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Closing 101: How Top MLB Firemen Do It

Coming into a MLB game in the ninth inning, listening to your favorite rock or rap song surely will get you a bit nervous/pumped up/downright scared.

In my case, that song happens to be “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Yes, it may seem like a sissy song to walk out to, but read the lyrics , especially the refrain, and you will understand.

For MLB closers like Heath Bell, the nervousness/adrenaline/fear are what he thrives on. The pressure is what makes him good. At 6’3″ and a husky 250 pounds, Bell looks like the butcher at your local deli who didn’t give enough meat to his dog. He is a fun guy, and regularly uses his Wii Fit board to stay in shape. Off a baseball field, Bell doesn’t seem like an imposing man.

But once he steps onto the mound at Petco Park in the ninth inning to the tune of “Blow Me Away” by Breaking Benjamin, he is quite imposing.

Bell’s high-90s fastball sure helps.

Heat is a common denominator with closers. All closers throw upwards of 90 mph, and most throw over 95. But the gift all closers have is pure stuff.

Mariano Rivera might not throw 95 mph anymore, but his cutter is downright filthy, and even though he throws it nearly every pitch, it still is nasty enough to break hitters’ bats and paint corners.

Chad Qualls, the former closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and now a late-inning relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, throws a heavy sinker at 92 mph. The vertical break on his sinker is nasty, and not many sinkerballers can throw that hard. His slider is also hard, coming in at 86 mph and breaking heavily away from right-handed hitters.

But this year, Qualls hasn’t kept the ball down, leading to his sinkers sinking to mid-thigh height and becoming easily hittable, hence Qualls’s 8.01 ERA this season.

Jonathan Broxton, the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a freak. With an intimidating frame of 6’4″ and 295 pounds, Broxton brings it into triple digits regularly. His sinker is like Qualls’s, only Broxton’s is around five mph faster. He isn’t afraid of any hitter, and that may be his greatest asset.

Well, I wouldn’t be afraid of anybody if I was 6’4″, 295, would you?

Francisco Rodriguez, “K-Rod,” the closer for the New York Mets, is another in the long list of closers who have dominating stuff. K-Rod regularly cranks his fastball into the upper 90s, with corner-to-corner tailing movement on his heater. His curveball nearly hits 80 mph and is a devastating strikeout pitch. His emotions sometimes get the best of him, but K-Rod is fun to watch.

Ah, my favorite closer, Brian Wilson. Wilson, even though he isn’t as physically imposing as Broxton or Bell, is one of the best in the business. Wilson throws 99 mph regularly, and the scary part is that he paints corners with his heater. His cutter hovers around 90 mph, which makes my Pirates look that much worse, because almost all of their starting rotation’s fastballs are slower than Wilson’s cutter.

So closers all pretty much have one thing in common: A special gift. That gift may be great velocity, great movement, great control, or great craftiness, but all closers have a special gift.

(They all pretty much have a good fist pump too!)

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Draft Dilemma: Who Should the Pirates Take With Their No. 2 Pick?

Given that the Washington Nationals will likely take power-hitting junior college catcher Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft on Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a bit more of a dilemma when it comes to their selection.

Even though Harper will be gone, the Pirates still have the cream of the crop to work with—they can choose the best pitcher or the second best position player in the draft.

So who will the Pirates take?

The two best players in the draft, after Harper, are high school shortstop Manny Machado and high school pitcher Jameson Taillon.

Machado has earned comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. The Miami prospect, also a shortstop, hits for power and will likely move to third base if his 6’3″ frame fills out.

Additionally, Machado has nice plate discipline and a compact swing. His approach is the main reason he hits for power. In high school, he batted .639 with 12 home runs and 68 RBI’s in 29 games. His short swing allows him to make hard contact with the ball consistently, and his plate discipline allows him to swing at good pitches.

Machado is also a superb fielder. He has smooth footwork at shortstop, and nice, soft hands.

