Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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Expecting a Closer?

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Perspective changes everything.

If I tell you I have a pitcher that usually strikes about six per nine, has about average control, and gets groundballs at an average rate, and has done so for three years straight - you might take that pitcher. Sounds decent.

If I tell you that pitcher is a closer on your team, you might get angry. That's because relievers usually strike out about a batter per inning, and closers usually have elite strikeout rates beyond that. And if you don't have an elite strikeout rate, you should have elite control or get groundballs by the bucketful. If you didn't really show any of those abilities, you really wouldn't shouldn't be a closer.

So, yeah, Brandon Lyon never was supposed to be a closer. And now, after blowing the game Wednesday to the Reds by giving up four hits and not retiring a batter or even hitting 90 on the gun with his fastball, he might not be a closer much longer. Look for Mark Melancon to step forward soon and claim the role, although Wilton Lopez last year had elite control and groundballs by the bucket. Still, Melancon is pitching better right now, and as little as that *should* matter, it does.

* Other bullpens got some news, too. Jonathan Broxton woke up and felt soreness in his elbow after blowing the game Tuesday night. He's been shut down and the Dodgers are looking to find an MRI machine that can fit his 300-pound frame. True story. Look for Vincente Padilla to get most of the looks in the meantime, though Hong-Chih Kuo, once fully healthy, could steal some saves versus lefty-heavy lineups. In Toronto, "Frankie" Frank Francisco got the save against the Rays and should be the closer going forward even if the save wasn't done on a clean slate. Jon Rauch, who blew up in his last appearance, is only valuable as a handcuff - which isn't a bad idea given Francisco's extensive injury history. Jordan Walden blew his first save against the Red Sox by giving up two runs in the ninth. Fernando Rodney also gave up a run, but Jordan Walden seems more secure than anyone else in these two paragraphs. Grant Balfour got a save, but only because Brian Fuentes needed a night off - it's okay that I dropped him before the game in a holds and saves league because his walk rate will always hurt his WHIP. Neftali Feliz struck out three in an inning for Double-A Frisco and said he'd be ready Friday.

For the real drama, meet me in St. Louis. Just a day after notching his second save by throwing five straight sliders to the last two batters, Eduardo Sanchez lost a tie game in the top of the ninth at home by giving up a mammoth home run to Mike Stanton. And seriously, it was a mammoth home run. Mitchell Boggs came on to relieve him and is probably next in line. Fernando Salas wasn't used Wednesday night, but is probably behind the other two despite having two saves of his own. Tony La Russa, you make me very very mad.

* Some problematic dudes might be making their way back. With youth, it's always easy to join the bandwagon. Alex Rios went three-for-four with a home run against the Twins Wednesday night and could be on his way back. Some the problem with him has been expectations, some of it luck. David DeJesus doesn't have much power, but at least he looks healthy after hitting two home runs against the Indians. Kelly Johnson hit a home run! He likes hitting at home in Arizona enough that he makes for a good supplemental piece in any league. It's hard to depend on him because of his streaks though. Nick Markakis collected two hits - one a home run - to make his second multi-hit night in a row. His low power upside makes him a bad choice for a large investment, but if you can get him cheap he usually figures the batting average out. Adam Lind recovered nicely. His four-for-four with a home run has his average over .300. Jay Bruce hit the game-winning double against the Astros. He'll be better.

Veterans are a little riskier - they could always go in the tank for good. The good news is that Carlos Beltran looks healthy enough to hit .280 with 25 home runs in the corner outfield - he hit a double and a single in four plate appearances Wednesday night. Raul Ibanez got three hits and a solo home run and is now five for his last eight. That's nice, but did you know Magglio Ordonez, who also hit a home run Wednesday night, is two years younger and is making much more contact on pitches inside the zone? Ibanez has that nice home park, though, in his favor. Carlos Pena hit his second home run in two days. He's only 33.

* Superlative pitching needs to be pointed out. Tim Lincecum struck out twelve Mets in seven innings. That's an under-rated lineup, but that's also an ace. Check out his 57/16 K/BB ratio in 47 1/3 innings. Brandon Morrow struck out seven in 6 1/3, keeping the Rays to one run. He has 23 strikeout in 17 2/3 innings, which makes his seven walks okay even if his control gets a little worse. Tommy Hanson's two runs over six innings with seven strikeouts against the Brewers deserves to be included. Carlos Zambrano has been just good enough, and striking out four and allowing one run and one walk against is good enough even if it was just the Dodgers.

Not only did C.J. Wilson strike out twelve in a two-run complete game, but Michael Pineda struck out nine in seven innings against him. In the same game! Pineda gave up four runs and took the loss, but he's the one that will give more strikeouts going forward. He's looked dominant in most of his innings so far this year. Jhoulys Chacin has been as good as we thought he could be, and he gave up two runs and three hits over seven innings against the Diamondbacks. Enjoy him if you got him. Ervin Santana pitched four hitless innings in Boston before the 2 1/2 rain delay ended his day. Josh Beckett was pitching scoreless frames for the other team.

