Wilhelmsen earlier this season, so losing him won’t drastically affect the Mariners. League is apparently owed $1.85 million for the rest of this year.
Eric Thames to the Mariners
Right after trading League, the Mariners went ahead and traded Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames. Thames adds some more youth to the Mariners and looks like the fourth outfielder right now. This year, in 42 games, Thames is hitting .243 with three homers and 11 RBI. The Blue Jays add to their bullpen after getting Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ (who can either start or come out of the bullpen) from the Astros. Delabar held a 4.17 ERA in 36.2 innings for Seattle this year. Neither team seems to be going anywhere, so it looks like each is building for the future, as each player is signed through 2017.
Travis Snider to the Pirates
Snider went to the Pirates for reliever Brad Lincoln right before Eric Thames was traded. The Blue Jays seem to be bolstering their bullpen by getting rid of young outfielders. Snider started the season in Toronto last year before being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, and stayed there until recently being called back. The Blue Jays must have finally given up on him after he hit .225 last year and .235 this year in nine games. Snider will join the mix of Andrew McCutchen, Alex Presley, and Starling Marte in the outfield for Pittsburgh. The Blue Jays get reliever Brad Lincoln in return, who has gone 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 59.1 innings this year. He’s only 27 so he should be with Toronto for a while.
After losing out on Ryan Dempster, the Braves went out and got Paul Maholm, who has been doing well for the Cubs going 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA. The Braves also received Reed Johnson. Johnson has hit .307 for the Cubs this year and will join Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, and Martin Prado in the outfield. He should serve as a fourth outfielder and possibly come in late in games as a pinch hitter. The Cubs will get Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman. Vizcaino went 1-1 with a 4.17 ERA with the Braves last year. Chapman, this year for Triple-A Gwinett, has gone 3-6 with a 3.52 ERA in 53.2 innings.
Geovany Soto to the Rangers
Soto will go to the Rangers after they designated catcher Yorvit Torrealba for assignment. Soto will primarily catch while Mike Napoli will see some time at first base. Soto struggled this year for the Cubs, hitting just .195 with six homers and 14 RBI. He makes $4.3 millon this year. Hopefully for the Rangers, Soto will put up better numbers than Torrealba, who hit .236 with three homers and 12 RBI. The Cubs will obtain pitcher Jacob Brigham, who went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in124 innings for Double-A Frisco. Soto just wasn’t cutting it for the Cubs; maybe he’ll have a fresh start with the Rangers.
***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, Baseball Writer & Facebook Administrator. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***
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Tuesday May 29th, 2012
Ryan Ritchey (Baseball Writer): There is bad news in Seattle and that is Brandon League has been taken out of his ninth inning role for the Mariners. League who has been struggling to get the job done lately, hasn’t lost his closer’s role permanently. He just needs to work on his command for the time being in non-save situations. League has blown 4 saves in 13 chances this season and the Mariners want to work with him to see if they can change that. The same thing happened last season with League, when he was taken out of the closer role to work on mechanics. He ended up finishing the year with 37 saves. For a closer that is what you call a successful season.
The Mariners aren’t naming another closer because as manager Eric Wedge put it: “Brandon is our closer. We’ll match up with what we think works”. The Mariners only have 7 guys in the bullpen and they could end using up to 6 of them, depending on the situation, in the ninth inning. Using the closer by committee could help the Mariners while League works on command, or it could end up putting them in a worse hole to dig out of in the West. We will just have to see how long it takes League to get back to his game saving ways.
The Mariners are doing everything they can to get League’s command back, as he threw an extended bullpen yesterday. With this being said, League should be back in the closer’s role in a couple of weeks. He is doing everything he can to regain his command and that is all Wedge is asking of him. “The same thing happened last year”, Wedge said. This is nothing new for League- so it should be a quick fix.
The candidates for the job in League’s absence are Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge. Wilhelmsen is going to see the most attempts. This should be a great few weeks for him to get a chance to show what he’s got in the ninth and maybe become trade bait come July. Good luck to Brandon League on regaining his form. The Mariners are counting on League to become once again a valuable trading chip at the deadline, with League looking to cash in during the free agency the coming offseason. We hope to see League back in the ninth inning soon.
