Tag:Ryan Franklin
Posted on: June 29, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 5:48 pm
 

Cardinals unconditionally release Franklin

By Matt Snyder

Former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin was given his unconditional release Wednesday after a nightmarish 2011 campaign for the one-time All-Star, the Cardinals announced. He was removed from the role he had filled the past few years after blowing four of his first five save chances and has never been able to fully bounce back. He has an 8.46 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, four losses and four blown saves in 21 appearances. In light of this, the release is merciful from a certain point of view, as he actually got worse in June.

Franklin was a successful closer for the Cardinals from about halfway through 2008 until this season. He saved 82 games in three seasons prior to this one and in 2009 was lights out. He had a 1.92 ERA and 38 saves during the only season he's ever made an All-Star Game.

It's probable Franklin gets another shot somewhere else, but certainly not a given. He's 38 years old and could just be washed up. Odds are someone rolls the dice to see if a change of scenery can rekindle some of the success he had the past three seasons. 

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 30, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: May 30, 2011 12:10 pm
 

Pepper: Could Teddy Roosevelt finally win?

Presidents

By Evan Brunell


RUN, TEDDY, RUN: "Teddy Roosevelt" has never won one of the Presidents Races the Nats have held since arriving in D.C. Roosevelt is working on a losing streak of over 300 games, but that could change on Memorial Day.

Some major reasons it might change include Jayson Werth's surprising interest in the race. Werth has spoken before about how Roosevelt never gets to win and is disappointed by that fact. He's also been caught on camera disgusted when Roosevelt doesn't win the race. A bit odd, but the Nats have to pay attention to their face of the franchise, who is soaking up over $100 million of Ted Lerner's money. Maybe the Nats should give Roosevelt a victory to placate Werth.

"Roosevelt" tweeted after Sunday's race that he had "a good feeling" about the Memorial Day race, which will come as the Nats hold a fundraiser to benefit the military by allowing those who make a donation to Hike for Heroes to run the bases. It's as good a day as it will get for a changing of the guard, as the actual Teddy Roosevelt has a connection to both the military and Memorial Day. And since no other D.C. sports teams are active on Monday, a Roosevelt victory could land on the front page of the papers. Yes, really. (Washington Post)

VOTE FOR THE FAT MAN
: GQ is pulling out a call to decide who the fattest baseball player of 2011 is. Named after Rich Garces, does Garces still deserve the mantle, or will someone like Jonathan Broxton carve out his own legacy? (GQ.com)

POSADA DONE: As a full-time player, that is. Manager Joe Girardi has chosen to permanently sit Jorge Posada against lefties, allowing him to rotate Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the DH spot, giving them essentially a half-day off. (Lohud.com)

CLOSING TIME: Ryan Franklin isn't giving up on an eventual return to the closer's role in St. Louis. He mopped up on Saturday with 2 2/3 scoreless innings, which represented a major step forward. Next up: Doing more of the same until he proves he can get batters out consistently. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

SANDS OF LEFT: The Dodgers' motley crew of left-fielders hasn't been up to snuff so far this season, but Jerry Sands is hoping to fix a position that has been in flux for L.A. for years with no long-term answer. GM Ned Colletti believes that Sands will be in left for years to come, but his slow start this season suggests he has a ways to go. (Los Angeles Times)

ROUGH RETURN: J.P. Howell, one of the Rays' best relievers over the last several years, is finding the going difficult after missing 2010 and a chunk of 2011 in his recovery from a torn left labrum. In 2 1/3 innings, he's posted an 11.57 ERA -- but that figures to change once Howell gets back into the groove. (St. Petersburg Times)

THE TRAVELS OF BRANYAN: Russell Branyan has been around, as his 11 teams in his career can attest. Check out Branyan's ride through a major-league career in photos. (Orange County Register)

SHELLED: Check out this box score from the Salt Lake Bees, the Angels' Triple-A affiliate. Notice who pitched -- Scott Kazmir, who fell to 0-2 with a 36.00 ERA by giving up 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. Kaz's career has plummeted so far down the rabbit hole it's probably never coming back. (MiLB.com)

COBB TIME: Yet another heralded Rays prospect will hit the majors as Alex Cobb will replace Andy Sonnanstine in the rotation starting Tuesday. It's anyone's guess how long Cobb will stick, but Jeff Niemann isn't anywhere near a return from injury, so Cobb could pick up a few starts. (Tampa Tribune)

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Posted on: May 13, 2011 10:26 am
 

Pepper: Rivalry weekend in MLB



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: Excited about rivals getting together? Danny Knobler joins Adam Aizer to look at some exciting matchups as the weekend approaches. Watch the video above.

