Educational Closing

Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

If you had to choose a closer right now, replacing Andrew Bailey, what would you do?

We have seen the lack of focus.

Have we reached Closerpocalypse yet, suggesting it is time to put the 9th inning into the hands of Andrew Miller?

It seems that Koji Uehara might be the guy to lean on, or is he?

Luckily the General Manager has the closer issue on his radar. I just wonder if there is really any need to jettison good prospects to fill the closer roll on some trade move.

As I have mentioned before, I think it is time for a situational closer setup. In this setup the manager can choose the pitcher for the 9th based on how the game is going, who is fresh, and who matches up best against the last three opposing hitters.

The up side of this setup is that Andrew Bailey would get some time to get back into whatever state he needs to be in to stop throwing up in the zone, to start attacking the strike zone, and convince the Red Sox he is the man to close out games.

He can take this time in the rotation to earn back his closer role.

On the other hand everyone is drooling over Andrew Miller in this discussion as he has a crazy strikeout rate and is absolutely crushing right-handed hitters. With 43 strikeouts over 26 innings, that is an average of 14.9 per full game, he is dominating right-handed batters who are hitting just .149 against him. He has walked 14 batters which is a bit much for a closer.

Maybe after a few rounds as a closer he will be the one to punch out the 9th inning hitters moving forward.

Junichi Tazawa with his 32.1 innings has 38 strikeouts, but is giving up a hit each inning. He has only walked 3 over that period, but has throw 2 wild pitches, hit a batter, and balked once. That is not what we want to see from our closer, is it?

Not so much.

Finally we have Koji Uehara, with 41 strikeouts over 29 innings, one hit batter, and 7 walks issued of which 2 were intentional. This looks rather promising, but not jumping out at you as the perennial closer.

Still there is hope.

Roll them all together and you have a fantastic set of relievers to get you from the end of your starter, step by step, to the end of the game. Treat the 9th as just another inning.

If I had to choose now I would pick Uehara - Miller - Bailey - Tazawa as a complete set, rotating as needed based on the managers judgement. Could it be that such an obvious setup puts too much pressure on the manager? Would be a hard job if the pitcher you choose to close out the 9th inning blows the save. What do you tell the press after the game?

I think it would increase the enjoyment of the game to hear each night why a certain pitcher was chosen and why. We could learn something in the process, so the Red Sox become a baseball educational institution. Educational closing, I can see the marketing engines at Fenway warming up right now.

As you watch the game tonight, keep this in the back of your mind as the 9th approaches.

Who would you choose to close?

Post a comment or via twitter @ericschabell with your thoughts.

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