Capital “C” Closer Woes

Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures

On paper, the Blue Jays appeared to have one of the best bullpens in the American Leauge going into the 2012 season. Despite Alex Anthopoulos’ attempts to solidify the back end of the bullpen, sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

So much for the term “proven closer”; Francisco Cordero ranks second in saves among active Major League closers with 329, and yet he’s blown his last three save opportunities. And he can’t seem to pitch a clean inning; a very crucial quality in any shutdown closer.

Had this one save been an isolated incident, I probably
would’ve given Francisco Cordero the benefit of the doubt. A one run
cushion isn’t all that much to work with, but the sequence of events
that happened in the bottom of the ninth was more than just your
ordinary blown save.


Cap it all off with a grand slam off the bat of Brandon Inge, who was
let go by the Detroit Tigers less than two weeks ago, and that just
added insult to injury.

I recall at the beginning of the season that some folks were calling for Sergio Santos’ head already and wanted the “proven closer” in Francisco Cordero to usurp him … and this was after just the Home Opener. Due to the injury to Santos, they may have inadvertently gotten their wish.

Francisco Cordero’s loss in velocity has been well documented, but he still managed to be fairly successful over in the National League Central the past six seasons. Perhaps his skill set just does not translate very well to the American League.

I know that John Farrell is merely trying to do some patchwork on the bullpen until Sergio Santos comes off the disabled list, but in the meantime he can’t keep parading Francisco Cordero out there in save situations.

The way the Blue Jays bullpen was constructed, I just
assumed that every reliever would just move up a rung while Sergio Santos
went on the DL. It turns out that it was much more of a domino effect
than anyone could have foreseen, which really has shook up the hierarchy of the Blue Jays bullpen.

Whether it’s Luis Perez, Casey Janssen, or maybe even Jason Frasor, John Farrell needs to shake things up and give the ball to somebody else in the ninth inning. If given enough rope, Cordero would probably straighten things out, but the Blue Jays can’t afford to wait and see how long that takes.

As Jeff Blair suggested on the Fan 590 this morning, I think the closer by committee is the way to go in the interim. If the matchups favour lefties, then go with Darren Oliver. If it favours right-handers, perhaps lean on Jason Frasor to get the final three outs.

The closer position is an extremely volatile title. Just look around the league and see how many closers (including so-called “proven closers”) have lost their job just over a month into the season. It’s a job that comes with a lot of lustre, but is also a lightning rod for criticism.

This applies to the entire league, but I think the best strategy for the Blue Jays right now is to just use the best pitcher in which the situation dictates. The game doesn’t need to culminate with getting the ball to the closer; it should culminate with allowing the best pitcher for that situation to get the final three outs.


Hell, if it worked for the Tampa Bay Rays for so many years, I don’t see why it can’t work for the Blue Jays.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

8 thoughts on “Capital “C” Closer Woes

  • May 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Wow! I just wrote almost the EXACT same post at 500 Level Fan. Crazy.

    I guess great minds think alike.

    I say go with the hot hand. The save stat is useless anyways – don't tailor the bullpen around it.

  • May 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I hope nothing would drive Farrell to turn to Frasor in the 9th.. he's proven time and time again that he doesn't have the balls for the 9th inning. It's not like 8th time's a charm…

    • May 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Well, if Farrell ever needs to grind the game to a halt, then he knows who to go to!

  • May 9, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    TAO also posted somehting very similar on his blog.

    • May 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Lots of similar thoughts across the blogosphere today on the whole closer situation. Sergio Santos will really be a sight for sore eyes in a few weeks!

  • May 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Janssen! 1 for 1 as closer… where does the parade start?

    I had called for Frasor or Perez to close, but Janssen makes sense. For the last couple of years, he's been solid.

    I am foolishly hoping that Farrell, having demoted his "proven closer" to the bench in favour of the non-proven Janssen, will let Janssen keep the job if he's pitching well when Santos returns. Even if that flies in the face of the "nobody should lose their job due to injury" principle.

    • May 10, 2012 at 1:52 am

      Let the party begin! I wouldn't be shocked to see Janssen stick around as closer for a bit … I'm not so sure Santos is as close to coming back as they will have us believe, but that's just my own personal paranoia.

    • May 10, 2012 at 1:59 am

      I'm with you re: Santos. I don't believe that shoulder pain from throwing can be cured by not throwing for a couple of weeks. When he comes back and starts throwing sliders again, it'll be back.

      You call it paranoia, I call it cynicism.

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