FOUR INNINGS FOR WEBB: Brandon Webb made another start in extended spring training Thursday and pitched four innings. The big issue thus far in his rehab progress has been velocity, specifically a lack thereof. Thursday he reportedly averaged around 84 m.p.h. and topped out at 86. That's still pretty bad for someone who wants to be an effective major-league pitcher -- unless he plans on being a great knuckleballer -- but it is an improvement from what we've heard over the course of the past month, when he was sitting high-70s and low-80s. Considering he's still pain-free, maybe some progress is being made. (ESPN Dallas)

SQUEEZED: Based upon data from PitchFX, BaseballAnalytics.org checked out which pitchers have had the fewest percentage of called strikes within what is supposed to be the strike zone. It's pretty interesting, because one of the biggest problems with the strike zone is how many of the umpires seem to have their own interpretation. Topping the list of the people who have been the most squeezed is Nelson Figueroa. As the site pointed out, if we had robot umpires, maybe he'd still be pitching for Houston instead of Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Cardinals BULLPEN SORTED OUT: Since removing Ryan Franklin from the role, the Cardinals had not really named a closer, but it's a pretty foregone conclusion at this point that young Eduardo Sanchez is the closer, as he's saved four games in four chances. Hard-throwing right-hander Jason Motte is their put-out-the-fire guy. "Last year he was very successful doing that, coming in in the middle of an inning and pitching out of it," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "You have to kind of remember what he did there. Because there is a need for a guy like that." (MLB.com)

WHAT ABOUT THE Braves? After Craig Kimbrel went out and blew his third save of the young season Wednesday night, a Braves beat writer (AJC.com) brought up the subject of having Jonny Venters be the closer -- or at least be part of a committee with Kimbrel. He makes a good piont that Kimbrel is the long-term closer and has elite-closer stuff, but that Venters has been so dominant and the Braves are trying to win now. So it's a conundrum. It wasn't a save situation, but Kimbrel's outing Thursday night should stave off any temporary concerns for the time being. He struck out all three batters he faced in a tie game and ended up getting a win.

BUMPED: This is at least mildly humorous. The Mets were forced to stay an extra night in Colorado due to a rainout (I'm sure Carlos Beltran is now fine with the decision), but they had to relocate to a new hotel because they were bumped ... by the Padres, who face the Rockies in a weekend series starting Friday and arrived a day early. It really does seem like the weirdest stuff always happens to the Mets, whether it's due to self-sabotage or uncontrollable outside factors. (ESPN New York)

WALK-OFF WALKS: The boys over at Big League Stew have put together a compilation of everything you've ever wanted to know about walk-off walks. For example, did you know two pitchers issued four walk-off walks in their respective careers? Hall of Famer Goose Gossage did it three times. As for hitters, Jorge Posada is the active leader with three career walk-off walks. I better stop now, lest I reach my allotment of saying "walk-off walk" for the entire season in one paragraph.

GREAT SKIPPERS: ESPN.com's Sweetspot blog ranked the top 10 managers of all-time. The highest active manager (well, the only one) on the list was Tony La Russa, who checked in at sixth. Interestingly, Joe Torre was eighth while Bobby Cox was third, rankings sure to draw the ire of the people who put a good amount more stock on the postseason than the regular season.

WORST HAT EVER: Jim Caple of ESPN.com offers up his pick for the worst cap in major-league history -- the Seattle Pilots' 1969 monstrosity -- and he'll certainly get no argument from me. Man, that thing is awful.

CASHMAN'S CONTRACT: While everyone is concentrating on CC Sabathia's contract situation at the conclusion of this season, when it comes to the Yankees, there is another contract negotiation that will occur. General manager Brian Cashman's deal is going to expire after the season. Though both Sabathia and Cashman figure to stay put, the always-thoughtful River Blues Avenue opines that the Cashman negotiations will be "messier," most notably because ownership went over his head in the Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano signings.

