NL Closer Report: July 23

The Hot

Brian Wilson, San Francisco
The veteran closer was hot for the Giants this past week as he recorded four saves in as many tries. Appeared in an eye-popping five games in seven days, Wilson also took a loss on July 18 against the Mets. Over his 4.1 innings, the right-handed reliever struck out eight batters but gave up five hits. Along with a solid ERA of 1.93, Wilson has an attractive strikeout rate of 12.43 K/9.

Leo Nunez, Florida
Nunez had perhaps his most successful week of the year by recording three saves and a win without allowing a run in four appearances. He also struck out nine batters in 4.0 innings. The former Royals reliever has never posted a 10.00+ strikeout rate (career high is 7.86 K/9), but he’s currently sitting at 10.18 K/9. He’s also had an improved ground-ball rate (50.5%) over his previous fly-ball tendencies.

John Axford, Milwaukee
Axford gave up just one hit and one walk over 4.0 innings this past week, which helped him secure three saves. He also struck out six batters and did not allow a runner to reach home plate. The right-handed rookie has now saved 13 games in 26 appearances and has a strikeout rate of 11.40 K/9. His days of control issues appear to be mostly behind him and he currently has positive pitch type values on all three of his pitches: mid-90s fastball, slider and change-up.

The Not

Carlos Marmol, Chicago
The strikeouts keep piling up for Marmol (seven more this past week) but that does not mean that he had success. The monster right-hander blew a save and took the loss this past week. In four appearances, he gave up just one hit but walked five batters. Marmol has an awesome strikeout rate on the year of 16.88 K/9 but his walk rate sits at 6.55 BB/9 and his ground-ball rate is just 34.7%.

Billy Wagner, Atlanta
After a couple of scorching weeks, Wagner was due to cool down. The veteran closer gave up two runs, including a homer, over the past seven days. In 2.2 innings (over three games), Wagner gave up three hits but did not walk a batter and he struck out two. All his trouble came in one game against San Diego on July 21 so there is really no reason for concern; prior to the blow-up, Wagner had gone eight games without allowing a run.

Keep an Eye On…

Hong-Chih Kuo, Los Angeles
It’s hard to earn saves when you pitch with a guy like Jonathan Broxton, but Kuo has a lot of potential should the closer get injured (or a trade occurs). The right-hander pitched four innings this past week and did not allow a hit – although he did walk three batters. Kuo currently has a 0.86 ERA (3.07 xFIP) and a strikeout rate of 11.20 K/9 in 29 games. If he can avoid the disabled list going forward (a BIG if), Kuo has closer stuff.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Kuo is a left-hander.

W.T. Monds
W.T. Monds

Due to the dodgy injury history, I believe Kuo is not allowed to pitch on back-to-back days, either, so temper those twinkling stat dreams a little. Sweat-face Johnny is due to break down soon, though…