Closer Hot Seat

by Ryan Dodson on March 28, 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. For the first week, we have included the closers' stats from last season and their projections for this season. So sit back, relax and put your feet up as we fire up this week's Closer Hot Seat.

HOT SEAT STATUS: INJURY QUESTIONS

Texas Rangers

Closer: Eric Gagne

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
2
0
1
0.00
0.50
3
2007
62
4
34
3.34
1.17
76

Next in line: Akinori Otsuka

Other possibilities: Joaquin Benoit

Analysis: Gagne got demolished Tuesday to a tune of four runs on five hits in just one inning. It was only his third appearance of the spring, but it bloomed his ERA to 15.00. We still feel Gagne has a good grip on the job. However, it would be smart to own setup man Otsuka as well. In order to do so, you'll have to draft him a little higher than one would like - say the 16th round or so - where you ordinarily could grab a chip with upside for your roster. So far, Gagne looks healthy. His mechanics are out of whack from being out for basically two years due to elbow and back injuries. Stay tuned and see if he can work out his flaws.

Durability grade: 2

Job security grade: 6

St. Louis Cardinals

Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
58.1
4
33
3.55
1.46
52
2007
59
2
38
2.95
1.33
52

Next in line: Tyler Johnson

Other possibilities: None

Analysis: Isringhausen is attempting to return from surgery on his degenerative hip, and he's ahead of schedule. He's slated to be ready for opening day and has looked pretty good so far this spring. In five innings, he has a 1.80 ERA and three strikeouts. Isringhausen is the team's only legitimate option at closer. They simply have no one else ready and capable. The team is loyal to Isringhausen and will ride him until the wheels fall off.

Durability grade: 5

Job security grade: 8

San Francisco Giants

Closer: Armando Benitez

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
38.1
4
17
3.52
1.57
31
2007
51
2
24
3.85
1.38
45

Next in line: Brian Wilson

Other possibilities: Kevin Correia

Analysis: Can Benitez really resurrect his career once again? Once believed to be close to retiring due to arthritic knees, Benitez has compiled a 1.23 ERA and nine strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings this spring. Sure, it's only spring training, and there's a long season ahead, but this is fabulous. Wilson was having a good spring as well, but a couple of bad outings raised his ERA to 8.44. Benitez is a nice closing option that can be acquired cheaply, or perhaps even on the waiver wire.

Durability grade: 1

Job security grade: 3

Seattle Mariners

Closer: J.J. Putz

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
78.1
4
36
2.30
0.92
104
2007
81
4
34
2.75
1.18
99

Next in line: Chris Reitsma

Other possibilities: George Sherrill

Analysis: Putz has been limited to one inning this spring due to elbow soreness. He has declared that he'll be ready for the season. It's going to be close if he does. Reitsma and Sherrill have not been good this spring, and the Mariners are starting to worry. A dark horse option should Putz miss an extended period is Brandon Morrow. The fifth overall pick in 2006 has impressed the team with 8 1/3 solid innings in which he allowed just four hits, one run and struck out eight. Putz should be fine though, even if he comes out of the gates slowly.

Durability grade: 6

Job security grade: 9

HOT SEAT STATUS: LACKLUSTER PRODUCTION

Chicago Cubs

Closer: Ryan Dempster

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75
1
24
4.80
1.51
67
2007
66
3
27
4.73
1.48
59

Next in line: Bobby Howry

Other possibilities: Kerry Wood

Analysis: Dempster was another player the baseball world was down on entering spring training. In fact, he wasn't even being drafted in a lot of leagues. However, he opened with a good spring, with seven strikeouts in as many innings and a 1.29 ERA. Then, just like Dempster owners are used to, he blew a save Tuesday in a poor outing. He allowed three hits, two runs and struck out two in one inning to increase his ERA to 3.38. With Wood (triceps) beginning the season on the disabled list and Howry having a poor spring, Dempster looks like the best option for the Cubs. He should be a cheap option for saves if you didn't overvalue saves in your draft and thought you were left out.