Machado is well-deserving of comparisons to Rodriguez. He has the potential to turn into a big league superstar, and the chances of him doing that seem high.

The Pirates haven’t had a great power-hitting, Gold-Glove caliber shortstop in the team’s history. Machado could fulfill that role, and could possibly bring back greatness to the once-proud Pittsburgh franchise.

On the other hand, Taillon may be one of the best pitching prospects since Stephen Strasburg. At 6’6″ and 220 pounds, Taillon already has the physical tools Strasburg possesses at an older age. Taillon’s frame is major league ready.

His stuff is pretty good, too.

Taillon’s fastball reaches 99 mph, and he has a nasty knuckle curve to go along with a nice changeup. From Texas, Taillon has earned comparisons to Josh Beckett, Roger Clemens, and Nolan Ryan.

Yes, I did say Nolan Ryan. He is that good.

Taillon also has a wonderful mental makeup. He is a strong student, so strong that he considered graduating from high school a year early so he could pitch at Rice.

The Pirates don’t have any starting pitchers that can bring it over 95 mph with regularity. Taillon could be that starter in a few short years. His mental makeup and physical tools are off the charts—he’s the best high school pitching prospect I have ever seen.

Picking between Machado and Taillon will be a very hard decision for the Pirates’ upper management. You either have a future All-Star shortstop who would be the first in franchise history to hit the long ball regularly, or you have a future All-Star pitcher who very well could mold into the next Nolan Ryan.

The Pirates have been noted for completely screwing up drafts, but when you have two future franchise players to pick from, it’s a bit difficult to screw up.

So who do the Pirates pick?

I say Machado. The Pirates don’t have any future All-Star shortstops in their minor league system, and in a few short years, many Pirates fans would like to see a high-caliber infield consisting of Pedro Alvarez at third, Machado at short, Neil Walker at second, and Garrett Jones at first.

Not a bad infield if you ask me.

Plus, the Pirates have been lacking offense for a while and Machado could supply that, along with Alvarez and Walker, for years to come.


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Previewing The Upcoming Pirates-Giants Series

Whenever the San Francisco Giants come to town, I always ask my parents if I can get tickets. I do this for these three reasons:

  • Tim Lincecum
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Oh yeah, did I mention Tim Lincecum?

As you may have assumed, Lincecum is my favorite pitcher. He has the nastiest stuff in the majors by far. Plus watching his funky motion come from that small body is something that every baseball fan should do before they die.

But, contrary to popular belief, the Giants do have some other notable players. Pablo Sandoval and Aaron Rowand are always fun to watch. Rowand can take quite a few runs away with his kamikaze defense, and Sandoval is a colorful character who puts on great displays of prowess at the plate.

This ought to be a good series filled with pitching. The Giants have one of the best, if not the best, pitching staffs in the majors. Jonathan Sanchez, noted for throwing his no-hitter last season, is a very respectable 3-4 with a 2.90 ERA. Sanchez will start against Zach Duke tomorrow night. Both pitchers have had little run support in their past few outings, the main cause to their losing records.

On Saturday, journeyman Todd Wellemeyer will start for the Giants against the Pirates’ potent lefty, Paul Maholm. Wellemeyer has had little success in PNC Park, going 0-2 with a 6.95 ERA in eight career outings at the Bucco’s ballpark. Maholm has also been a victim of low run support, but he has been effective in his past few starts. Against the Braves on Sunday, Maholm gave up just two earned runs on a scattered 10 hits and walked away with a no decision.

Sunday, the game I am looking forward to the most, has Giants ace Lincecum on the hill. Ross Ohlendorf is starting for the Pirates. Lincecum has struggled as of late, and his ERA has ballooned to an un-Lincecum like 3.14. He hasn’t been Lincecum-esque dominant on the mound lately, and he hasn’t had a double-digit strikeout game since the beginning of May. Ohlendorf hasn’t lived up to his potential this season, but he pitched a good game against the Cubs on Memorial Day. Slowly but surely, Ohlendorf is making progress, and he should get better with each start he makes.

