Posts tagged “Mark Melancon

Closers killing N.L. Central teams


Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jim Henderson has a chance to lead his team in saves this year after he replaced John Axford at closer. Photo by: Steve Paluch / Flickr

Like a good NFL quarterback battle, there’s always someone looking over the opening day closer’s shoulder in Major League Baseball. The young 2013 season has already seen a few teams make a switch at the position due to a lack of talent, while other clubs have been hindered by injuries to their late-inning men. Organizations look at their closing situations through a microscope and for a lot of teams, the leash isn’t long to keep the job. No other group of squads knows those facts as well as the five members of the National League Central.

The closer carousel is at full spin for the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Before the season, it didn’t seem like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had solidified the role with one clear option, either. There’s no question, just one month into the season, there’s been way too many late-inning blow ups from teams in the N.L. Central. In fact, the division leads the majors in blown saves by four with a total of 13. Furthermore, four closers in the National League have two blown saves (the American League has none) and of the four, three of them pitch for N.L. Central teams.



The solution for such a problem could be swapping the bad for the unproven or pitch the hot hands in the ninth. But the Central’s potential replacements for its troubled closers haven’t exactly proven themselves. Of the five teams, three squads have put at least two different hurlers in save situations and the result was a blown save. At the end of the day, my guess is that baseball fans will be seeing a lot of different players in the ninth inning for N.L. Central teams. Only the Cincinnati Reds seem like they have a permanent solution for the ninth inning in Aroldis Chapman. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates do too with Jason Grilli, but as for the rest of the bunch, there is still a huge question mark looming over the heads of late relievers in their bullpens. Here’s a closer look and ranking (from worst to best) of each team’s current closer situation:

5. Chicago Cubs, tied for last place in MLB blown saves

• The Problem: The Cubs have the company of the St. Louis Cardinals in the blown saves department. The only difference is Chicago has used four players in save opportunities who ultimately blew the opportunity. Those pitchers are the likes of opening-day closer Carlos Marmol, MLB rookie Kyuji Fujikawa and veterans Shawn Camp and Michael Bowden. So what’s the problems with each of those players? Marmol has always been shaky and I was actually shocked he got the nod as Chicago’s opening day starter. Fujikawa has never seen MLB hitters before this year. And when it comes to Camp and Bowden, they’re simply just not closers. • The Solution: What I don’t understand is why the Cubs won’t give the big lefty James Russell a shot. He is clearly the best option out of Chicago’s bullpen right now, leading the teams relievers with a 0.00 ERA in just under five innings of work. Russell is clearly underused, which is a head scratcher because he was effective as the team’s temporary closer last year when he picked up a couple of saves and even recorded a 7-1 record as a late-inning reliever. (more…)

A’s continue spending cuts, deal closer


The Oakland Athletics traded closer Andrew Bailey to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday evening. Photo by: ztil301/ Flickr

The Oakland Athletics were back at ruining their chances of ever sniffing the playoffs for at least the next ten years by trading all-star closer Andrew Bailey on Wednesday evening.

Oakland General Manager Billy Beane shipped the 27-year-old to the Boston Red Sox after trading starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzales earlier this offseason. The third major move by the Athletics this winter has now left the team’s pitching staff depleted and it doesn’t look as if Oakland will have one household name on its roster by the time spring training rolls around. They still could have guys like Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki still around, but don’t pencil them in on your scorecards until at least opening day because Oakland changes its makeup more times than Lady Gaga at a sold out concert.

Once again, the A’s received a heap of very young prospect and the organization should be delighted that their farm system should be one of the best in baseball. But none of the guys Oakland has acquired yet, are considered everyday Major Leaguers by anyone’s standards. For Bailey, the A’s received outfielder Josh Reddick, first base prospect Miles Head and pitching prospect Raul Alcantara from the Red Sox. Oakland also shipped Ryan Sweeney to Boston after the outfielder spent the past four years with the A’s, primarily as a starter.

So it looks like Boston received the better end of the deal. No duh. That should be expected by this point by any Oakland fan. These moves seem like MLB suicide, but the transactions are completely necessary for Oakland’s future plans. It’s reported the A’s will move to San Jose sometime in the near future and to help pay for a new stadium, the club is trying to save money anyway possible.

That has left Beane in quite a predicament. I don’t think he’s ever seen a budget this small and now he’s going to have to fill a roster with only peanuts to offer. His three mega moves this offseason are just the start. And don’t be surprised if his highest paid player makes somewhere in the $4 million per year range. It’s always been like this is Oakland and it always will be, at least in the baseball market where money rules.