May 11, 2008
As we've mentioned before, committees are only formed for two purposes: to create the illusion that you're addressing a problem, and to diffuse blame when things keep going badly.
Even though we're hearing stuff like this out of St. Louis...
The manager said he expected to "mix and match" his pitching options in the ninth going forward, though he did say right-handers Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer would be the "guys who match up the best" if everyone is well-rested and healthy.
...it appears that Franklin will be the primary ninth inning option for the Cardinals, at least until Jason Isringhausen can recover his lost command, mechanics, and his will to close. As long as Franklin continues to be successful, there won't really be any need for a committee.
Thus, in public leagues, the 0.5 percent-owned Franklin should be on someone's roster today. Here's us last night: "If you can only add one of Isringhausen's potential replacements, make it Franklin. But we say that with only limited confidence." Today we're somewhat more confident.
Franklin earned the save in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Brewers, and he faced the top of Milwaukee's order in doing so. He lowered his ERA to 1.89, though he still only has eight Ks in 19.0 innings.
Springer pitched a shaky eighth inning today, allowing two walks and a hit. The 39-year-old escaped a bases-loaded jam when Jason Kendall missed a sign on a squeeze play, and Bill Hall was caught between third and home.
"I cost us the game," Kendall later said.
Well, there were other culprits, too...
• Eric Gagne gave up three singles and an intentional walk in the top of the ninth, allowing two earned runs. Gagne now has two losses, five blown saves, and a 6.89 ERA. His post-game comments were oddly similar to Isringhausen's the day before:
"I don’t deserve that ninth inning right now. It’s pretty simple."
Unlike Isringhausen, Gagne did not explicitly ask to be relieved of his responsibilities, he just said that he doesn't deserve them. Reject/denounce...we concede the point.
Ned Yost refused to fire Gagne in the aftermath of Saturday's loss:
"I don't make decisions after tough games. Gagne's my closer right now," Yost said. "Like with other things, we'll sit and look at some things, but I don't sit and make decisions after a hard ballgame. I'll definitely look at it."
The suspicion here is still that Guillermo Mota (2.25 ERA, 16.0 IP, 19 K, 11 BB) will get the first crack at closing when Gagne is reassigned to a less-significant inning. Mota navigated the eighth today without incident, despite inheriting a no-outs, runner-on situation. If you can add only one Brewers reliever, get him.
Salomon Torres is the other closing possibility. He's 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 19 Ks in 23.0 innings.
Update (5/11): The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Haudricourt is certainly ready for Gagne to go:
Once the best reliever in the game, Gagné has been putting small villages on base this season ... Beyond his 6.89 earned-run average, Gagné has an atrocious 1.84 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) and .400 opponents batting average ... Presumably, Yost will follow La Russa's lead and announce he is switching to another reliever to close games.
The paper also has a web poll asking "Who would you like to see as the Brewers' closer?" Torres leads, with Mota a close second and lefty Mitch Stetter a distant third. Still no word on whether Ned Yost will seat those delegates. Seth McClung is well ahead of Gagne in the voting, just to give you an indication of how ready for change the citizens of Milwaukee are.
Don't be surprised if a bullpen committee is formed, but expect one of its members (Mota or Torres) to emerge as the de facto closer.
• We went to Wrigley Field on Saturday to witness the Max Scherzer Experience in person. It wasn't too bad, though it only lasted 82 pitches: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. At least two of the outs he recorded were scorched line-drives, but it was still a solid effort. The run was the result of a Justin Upton error and some recklessly aggressive base-running by Alfonso Soriano. After Scherzer left, Chad Qualls and Brandon Medders were absolutely battered.
• Julio Lugo is concussed and defensively challenged, so he sat in favor of Jed Lowrie. The 24-year-old Lowrie responded with a 3-for-4 day, and he hit his first Major League home run. He's now hitting .310 after 42 at bats.
• Dustin McGowan entered Saturday's start against Cleveland with a 2.95 ERA. Three and two-thirds innings later, his ERA was 4.47. Left-hander Aaron Laffey got the win for the Tribe, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out two. The 23-year-old Laffey hasn't posted big K totals in the minors (424 Ks and 198 BB in 609.2 IP), but he did have a 2.88 ERA and 1.13 WHIP at Double-A and Triple-A in 2007. He was off to a great start in '08, too: 2.77 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 20 K in 26.0 IP.
• The Rays shutout the Angels again. This time, Scott Kazmir beat Joe Saunders...and it's about time someone beat Saunders. Widely-available Rays leadoff man Akinori Iwamura had three of his team's seven hits.
• Garrett Olson pitched well enough to beat the Royals tonight. If you can sell while Olson still has a sub-3.00 ERA, do it. If you can't sell, there's a decent chance that his next start will be against the Nats, so hang on.
• Speaking of the Nationals, Andrew Miller struck out seven of them and allowed only two hits over seven innings. Miller improved to 3-2, though his ERA is still dreadful (6.52).
• The 36.6 percent-owned Dana Eveland dropped to 3-3, but his line wasn't so bad: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The under-owned Milton Bradley was responsible for all the damage against Eveland. He hit an RBI double in the first, and a two-run homer in the third. Bradley is now batting .313/.424/.530 with five home runs.
• Here's a very small footnote from Greg Maddux's 350th career win (and Trevor Hoffman's 530th career save): Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 11 Padres in just 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs. His fastball hit 100 mph in the third according to MLB.com, and he worked at 95-99 throughout. The 24-year-old's ratios are poor, but you'll want to track him.