27 November 2012

Buck Showalter's Closers

With last season's success by Jim Johnson, and the offseason debate that has taken off about whether to trade him with his value at it's peak or not, I thought it would be a good time to look at Buck's history with closers to see if he has a style or preference with them.

Team Age Closer SV Age Closer SV

New York Yankees 35 Farr 30

New York Yankees 36 Farr 25 24 Wickman 4

New York Yankees 36 Howe 15 25 Wickman 6

New York Yankees 28 Wetteland 31 37 Howe 2

Arizona Diamondbacks 31 Gregg Olson 30 25 F. Rodriguez 5

Arizona Diamondbacks 32 Gregg Olson 14 25 Matt Mantei 22

Arizona Diamondbacks 26 Matt Mantei 17 21 B. Kim 14


Texas Rangers 29 Urbina 26 28 F.Cordero 15

Texas Rangers 29 Cordero 49

Texas Rangers 30 Cordero 37

Texas Rangers 34 Otsuka 32 31 Cordero 6

Baltimore Orioles 29 Simon 17 35 Koji 13

Baltimore Orioles 33 Gregg 22 28 Johnson 9

Baltimore Orioles 29 Johnson 51 27 Strop 3

In 1992, Buck inherited Farr as his closer, he was already established and had a few great seasons closing for KC and NYY. Farr continued in his role until suffering elbow discomfort at the end of 1993 and going on the DL, where he was replaced by acquisition Lee Smith down the final stretch. Buck then went with veteran Steve Howe as his closer, with youngster Bob Wickman picking up a few saves out of the set up role that he thrived in the previous season. Going into 1995, NYY picked up star closer John Wetteland to supplant Howe in that role. In this stretch, Buck never replaced a closer that wasn't injured.

With Arizona, building the team from scratch, Buck had input into what players to add and acquire, and curiously enough his bullpen consisted of 3 career saves outside of one player, former Orioles closer, Gregg Olson, who had little to no success since leaving Baltimore in 1994. Olson was the oldest pitcher on the staff, and thrown back into the role that Showalter saw him thrive against him first hand as coach of the Yankees, Olson responded with 30 saves his first year as closer. Olson started out pretty rough through the season in 1999 and by mid-May was replaced as closer by new acquisition Matt Mantei who had shown promise closing for the Marlins before Arizona. Mantei started the season in 2000 on the DL with Kim stepping in exceptionally in the early part of the season before Mantei took his job back when he got healthy.

In Texas, they had signed U. Urbina coming off an all-star season in 2002 to a one-year deal, he started out great again in Buck's first season as manager, before they traded him in June to the Marlins for Adrian Gonzalez. Buck then turned to 28 year old RP Fransisco Cordero who had a great season the year before to take over the role, he responded by holding the job for the next 3 years and amassing 107 saves for Showalter before being traded to MIL in 2006 at the trading deadline. Otsuka was amazing as a set up man for SD before going to TEX, and Buck went to him with the closers job about a month into the 2006 season.

Coming to BAL, Buck came into a situation where Alfredo Simon was the closer, before he had the job, 3 weeks he made the move to 35 year old Koji Uehara for the remainder of the season. For the 2011 season the Orioles spent big on free agent Kevin Gregg who had a consistent few years as closer for multiple teams, not spectacular but consistent. As the season wore on and Gregg continued his ups and downs, Showalter turned to exceptional set up man Jim Johnson at the end of the season to close and carried into 2012 where he had an amazing season at the back end of a top bullpen.

In the end, you can see that he's got a preference for veteran guys in the closing role, and he is pretty loyal to the guy he goes with, he will give them chances to redeem themselves before being forced to make a move. In an injury situation the guy will get his job back, and he likes to use the set up role as kind of an apprenticeship for the closing role with younger guys training for the future. As one of the best bullpen handling coaches in MLB, you can see that in his history. With all of this being said, if the Orioles were to trade Johnson this offseason, likely candidates to get a shot at closing would be:

Strop: Showalter seemed to lose confidence in him down the stretch though.
Hunter: Showed an uptick in velocity in the pen, and has some history with Buck.
Arrieta: Has power stuff, and an arsenal for the back end, may get a chance to audition if he doesn't make the rotation, probably would have to intern as set up man first.
Matusz: More of a reach, as he is expected to move back to the rotation, but Buck showed a lot of confidence in him while Strop was struggling, and the splits are always a question there. 
Outside acquisition: O's have been linked to Japanese closer Fujikawa, and could always bring someone back in a trade.

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