The Giants have finally started to come around at the plate, after Lincecum won the NL Cy Young with only 15 wins last season due to a big lacking of run support. The Giants are fifth in the NL in hitting this season, but they haven’t dominated games with the long ball. The Giants have only 40 dingers, just two more than the light-hitting Pirates. The Giants have some power potential with Sandoval, Rowand, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff, and prized prospect Buster Posey. Posey has done a fine job since being called up to play first base for the Giants this season, hitting .474 in 19 at bats.

The Pirates offense has been sad to say the least.

They are 15th in hitting, and nobody has really given the Pirates much hope besides prospect Neil Walker, power-hitter Garrett Jones, catcher Ryan Doumit, and local icon Andrew McCutchen. When the bulk of your offensive production comes from four guys, it’s going to be hard to win ball games. The Pirates have learned that the hard way, as they are currently in 5th place in the NL Central Division.

Prediction for the series: Giants take 2 of 3 from Pirates

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Potential Prospect Showdown: Lincoln vs. Strasburg

While many Pittsburgh Pirate fans are anxiously waiting for top pitching prospect Brad Lincoln to come up, the rest of the majors is anxiously waiting for pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg to make his debut for the Washington Nationals.

Strasburg, 21, is currently destroying minor-league hitters. Strasburg started the season with the Nationals’ Double-A farm team, the Harrisburg Senators. With Harrisburg, Strasburg was ruthless. He went 3-1 with a minuscule 1.64 ERA. He only gave up 13 hits, and he got better with each start. 

Evidently, it was a waste of time for the Nationals to keep Strasburg in Double-A. Strasburg was moved up to the Nationals’ Triple-A club, the Syracuse Chiefs.

Strasburg has certainly not disappointed. In fact, he is pitching even better in Triple-A than he was in Double-A. Only nine hits have been recorded against him, and his ERA is a ridiculous 0.39. Of course Strasburg has not lost a game in Triple-A, going 3-0 in his short tenure with Syracuse. 

Nationals’ brass sent Strasburg to the minors because they claimed he had things to work on, such as pitching from the stretch and pickoffs. 

Well, with the lack of runners that Strasburg is allowing, he can’t really work on pitching from the stretch or picking off runners all that much. 

The Nationals see that as a good thing, and they have decided to bring Strasburg up to the majors.

Strasburg’s debut is scheduled for the series against the Pirates at Nationals Park on June 8-10.

The Pirates may have a prospect pitcher make a debut, also.

Lincoln is going to be brought up sooner or later. This is the season when the Pirates are going to bring up their “Big Four” prospects to the majors. The Big Four consists of Lincoln, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata. Walker has already been brought up. Lincoln, Alvarez, and Tabata are eagerly waiting at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Charlie Morton, who has been pitching horribly for the Pirates this season, was sent down to the minors to rehab his fatigued arm. Jeff Karstens will spot start for Morton for the time being, but Pirate fans are calling for Lincoln to be brought up.

The fastest Lincoln can be brought up is in the Nationals series, and it would be poetic if the two top prospects were to face off against each other.

Although it is unlikely that will happen, it is certainly a possibility, and baseball fans east of the Mississippi are praying for a Lincoln-Strasburg matchup.


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“Role Models”: Most Athletes Aren’t Them

Many people have let me down in life. Barry Bonds was the first person to do that.

When I was younger, around the age of three or four, I began to watch baseball. Around that time, in the late 90s and early 2000s, Bonds was the best player in the game. He made hard contact with every ball that he hit, hit gargantuan home runs, and got intentionally walked even when there were no men on base. 

Being new to the game of baseball, I began to love Bonds. I wiggled my bat as he did, and when I hit home runs in the backyard games of Wiffle Ball, I immediately dropped my bat and raised two fists straight up in the air. I watched Bonds in the World Series. I collected all of his baseball cards. I even nicknamed my Wiffle Bat “Mr. Bonds”.

