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September 8, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 22: Looking Back, Looking Forward

5

Mauricio Rubio

Mauricio evalutes his preseason closer strategy and reveals how he'll approach them in 2015.

This is my last Closer To Me article for 2014. Rather than run a vanilla update on what happened the last two weeks, let’s look back on the season as a whole and see how the highest ranked closers according to ADP and auction dollars according to Fantasy Pros.

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August 25, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 22

0

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the Ninth-Inning Situations Around the League

Oakland Athletics

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August 18, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 21

1

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league

Chicago White Sox
Jake Petricka has been the most reliable and healthy reliever in the White Sox bullpen this year. It’s been a nice surprise, but I’ve never thought of Petricka as a high-leverage reliever. He has a strikeout rate that is approaching acceptable at 18 percent, but generally, if you’re looking at relievers who operate lower in the strikeout rate department, you want a guy who has command. Petricka also loses the zone enough for an 11 percent walk rate. That’s unacceptable considering how many bats he fails to miss. Matt Lindstrom was activated off the disabled list and had a bad outing against Toronto this past Saturday. I believe in Lindstrom more than I do in Petricka as a speculative saves play down the stretch.

San Diego Padres
Joaquin Benoit is dealing with a barky shoulder, which is a situation that absolutely deserves monitoring. Benoit is having a tremendous season at 37, as he has a 0.85 WHIP and a 31.1 percent strikeout rate. He is slated to be available on Tuesday, but I think it would be prudent to check up on Kevin Quackenbush and Dale Thayer in the Padres bullpen. Quackenbush is the logical next man up.



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August 11, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 20

2

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Detroit Tigers
The Detroit bullpen disease continues to find new victims as Joakim Soria (who was acquired for Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson) might be out until September with a strained oblique. It’s been a nightmare season for Detroit relievers, which is nothing new for the club. For all the good GM Dave Dombrowski has done, and he’s done a lot, the bullpen remains his Achilles heel. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan are going to battle it out for saves down the stretch. Nathan refuses to die and Chamberlain has been bad in his brief tryouts for the job. Al Alburquerque is behind them and is a decent speculative play.

Chicago White Sox
Matt Lindstrom is coming back on Tuesday to hopefully stabilize what has been an absolute train wreck of a unit. The White Sox have run a parade of arms to handle the ninth inning with bad results. Lindstrom wasn’t missing bats when he was healthy this year, and his command was erratic. His past profile paints the picture of a ground-ball pitcher who strikes out 17-20 percent of batters faced. If he gets back to that, he might get a look at closing should Jake Petricka falter. It’s a long shot since Petricka has been very effective this season. Still, it’s worth it to claim him and hope Petricka goes the way of every other White Sox closer this season.



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August 4, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 19

4

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Chicago White Sox

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July 28, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 18

2

Mauricio Rubio

Keeping tabs on the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Chicago White Sox
Jake Petricka notched back-to-back saves on July 21 and 24 in place of the injured Zach Putnam. He’s said to be getting more save opportunities than not for the White Sox and he’s been dependable all season with a few minor hiccups. Contrast that with Ronald Belisario, who has continued to be a mess in his outings, and I think there’s a clear path to saves for Petricka in the short term. Matt Lindstrom is looming, but he isn’t so compelling that he will immediately take the job from Petricka upon his arrival. My advice: Hold on to Petricka in the short term and wait for health to clear itself up regarding Lindstrom.

Chicago Cubs
There are a few rumors flying around Neil Ramirez and his demotion to Triple-A Iowa. Let’s clear a few things up. I don’t think the demotion was made with converting him into a starter in mind. Ramirez has worked well with a simplified repertoire and he is finally in a groove. There were some arm concerns earlier in the year so for me this seems like a move that was made to rest the pitcher more than anything. The Cubs have an odd roster crunch that includes a revolving door for the fifth starter job. There’s going to be a shuttle between Chicago and Iowa until the roster issues are cleared up. I think Ramirez is a reliever in the short and long term as I think it’s unlikely they waste the development time and risk the possibility of ruining him to try and squeeze starter upside out of him. In the meantime, Hector Rondon is still your guy in this ‘pen.



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July 21, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 17

16

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

I wrote about the fantasy angle on the Huston Street trade here. There are a few ancillary angles we can talk about regarding the Padres bullpen, however, as they are left with Joaquin Benoit, Dale Thayer, Kevin Quackenbush, and someone I figured would make a run at the job in Alex Torres. Thayer and Quackenbush are clearly in front of the erratic Torres. I’ve long thought Torres had closer stuff but not closer command. It’s holding true to this point.