Some pitchers could still be superlative going forward. Max Scherzer has had some bad nights, but has undeniable stuff. He dominated the Yankees, keeping them scoreless in eight innings with nine strike outs. Haiya! Zack Greinke returned and allowed four earned with six strikeouts and one walk in four innings, but it's really early for him. Sure, he lost velocity as the game went on, but this was basically like a spring training start for him. Go shopping for him if he's out there.

National League Quick Hits: Chris Carpenter gave up three walks (and ten hits and four earned) against the Marlins but will be fine (if he's healthy) … Stephen Drew (groin) was a late scratch and is day-to-day … Danny Espinosa ended a home run drought by taking Danys Baez deep in the ninth inning, and his high strikeout rate is to blame for these long bouts of ineffective work … Jason Bay (congratulations) should be back Thursday after his wife gave birth Tuesday night … Martin Prado is all about the hits and the hits alone, and a three-hit game Wednesday might be a sign … Jose Tabata (hamstring) should be back any day since he's been available to pinch-hit recently … Andre Ethier (elbow inflammation) missed Wednesday's game as a late scratch … Nate McLouth got on base eight times in eight plate appearances in the double-header Wednesday; He normally hits too many fly balls to keep up this batting average, but he's a nice pickup in most leagues if he's still out there … Angel Pagan (oblique) began his rehab assignment Wednesday … Equally interesting is the fact that Andres Torres (Achilles) is starting his rehab assignment as well … Carlos Lee (rib) will miss several more days, making speedy Jason Bourgeois useful for a few more plate appearances … Travis Wood held the Astros two runs but is a fringe mixed league own … Pick up Allen Craig in deep leagues as he'll probably start at third base for the Cardinals going forward (he has for the past two, and has a good bat despite a bad glove) … Ryan Doumit hit a grand slam but is only on pace for about three hundred at-bats … Logan Forsythe came up and may see some time at second base while Orlando Hudson (hamstring) is on the DL; He could provide a few steals and the ability to get on base … Jon Jay hit a home run in the ninth inning, but he'll only play when Albert Pujols needs a breather … Chris Capuano is doing some things right - eight hits, two runs, five strikeouts and three walks against the Giants offense is just enough to get a shrug these days, though … Jason Marquis can be useful in deeper leagues but he gave up six earned in five innings against the Phillies, so don't use him against them again probably … Vance Worley has looked good to far (he gave up four hits and one run in six innings against the Nationals) but he's not this good … Barry Enright hit a home run, but gave up six runs in five innings; He's not really good at all, as a pitcher … Javier Vazquez is looking done - the Cardinals offense that took him for four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings is not that deep and Vazquez only struck out two … Different teams, but similar ownership - Juan Uribe and Rick Ankiel both have hand things that will keep them out a few days … Fred Lewis came off the DL and Jeremy Hermida went down.

American League Quick Hits: Derek Jeter left Wednesday's game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day … Ricky Romero has been scratched from his Thursday start with a strained oblique and the team says it's mild … Jose Bautista (neck) should be back in the lineup by Sunday, along with Aaron Hill (hamstring) … Nelson Cruz (quad) is day-to-day after a late scratch … Victor Martinez returned and collected a single and a walk … Andrew Bailey (forearm) looked fine in his bullpen session and should head out to rehab soon … John Danks lost, and didn't strike anyone out, but he's still pitching well overall anyway … Phil Hughes apparently got a cortisone shot April 28th and is now feeling better or something … Pronk is back - Travis Hafner went two for four Wednesday … Franklin Gutierrez (stomach) played five innings in center field Tuesday … Chris Davis hit a home run in Seattle … Jake Arrietta just doesn't get the swinging strikes to be an elite arm, but holding the Royals to one run on five baserunners with eight strikeouts in seven innings is nice … Jeff Niemann (back) left his start after four innings, but the team said it was precautionary … Ben Revere is up, and has enough speed to register if he gets playing time in the Twins outfield … J.J. Hardy (oblique) heads out on rehab Friday … Don't put too much stock in Jeff Francoeur, as we have plenty of evidence that says he's only passable against left-handers and not otherwise helpful to teams either fantasy or real - make sure to ignore his third home run in three days as long as you can because his luck will turn … Scott Sizemore has a little power and a little speed and has started two straight games for the Tigers at second base … Freddy Garcia is a little over the hill, and four runs in seven innings against the Tigers shouldn't be an encouragement to buy him … Josh Tomlin's not really a great pitcher so don't put too much credence into his two earned in 7 2/3 Wednesday night - it was against the Athletics … Bobby Abreu was oh-four-his-first-six plate appearances, and then ripped a two-run single to put the Angels ahead of the Red Sox in the thirteenth … Brandon Webb is completely droppable as he's moved to the bullpen and hasn't topped 81 recently … Joel Zumay is droppable as well as he's acknowledged that he won't pitch this season … Recently signed Rangers prospect Leonys Martin played in his first extended spring training game and is probably headed to Double-A.


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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