Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Okay, everyone wants to remove Frankie from the closer role. I think it's nuts.

Sure, he's struggled of late. His mechanics are a mess right now. But he's still our best reliever, and we all know that.

And, honestly, what are the alternatives? Stephen Smith alleges Kevin Gregg, which to me comes out of too much what-have-you-done-for-me-lately. Rob looks forward to Kelvim Escobar seizing the role. That, at least, is understandable, as Kelvim can, you know, pitch.

But let's sit back a minute and look at the situation calmly. A reliever's, and particularly a closer's, struggles are always exaggerated by virtue of the facts that they come in important situations and often cost the team the game, and also that bad outings happen one inning at a time.

It's not uncommon for a starter to give up two or even three runs in the first inning, but then settle down and pitch a good game. A closer that gives up two or three runs in his one inning has failed, and everyone has seen it, and a W has magically turned into an L because of it.

In a perfect world, one could say, "This guy's struggling with his mechanics, we should move him out of high-leverage situations until he figures it out." But in a world full of egos, high salaries, and the save statistic, that doesn't work out so well in practice. Another complicating factor is the degree to which every relief pitcher, even the good ones, are volatile -- any good reliever can get lit up on any given night.

As such, and given that he's shown the ability to bounce back from bad outings before, I don't think Frankie can or should be moved out of the closer's role at this time. Obviously, he needs to iron out his mechanices; I'm not just sitting here whistling "Everything's fine" and pretending there's no problem. And I don't know Frankie's personality; maybe the threat of demotion would help motivate him, I don't know.

Another thing about last night: Frankie was pitching for the third day in a row. Pitching him three days in a row is a startingly bad idea. Here are his third-consecutive-day games this season:
Date  Opp   IP   H   R   ER   SO   BB   Dec
4/22 Oak 1.0 3 2 2 2 0 BS,L
7/23 NYY 1.0 0 0 0 1 0 SV
7/30 NYY 1.0 1 3 3 2 4 BS,L
8/16 Tor 0.3 2 2 2 0 2 BS,L
TOTAL 3.3 6 7 7 5 6 0-3, 1 SV, 3 BS
He only had one third-day appearance that went well. If you remove all of these appearances from his season, all of a sudden his ERA drops from 2.91 to 1.67; seven of the fifteen runs he's allowed this season have been in third-day appearances!

Last night's appearance resembled strongly his meltdown in New York on July 30. I allege that fatigue messes with his mechanics, and then he tries to throw the ball 150 mph to compensate and further messes with his mechanics. When he can't get the fastball over, there's no reason for anyone to swing at the slider.

I think his "problems," such as they are, are correctible with coaching and proper usage. I have every confidence in Bud Black's coaching ability; hopefully the bullpen will stabilize so that we don't need to try to push Frankie into more third-day appearances, which are murder on him and the team.

Except that, they're not correctable. Frankie refused coaching in the minors; that was why he ended up a reliever.
But there's an obvious difference between how he looks when he's on and when he's off. Their might be something to getting him to focus better when he's clearly tired -- and also to limit as much possible trying to overextend him, as it clearly hasn't worked.
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