AL Closer Report: June 4

Strong Performers

Joakim Soria | Kansas City Royals
The Comments: Tied for the third most saves in the AL, Soria continues to post a very good strikeout rate (12.19 K/9) and to struggle with the long-ball (21.1% HR/FB). He recorded five outs this past week and three came via the strikeout.

Andrew Bailey | Oakland Athletics
The Comments: He’s still fighting his command a bit – especially with the curveball – but Bailey is coming on strong now. The sophomore closer saved three games this past week in as many tries.

Rafael Soriano | Tampa Bay Rays
The Comments: You must call him Mr. Soriano now. The Rays made a great move in acquiring the veteran reliever this past off-season as he’s really secured the back-end of the bullpen. Now the league leader in saves, Mr. Soriano saved two games this past week despite struggling with his control.

Neftali Feliz | Texas Rangers
The Comments: Feliz hasn’t allowed an earned run in eight games. The young pitcher appeared in just one game this past week and earned the save. The time off was probably a good thing as he’s appeared in more games than any other closer in the AL. Interestingly, Feliz is an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a ground-ball rate below 23%.

Mariano Rivera | New York Yankees
The Comments: Rivera saved two games this past week and has allowed just one hit in his past five appearances. The veteran also hasn’t allowed a run during that time frame.

Steady Performers

Jonathan Papelbon | Boston Red Sox
The Comments: Despite modest overall numbers, Papelbon continues to get the job done with 13 saves in 14 tries. He nailed both his attempts this past week but he was touched up against Oakland for a one run on a solo homer.

Jon Rauch | Minnesota Twins
The Comments: Rauch has a healthy number of saves but his ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate are nothing special. He saved three games this past week: two against Texas and one against Seattle.

Jose Valverde | Detroit Tigers
The Comments: Valverde continues to post a shiny ERA below 1.00 but, while he has been good, he’s also been lucky. The right-hander has enjoyed a BABIP-allowed of .157, as well as a LOB% of 96.6. He’s had just one save opportunity since May 12.

Bobby Jenks | Chicago White Sox
The Comments: Jenks recorded the save in his only opportunity last week. The right-hander has an ugly ERA that has been impacted by some bad luck. He’s given up runs in just one game over the past seven and he tends to give them up in bunches. Jenks was torched for three runs on May 26 and four runs on May 9.

David Aardsma | Seattle Mariners
The Comments: Aardsma went 1-for-2 in save opportunities over the past week and gave up three runs against the Angels on May 30. He hasn’t been overly sharp lately and has struck out just one batter since May 26.

Brian Fuentes | Los Angeles Angels
The Comments: Fuentes recorded a win and a save for his owners but he got beat up a bit by Kansas City and gave up two runs on June 3. He has not gotten a batter to hit a ball on the ground (for a hit or an out) in five games.

Kerry Wood | Cleveland Indians
The Comments: Wood saved two games over the past seven days but he also gave up a run and a walk in each game. After being hurt for a good portion of the season, Wood might be rounding into shape, but that’s not saying a whole lot.

Fallen on Hard Times

Closer by Committee | Baltimore Orioles
The Comments: Well, when you’ve lost eight games in a row there is not a big need for a closer. That’s a good thing, since the club has been snake-bitten with its back-end of the bullpen. All three relievers who have seen time there (Mike Gonzalez, Alfredo Simon, Jim Johnson) are hurt. It’s closer by committee right now.

Kevin Gregg | Toronto Blue Jays
The Comments: It was an ugly, ugly week for Gregg who has quickly gone from one of the best stories of the year to a pumpkin. Used four times this past week, the veteran reliever saved two games – while making it interesting – and blew another one. Actually, he didn’t just blow it… he exploded it with five sticks of dynamite (also known as walks). With four runs allowed in that game, his ERA has taken a huge hit. He’s walked 11 batters in his last seven games.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

3 Responses to “AL Closer Report: June 4”

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  1. geo says:

    Every week you say that Soria is “struggling with the long ball,” how long does that keep applying? Granted, the HR/FB rate overall is high, but you leave the impression that he comes out and gives up a HR almost every time out. He’s given up four all year (two in one game), the last on 5/11and has not given up a HR in eight homer-free games since.

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  2. jack says:


    at this point, would it be better to have frasor, lyon, or chris perez?

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  3. greenfrog says:

    I think Gregg is likely still a useful reliever and sometime closer. Basically, Cito started overusing him, possibly to test his mettle as a rubber-armed F-Rod-type closer, and then refused to pull him despite clear evidence that he simply didn’t have anything left in the tank. In any case, the strategy obviously backfired, and Gregg had two world-class meltdowns.

    The best approach IMO would be to use Gregg as the primary closer but not on consecutive nights. He should also limit his overall innings to keep him fresh – he seems to look a lot stronger when he’s had some rest.

    On other nights, Cito could go with Frasor, Downs or Camp as the closer, depending on how the matchups shape up.

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