The Athletics finally lost back-to-back games this season, and it is all because of what was supposed to be the team’s biggest strength: their bullpen.
With a runner on 3rd and 1 out, the Rangers attempted a suicide squeeze and failed. With 2 outs and a runner on 1st, it looked as though the Athletics would escape with a win. After a stolen base, a double and a single, the Rangers took the lead, and the game.
From the small sample size we’ve seen, Jim Johnson, Sean Doolittle and Gregerson haven’t been able to close out games consistently. Gregerson may get another opportunity, but if he falters again, don’t look for him in the 9th inning for awhile.
Let’s look at some potential replacements:
Dan Otero 0.87 ERA, 4 Walks and 7 K’s in 10.1 IP. K/9 is 6.1
Fernando Abad 0.00 ERA, 2 Walks and 10 K’s in 9 IP. K/9 is 10.0
Ryan Cook 1.35 ERA, 6 Walks and 8 K’s in 6.2 IP. K/9 is 10.80.
The obvious names are Cook and Otero, but Abad has been solid thus far as well. Pitching in the 9th inning is a different beast entirely, I’ll grant you that. The biggest attribute Abad has going for him is that he doesn’t walk batters at a high rate, and he also has a high K/9 rate. When closing games, sometimes you just have to get a strikeout in a tough situation, and he can do that.
Is he the best choice? The way he is pitching right now, he could be. There is almost no chance he’ll be the one called upon to close games at this juncture however.
That leaves us with Cook and Otero. Cook has closing experience, gathering 14 saves in 2012. This season however, he has been walking a lot of batters. He was sharp tonight, getting a double play to erase the only runner he allowed of the 4 batters he faced. It is possible he was just shaking off some rust in his early appearances after starting the season on the DL.
Outside of Abad, Otero has been the Athletics most reliable closer in 2014. He doesn’t have the same K rate that Abad does, but he has some wicked sinking action on his pitches, which creates a lot of ground ball outs. Ground balls mean he is always capable of getting a big double play.
There is no clear right answer to this dilemma for the Athletics. If closing games were easy Jim Johnson would still be in there. Out of the 3 options the A’s seem to have, I have to say that Otero seems like the best choice right now.
A change in imminent. Whether or not the result in the 9th inning will differ remains to be seen.