Then, as the decade progressed, the superhero of a baseball player that I love began to fall from grace. People no longer liked Bonds. He was accused of using steroids, and opposing fans booed Bonds mercilessly every time he stepped into the batter’s box.

I then realized that Bonds was doing steroids and that he wasn’t the nicest guy to be around. I no longer cared about his accomplishments, and I didn’t witness his 756th home run until a year ago, when I was looking for hitting tips on the Internet.

Bonds let me down.

When I was a little snip, and I was still new to the game of baseball, Roger Clemens was my favorite pitcher.

I admired his fierceness and flaming fastball. He was, in the opinion of many, the best pitcher in the majors.

Then Clemens had a steroid controversy. Then came the Mindy McCready controversy. 

Clemens let me down.

My two preschool heroes let me down.

I always followed baseball, ever since I knew how to watch television. Even though my infancy heroes let me down, I never gave up on the game.

Then came the times when my age was no longer a single digit. I became interested in bio-mechanics and sabermetrics, and I turned into the most die-hard baseball fan of my age. I watched every single Pittsburgh Pirate game. ESPN and MLB Network were my channels of choice. 

I watched baseball as much as a drug addict does meth. 

As I learned about rationalization, I began to form opinions of the best players in the game. In my opinion, the best players were Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton and Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum.

Hamilton and Lincecum soon became my favorite ballplayers.

Unfortunately, Hamilton and Lincecum also let me down (somewhat).

Hamilton, whose drug addiction and fall from grace was well-documented, became a good Christian and began to tear up the AL with his timely RBI and monster home runs. He gave public speeches and became one of the most revered athletes in sports. At the time, Hamilton was an excellent role model for young children.

But, as you know, Hamilton isn’t perfect. Last winter, he had a relapse, got drunk, and partied with scantily-clad women in Arizona.

He never said he was going to lead a perfect life after he was done with drugs. No recovering addict can. Hamilton owned up to his relapse, took responsibility for it, and I see no reason to stop rooting for him.

Lincecum, who has captivated many people with his utter dominance on the mound, made a dumb mistake that you would expect from a person just out of college. Lincecum was caught with a small amount of marijuana during a traffic stop in his home state of Washington Oct. 30, 2009, nearly a month before he was awarded his second consecutive NL Cy Young award.

He also owned up to his mistake, and proclaimed that it wouldn’t happen again.

As you can see, we will never see a squeaky-clean athlete again.

We will never see the perfect “role model” athlete again. 

There are too many temptations in the 21st century. Athletes are just as famous, if not more, than your average movie star or business mogul. Ballplayers can get women, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever whenever they want.

The two athletes closest to being the perfect “role model” athlete are Tim Tebow and Joe Mauer.

Tebow, whom everyone but Florida Gator and Denver Bronco fans hate, has resisted all of the temptations that the average athlete can get. Tebow doesn’t drink, do drugs, smoke, or even chase girls. 

On the field, Tebow does not taunt other players. He simply does his job. He works his tail off each and every day. Tebow knows that children are looking up to him. He knows what is expected of him, and he doesn’t screw up.

Mauer is another “role model” athlete. He is a hometown boy, playing for his native Minnesota Twins. He gives credit to other players, and he is genuinely a nice guy.

However, those are just two of many athletes that do well.

Hamilton and Lincecum can still be considered “role models”.

After all, nobody is perfect, right?


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The Pittsburgh Pirates: Why We Continue To Root for Them

17 years of futility and losing, and it will likely become 18—possibly 19.

Yet I am still faithful, and I am not embarrassed whatsoever about rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Some people in Pittsburgh have moved on to larger-market teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees (I have been rooting for the Pirates and Red Sox since birth; I am not a bandwagon-jumper).

Other Pittsburghers have stopped watching baseball altogether. Those Pittsburghers say “The Pirates suck and they always will,” even though they haven’t watched a game, or read about their farm system or current players in about 10 years.