ANOTHER SLOW START: Adam LaRoche has been pretty terrible for the Nationals thus far, but he's trying not to worry about it from an individual perspective. There's a good reason for that, as he's been there, done that. “I wouldn’t say I’m stressing over it, because I’ve been there so many times in my career,” LaRoche said (Washington Times). “But the frustrating part is not what the average is, it’s the fact that you look back and think, ‘Man if I’d have been doing a little more, we may have won two or three extra games.’” Not only does LaRoche have several awful starts under his belt, but he's one of the most drastically streaky hitters in baseball. He'll get hot. And then he'll go stone cold again. It's a cycle with LaRoche.

HUMBLED STAR: Andrew McCutchen was benched Thursday night for not running to first on a dropped third strike the previous night. It was a good move by manager Clint Hurdle to make sure it didn't become a recurring problem, and it doesn't appear it will. "I know that's not the type of person I am," McCutchen said on Thursday. "I let my emotions get the best of me. I took it out on my bat and myself when I shouldn't have been mad. I was just frustrated at the time and not focused on the game, not focused that the ball was in the dirt with two strikes and I needed to run to first." (MLB.com) I feel like it's important to note that McCutchen is generally a hustler and this shouldn't be discussed any further. He's a good guy and a good player who made a mistake. End of story.

NO RETIREMENT: Dodgers relief pitcher Hong Chih-Kuo is one of the better relievers in the game when he's mentally right. It's just that he seems to suffer from the yips on occasion. He's currently on the disabled list with anxiety disorder as the Dodgers have reported he's too scared to take the mound right now. Kuo's agent did say Thursday that there are no plans to retire, though, and he's going to battle his way back. It's one of Kuo's traits, actually, as he's had four surgeries, including Tommy John surgery twice. He always comes back, so this time won't be any different. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: May 2, 2011 12:10 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 12:21 am
 

3 up, 3 down: Marlins muscle up



By Matt Snyder


3 UP

Florida Marlins' offense. Hanley Ramirez started the fun in the first inning with his first home run of the season, snapping an incredibly long drought for himself. The Marlins weren't done with the long ball, though -- far from it. Before the day was over, they'd connecting on five home runs. Greg Dobbs and John Buck went deep. Mike Stanton hit a mammoth blast to center. Even the light-hitting Emilio Bonifacio knocked one out, and it was his first career home run that wasn't of the inside-the-park variety. Meanwhile, the Marlins won 9-5 and continue to claw at the heels of the mighty Phillies in the NL East. They are certainly one of the most fun teams to watch. Too bad so few do in person. Maybe (hopefully) it changes in the new yard next season.

Bud Norris, Astros. Even if they aren't always consistent, the Brewers have some pretty good hitters, led by superstars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Norris stymied the whole team for almost eight innings Sunday, working 7 2/3 innings and only allowing three hits. He did walk three, but also struck out 11 without allowing a single run. He's now thrown 13 2/3 shutout innings in his last two starts and has a 1.05 ERA in his last four starts (25 2/3 innings) after a rough first two outings.

Carl Crawford, Red Sox. There are no words that could possibly describe how abysmal the start in Boston has been for Crawford after signing his gargantuan contract. Sunday, we moved to a new month and Crawford knocked in the game-winning run in walk-off fashion against the Mariners. He got to celebrate with his teammates and hear the home crowd cheer him. I love stats, but one thing stats can't measure is the human element. Now that Crawford has had a weight lifted off his chest, the bet is he gets going. When he does, you'll hear that it was simply a regression to the mean from many, but it has to start somewhere. Breaking through with a big hit like this is something that sets a player's mind at ease.

BONUS UP: The Phillies fans -- along with a decent amount of Mets fans -- in attendance Sunday night in Philly. When news of Bin Laden's death spread through the stadium, fans stopped worrying about team allegiances and chanted "USA! USA! USA!" (There's a good video of it here , but I'm not sure it lasts too long before MLB sees it and pulls it). It's a nice reminder that, while we might bicker amongst ourselves, we're still Americans. Pass along some of that camaraderie this week.