Ryan Ritchey is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. I am a high school senior, play second base and plan on studying sports journalism in college. I am a huge fan of Barry Larkin and Brandon Phillips. Have been a baseball fan my whole life and have been writing about baseball since freshman year. You can reach me on Twitter (@Ryan13Ritchey)
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Monday May 28th, 2012
Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): In this week’s fantasy focus, I take a look at a group of hitter who have improved significantly in one category and as a result have seen a tremendous increase in their overall value. While some of these guys are legit, others should be traded while their value is at a peak. Also, do not miss the “Closer Corner”, as the saves category has been as frustrating and hard to predict as any in 2012.
Martin Prado has always been a serviceable infield option, although now only eligible at third base, due to his ability to hit for average and decent power and production. However, his average took a hit in 2011 (.260) and his career highs in home runs (15) and stolen bases (5) leaves a lot to be desired. In 2012, Prado has made an effort to be more aggressive on the base paths and has already stolen 7 bases in 8 attempts. Even 15 stolen bases would tremendously increase his overall value. I expect him to approach 20, especially as he is getting on base more with an even 21:21 walk to strikeout ratio. His average is a robust .333 (career .297) and his new approach at the plate could have Prado ending the year with a line looking something like this: .310/14/80/20.
After crushing 21 home runs in 2009, Billy Butler has disappointed many owners by hitting 15 and 19 home runs in his follow-up seasons. He is an OPS machine and the power seems to be developing in 2012, as he already has 11 home runs. Due to his size, 240 pounds, people expected the power to develop right away, but we cannot forget that he is only 26 years old. Guys typically do not reach their full power potential until their late twenties. While we know we can expect a .300 average from Butler, is appears that he will at least come close to approaching 30 home runs in 2012. The fact that he hit 13 of his 19 home runs in the final three months of the 2011 season is even more promising for Butler owners. The only discouraging thing about Butler is that he is only eligible at the DH position in most leagues. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday May 6, 2012
Bryan Sheehan (Baseball Writer): Seeing Mariano Rivera go down with a torn ACL is like driving by a car accident and reflecting on how easily it could have been you in that accident, or in this case- how it could have been your team’s closer cringing in pain on the warning track. And this is the year of the injured closer: from Boston’s Andrew Bailey to San Francisco’s Brian Wilson, closers across the league have been dropping like flies. Other closers, like the Angels’ Jordan Walden, have stayed healthy but haven’t played well enough to keep their coveted ninth inning role. Even though there has only been a month of baseball so far, much has changed for some clubs.
Today, I’ll be taking a look at every team’s closer situation, and breaking down how it got to be the way it is: Read the rest of this entry
Wednesday February 1st, 2012
Sam Evans: Closing ballgames takes confidence, skill, and experience. There are select players that have earned the closer role at the highest level possible. These players come in all shapes and sizes, with diverse backgrounds.
Without further adieu, here are the closers for all fourteen American League teams:
New York Yankees: The Yankees have had the same closer for the last fifteen years. That is by far the longest stretch of any closer with their current team. Arguably the most successful closer of all time, Mariano Rivera has constructed his whole career around one pitch.
Rivera’s cutter is simply dominant. He breaks more bats than any other closer in the league, and he knows where to throw it to specific hitters. Even at 42 years old, hitters know what’s coming but still have no chance of making solid contact. In 2011, Rivera had a 1.91 ERA and he recorded 44 saves. Mariano Rivera still has at least five more years closing out games. The Yankees should be content with him as their closer for as long as he wants to pitch.
Tampa Bay Rays: Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth had a surprisingly effective 2011. Coming into the year, he was expected to compete with young prospect Jake McGee for the closer role. Farnsworth stole the show and was Tampa’s closer for the whole season. He posted a 2.18 ERA in 2012, along with 25 saves. It was a nice bounce back year for the once overpaid, angry reliever.
