Giving A Closer The Big Bucks
The Los Angeles Dodgers have six blown saves in the last month as the club struggles to find anyone in the bullpen to get the final three outs of a game. The search was necessitated by the fact Kenley Jansen was on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat.
So, that begs the question: Was the re-signing of an All-Star closer who’s now on the DL a bone-head move or are the Dodgers just unlucky? And, should L.A. trade for a new closer?
I’ve never been a fan of giving a closer tons of money to change teams. I don’t even have to list the all the times that’s failed. You can do it for me. Just think of the previous high-cost transactions for your club that resulted only in an inflated payroll and extra days on the disabled list. And even if they perform adequately, is the cost worth it compared to bringing up whatever arm you have in your farm system to do the same thing?
That said, I was OK with the Dodgers signing Jansen to the money they gave him. I wasn’t crazy about it, given his loss of velocity over the season-and-a-half, but he’s a homegrown guy and he’s one of the best. I mean, if it’s not broke don’t fix it, right? It’s not like when Francisco Rodriguez was with Angels, took the money and ran, and fell flat on his face.
Keeping a guy around also makes the manager’s job easier. The value of familiarity can’t be understated. There’s something to be said for having the right guy, and for having a manager who knows when to bring him in. Of course the situations are not always optimal, but a good manager will be able to manage his bullpen in such a way to maximize success. Another manager might be equally good but maybe doesn’t have the time vested with that reliever to know when he should be brought in to face a lefty or when he should be pulled.
When Jansen’s out, skipper Dave Roberts has to find somebody to take the ball and get the last three outs.
So far, that ain’t happening.
Scott Alexander was not good at the beginning of the year. I’m guessing the pressure of playing for a team that was coming off the World Series appearance was too much for him. But after several shaky outings at the beginning of the year, he righted the ship and he’s been pretty good. But now he’s in another high-pressure situation and he’s folding once again like origami.
The only other guy with a save is also a lefty, Caleb Ferguson. He’s 22 and seemed unafraid when he got called up. He’s also one of the guys who coughed up a win during that five game stretch.
Fun fact: Boston’s Craig Kimbrel has blown just 33 saves while closing out 328 ball games in his nearly nine seasons. That’s a better save percentage than Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman.
I also know that I’m not crazy about the Dodgers catching corps. I’ve never been a big fan of the way Yasmani Grandal calls a game. Pitchers are always shaking him off. He’s also taking the Justin Turner approach of arguing every called strike with the home plate umpire when they’re up to bat. It’s annoying. And one of these days, that giant chain around his neck is going to get him in the eye. It’s all fun and games. So, let’s put an end to that. Yasmani, you win. You have the biggest chain in baseball. Congratulations. Now, put it in your locker and bring it out when it’s time to hit Club 240. Oomp, oomp, oomp, I can feel the base. Oh wait, he’s already hitting .240.
But I digress. Speaking of feel, backup catcher Austin Barnes doesn’t have the experience to either fix the problem that his reliever is having or the testicular fortitude to tell the manager that the pitcher has as much chance of hitting his target as the old guy shagging balls down the third base line has of being hired to be the third base coach.
That’s one benefit of having a center fielder’s perspective. You can see where the mitt is, and how badly the pitch is missing it. Shortly after Jensen went on the D.L., the Dodgers were leading the San Francisco Giants, Alexander was nowhere near the spots that he was supposed to be hitting. Roberts left him in and it cost them the game. See game two. Repeat.
So, despite my general misgivings about bringing in relievers from other teams, if L.A. or any other team can’t find someone to take on the stress of closing when their primary guy goes down, the team is going to have to make a trade.
And that’s going to cost money.
If you can’t save the game, you’re going to have a real problem winning the game.
Editor’s note: story updated from its original version.