Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on May 16, 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

Atlanta Braves

Closer: Bob Wickman

Next in line: Rafael Soriano

Other possibilities: Mike Gonzalez

Analysis: Wickman comes off the disabled list after missing time with a back strain and will close games immediately. The tandem of Soriano and Gonzalez was extremely solid in Wickman's absence. They nailed down six saves and were nearly unhittable. Gonzalez was only able to notch two saves because he was the only left-handed pitcher in the bullpen for the majority of that time. Soriano recorded four saves in the process. If Wickman struggles, there's a chance Soriano can take his job. However, the Braves are a team gunning for the playoffs, and they'll probably give Wickman every chance to continue as closer. He doesn't have nearly the stuff that Soriano or Gonzalez has, but he's a proven stopper.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 7

Oakland Athletics

Closer: Justin Duchscherer (Huston Street is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Kiko Calero

Other possibilities: Jay Witasick

Analysis: Street was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with an irritated ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow. Duchscherer (hip) would be the next pitcher in line; however, he is dealing with an arthritic hip. Look for Duchscherer to take the lead as the closer with help from Calero. Neither pitcher is having a good season. Calero is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. Duchscherer is 3-3 with a 4.96 ERA, a 1.59 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. For now, grab Duchscherer and, if possible, Calero and take your chances.

Durability grade: 5

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: Myers continues his dominance with a 1.08 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 16 2/3 relief innings. He has nailed down four saves in five chances and has struck out 24 batters since the move to the bullpen. He blew his first save Tuesday but got the win. Over the weekend, the injured closer, Gordon (shoulder), spent a night in the hospital due to an upper respiratory infection, and he's probably a week or two away from returning. There's a chance the team sticks with Myers upon Gordon's return. Myers has shown flashes of dominance and could thrive in the role.

Durability grade: 9

Job security grade: 9

Florida Marlins

Closer: Taylor Tankersley (Henry Owens is on the disabled list)

Next in line: Matt Lindstrom

Others: Byung-Hyun Kim

Analysis: Owens picked the wrong time to go on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He saved three games and picked up two wins in his last seven appearances before going down. He is 2-0 with four saves, a 1.96 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Look for him to regain his job unless Tankersley blows people away, which is possible. Tankersley is struggling early on with a 6.55 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 11 innings. He's the frontrunner for saves in Owens' absence. The Fish traded Jorge Julio to Colorado for Kim. Kim is a dark horse for the gig in Florida. He has failed repeatedly as a starter and has only had success as a closer - that is, before his meltdown in the World Series against the Yankees. Keep your eye on him.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 3

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer: Jeremy Accardo

Next in line: Jason Frasor

Other possibilities: Scott Downs

Analysis: Now that closer B.J. Ryan (elbow) is out for the season and Frasor has failed as the closer, Accardo steps up as the stopper. Frasor has a 5.87 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP after starting the season in sharp fashion as a setup man. Accardo, who has yet to allow a run this year, has three saves and a 0.78 WHIP. The 25-year-old is benefiting due to his shift to the American League after pitching for San Francisco the last few years. He has a rough track record with a career ERA of 4.17, and his 9.50 strikeouts per nine innings is miles ahead of his 6.89 career average. Enjoy the Accardo ride while it lasts. We eventually see Frasor getting another shot before the season is over.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 6

New York Yankees

Closer: Mariano Rivera

Next in line: Kyle Farnsworth

Other possibilities: Scott Proctor

Analysis: Rivera hasn't gotten a lot of action of late, with two innings pitched since May 9. His ERA sits at 7.11 with a 1.50 WHIP. After giving up a go-ahead homer to Seattle Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre May 7, he has allowed one hit and one walk in two innings. Monitor his progress, as he should start stepping it up soon.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 9

Houston Astros

Closer: Dan Wheeler

Next in line: Brad Lidge

Other possibilities: Chad Qualls

Analysis: Wheeler continues to walk a thin line but isn't blowing save chances. He has allowed at least one run in three of his last four outings. His ERA has risen to 4.00, but his WHIP is still solid at 1.06. Meanwhile, Lidge is starting to heat up. He hasn't allowed an earned run in six straight appearances and has struck out six batters in his last 3 1/3 innings. Lidge's ERA is down to 3.57 while his WHIP sits at 1.70. He has 24 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings and has allowed just two walks in his last 10 appearances.

"I'm feeling right now as good as I've ever felt with my stuff," Lidge told the Houston Chronicle. "I think I owe most of that to the offseason, working on the mechanics."

Lidge is only owned in about 40 percent of leagues polled. Pick him up and stash him on your bench.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 5

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Salomon Torres

Next in line: Matt Capps

Others: Damaso Marte

Analysis: Torres has righted his ship over the last couple of weeks. He has saved five games in a row and has not allowed a run since April 27. His ERA is down to 5.06 with a 1.44 WHIP. He has also struck out four batters in his last three innings. Capps still has a four-game suspension pending because he threw at a batter a couple of weeks ago after a warning was issued. It looks like Torres is safe through the rest of May.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 7 (last week: 6)

Washington Nationals

Closer: Jon Rauch

Next in line: Jesus Colome

Others: Chad Cordero

Analysis: Cordero was activated from the bereavement list Monday, but Colome got the save that night. The team wants to use Cordero in middle relief to ease him back into the closer role. He has four blown saves in eight chances this year with a 4.41 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP. He pitched a scoreless inning with a walk and a strikeout in his first game back Tuesday. The Nationals need to get Cordero straightened out because it's possible they want to trade him. Their starting rotation was super thin entering the season, and injuries have depleted it even more. They have very few pitching prospects and can trade Cordero before the deadline to improve the organization. Rauch has pitched well in Cordero's absence, garnering a win and a save in his two appearances since being anointed interim closer. Rauch is owned in very few leagues, so pick him up for a couple of weeks and bench Cordero for now.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 4

HOT SEAT STATUS: COMMITTEE SITUATIONS

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: David Weathers

Next in line: Mike Stanton

Others: Todd Coffey

Analysis: After a rough stretch, the infrequently used Weathers has lowered his ERA to 1.89 with a 0.79 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 19 innings. Before his three-inning outing Tuesday, which resulted in a win in extra innings, Weathers wasn't getting a lot of work. He has seven saves in eight chances on the year, but he has only had four opportunities the last month. Regardless, there's no one close to taking his job for now.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 8

Kansas City Royals

Closer: Joakim Soria (Octavio Dotel is on the disabled list)

Next in line: David Riske

Other possibilities: Jimmy Gobble

Analysis: Soria has been up and down over the past couple of weeks. He is 2-for-4 in save chances in the last 10 days, and his ERA has increased to 3.93 with a 1.42 WHIP. He has 20 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings as well. He got rocked in his loss Tuesday to further complicate things. Dotel has been sent to Double-A on a rehab assignment and could be back within a week. However, it's uncertain whether Dotel will close games upon returning. The team could ease him back into the role. You could get save chances from Soria for another three weeks, but there is uncertainty with him.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 5 (last week: 7)

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About Ryan Dodson

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

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