Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on June 6, 2007 @ 14:26:55 PDT

 


Welcome to KFFL's Closer Hot Seat. We'll forecast every sketchy closer situation in the majors each week, and we'll let you know who is next in line for the job in the very volatile closer situations across baseball. Sit back, relax and put your feet up as we fire up this week's Closer Hot Seat.

KEY

Durability grade: 1 (very injury-prone) to 10 (extremely durable)

Job security grade: 1 (very shaky) to 10 (firm grasp)

HOT SEAT STATUS: INJURY QUESTIONS

Los Angeles Dodgers

Closer: Jonathan Broxton (Takashi Saito is inactive due to injury)

Next in line: Chad Billingsley

Others: Rudy Seanez

Analysis: Closer Takashi Saito is idle for a few days due to an injured left hamstring. He's not expected to go on the disabled list, but you know how many times we've heard that only to see them shut down the next day. The team is hoping he will return to open next week. With Saito out, Jonathan Broxton takes over as closer. Broxton will likely receive all save chances while he's out. The hard-throwing future closer has had a great season outside of a couple of outings that bloomed his ERA to 3.00. He recorded his first save June 4 and should be able to sneak in a couple more chances before Saito returns. It's unlikely Broxton is available in many leagues, so if you own Saito, you're probably out of luck for now. However, we don't expect the team to stick with Broxton once Saito returns. Saito has pitched too well to be replaced as he has a 1.50 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 9

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Alan Embree (Huston Street is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Kiko Calero

Other possibilities: Jay Witasick

Analysis: Alan Embree saved four games in six appearances while allowing just a hit and a walk since taking over for injured closer Huston Street. However, he imploded for two runs on four hits June 4. Embree returned the next day to complete his fifth save without issues. Oft-injured starter Rich Harden (shoulder) will likely return in a couple of weeks and will be placed in the bullpen. The team will likely make this move for him to build arm strength there rather than on a rehab assignment. With Street and injured setup man Justin Duchscherer (hip) not near ready to return, it's possible Harden could be in line for saves. For now, Embree should be safe. Just don't expect much more but saves from him.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 3

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Antonio Alfonseca (Brett Myers and Tom Gordon are on the disabled list)

Next in line: Ryan Madson

Other possibilities: Geoff Geary

Analysis: It has been seven years since Antonio Alfonseca burst onto the scene with 45 saves for the Florida Marlins. After failing as a closer two years later, Alfonseca recorded his first save in almost five years for the Phillies May 26 and his second June 5. The six-fingered Alfonseca is much like Embree as he's not good for much more than saves. He has a 4.07 ERA and just 10 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings. Honestly, one has to wonder why manager Charlie Manuel went with the 35-year-old instead of more a strikeout pitcher like Ryan Madson. Madson has a 3.55 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. If Alfonseca slips, and he may in that bandbox of a ballpark, look for Madson to sneak in a few saves. Closer Tom Gordon threw from 60 feet Tuesday, but he is still two or three weeks from returning.

Durability grade: 4

Job security grade: 3

Florida Marlins

Closer: Kevin Gregg

Next in line: Armando Benitez

Others: Henry Owens

Analysis: The Kevin Gregg countdown has begun. He allowed a homer to Atlanta Braves shortstop Edgar Renteria June 4, but he still recorded his eighth straight save. With Armando Benitez lurking, it's just a matter of time before he steals that job. Gregg has played very well thus far though. He has a 2.14 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 36 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. Benitez has pitched three scoreless innings for the Fish thus far. If you own Gregg, treat this situation like the one in Texas. Find a way to acquire Benitez to handcuff him to Gregg. As for Henry Owens, he appears to be unlucky enough to have lost the job due to injury after performing well in the role.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 5

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Jeremy Accardo

Next in line: Jason Frasor

Other possibilities: Scott Downs

Analysis: After blowing his first save and allowing his first runs of the season May 26, Jeremy Accardo has recorded a win and two saves in his next three appearances. His numbers are still astounding with a 1.07 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. Jason Frasor has pitched extremely well. In his last two outings, he struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings. His ERA has trimmed down to 4.07 after being over six when Accardo took over. The job is Accardo's, but we still think you should trade him in case he implodes for good.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 7