3 DOWN

Ryan Franklin's fortunes, Cardinals. Franklin took the loss and the Cardinals' late-inning bullpen woes continued. If you look only at the surface of what happened, that's what you'd see. But remember, you can learn a lot by actually watching games. Not only did Ryan Theriot drop a pop-up to let Alex Gonzalez on base -- who scared the game-winning run -- but the Brooks Conrad single to win the game for the Braves was a blooper with eyes. Anyone who blames Franklin for this doesn't know a lick about baseball.

Matt Harrison, Rangers. So much for that hot start. Remember, after Tax Day, Harrison was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Then he had a decent outing (6 2/3 innings, three earned runs) and took the loss. Since then he's been dreadful, and that may even be an understatement. In his past two starts, including Sunday's debacle against the slap-hitting A's, Harrison has allowed 14 hits, 11 earned runs and five walks in 4 2/3 innings. He couldn't even make it through two innings Sunday. Worse yet for Harrison is the fact that Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman and Brandon Webb are making progress in recovery from injuries -- not to mention how well Alexi Ogando is throwing the ball. Harrison could very well be pitching himself out of a job. Who woulda thought that a few weeks ago?

Carl Pavano, Twins. He's in such a bad stretch, he can't even properly throw a temper tantrum. After being rocked by the Royals to the tune of 12 hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, Pavano went nuts on something in the corner of the dugout with a bat (watch it on MLB.com by clicking here ). To use one of my favorite lines from Seinfeld, Pavano failed at failing, because he was trying to break the bat: "That's why I kept wailing away, because that [expletive deleted] wouldn't break." (Twins Now via Twitter)

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Posted on: April 24, 2011 12:18 am
 

3 up, 3 down: The new 'Daily Double' in Wrigley

By Matt Snyder

3UP

Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, Cubs. One of my first memories as a baseball fan is the 1984 season -- in which I watched games on WGN and the Cubs had a 1-2 punch atop the order of Bob Dernier and Ryne Sandberg. They, together, were nicknamed the "Daily Double." In the decade ahead, it's entirely possible the 21-year-old Castro and 25-year-old Barney can form one of the most formidable 1-2 punches in baseball. They were on full display Saturday in the Cubs' come-from-behind 10-8 victory. Castro went 4-5 (even though one hit was the product of Jerry Sands losing a fly ball in left) with two runs and three RBI while Barney was 3-5 with two runs and three RBI. On the season, the two are completely locked in. Castro is hitting .393 with a .947 OPS. Barney is hitting .323 with a .772 OPS. Each has driven home 10 runs, which ties them for second on the team behind Alfonso Soriano. And I have to report the hits aren't cheap -- both players hit the ball hard nearly every at-bat. While the pitching staff struggles, the offense is producing well beyond expectations -- and it's mostly due to the duo atop the order.

Brad Penny, Tigers. Look, the White Sox are struggling, specifically on offense. Regardless of that, it can't be denied they have lots of really talented hitters. And Penny took a no-hitter into the sixth. He ended up going seven innings for the Tigers, allowing only that one hit -- a questionable one at that -- two walks and a hit-by-pitch in a 9-0 win.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox. He's kidding, right? Two straight stellar outings? What is this, the World Baseball Classic? I might have to quit snarkily referring to him as "Dice-BB." Matsuzaka was masterful Saturday night, working eight shutout innings, striking out nine and only giving up a single hit. He did walk three, but that's not awful for eight innings. He retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced. Don't look now, but the Red Sox are 9-11 after a 2-10 start. If Dice-K keeps throwing like this, they're going to be in pretty great shape.

3DOWN

Ryan Franklin, Cardinals. The disaster of a season continues for the former star closer. He was booed more loudly than Brandon Phillips by the St. Louis fans and gave up the go-ahead two-RBI single to Miguel Cairo. He wasn't exactly put in a great situation by Tony La Russa with the bases loaded -- seriously, if you remove a guy from closing duties, shouldn't he get some low-pressure outings to build confidence? -- but still coughed up the big blow of the game. Again.

Fausto Carmona, Indians. He was carved up by a Twins offense that has been rather punchless in the early going. Sure, they did have Justin Morneau, but still no Joe Mauer or Delmon Young. And Carmona allowed seven hits and six earned runs in five innings. Worse yet was his four walks and one strikeout illustrate the lack of stuff he had. If the Indians are to prove this start is not fluky, Carmona has to pitch better than he did Saturday. Fortunately for the Tribe, it's only one game.

