Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Casey Janssen for Closer?


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Bar none, Casey Janssen has been the best reliever in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen this season. Even though the bullpen has seen its highs and lows (emphasis on the lows) in 2011, Janssen has been a beacon of hope through the clouds of despair.

In a relief corp that has seen its fair share of meltdowns (46 in total), Casey Janssen stands head and shoulders above the rest of the relief pitchers. Naturally, you’d think this information would dictate your best pitcher should be your closer.

And since the closer’s role has been a revolving door through the first 127 games of the season, I can see why some folks want to entrust Casey Janssen as the Blue Jays closer. I’m advocating that we don’t.

Again, it seems like a natural transition to give the ball to Casey Janssen in the ninth; he’s been the most dependable reliever thus far, and that’s when those three outs are crucial to securing the win. However, they aren’t always the most high leverage situations.

It seems as though Janssen is back to his old 2007 self, when he was arguably the best set-up man in the American League. He threw 72.1 innings that year before being sidelined the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum.

One could argue that bridging the gap between the starting pitcher and the closer is actually the most pivotal part of the ballgame. Depending on how the lineup matches up, it can be the set-up man or middle relief guy who actually works against the opposition’s most volatile hitters.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t doubt that Casey Janssen would flourish in the closer’s role, but would he be best served only getting those final three outs of the game? Perhaps leaving him in a 7th/8th inning situation would be most effective for John Farrell.

If the Blue Jays were in a pennant race right now, there would be a greater sense of urgency to get the most reliable arm in as the closer as soon as possible.

However, sitting 12 games back of a playoff spot with 35 games left to play doesn’t warrant throwing Casey Janssen in as the closer. It doesn’t make sense this late in the season ... just to help lock down a couple of ballgames.

Why not keep Janssen where he is and continue to get him acclimatized back into that set-up role, and keep him there for 2012 as well? We’ve seen that good middle relief help in the free agent market can be hard to find, and the ones that you do find often come with a hefty price tag and multi-year contract.

Rather than go out and get a high-priced closer like Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell, I’m much more excited at the prospective internal options within the organization. Henderson Alvarez, Joel Carreno and even Dustin McGowan are much more viable (and cheaper) options as closer moving forward.

If Frank Francisco goes on the DL, then by all means give Casey Janssen the opportunity to close; the Blue Jays wouldn’t really have any other options at that point. However, it would merely be until Jon Rauch or Frank Francisco comes back.

Although his name starts with a capital ‘C’, let’s just hold off for the moment on bestowing the capital ‘C’ for closer upon Casey Janssen.

4 comments:

  1. PREACH, sir. I love Janssen, let's leave him in the high-leverage spots, like Scott Downs was for years and years.

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  2. Dave, exactly. Why mess with a good thing, right? Downs worked best in the setup role, and I think Janssen would be the same scenario.

    No point in trying to shoehorn Casey in as the closer unless it's absolutely necessary due to injuries.

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  3. I read "Stats Guy" Scott Carson's latest on sportsnet.ca today and almost choked. He talked about Janssen as the closer too and actually compared his save % to Rauch and 2Frank's. Seriously. As Wilner would say, it bottles the mind.

    Keep Casey for high leverage situations. Whether it's the 6th or 9th doesn't matter. You give the team the best chance to win when you ignore the saves statistic.

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  4. Chill, I think Farrell is wise in that most of the time he uses the right pitcher in the right situation. Roles should not dictate when a pitcher comes into a game, the situation should.

    If the game is tied late and there's one out bases loaded and you need a ground out double play, you call upon Shawn Camp. If you need a punch out, you get Francisco. If you need a simply need a clean inning, you get Janssen.

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