Durability grade: 7

Job security grade: 5

Houston Astros

Closer: Brad Lidge

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
75
1
32
5.28
1.40
104
2007
69
3
36
3.17
1.30
88

Next in line: Dan Wheeler

Other possibilities: Chad Qualls

Analysis: Lidge is having a horrible spring, and one has to begin to wonder if his time is running out in manager Phil Garner's loyalty halo. Lidge has been tattooed for 13 hits and a 12.38 ERA in eight spring innings. In contrast, Wheeler has a 2.84 ERA and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. It's too early to call Lidge a modern-day Mitch Williams, but he is 30 years old and has a lot of innings on his right arm. If I were a Lidge owner, and I am, I'd be a little worried right now.

Durability grade: 10

Job security grade: 5

Detroit Tigers

Closer: Todd Jones

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
64
2
37
3.94
1.27
28
2007
58
3
30
4.36
1.36
25

Next in line: Joel Zumaya

Other possibilities: Fernando Rodney

Analysis: Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but Jones is another closer people were down on that's having a good spring! He has thrown 10 1/3 innings and has a 1.74 ERA with seven strikeouts. Yes, he's actually striking batters out right now. Zumaya threw nine shutout innings while allowing five hits, two walks and striking out 10. This was before Tuesday, when he allowed two solo homers to the Atlanta Braves. A lot of fantasy owners snatched up Zumaya in hopes that he will take over as closer sometime this season. Manager Jim Leyland is probably unlikely to do that unless Jones gets hurt. However, at some point Leyland must understand that Zumaya has a better chance at recording the final three outs.

Durability grade: 8

Job security grade: 4

Arizona Diamondbacks

Closer: Jose Valverde

Year
IP
W
SV
ERA
WHIP
K
2006
49.1
2
18
5.84
1.46
69
2007
61
3
25
3.88
1.20
77

Next in line: Brandon Lyon

Other possibilities: Tony Pena

Analysis: Valverde got a big confidence boost when the team traded his biggest foe for the closer role to the Florida Marlins. Jorge Julio will close for the Fish now, while Valverde has the security of being Arizona's guy. Valverde has an absolutely electric arm, but he can't stay healthy and is inconsistent. Valverde has had an OK spring, with a 2.70 ERA and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He also allowed seven hits and four walks during that time, which isn't good. If he falters, Lyon, who closed for the team in a brief stint a couple of years ago, is an option. It's now or never for Valverde.

Durability grade: 3

Job security grade: 6

HOT SEAT STATUS: COMMITTEE SITUATIONS

Cincinnati Reds

Frontrunner: David Weathers

Next in line: Mike Stanton

Others: Dustin Hermanson

Analysis: What a mess here in Cincinnati. The story of camp has been non-roster invitee Hermanson, who has tossed six innings and allowed just two runs. The team wants him to win the closing job. However, it's Weathers' to lose right now. Weathers has lowered his ERA three years in a row and has really been an effective pitcher. Is he effective enough to be a closer? The answer is no over the long haul. Don't be surprised if you see Victor Santos' name in the mix at some point. He has thrown 11 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just five hits. At this point, anything is possible.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Frontrunner: Chad Orvella

Next in line: Al Reyes

Others: Dan Miceli

Analysis: The Rays had long hoped to give Orvella the closing job, but the last two seasons ended in disappointment. However, he is off to a great spring. He has allowed just one run in 9 1/3 innings for a 0.96 ERA and has struck out seven. The feel-good story that's picking up wind, though, is non-roster invitee Reyes. Reyes blew out his elbow in September 2005 during a great season with the St. Louis Cardinals. The doctor that performed the Tommy John surgery said Reyes' elbow was among the worst cases he had ever seen. Reyes is hoping to make it all the way back and has had a great spring. He has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings. There is still some uncertainty, but we feel Orvella will win the job.

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About Ryan Dodson

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


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