Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on May 23, 2007 @ 16:00:00 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. So 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

Oakland Athletics

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

Next in line: Kiko Calero

Other possibilities: Jay Witasick

Analysis: The Athletics have struggled to garner save opportunities of late. Street (elbow) is on the disabled list, and now primary setup man Justin Duchscherer (hip) is on the DL. Conventional wisdom would say Calero now becomes the closer, right? Well, manager Bob Geren said the lefty Embree would get the save chances more often than not. Embree recorded a save Monday and has had an OK season. He has a 3.93 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings. Street is eligible to come off the disabled list in about a week, but history says that elbow injuries require more than two weeks to return from. Embree is probably still available in a lot of leagues, so rush out and pick him up.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 3

Philadelphia Phillies

Closer: Brett Myers (Tom Gordon is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Geoff Geary

Other possibilities: Antonio Alfonseca

Analysis: After blowing his first save May 15, Myers has saved two consecutive chances. He has struck out six batters in 3 1/3 innings while allowing three walks and one hit since that date. His control is a little shaky, and those runs are bound to score eventually. However, the Phillies have no legitimate options to replace him. Gordon (shoulder) has begun a conditioning program, but there's no set timetable for his return. Myers still remains a good closer to have at this point.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 9

Florida Marlins

Closer: Kevin Gregg (Henry Owens is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Taylor Tankersley

Others: Matt Lindstrom

Analysis: The Florida Marlins are one of the most unpredictable teams in the league. While they aren't as deceptive as the NFL's New England Patriots, they are treating their closer situation much like the Pats treat injuries. Florida handed the reins to the journeyman Gregg, who has been brilliant in his short stint as the closer. Gregg has yet to allow a run in the six outings since Owens went down, and he has struck out seven batters in six innings. Every time a closer goes down, the obvious choice would be to turn to Tankersley, who performed well in the role last season. At this point, it looks like "Tank" is one of the last options manager Fredi Gonzalez believes in at closer because Tankersley keeps getting overlooked. Injured closer Owens (shoulder) is close to returning, so stay tuned to how this plays out.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 5

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Joakim Soria

Next in line: Octavio Dotel

Other possibilities: David Riske

Analysis: Dotel came off the disabled list Tuesday after spending the first two months recovering from a strained oblique. Manager Buddy Bell said Dotel would immediately serve as the team's closer. Then why did he give Soria the save chance Tuesday night? Soria performed valiantly in place of Dotel, but he has had a rollercoaster season. He has allowed a run in five of his last nine outings, which has inflated his ERA to 3.57. He still has 10 saves on the year, a number that places him in the upper echelon of closers. He is probably worth owning because Dotel hasn't proven he can stay healthy, and Soria may get more chances in the short term. The club reportedly plans to limit Dotel to one inning per outing, and they won't put him in with runners on base. Don't be surprised if it takes him a bit to get settled in.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 3 (last week: 5)

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Jeremy Accardo

Next in line: Jason Frasor

Other possibilities: Scott Downs

Analysis: Accardo hasn't seen much action this week after notching three straight saves in the previous week. He pitched a perfect inning Tuesday to get his fourth save. The entire team is struggling, and they are on the road all week before returning home to face the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. Therefore, the next couple of weeks could be tough. Accardo is still pitching well, with 21 strikeouts against six walks and 10 hits in 20 innings. At this rate, he's someone that needs to be in your lineup. However, don't get too comfortable with him. He has a lackluster track record, and eventually, AL hitters will probably catch up to him.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 6)

Houston Astros

Closer: Dan Wheeler

Next in line: Brad Lidge

Other possibilities: Chad Qualls

Analysis: Things have been pretty quiet at the end of Houston's bullpen of late. Houston has lost five of their last six games, and Wheeler has only received one save opportunity in the last week. After they finish their series against the San Francisco Giants, they head home to face Cincinnati and St. Louis, which could result in a few save chances. Wheeler has lowered his ERA to 3.27 and has continued recording strikeouts, with 24 in 22 innings. Lidge was charged with a loss and a fluke run May 17. Other than that, opponents have been hitless against him since May 12. His ERA is down to 3.18, but his WHIP is still 1.50. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings, which is a little low for the standard he has set. It looks like Wheeler is safe for right now.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 6 (last week: 5)

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Salomon Torres

Next in line: Matt Capps

Others: Damaso Marte

Analysis: Torres has continued to dominate despite not getting a save chance since May 10. He has pitched three straight hitless, one-inning outings while striking out two in each frame. He hasn't blown a save since April 25, converting five in a row. It looks like whatever danger he was in, he has evaded. Keep throwing Torres out there.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8 (last week: 7)

Washington Nationals

Closer: Chad Cordero

Next in line: Jon Rauch

Others: Jesus Colome

Analysis: Rauch performed very well in place of Cordero. However, manager Manny Acta announced Cordero would be the closer again this past the weekend. Rauch faltered afterwards. He allowed four runs on four hits in three innings and inflated his ERA to 4.62. Cordero has looked good since coming back from bereavement leave. He has thrown five straight scoreless outings in which he allowed three hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out five in that time. He nailed down his fifth save of the season May 20, and the Nats are showing some life. However, it appears the team is showcasing Cordero to eventually pull off a trade. The Nationals have very little starting pitching, and they could use Cordero to acquire a wealth of talent at the trading deadline, if not before. If Cordero gets on a roll, you should consider trading him before he gets traded in real life.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 9

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About Ryan Dodson

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

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