The Rays picked up the fiery reliever’s option for 2012, so he will likely retain his job as the Rays’ closer. However, if Farnsworth can’t get the job done, Joel Peralta or Fernando Rodney (87 career saves) will step in.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox bullpen has had a perplexing offseason so far. They let their closer leave in free agency and they moved two of their other best relievers to the rotation. Now, they’ll be trusting a young, former Rookie of the Year, who hasn’t thrown fifty innings since 2009. I think the Red Sox made the right move by letting Jonathan Papelbon walk, but I don’t see the benefit in moving Daniel Bard to their rotation.
Moving from Oakland to Boston, Andrew Bailey will have to learn to deal with constant criticism and media pressure. He’ll go from pitching in front of 10,000 people every night to almost 40,000. It’s impossible to quantify how much of an impact that will have on Bailey, but it’s got be at least a small factor.
The Red Sox will have a strong bullpen, despite which of their relievers end up in their rotation. Besides Bard, the Red Sox also acquired Mark Melancon who could see time as Boston’s closer. Melancon isn’t as good of a pitcher as Bailey, but he is still a strong option for late-inning relief.
I’m not high on Bailey and I see him having issues in 2012. Bailey relies too heavily on his fastball and his curveball was not effective last year. If he succeeds in Boston, then the Red Sox will look like geniuses for trading for him. If he struggles, then new General Manager Ben Cherington will have some questions to answer about the future of this bullpen. (I wrote more about the Red Sox bullpen here.)
Toronto Blue Jays: With the abundance of closers on the market, Toronto went out and got their closer of the present and future, in Sergio Santos. They had to give up Nestor Molina, a young starting pitching prospect, but they scored Santos and his team-friendly contract.
Since being converted from shortstop to pitcher a couple of years ago, Sergio Santos has molded into a top-notch closer. In my opinion, he has the second best slider in baseball. (Braves closer Craig Kimbrel gets a slight edge.)
The Blue Jays have a fairly strong bullpen and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos could always trade for more bullpen pieces. Rebuilding Toronto’s major league team is going to take a couple of years and right now the bullpen appears to be the least of their worries.
Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson emerged as a star for the Orioles in 2011. The twenty-eight year old reliever threw ninety innings but recorded only nine saves. The Orioles leader in saves last year was Kevin Gregg with 22 saves. This was surprising considering Gregg wasn’t even one of the Orioles top three relievers.
I’ve been a huge fan of Pedro Strop ever since he was with the Rangers organization. The twenty-six year old had a 2.62 FIP in 2011, and the Orioles have implied he’ll be their setup man in 2012. With Johnson, Gregg and Strop all gunning for the Orioles closer job in 2012, they’ll definitely have competition throughout the year. I’d expect Johnson to get the most saves, but Strop could have a breakout season as a 9th inning superstar. Plus Alfredo Simon could always get hot and take back the role if he fails as a starter.
Detroit Tigers: For the Tigers, having a closer they can trust to close out games in 2012 will be huge. The Tigers are going to have plenty of late-inning leads, thanks to a strong pitching staff and a powerful offense. Jose Valverde has been the Tigers closer for the last two years and he’s excelled at the back of the Detroit bullpen.
Papa Grande took a step forward in 2011. He saved 49 saves in just as many opportunities in 2012. His electric (and to a lesser extent, annoying) personality provides a spark at the end of Tigers games.
Valverde will be back in 2012 and will help Detroit down the stretch as they look to make a run at the World Series.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox no longer have a clear closer after trading Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays. Now, their bullpen will rely on the flame-throwing lefty Matt Thornton and rookie Addison Reed.
Matt Thornton had a rough 2011. He lost his closer job to a former shortstop and saw his strikeout rates plummet. In 2010, he struck out 12.02 batters per nine innings. In 2011, he saw that rate drop to 9.5. He also walked more hitters than he had in previous years, and his LOB% dropped to 61.2%. In 2012, he will probably see his numbers improve moderately- but not to the level they were at in 2010.
Addison Reed is the best prospect in the White Sox deprived farm system. He will probably start the year in the majors. He has a higher ceiling than any other White Sox bullpen arms and that might lead to a job closing for Chicago. Reed is a nice sleeper in 12-team leagues, in which you are looking for saves.
Manager Robin Ventura has said that Reed is likely to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. He also said that the closing job is Matt Thornton’s to lose. I don’t think it will be very long before Reed takes over the job from Thornton, so Reed will probably get the majority of saves for the White Sox this year.