Jason Vargas and Josh Lueke, Mariners. The A's had been held scoreless for 18 straight innings heading into Saturday night's game with Seattle. Yet by the end of the sixth inning Saturday, they had scored nine times on Vargas and Lueke. Vargas needed 100 pitches to get through five innings, coughing up six hits, three walks and six earned runs. Lueke must have felt bad for Vargas, because he went out and gave up four hits, a walk and three runs in just one frame. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Cliff Pennington and Coco Crisp -- good guys and all, but hardly murderer's row -- did most of the damage for the A's.

BONUS UP and DOWN: Brandon Lyon, Astros. Lyon entered the game in the ninth inning with the task of holding onto a one-run Astros lead. He didn't. A Prince Fielder RBI double tied the game and Lyon had blown a save. He was left in the game, however, into extra innings and even took an at-bat -- one in which he doubled himself. He then closed the door in the 10th and earned the back-door victory. Not a bad night, but blowing saves isn't exactly good. Definitely interesting.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Pepper: Booooooo!

Mets fans
By C. Trent Rosecrans

I think I've booed once in my life and to tell you the truth, I felt like a jerk afterwards.

That was a long time ago and booing has kind of bugged me ever since. Maybe it's because I've always been harder on myself than anyone else. When I was a kid, coaches and my parents never yelled at me or criticized me because they could see I was madder about it than they were. I tried hard and hated to fail more than they hated watching me fail. I've just assumed most people are like that. Failing isn't fun.

And that's why I've just never understood booing in 99 percent of the cases it's done.

Ryan Franklin apparently aggress with me. 

After Franklin, the removed Cardinals closer, gave up a home run to Laynce Nix in the eighth inning of St. Louis' first game against the Nationals on Wednesday and heard boos from the St. Louis fans.

"Sure, I hear it," Franklin told FOXSportsMidwest.com after the first game. "I guess they have short memories too, because I think I've been pretty good here. It doesn't bother me, but it shows some people's true colors. You're either a fan or you're not.

"You don't boo your own team. I don't care who you are or what you say or just because you spent your money to come here to watch us play, that someone happens to make one bad pitch and give up a homer and you are going to start booing him? I've been here for five years, and four years I've been pretty good.

"You should go write stories about the fans booing. They are supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right."

The thing is, from my travels, the Cardinals fans are the best -- especially if you want to judge them in terms of not booing. When even Cardinals fans are booing, this thing is getting big (or as a society and as baseball fans, we're becoming even bigger jerks).

Franklin later apologized, issuing a statement (via MLB.com) -- "It was right after the games and I said things I shouldn't have said. I apologize for that. It was the wrong thing to say, but at the same time, I was frustrated. I am frustrated. 

"I'm just trying to do my best to do everything I can to get back on track. So that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get back out there and help this team."

Franklin also said he's loved his time in St. Louis and "it's my favorite place to play. It's just a frustrating time for me right now, because I feel like I'm letting everyone down."

To me, that's what it comes down to -- this game is hard. That's why we're not all baseball players. That's why we still go and watch, you never know what's going to happen. It's people trying their best and sometimes mistakes happen. To pile on someone who knows they didn't do well just seems like a jerk move to me. What's so wrong in your life that you have to boo someone else to make you feel better about yourself? Is it the money? You don't make enough so it makes you feel better to make someone with more money feel bad? Job frustration? Problem with teh ladies? Physical shortcomings? Sometimes the boos say more about the boo-er than the boo-ee.

BASEBALL TODAY -- Matt Snyder joins Lauren Shehadi to discuss the Dodgers and more.

Mets NEXT? -- There are some folks in New York feeling a little nervous over MLB's takeover of the Dodgers. There's a difference in that the Wilpons have been Bud's buds, while McCourt hasn't always played by Bud's rules. [New York Daily News]

APRIL NOTE -- Just noting that the Reds who started 5-0 and the Rays who started 0-5 are both 9-9 now. Clip and save for next April.