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Octavio Dotel

Next in line: David Riske

Other possibilities: Jimmy Gobble

Analysis: After a rocky 2007 debut, Octavio Dotel has settled down slightly. He allowed two runs on three hits in his first inning of work and hasn't allowed another in 3 1/3 innings with two strikeouts. He has allowed two hits and two walks, though. After being removed from the closer's role, David Riske has settled in. He has a 2.81 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings. However, Joakim Soria (shoulder) is likely returning later this week. Soria pitched well in Dotel's absence, and he would be next in line if Dotel goes down again.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 7

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Houston Astros

Closer: Dan Wheeler

Next in line: Brad Lidge

Other possibilities: Chad Qualls

Analysis: Guess who has the lowest ERA on the Astros? If you guessed Brad Lidge, you're correct. He has a 2.60 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. One scout said Lidge's stuff was as nasty as it has ever been. He has not allowed a run and only one hit since May 17 with 11 strikeouts in eight innings. Dan Wheeler recorded a save Tuesday night, which was his first save chance in almost three weeks. In Wheeler's two outings prior, he allowed six runs on six hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings. He did strike out four batters, though. Wheeler appeared vulnerable but after the uneventful save, he is probably safe again. Manager Phil Garner was heavily criticized in the media for replacing Lidge so quickly. Returning Lidge to the closer role would admit Garner's mistake, and Garner is on the hot seat. When or if Lidge returns to his deserved closer role is anyone's guess.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 5 (last week: 6)

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Brad Hennessey

Next in line: Kevin Correia

Others: N/A

Analysis: Yes Armando Benitez balked twice and blew a save, but was that really worth destroying a bullpen? Brad Hennessey takes over as the closer and doesn't really have the repertoire to be a sure thing as a closer. Aside from that, the bullpen was talent-thin to begin with. So it was a risky decision. In Hennessey's defense, he has pitched well this year. He has a 2.82 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and two saves on the year. He has only struck out 5.64 batters per nine innings, though. So he's in the same boat as Embree and Alfonseca as being a saves-only contributor. As for preseason favorite Brian Wilson, he underwent an emergency appendectomy a few days ago. He will miss a few weeks.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 4

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Matt Capps

Next in line: Salomon Torres

Other possibilities: Damaso Marte

Analysis: Welcome to the Matt Capps era in Pittsburgh. What was rumored to occur for a month occurred when manager Jim Tracy said Salomon Torres' rubber arm was more valuable as a setup man rather than a closer. Torres blew the save May 31, and Capps was inserted into the role. Capps went through a rough stretch in mid-May, but for the most part, he has been solid with a 2.87 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings. His strikeouts are streaky though. He had just eight in 14 1/3 innings in April before striking out 16 in 15 May innings. Torres was good at times and bad at other times. He has little chance at regaining the closer job. However, do not drop him yet. Capps has a pending four-game suspension, and his appeal hearing will be Friday. Therefore, Torres will serve as the closer while Capps is out because his suspension is unlikely to be dropped to fewer than three games. Once Capps' situation is resolved, Torres is dead weight.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 6

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Ryan Dempster

Next in line: Bobby Howry

Others: Carlos Marmol

Analysis: It has been nearly two weeks since manager Lou Piniella said he was grooming Angel Guzman for the closer job. Guzman has struggled of late and has been placed on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. Ryan Dempster has gone about his business though. He has reduced his ERA more than one run in the last three weeks, and he hasn't allowed a run since his five-run explosion May 17. He has a 3.51 ERA, a very good 1.01 WHIP and 26 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings. Call it a gut feeling, but we aren't sure the Cubs will replace Dempster. The 34-year-old Bobby Howry, who has a 4.85 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 26 innings, could be see some save opportunities if something happens to Dempster. Keep your eyes peeled.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7

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About Ryan Dodson

Dodson is a KFFL Contributor and has been with KFFL since 2002.

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