Kansas City Royals: Last year, it seemed inevitable that the Royals would trade away their longtime closer Joakim Soria. Then Soria’s value dramatically dropped. In May, Soria gave up ten runs in ten innings, and Royals fans started to panic. Eventually, Soria got back to the pitcher he always was. He finished 2011 with 28 saves, his lowest total since 2007. General Manager Dayton Moore made the right move hanging on to Joakim Soria because his value was so low at the trade deadline.
For 2012, Soria will be the Royals closer barring a trade. Not to be forgotten is former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton who was signed this offseason. The Royals have a talented young bullpen that has the chance to develop into one of the best in the league.
Minnesota Twins: The Twins have no real closer heading into the 2011 season. Sure they have Matt Capps, who has 124 career saves. But he’s not a legitimate option if they plan on contending this year. They recently signed former Detroit Tiger Joel Zumaya who is coming back from a serious arm injury, but he used to be able to throw triple digits.
For fantasy players looking for sleepers, this team isn’t a bad place to start. Any one of the Twins pitchers could step up and take the closer role. This might be the worst bullpen in the league, so Minnesota will probably have to make some moves this year.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians a strong bullpen that should be able to give their starters a proper amount of rest. Vinnie Pestano is the best reliever on the team… and he’s not even closing. Pestano was worth 1.5 WAR in 2011, and he had 23 saves. If Chris Perez were to slip up in his closing duties, Pestano could easily fill in.
Chris Perez is a very good closer because he is a clutch performer. He doesn’t strike out many hitters and he walks a lot of hitters (1.50 K/BB in 2011), but he doesn’t blow many saves. He was 36 for 40 in save opportunities last year.
Even though Perez will likely be the starting closer on Opening Day, if Pestano keeps pitching like he has, he could eventually take over the position.
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners probably should have traded their closer, Brandon League, this offseason. As strong of an asset as League is, the Mariners won’t be contending in 2012.
When Brandon Leauge decides to throw it, he has one of the best splitters in the league. Last year he threw his splitter 28.2% of the time. Mariners fans want him to throw it more because of how dominating it can be. In 2011, using his splitter more led him to 37 saves and a 2.78 FIP. If League were to be traded or injured, Shawn Kelley, Tom Wilhelmsen, or Chance Ruffin would likely step into the role.
Oakland Athletics: Since the A’s traded Andrew Bailey, their closer responsibility is no longer set in stone. Brian Fuentes will likely start the year as their closer, but he has 37 career blown saves and is no longer the pitcher he once was.
The next pitcher in line to get saves is probably Fautino De Los Santos. As a rookie in 2011, De Los Santos struck out 11.61 batters per nine innings. Fautino De Los Santos may be electric but he only has thirty-two career saves (all of which were in the minors.)
Texas Rangers: The Rangers have the most depth out of any bullpen in the AL West. Joe Nathan will be the closer out of spring training. If Nathan were to fail, the Rangers also have Mike Adams, Koji Uehara (barring a trade) and Alexi Ogando (if he doesn’t start) waiting in the wings. If the Rangers bullpen were a flavor of milkshake- they would be banana. Not always the first thing that comes to mind, but after you try it, it’s much better than you expected.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels should have spent more money this offseason on their bullpen. Jordan Walden is far from a sure thing. Although it was his rookie year, Walden had his ups and downs in 2011. Walden looked nervous at times. Hopefully in his second year, he will have a better ” closer’s mentality.”
Setting up Walden will be most likely be Scott Downs, who was extremely lucky in 2011. Downs had 26 holds and a 1.34 ERA. He had a 3.40 xFIP and he left 86.4% of his men on base. In 2012, there’s no question that Downs is going to regress. The only question is how much.
Overall: The bullpens in the American League aren’t as strong as they look. There are talented pitchers on nearly every team, but no bullpen stands out as the clear winner. 2012 is going to be the an important year for closers, as there will be many AL teams in contention (especially if the 2nd Wild Card goes through). Some say that the whole closer role and mentality is not important. But once this year’s playoffs are upon us, I think 2012 will prove just how important closers really are.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter***
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