A new breed of closer?

As you may have noticed, I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to baseball.  I love following prospects, I get the shakes after the season when there is not a game to put on TV, I have a dog named Fenway and my parents have two dogs named after Cooperstown and Williamsport for the Hall of Fame and Little League World Series.  Baseball is a part of me to my core, so it is no surprise I listen to many podcasts, read many websites, and keep up with several blogs regarding baseball.  Baseball Prospectus recently brought up a concept that I love and think it would be a game changer, plus, I know just the guy and team to make it happen.  What is the concept you ask?  Simple, the super reliever.  A closer that pitches 6-9 outs per appearance, and makes as many as five appearances a week.  That would be 15 innings max per week, which will match the innings of a team’s number one starter.  Last year, Jose Valverde pitched 74 innings as a work horse closer and was named the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year.  But what if a team can have a closer that pitches 150 innings?  How many times does a pitcher leave after six innings and a manager is forced to roll out pitcher after pitcher until you get to the 8th or 9th inning, depending on whether or not a team has a premier set-up man?  But what if the starter leaves after six, and a team brings out their set-up man for an inning, then a dominant closer for two innings?  That would completely change the game.  It would allow for a team to carry an extra offensive player or two that could help with situational hitters, defensive replacements, and pinch runners.  This obviously fits best for a National League team.  Now, the first argument would be the Kimbrel defense from last year as he was clearly gassed down the stretch.  So obviously, you need a manager with some balls to give it a shot, and you need a guy whose arm could hold up to that kind of work load.  I think I have found the perfect team/manager/player combo for this…the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I don’t think anyone will argue whether or not Kirk Gibson would be willing to stick his neck out there and give something a shot that brings a position old school and have a closer that works as much as Goose Gossage did.  Then you look at the roster, and you realize they have the pitching staff and depth in the organization to take a shot with a rubber armed prospect.  And they have that rubber armed prospect in Trevor Bauer.  He came out of Hart High School in my home town, so I have watched him pitch since high school.  The thing that was different about Bauer is he would play long toss between innings, throw a bullpen session after pitching a full game, and I never saw him put ice on his arm.  This continued at UCLA, which led him to be a top 5 pick in this past year’s draft.  The Diamondbacks already have a full rotation of starters that are above average to ace, currently have a closer who has performed best as a set-up man, and of their top 10 prospects, there are 6-7 future big league starters.  Here is how I see it working.  Tentatively pencil Bauer in as the official relief man for Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Daniel Hudson.  Have him pitch the 8th and 9th innings for their starts knowing they will all go at least 6 if not 7 innings per start.  If you need a 7th inning guy, use J.J. Putz.  Get decent run support and those three starters could easily win 20+ games a year.  Then for the final two pitchers of the rotation, likely Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter, will have J.J. Putz as their closer and the full bullpen to fit in the rest of the time.  What would the numbers look like?  Simple, let’s assume each of the top three starters start 32 games. And each throws two complete games, and five other games they go to the 8th inning.  So Bauer would throw 165 innings, or 60+ innings less than a front of the rotation starter, but the innings come on consecutive days rather than five days rest.  Now, admittedly, Bauer’s career will likely be shortened by this throwing program, so a team would have to compensate him at a level somewhere between elite closer and elite starter money assuming it works out.  That being said, wouldn’t it be worth it to add 2-3 wins per starter and give Bauer 60+ saves.  (Remember, a six out save is a save regardless of the score)  Bauer was a high draft pick, and you could rip the D-Backs for trying this, but they also have Tyler Skaggs, Archer Bradley, and Patrick Corbin, who all will be in the minors this year, but are future middle to front of the line starters.  So I say go for it!  Give it a shot, what is the worst that happens?  Bauer wears down, maybe needs Tommy John, honestly, big deal, and then you let him rehab and become a starter.  But if it works, you could dominate 95 games a year, and the other 67 would be a typical staff.  If the D-Backs use this strategy this season, I will project them for 95 games minimum, and they would be damn near impossible to beat in a short series, and pretty tough in a seven game series.  I think Gibson is gutsy enough to give it a shot, Bauer is the perfect guy to fill that position, and the D-Backs have the perfect mix of big league talent and minor league potential, to be able to give it a shot.  So how about Arizona, are you ready to change the way a team looks at the game?  Screw Moneyball, I say go with Bauerball.

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