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August 4, 2014

Closer Report

Week 19

by Mauricio Rubio

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Chicago White Sox

It’s August 3, and the White Sox have not figured out their closer situation, and they have the worst bullpen in baseball. It’s been a parade of bad as candidate after candidate assumed the job and then was either lost to attrition (Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones, Zach Putnam) or general ineffectiveness (Ronald Belisario, Daniel Webb). It’s been a rough time, and there isn’t a quick or realistic fix on the roster or in the system. Cheap bullpen replacements can be made from minor league starters who only have two pitches, have spotty command, have durability concerns, and so on and so forth. The White Sox don’t have that guy anywhere in their system at present, which is a short-term problem. Webb has stuff but zero command. Petricka is a middle-relief arm forced into a high-leverage role. Belisario should not be rostered anymore. If you’re desperate for any type of save speculation, the White Sox are a last resort, and honestly you might be better off grabbing Lindstrom and hoping for a quick and effective rehab stint.

Texas Rangers
It’s a small sample, but Neftali Feliz has five strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings as of August 2. Feliz is still working back from injury, and he’s operating in the low 90s ,which is a departure from when he was pumping 96-98 with his fastball. The Rangers don’t have anything to play for, so I think Feliz gets a long leash here. Still, given the injury history with Feliz and the lack of velocity, keep Neal Cotts and Shawn Tolleson in the back of your mind.

Jim Johnson
Johnson was released by the Oakland A’s, as they made a very tough decision in cutting ties with both the righty and the $10 million they owe him. The writing was on the wall after Sean Doolittle decided that he wanted to make the jump into the elite closer echelon (seriously, he has 69 strikeouts against four walks in 48 2/3 innings this year). So what went wrong with Johnson? He was never an elite-level bat-misser; his major league high strikeout rate was 19.2 percent. He lost just enough in his groundball rate over the past three years, and his flyballs started going over the fence. The end product was an extremely hittable pitcher with a higher HR:FB ratio who was giving up more flyballs. That’s a bad mix. The Orioles will give him a workout, but with Zach Britton’s perhaps-unexpected brilliance in the ‘pen, it’s likely that Johnson has gone the way of Kevin Gregg.

Notes

Colorado Rockies
LaTroy Hawkins hasn’t gotten a save since July 9 and hasn’t been effective his last four times out. Maybe our Adam Ottavino gamble from June will pay off now!

Detroit Tigers
Joe Nathan is riding a scoreless streak that dates back to July 20. That’s real cute considering that I claimed Joakim Soria the day he was acquired by the Tigers (July 23). Oh, and Soria had a disaster outing as well, so that speculative play is going really well.

Cincinnati Reds
Aroldis Chapman put the fear of the baseball gods into anyone who owns him and has a tenuous lead in saves in a roto league. He had a hamstring cramp on Thursday, but he went on to pitch and earn the save on Friday, so all is well.

Mauricio Rubio is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mauricio's other articles. You can contact Mauricio by clicking here

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