Eno Sarris

Saves and Steals

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Ryan Franklin Out as Closer

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He may not be a closer, but Mike Leake finished the weekend in style. He was arrested for stealing $60 worth of shirts from Macy's, which is ridiculous for a man making about half a million dollars this year. Even more so for a man that had four times that amount in cash in his wallet.

Leake's arrest is just another in a line of baseball's bonehead run-ins with the law. Baseball players may not be much more likely to get arrested than the average bloke, but they certainly don't seem to be doing it in smart fashion.

So what we'll do is name our closer tiers in their honor. For the purposes of this exercise, the more ridiculous the example, the higher the tier. Because, if nothing else, we'll remember them for their follies.

Tier 1: Elite (4) (AKA: The "Matt Bush" Tier.)

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers
Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals

  • Matt Bush was once arrested for driving (drunk) on to a school campus, screaming at some freshman lacrosse players… and then throwing one. Frosh-toss someone, end up in the police blotter, and you'll reign reprehensibly and ridiculously over our tiers, much like these closers reign over the league.

  • Evidently, Mariano Rivera was mad that we didn't put him in the top tier to begin the year. He's not looking anything like his 41 years of age. Even after blowing his first save of the season Tuesday night, he's only walked one batter all year, and eight hits in ten appearances. Yeah, he's still got it.

  • Joakim Soria should be fine, but he's walked just as many as he's struck out this year and is in danger of dropping to the next tier if he keeps that up. There's already some whispers about whether or not the Royals will trade their closer in the second half. It does seem, however, that this team is trying to claw their way back to respectability - short term signings like Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera suggest that they want to win some games and don't mind blocking some prospects. If they do think they will be competitive soon, they won't trade the Mexpatriot.

  • Tier 2: Rock Steady (5) (AKA: The "Mike Leake" Tier.)

    Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
    Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
    Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox
    Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
    J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • J.J. Putz is healthy now, so let's not think about his past. He hasn't walked a guy or blown a save this year. In fact, he's only given up one earned run so far. He deserves to be in this tier while his arm is still attached.

  • Brian Wilson has settled in after his tumultuous return from the disabled list. He hasn't given up a run (and only one walk) since his first two appearances, and is looking absolutely filthy on the mound. He's even added a two-seamer that has made some batters look really, really silly. Wilson would be the next man in line should someone in the elite tier falter.

  • A contending team like the Red Sox won't trade Jonathan Papelbon mid-season, most likely. And the closer has struck out eight against only two walks this year, with one sole earned run on the register. His velocity is not all the way back, but he's still throwing 94 regularly. That's 'not bad.'

  • Craig Kimbrel walked a dude finally. That's ten strikeouts and one walk in his first six innings this year. Fire!

  • Tier 3: OK options (5) (AKA: The "Randall Simon" Tier.)

    Francisco Rodriguez, New York Mets
    Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers
    Joel Hanrahan, Pittsburgh Pirates
    Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians
    Huston Street, Colorado Rockies
    Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati Reds

  • Randall Simon was booked in 2003 for hitting one of the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages with a bat. He hit a big, foam, person-filled sausage with a bat. In the end, he didn't serve time - just a three-game suspension - so it just ended up being a bad week for him.

  • Huston Street had a bad week this past week. He did manage a save, but he didn't strike out a single batter in three appearances, walked one, gave up a home run, and almost blew a save against the Mets. Matt Lindstrom came in to nail down the save, but Street is still the closer. A few strikeouts would be nice, but Street should be fine. Overall, he still has 11 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings, against only four walks.

  • Contrast that work with Francisco Cordero's effort recently - he has five strikeouts against two walks in six innings - and you'll see how different the sample sizes are for each closer. We're stuck reading the tea leaves, and those leaves are mixed when it comes to Cordero. His velocity is down almost two miles per hour, but his results have been okay so far. Call this a cautious promotion, especially with Aroldis Chapman hitting 105 on the gun this week. He's lurking in that pen should Cordero's lack of velocity catch up to him.

  • Tier 4: Question marks (6) (AKA: The "Jae-Kuk Ryu" Tier.)

    Leo Nunez, Florida Marlins
    Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers
    Jordan Walden, Anaheim Angels
    Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays
    Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles
    John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers

  • Ryu, a minor leaguer in the Cubs organization in 2003, hit a bird that nested at the park he was visiting. Ozzy the osprey was eventually fine, but with his eye bleeding after the game, Ryu was booked for animal cruelty.

  • Good thing that Ryu didn't have the gas of a Jonathan Broxton or he would have killed the endangered bird. Unfortunately for Broxton, he still doesn't have his career strikeout rate or velocity back. Over the past week, he has struck out four batters in three innings, and some of the velocity seemed to be creeping back. On the other hand, he also gave up three runs in those three appearances. It's still a mixed bag.

  • Jordan Walden is cooking with 96-MPH gas and striking out batters at a double-digit rate, so his slightly higher walk rate is not super concerning. Fernando Rodney is pitching well, but it's Walden… for now.

  • Kyle Farnsworth just keeps pitching well and getting the opportunities in Tampa Bay. He could do it all year with a few blowups. On the other hand, John Axford may not make it through the year. He used to have control problems, and they are back in full force this year. The problem with taking advantage of this situation is that there's no clear successor. Of the regular bullpen options this year, only Kameron Loe has the rates of a closer - but his fastball barely cracks 90 MPH. Young Zach Braddock has been groomed for the role but has been much less exciting this year. LaTroy Hawkins has finished his rehab, too. Who knows what's going on here.

  • continue story »
    Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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