Closer insecurity

Kevin Gregg has blown three saves and has an ERA of 4.33.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is a reason that so many "experts" tell you not to use high draft choices for closers. It's the same reason kickers aren't drafted early in NFL drafts.

The problem is that it's just too easy for them to lose their job.

In the NFL, miss a couple of important kicks and there is a line out the door of candidates for your job. And most of them are competent kickers just looking for a chance to show their stuff.

Though it's a little tougher to find a good major league closer, there is still a solid chance that unless your name is Mariano Rivera, you could lose your job in any given year.

Just take a look around the league. Chad Qualls (preseason ADP 180) is about to get his "walking papers" in Arizona. He's blown four saves and even the ones he didn't blow were adventures. He's pitched 22.1 innings and given up 39 hits, 10 walks and 21 earned runs. That translates to an ERA of 8.46, a WHIP of 2.19 and a loss of the closer's role.

His spot is likely going to be taken by Aaron Heilman in case your interested.

But the Qualls dilemma isn't the only one out there.

Even the league's leading closer is not immune. Washington Nationals' closer Matt Capps has 20 saves, three more than Brian Wilson, Francisco Cordero and Heath Bell, but he too has had his role called into question of late. Before he picked up No.20 on June 9th, Capps had blown four of his last six chances.

There was noise that the team might try Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen. Both have the ability to close, but both Clippard (25-years old) and Storen (22- years old) are very young and untested. Seeing as how the Nationals are actually part of a pennant race, it's not the time to throw in a rookie with 11 innings under his belt. So for now, manager Jim Riggleman still says he has confidence in Capps.

Trevor Hoffman, Milwaukee's opening day closer and the all-time leader in saves with 596, blew five games by mid-May and was promptly yanked. His last seven appearances have been as a setup man. Carlos Villanueva took over the role, but clearly isn't ready yet so it looks like if Hoffman (ADP 248) has a couple of more good outings as the setup guy, he could get his closer job back.

Another closer, Kevin Gregg in Toronto, is on thin ice. He's blown three saves and has an ERA of 4.33 and a WHIP of 1.59. He is one of three possible closers on the Blue Jays roster along with Jason Frasor and Scott Downs.

David Aardsma (ADP 265) is having an off year in Seattle. In 22 appearances in 2010, he already has as many blown saves as he had in 73 appearances last season. Fortunately for Aardsma, the Mariners don't really have another viable option so he'll likely stay in the closer's role.

Brad Lidge was Mr. Perfect in Philadelphia's championship run of 2008, but 2009 was a disaster as Lidge ballooned to an ERA of 7.21 and an ungodly WHIP of 1.81. Lidge began 2010 on the disabled list but has returned and has four saves in nine appearances. A much better looking ERA of 1.13 and a WHIP of 1.00 might make Lidge a solid closer option over the second half of the season if current closer Jose Contreras stumbles.

And finally, Octavio Dotel has blown three of his 15 save chances with the Pittsburgh Pirates, including Sunday's game. When he was struggling early on, there was talk that Evan Meek (34 K's in 36.2 IP) might be given a shot, but most of those rumors have been silenced.

However, you must remember that with almost every closer, they are just a couple of bad pitches away from the setup role.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at
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