San Francisco Giants

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July 14, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 16

5

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Addison Reed is limping into the midway point as he’s sporting a 4.30 ERA and has allowed nine home runs this year in 37 2/3 innings of work. That’s an abnormally high number of home runs to have given up, and it’s inexcusable to do what he’s done so far as the closer. Kirk Gibson has stuck by Reed to this point in the season, and there are some signs that it’s the right decision. Reed has a 26.3 percent strikeout rate and a 5.6 percent walk rate. The WHIP is sitting at 1.19, which isn’t terrible. The long ball has done him in, and it’s an issue he will have to correct in the second half if he wants to keep his job. Brad Ziegler is hanging out on the periphery in case Reed continues to struggle.

Chicago White Sox
I’m running out of ways to say that this bullpen is bad. Javy Guerra wasted a(nother) brilliant John Danks performance (that’s a separate freestyle that has yet to be written) by giving up a two-run Yan Gomes home run in the eighth. It did allow for a Cody Allen save, so that was cool, but mercy. I have no solutions here. There’s no one at the minor league level who I think could come up and solve the issue in the short term. Daniel Webb, who I thought has the type of arm and mentality to be a closer, has a 15 percent walk rate. Matt Lindstrom and Nate Jones are still dead.



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July 7, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 15

7

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Tampa Bay Rays
This can be a difficult article to write. Speculating on saves is a tricky thing, one that requires following a lot of beat writers and trying to find trends written into stat lines. The closer job is a serious one, and it’s not like managers pick the closer for completely arbitrary reasons that have little to do with logic and are more holistic in nature. I mean there’s no way someone would pick a closer based on aura, right?


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June 30, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 14: Closer Swap

5

Mauricio Rubio

Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli get changes of scenery, Sergio Romo cedes the Giants gig, plus more closer notes from around the league.

Two Closer Candidates Change Leagues
Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli switched teams, as the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates swapped relievers whose seasons had been subpar. We know the story with both of these guys at this point: Frieri has severe issues with the long ball when he’s missing with his fastball, and Grilli has been inconsistent with his command, as he’s been the unfortunate combination of walk-happy and hittable. In terms of proximity to saves, Grilli is the better bet, as there aren’t many good options in Anaheim, and Frieri will have Mark Melancon in front of him. I might be out on both at this point.

The White Sox Mess
Ahhh, White Sox bullpen. I’ve forgotten your scent. The Ronald Belisario show has come to its final and unfortunate end, as the big-faced righty gave up two runs (one earned) and recorded one out against the Blue Jays en route to recording that all-important hold. There was a time where Belisario’s ERA was under 4.00, but a chart of his game-by-game ERA would look like a deep V, as his ERA and peripherals have boomeranged from respectable to just bad. This is the part where I give you a few names to consider at the back end of this bullpen but, well, there aren’t any names I feel good about here.



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June 23, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 13

2

Mauricio Rubio

Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Pittsburgh Pirates
The ERA doesn’t show it, but Jason Grilli was scuffling after he came back from an oblique injury. The strikeouts were down and the walks were up from his brilliant 2013 campaign. Grilli is hovering around the 21 percent mark in terms of strikeout rate, and the walk rate has come up to 12 percent. Couple that with a newfound propensity to give up home runs in a small sample and the writing was on the wall with Grilli. Mark Melancon will serve as the closer in the short term, and I think there is a really good chance he’s the long-term closer as well. Melancon has solid peripheral numbers and served as the closer during Grilli’s rehab.

Chicago Cubs
Neil Ramirez is still making things compelling in the Cubs’ bullpen, which is a rare problem for the North Siders to have, especially after the tumultuous year Cubs relievers had in 2013. Ramirez is carrying a 1.00 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in 18 innings. Those are outstanding numbers, and they definitely warrant consideration for the job. However, Hector Rondon has still been pitching extremely well, having only given up runs in four of his 27 appearances. I still think Rondon is the closer until he proves otherwise.



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June 16, 2014 6:00 am

Closer to Me: Week 12

5

Mauricio Rubio

Keeping tabs on the ninth-inning situations around the league.

Chicago Cubs
Neil Ramirez has been the hot commodity in the Cubs bullpen lately. Ramirez has racked up 26 strikeouts 17 innings, all with a 1.06 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. Ramirez was used as the closer on Sunday and notched his third save of the season. His success creates an interesting situation in the Cubs bullpen, as they suddenly find themselves with two capable end-game options in Ramirez and Hector Rondon, who was held out of a few games with elbow tightness. If you’re desperate for saves and you are looking for a speculative play, Ramirez is the hot name to pick up, but I still think Rondon will be the closer until he falters.

Tampa Bay Rays
Grant Balfour’s meltdowns have led to a closer-by-committee situation in Tampa. Balfour’s most recent appearance was a 2 1/3-inning save against the Cardinals on June 11. Jake McGee got the save on Sunday against the Astros. Maddon was sure to mention that the Rays were still in committee mode after Balfour’s multi-inning save, so Joel Peralta, Juan Oviedo, McGee, and Balfour are all still in play closer-wise. If you have Balfour and can stash him, I would advise doing so. Maddon is known for his creativity, so picking out a strong candidate from this group will be tough, but I think Balfour will eventually work his way back into the closer role.



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