BLAZING -- The great Tator Trot Tracker times Peter Bourjos rounding the bases in 14.02 seconds, which is flat flying. Texas' David Murphy  misplayed Bourjos' single and Bourjos never stopped. Larry Granillo times every home run as part of his Tater Trot Tracker and the fastest inside-the-park home run last season was Angel Pagan's 14.48 inside-the-parker and Bourjos was nearly a half-second faster than that, which is amazing. (Bourjos also stole a home run from Murphy in the game.) [Baseball Prospectus]

ROAD BACK -- Adam Wainwright is in the second month of his rehab from Tommy John surgery and no longer has to sleep with his brace. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

ROAD BACK II, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO -- Mariners closer David Aardsma said his arm and hip felt great after pitching an inning at Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday. [Seattle Times]

ROAD BACK III, WITH A VENGEANCE -- Royals catcher Jason Kendall hopes to return by mid-May from his shoulder injury. "I'm close," Kendall said. [MLB.com]

ROAD BACK IV, A NEW HOPE -- A's starter Dallas Braden will not need surgery on his left shoulder. Braden has inflammation in his shoulder, but no structural damage. He will have to rest and take anti-inflammatory medication, but there is no timetable for his return. [San Francisco Chronicle]

FAMILIAR TERRITORY -- Noted former Expos fan Jonah Keri looks back on the last time MLB took over a franchise. Dodger fans may want to avoid reading it. [FanGraphs.com]

FAMILIAR TERRITORY II, JUDGMENT DAY -- Dodger players asked former Expo Jamey Carroll just what it's like working for Bud. He said it really wasn't much different. [MLB.com]

SHOWALTER ON WIETERS: DEPENDS -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says catcher Matt Wieters is entertaining -- "I'm going to start keeping a notebook of Wieterisms. He's funny. He said a couple of things in the dugout last night, I almost peed my pants. He didn't even know it. He's sharp. He's quick." [Baltimore Sun]

ATTENDANCE WATCH -- Major League Baseball's attendance problem isn't as bad as it looks. Many of the empty seats are at the high-end of the ticket spectrum, meaning the tickets closest to the field (and likely to be seen on TV) are the ones going empty. [CNBC.com]

RAMBO: ATTENDANCE WATCH II -- This season has seen four of the five smallest crowds in the history of this version of Busch Stadium. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

OLDEST MINOR LEAGUER -- Here's a really good read on Andy Tracy, who at 37 is the oldest position player in the minors. [The Good Men Project]

HISTORY OF THE D -- Here's a really cool poster from the Tigers' gift shop at Comerica Park that shows the history of the Tigers' D. [UniWatch Blog]

BALLPARK BEERS -- A nice look at the craft beer options at Great American Ball Park, including my go-to summer beer, Bell's Oberon. Unfortunately, Oberon's no longer on tap at GABP because of our InBev overlords. [Red Reporter]

RICKEY WINS -- The new Pepsi Max commercial featuring CC Sabathia is pretty cool. I like anything with jokes about Rickey Henderson speaking in the third person, though, so I'm an easy mark.


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Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:05 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 1:43 pm
 

Closer watch: Franklin, Nathan, Thornton out

By C. Trent Rosecrans

John AxfordAs we're getting deeper into the first month of the season, some of the "small sample size" arguments are losing their luster and managers are getting itchy. There's no position in baseball that causes more consternation than the closer's spot -- and few are easier to change. 

On Tuesday, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Ryan Franklin was out as his closer, joining Ozzie Guillen and Ron Gardenhire in making changes in closers already this season, a common April occurance.

Here's a look at where all the closers in baseball stand at this moment:

Out -- Ryan Franklin (Cardinals), Joe Nathan (Twins), Matt Thornton (White Sox).

We won't know who the replacement for Franklin is until it comes to a save situation (Matt Snyder took a look at who may get the call -- and I'll agree that Mitchell Boggs gets the first shot) and even then, we'll have to have a few save situations until we get there.

Matt Capps has taken over for Nathan, who is not back 100 percent from Tommy John surgery, in Minnesota.

Thornton may get the call if the White Sox get in a save situation, but Ozzie Guillen has no confidence in anybody in his bullpen and has said he just doesn't have a closer.

Hanging by a thread -- John Axford (Brewers), Sean Burnett (Nationals), Kevin Gregg (Orioles).

Axford (pictured) started his season off by blowing a save in Cincinnati and added another Monday night. He's struggled with his command this season, but the Brewers don't have too many better options.

