Monday, April 18, 2016


Monday is Closing Time as we delve into the world of the ninth inning and the closers who work in that frame.  Let's get right to all the latest.

-It took all of two weeks for the Oakland A's to realize that Sean Doolittle is not cut out to be the team's closer due to reduced velocity and the loss of bite on his pitches after enduring shoulder problems throughout the 2015 season.  Prior to the shoulder going bad a year ago, Doolittle was one of the more dominant relievers in baseball as he pitched to a 2.73 ERA in 2014 with a sky-high 12.78 K/9.  Doolittle would take hold of the closer role midway through the season and he was so dominant that it appeared he would be set for years as a top tier closer.  Well Doolittle opened camp with shoulder trouble in 2015 and after a DL stint that went through most of the season, was clearly not his old self when he returned.  After a full offseason of rest, Doolittle quickly showed how hittable his current version was as his ERA going into Monday's games was as horrific 6.35.  The fact of the matter is that Doolittle was not fooling anyone and his K Rate sank all the way to a mediocre 7.94.  As a result home runs began flying out on Doolittle and the A's thus had no choice but to pull the plug on him as the closer in favor or free agent signee RHP Ryan Madson.  A former All-Star closer himself who underwent Tommy John surgery, Madson fought a long way back to respectability himself.  After a terrific 2.13 ERA in setup with the Kansas City Royals in 2015, Madson inked a deal with the A's last winter where he would pitch in setup.  We did say this though the day Madson signed:  "Interesting move for Madson who clearly still has his stuff after Tommy John surgery a few years ago.  He has a chance to emerge in the ninth inning given the shaky health status of A's closer Sean Doolittle."  That proved to be very accurate as Madson has now converted three saves and while not officially tabbed, it clearly the guy now for Oakland.  As far as Doolittle is concerned, he is pretty much garbage right now and should be released.  Sometimes these changes happen that fast.

-It was another putrid outing for Cincinnati Reds closer J.J. Hoover on Saturday as he gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk while barely collecting the save.  Hoover's ERA is now an unsightly 17.18 but manager Bryan Price gave him a public vote of confidence Sunday.  We said from the beginning Hoover was a risk as his mediocre K rate is a terrible match in the ninth inning.  The problem Price has is that no one else has stepped up as a viable alternative.  Jumbo Diaz was looking like a possible option but he just got gone giving up 2 runs in his last outing to raise his ERA to 4.26 and his WHIP to 1.58.  Tony Cingrani has a good arm but his control is bad and he was destroyed for pretty much the entire 2015 season.  So Hoover will get another chance to save himself but this bullpen already looks like the biggest mess in all of baseball.

-With Jason Grilli gagging away another save chance on Sunday, Arodys Vizacino should now be the slam-dunk guy every time out in the ninth inning for the Atlanta Braves.  Vizcaino has a big arm that could work nicely in the ninth inning and he needs to be added if he is somehow available.

-It has been a rough start to the season for Washington Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon but his 4.76 ERA and blown save Sunday have not really hurt the team in their tremendous start.  While it has become easy to jump on the "Papelbon is washed up" bandwagon the last few years, the fact of the matter is that the guy has been tremendous during that span despite losing mileage on his fastball.  However now at the age of 35 and with a K rate that has sunk to a very poor 6.35 so far this season, there is at least some cause for concern here.  Papelbon has seen his K/9 drop in each of the last three years but he had gotten by on his good offspeed stuff.  However the margin of error is growing more tedious as Papelbon is losing even more velocity and so we at least have to be aware of what is in front of him.  Shawn Kelly is around and his historically high K rate has always made him look like a potential stopper.  However Kelly has tossed away too many closing chances to count in the past and his horrible control is not a good fir there.  Yusmeiro Petit is another veteran name who can strike guys out but he is more of a long man.  Papelbon will get a long leash given his name and history but we need to watch this. 


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