Updates on all of the notable ninth-inning situations around the league.
New York Mets
We’re all guilty of trying to hold on for too long at some point in our lives. Maybe it was a relationship that should have ended but instead lingered—even though we knew the process and personnel would yield obvious and painful results.
Enter the Mets and Jose Valverde, who finally lost his job after a particularly bad series of meltdowns that led Terry Collins to go in a different direction. I picked up Valverde in a few leagues, so I know the pain some of you are feeling. If we’re being honest, however, we all knew this was coming.
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We're just one week into the season, and a host of teams already have ninth-inning concerns.
Reliever volatility is not a new concept. We’re all used to the closer carousel that sustains itself on poor performance and injury as it turns throughout the season. What happened this week, however, bordered on a league-wide implosion of closers. Let’s take a look at who is left standing after the week that was.
Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen is among the numerous ninth-inning men who moved down a tier in this week's update.
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, A pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.
Since the big news right now is Biogenesis, it’s worth noting that there are no active major-league relievers listed in the reports released so far. This isn’t a definitive or final iteration of the list by any means: There are other names in the documents that haven’t been released or that are listed under code names, according to the sources in the story as reported by ESPN. However, in terms of known risk, there isn’t anything to see here.
Dave Dombrowski declared that the Tigers and their deposed closer were never ever getting back together, but they couldn't stay apart.
Jose Valverde recorded a save against the Royals last October 1st, in his final regular-season game of 2012. He also recorded a save against the Royals yesterday, in his first regular-season game of 2013. Between those two games, Valverde lost his job as closer, spent six months looking for work, and finally re-signed with the same team, which supposedly had no interest in bringing him back. Because the trip was so circuitous, it’s worth recounting how he got from point A to point B, even though the two points look so similar.
During the winter, when we’re starved for baseball and wondering where free agents will end up, we treat each new report and rumor as if it might mean something. Where there’s smoke, there’s sometimes a signing. Of course, most rumors don’t lead to confirmed reports. They’re based on bad information, or good information that goes stale. They get published, tweeted, and blogged about briefly before being replaced by the next rumor, which usually has just as short a shelf life. It's hard to ignore the mostly non-news in the moment, but when the offseason is over and we know where all the free agents fell, it’s fun (and often illustrative) to sift through the conflicting reports and rumors and wonder where they came from. So that’s what we have here: an annotated timeline of how Jose Valverde wound up at the back of the same bullpen.
R.J. goes back over his free agent rankings to see what teams knew that he didn't.
Before the winter Ben Lindbergh asked me to create a list of the top-50 free agents. Today let's revisit that list with an eye toward improvement.
In dissecting the list we have to begin with the two unemployed players that were ranked: Kyle Lohse (ninth) and Jose Valverde (43rd). Two missteps on the list's part, or unfortunate victims of the marketplace? How about one apiece. Lohse has not signed because of the draft-pick compensation requirement rather than his talent (he's fine as a middle-of-the-rotation starter). Were I redoing the list, Lohse would remain at nine. The same is not true of Valverde. He would lose his spot to a more-deserving player. Perhaps Lance Berkman, who went unranked because of the trepidation surrounding his future.
Jim Leyland's comments before and after ALCS Game Two reveal why we don't see closers by committee or relief aces more often.
During his pre-game press conference on Sunday, Jim Leyland announced that Jose Valverde—while remaining his closer—would not be closing ALCS Game Two, should the opportunity arise. Instead, Leyland said, he’d go with a “closer by committee” approach while he and pitching coach Jeff Jones worked with Valverde to straighten out his mechanical (and possibly psychological) kinks. That led to this exchange between Leyland and a reporter:
The Yankees offense is waiting for the fever to break, while Detroit is halfway to the World Series.
The tableau in the Yankees’ clubhouse after ALCS Game Two was telling: in a room packed with high-profile players, the greatest gaggle of reporters was gathered around the team’s hitting coach, Kevin Long. They had just filed in from the interview room, where Girardi had said, “We have to make adjustments.” Now they wanted to know what those adjustments would be. Standing just in front of Derek Jeter’s loudly vacant locker, Long fielded questions about why the Yankees haven’t hit over the first two games of this series or the last four games of the ALDS, and what they planned to do about it. At times, the exchange grew testy.
The Yankees pull off another exciting comeback behind Raul Ibanez, only to lose both Game One and Derek Jeter a few innings later.
A few innings after Raul Ibanez solidified his True Yankee™ status with yet another ninth-inning, game-tying home run, seemingly setting the stage for an inevitable extra-innings win, the Yankees lost Game One. They also lost a leader and a pretty good player, leaving them looking much more vulnerable than they did a day ago. Here are three things to think about before Game Two gets underway.
Was Jose Valverde cheating when he faced the Reds this weekend? If he was, his excuse ranks up there with the best of them.
Baseball history is full of cheaters who excelled at their craft. I'm not talking about PED users, for the most part. I'm talking about guys who scuffed baseballs, stole signs, corked bats, and threw games. And the vast majority of these men were never caught, though some, like Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry, were happy to brag about getting away with it for decades.
But thankfully, baseball is also full of cheaters who were absolutely terrible at cheating, get caught easily, and then make terrible excuses none of us believe. It is into this latter camp, gratefully, that Jose Valverde might fall. Valverde, as most of the baseball-loving world knows by now, appeared to spit into his glove during the ninth inning against the Reds. The video was posted online, and later tweeted about by Dallas Latos, the wife of Reds pitcher Mat Latos.