March 6, 2013 posted by Chuck Anderson

Closer Report – Breakthrough Candidates

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Addison Reed, RP, Chicago White Sox

Consensus is building among the player rankings and, aside from any sudden job changes the ADP for relief pitchers will stay consistent through the drafting season.  Now is the time to pick targets that can deliver a substantial profit.  These three relievers have the ability to significantly outperform both their 2012 results and their preseason value.


Addison Reed:  #49 RP in 2012, #14 in Rankings


Reed had a 4.75 ERA in his rookie year but owns skills to take a large chunk off that number.  The team showed faith in him by sticking with him as the closer through some rough patches.  His 9.00 ERA in May could have scared them off but he remained their main ninth inning option.  His control is one of his best features.  2.95 BB/9 is a strong rate for a young closer.  He displayed it throughout his minor league days as well, walking only 1.7/9.


Reed’s 8.84 K/9 was shy of elite status, but there is reason to believe it has growth potential.  That, along with some better luck will increase his strand rate of 68.5%, which was 120th of 136 relief pitchers last year.  He struck out 12.9/9 in the minors, and while an initial dip when facing top competition is expected look for Reed to move towards that number.  Refining his slider is the key.  He threw it only 13.8% of the time.  While he has better present control with his fastball the slider is a better swing-and-miss pitch.


Home runs could be Reed’s stumbling block.  He generates more fly balls than grounders (0.77 GB/FB), and that is risky in Chicago’s homer-friendly park.  He had a 12.2% HR/FB ratio at home but just a 3.4% HR/FB on the road.


Glen Perkins:  #27 RP in 2012, #26 in Rankings


Closers on bad teams can quickly become trade bait, but Perkins is signed through 2015 at a very cost-effective $10 million.  He was on the verge of washing out as a starter but reinvented himself into a dominating short reliever.  The numbers since making the change are staggering:  2.83 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 3.42 K/BB in 184.1 relief innings.  He increased his strikeout rate to 9.49/9 in 2011 and again to 9.98 in 2012.  His curveball was phased out in favor of a harder slider.  Pitch values demonstrate the difference.


Left-handed closers always seem to have the deck stacked against them but Perkins is successful enough against righties.  They posted a .289 wOBA off him in 2011 and a .306 mark off him last year.  For context, Delmon Young had a .305 wOBA in 2012.


Projections are calling for a K/9 dip but gains in Perkins’ swinging strike rate make that unlikely.  Last year he increased it from 11.2% to 13.6%.  Twenty-five relievers had Swstr% rates of 13.0% or higher, and only two failed to punch out a batter per inning.  Play the odds here.


Ryan Cook, RP, Oakland A’s

Ryan Cook:  #16 RP in 2012, #41 in Rankings


While Perkins and Reed are the lead horses in their respective bullpens, Cook’s optimistic projection requires some speculation.  Grant Balfour is already throwing after knee surgery and is targeting Opening Day.  However, Cook is a very capable alternative should they require one.


Cook’s 2.09 ERA was aided by a .220 BABIP against but FIP, tERA, and SIERA all came in under 3.00.  Furthermore, he demonstrated improvement as the year went on.  He had a 4.93 BB/9 in the first half but dropped it to 1.54 in the second.  Granted small sample rules apply, but in 2011 only 36.3% of his pitches were in the strike zone.  In 2012 he kept 47.4% over the plate.


Last year Cook also introduced a two-seam fastball – Fangraphs and Baseball Cube agree on this.  He suffered no loss in velocity and the pitch was 24th in fastball value per 100 pitches (wFB/C) among 136 relievers.




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