Now that Jim Johnson is no longer the closer for the Oakland A’s, manager Bob Melvin is going to use a slew of relievers to close each game depending on the matchup. This will include Dan Otero, Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. These relievers are all reliable and consistent – something Johnson was not. But who should be the permanent closer for the Oakland A’s?
Out of these four relievers, we can immediately eliminate Cook. Even though Cook was one of the Athletics’ better relievers in 2013, he has just returned to the bullpen after acquiring an injury in his shoulder during the spring. The power, strength, and intensity that a closer is required to have could increase the risk of this injury coming back – perhaps even worse than before. Additionally, Cook is not accustom to the closer role. He has closed 30 games over his MLB career, and he only earned a save in 16 of them. However, Cook has been part of a “closer-by-committee” approach before in 2012 and should be successful in this role until a more permanent closer is chosen.
The next pitcher that would not thrive in the closer role would be Sean Doolittle. Throughout his career in the major and minor leagues, he has only saved four games out of 12 opportunities. Even though Doolittle is having a great start to the season with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP, he is more suited for the set-up man role – like the one Gregerson held when he played with the San Diego Padres.
Then it comes down to Gregerson and Otero. I believe that these two will do most of the closing before a permanent closer is chosen. But which one would be better suited for the role as closer?
These pitchers are pretty similar and the choice between then could be a toss up. Both pitchers are 29 years old, both stand at 6’3” on the mound, and they are both consistent and powerful pitchers. Gregerson definitely has more experience when it comes to pitching in the MLB while Otero has mainly resided in the the minor leagues for much of his baseball career. Otero has only pitched 48 games and 56.2 innings in the major leagues.
However, Gregerson is use to being a set-up man and the role as closer could overwhelm him whereas Otero has pitched in these high pressure situations and succeeded. Throughout their time in the major and minor leagues, Otero has saved 101 games out of 114 compared to Gregerson’s 64 saves out of 100 save opportunities. Gregerson and Otero have a career ERA of 2.86 and 2.38 respectively, but if you look at just last year, Gregerson had a 2.71 ERA while Otero had a 1.38 ERA.
Ultimately, Otero should be the Athletics closer once he gains some more experience pitching in the major leagues. Till then, Gregerson will be a good pitcher with whom Otero can split the role. There is also still a chance that Johnson could come back as the closer – once he figures out how to pitch more consistently over the plate. Since the Oakland A’s paid top dollar for Johnson, it would be hard to let him slip out of the role so quickly and easily. Overall, the Athletics have a great bullpen and the “closer-by-committee approach” is definitely a good choice for the Oakland A’s right now.