The Nationals have gone from no closer, to Burnett back to no set closer. After Burnett blew a save on Friday, Drew Storen closed with two innings on Sunday against the Brewers. The two are expected to share the job, but Burnett's not "out" because he's still half in.

Hand wringing -- Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers), Joakim Soria (Royals), Francisco Rodriguez (Mets).

These are three marquee names, but there's plenty of worry surrounding the trio.

Soria has struggled and has a 5.59 ERA, blowing one save, while Broxton hasn't blown a save, but has given up plenty of runs. He has an ERA of 6.14 and his manager's vote of confidence.

K-Rod, well, he's got plenty of issues, including a contract with a vesting option that the Mets aren't really interested in seeing him meet. That said, it's not like he's getting a lot of chances to close out Met victories for the team with the National League's worst record.

Nobody's perfect --  Brian Fuentes (Athletics), Carlos Marmol (Cubs), Jon Rauch (Blue Jays).

Rauch has been good, converting all three of his saves this season, but the return of Frank Francisco complicates things for him in Toronto.

Solid -- Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Heath Bell (Padres), Neftali Feliz (Rangers), Huston Street (Rockies), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates), Leo Nunez (Marlins), Chris Perez (Indians), Brian Wilson (Giants), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), J.J. Putz (Diamondbacks), Jose Contreras (Phillies), Jose Valverde (Tigers).

Sure, Rivera blew a save last night. I think Joe Girardi may give him another shot.

If a save falls in a forrest -- Francisco Cordero (Reds), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Brandon Lyon (Astros), Brandon League (Marienrs), Kyle Farnsworth (Rays), Jordan Walden (Angels).

If the rest of the closers are in a "small sample size" argument right now, these guys have a "tiny sample size."

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Posted on: April 18, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 6:32 pm
 

Some possible options for Cardinals closer

By Matt Snyder

When Matt Kemp's ninth-inning home run cleared the center-field wall in Dodger Stadium Sunday, it marked the fourth time in five tries Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin had blown a save. Sure, it was a pretty questionable way for Tony La Russa to deal with the ninth inning -- in that he insisted on using a left-hander against Andre Ethier (who doubled) and then pitched to one of the hottest hitters in baseball with first base open -- but the blown save from Franklin has been a troubling early trend for the Cardinals.

Considering Franklin is 38, he could be in a natural regression due to age. Considering he's been awful thus far in the season, coughing up eight hits -- including three home runs -- and six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, it's entirely possible his confidence is shot as well. That matters for all baseball players, but with a closer it's paramount. If he doesn't feel like he's going to mow down the opposition every time out, that's an issue.

Regardless of why, the combination of underperformance, age and a possible lack of confidence have forced the Cardinals to make a change. But where to turn? Let's rundown the options.

Mitchell Boggs - In the very small sample we've had thus far, he's been the best pitcher in the St. Louis bullpen. Boggs has a 2.00 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in nine innings. Even more importantly, he's struck out 12 hitters while only walking three. On the flip-side, his history suggests the strikeout rate comes down a bit and he's not been used in as many high-leverage situations as some of the other guys. But, hey, you gotta start sometime. Can't figure out if he's a realistic option without trying it.

Miguel Batista - He does have 41 career saves, but the lion's share of those came his one season as a full-time closer -- when he saved 31 games back in 2005. Still, it's experience in the role, and he's thrown the ball very well this season -- 1.29 ERA in seven innings. The downside is that he's 40 and his rate stats (like six hits in seven innings) suggest he's going to start allowing runs sometime soon.

Trever Miller - He's a lefty, so there's no way La Russa would give up one of his most beloved pastimes -- playing matchups with his bullpen. Therefore, Miller's not an option.

Jason Motte - The 28-year-old righty fits the part, as he throws hard and struck out more than a batter per inning last season. He had a 2.24 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 52 1/3 innings. This season, he's thrown seven innings and given up just two earned runs (2.57 ERA). He has walked too many and struck out too few, but it's a small sample. I'd give him a shot.

La Russa has now removed Franklin, even if it's only temporary. If they do, Motte seems the best-suited candidate, while they should probably keep Boggs as a put-out-the-fire guy. However, most speculation from across the writing community seems to think Boggs will get the shot. We'll find out whenever the Cards get another save chance.

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