Suspect New Closers: Claudio, Minaya, Greene, & Belisle

My thoughts on four of the newest closers to be inserted into the role:

Alex Claudio
Rangers

To start with, here’s a video of Claudio throwing.

A lefty sidearmer. I’m really surprised the Rangers rolled the dice with Claudio after their previous side-arming closer, Sam Dyson, couldn’t keep the job and was eventually released.

His stats aren’t surprising considering his delivery. His low 6.4 K/9 puts him in company with other sidearmers like Brad Ziegler (4.8 K/9) and Dyson (5.8 K/9). Their low strikeout rates are offset by the high number of groundballs they generate (Claudio: 68%, Ziegler: 67%, Dyson: 65%). With the high groundball rate, we should expect his ERA (2.56) to be lower than his ERA estimators (3.27 FIP, 3.14 xFIP).

The groundball tendencies can only take him so far. Usually, sidearmers will have extreme platoon splits and Claudio is no exception. Being left handed compounds the problem even more since the majority of the hitters he’ll face are right handed. He’s allowed lefties to only a post a .191 wOBA against him (2.70 FIP) in his career. Righties, on the other hand, have posted a .324 wOBA (3.74 FIP).

The struggles against righties could cause him to have a bad stretch of appearances if he faces some righty heavy lineups.

For these preceding reasons, I see no reason to keep him a closer candidate going into next season. I think the Rangers may look to free agents for help or hope Matt Bush can be productive. Teams don’t seem to stick with sidearm relievers. They are perceived to be a gimmick and teams could replace them with a fireball throwing righty.

Juan Minaya
White Sox

Unlike Claudio, Minaya is a closer in the more traditional way, a hard throwing (94 mph fastball) righty who racks up a ton of strikeouts (11.1 K/9). He attacks hitters with a nice three pitch mix.

He throws his four-seamer 60% of the time with the pitching generating a 9% swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Additionally, he is an extreme flyball pitch (26% GB%) which will help to generate easy flyball outs (along with some home runs).

His two breaking balls, a curve and slider, are both above average and he throws each around 20% of the time. If one of the two pitches was slightly better, it is his slider so far with a 17 SwStr% and 54% GB%. His curve is just behind it at 15% SwStr% and 50% GB%. Since he has thrown each pitch about 100 times this season, the differences are negligible for now.

Everything seems all hunky dory but it’s not. Minaya has a couple control issues. The first and most obvious one is the 4.2 BB/9. Even with the high number of strikeouts, those walks will be tough to overcome. The walks, along with the home runs his fastball will give up, have led to a 4.24 ERA with similar ERA estimators.

Besides the lack of control leading to walks, he can’t regularly throw either of his breaking pitches for strikes (~35% Zone%). This means once behind in the count, hitters can sit on his fastball and crush it. So far this season, hitters have hit a measly .211/.211/.368 with a 47% K% when behind against Manaya. When they get ahead, they hit .314/.519/.657 with a 16% K%.

I would almost consider Manaya a complete closer with long term closing potential but he needs to get the walks under control. He seems like a borderline keeper for next season.

Shane Greene
Tigers

I could almost copy and paste Minaya’s profile for Greene, hard throwing righty with a good number of strikeouts but has problems throwing strikes. Greene struggles with control have to do to a 0.8 HR/9 leading to a respectable 2.61 ERA. His ERA estimators point to a much higher ERA (3.71 FIP, 4.19 xFIP, 3.91 SIERA).

Greene is showing some signs of change which may help to improve his value. First, he’s been moving away from his ineffective sinker (5% SwStr%, 52% GB%) to his cutter (12% SwStr% , 59% GB%) and four-seamer (9% SwStr% , 38% GB%). In April, he threw his sinker 64% of the time and cutter and four-seam a combined 19%. This last month the sinker is down to 42% and the other two up to 28%. His first-half K-BB% stood was 12%. In the second half, it’s up 20%.

Besides the aforementioned pitches, he also throws a league average slider (14% K%).

While I see more positive signs with Greene than Minaya, I just don’t see a reason to keep him going forward. Mainly, because he’s not an elite closer, he’s just a decent one. If I am going to use a keeper spot for a closer, it’s going to be for someone better than Greene.

Matt Belisle
Twins

Woof.

There is no reason to keep a 37-year-old soft tossing (91 mph fastball) righty closer who strikes out less than a batter per inning, who has an above league average ERA (4.53) and walk rate (3.6 BB/9), and who’s on his fourth team in as many seasons.

He’s a fine fill in for the Twins to finish off this season but he’s no future closer.

We hoped you liked reading Suspect New Closers: Claudio, Minaya, Greene, & Belisle by Jeff Zimmerman!

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Jim
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Member
Jim

Left-handed closers see more right-handed batters that other lefties because they face more right-handed pinch-hitters in the 9th inning.

wobatus
Member
wobatus

But most teams only carry 3 bench hitters, usually 1 or 2 of whom are lefties. And they usually don’t pinch hit for stronger lefty hitters. In the AL this doesn’t happen quite as often. And Claudio also has strong GB tendencies to righties.

Claudio’s wOBA against righties this year is .310. Wade Davis, for example, has a .321 wOBA allowed to righties.

If overall, Claudio is your best guy, I see no reason not to go with him. Bush’s wOBA allowed to righties is .269 so you can always mix and match them. Then again, his xFIP against righties is 4.53, whereas Claudio’s at 3.29. I could understand next year wanting someone more traditional, but he’s the best they have. Dyson was last year but his command blew up.

wobatus
Member
wobatus

And timely calls there by Jeff, as Belisle, Minaya and Claudio all gave up runs last night, Minaya blowing save and taking an L, Belisle giving up go ahead run but getting the vulture win.