And there are a few of us who still continue to root for the Pirates; the few people that still watch every single game from the first pitch to the final out; the few people that actually think positively when Charlie Morton doesn’t give up more than six runs in a game; the few people that can still be proud, even after 17 consecutive losing seasons, of their Pirates.

There is reason for hope in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have many high-quality prospects in their farm system (read: Pedro Alvarez). It also seems that upper management has finally started to care about winning. Neal Huntington and his brass have shown a lot of promise.

Andrew McCutchen is now a sports hero in Pittsburgh, and many kids are beginning to idolize the speedy center fielder with the braided hair and wiggle in his stance.

The trades of star players for prospects over recent years have turned out well for the most part.

And then, there is still reason to be pessimistic about the Pirates.

The team has had 17 consecutive losing seasons (Did I mention that earlier?). The Pirates are off to a losing start, and it is incredibly likely that the team will endure 18 consecutive seasons of futility and losses.

Also, it seems that the Nutting ownership tries to draw fans to the beautiful PNC Park by promoting concerts, showing off end-of-game fireworks, and giving out free caps. As long as they are making their money, the Nuttings will not try to sign free agents and increase payroll.

Speaking of payroll, the Pirates have the lowest team salary in the majors. Dead last.

Their highest-paid player is pitcher Paul Maholm. Maholm makes $5 million per year, chump change for your average Dodger or Yankee. Plus, Maholm isn’t exactly a “star” pitcher. He’s a good pitcher, a decent one, but he will never achieve Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum-esque superstardom.

But there are ways for small-market teams to win.

Just look at the Oakland A’s, Florida Marlins, or Minnesota Twins. There is no reason why the Pirates can’t be Twins-caliber when their top prospects come up.

Truly, I am not ashamed to be a Pirates fan. I don’t see any shame in rooting for a particular sports team. So what if I root for the Pirates? Your Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. 

In fact, I am actually excited to be a Pirates fan. I love baseball, and I love rooting for my hometown team.

I don’t like it when the Pirates lose, but is it life or death? No, it’s still only a game. It’s a game that I love. It’s a team that I love. 

I will still continue to root for the Pirates, and Pittsburghers who have grown apart from the team they used to love should begin to like the Pirates again. At least they have some hope, with prospects coming up, and the recent successes of small-market clubs.

My name is Kevin Bertha, and I am, and always will be, a proud Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

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Paging Brad Lincoln: Charlie Morton May Be Sent Down by Pittsburgh Pirates

Charlie Morton has not been exactly what you would call a “good pitcher” for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.

In fact, Morton has been something you would call a “horrible pitcher that deserves to be sent to the minors” this season.

Morton, 26, was expected to become one of the Pirates’ better pitchers this season after they acquired him in the Nate McLouth trade.

He has been the polar opposite.

Morton is 1-9 with a 9.35 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP. 

The numbers are horrible, far from what was expected of the hard-throwing righty.

Morton’s best pitch (yes, he actually does have a good pitch) is his fastball. His heater usually ranges from 93 to 95 mph—not bad for a starter. His curve isn’t half bad, and he also has a decent change-up.

Morton has stuff. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to use it. Sometimes he fails to be aggressive with his above-average fastball. Other times he is too aggressive and walks a lot of batters.

And sometimes, Morton just can’t avoid the big inning. That was the case last night, as the Pirates lost 8-2 to the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds scored seven of their eight runs in the first and second innings. Morton was pulled after the second.

Morton was making progress, inch by inch. His latest start set him back 10 yards. 

As of right now, Pirates manager John Russell is keeping Morton in the starting rotation.

But Brad Lincoln is knocking on Morton’s door, and he seems to be the favorable option for Pirate fans right now.

Former first-round pick Lincoln, 25, is currently having a decent season with Triple-A Indianapolis. Lincoln is 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA and is scheduled to start tonight for the Indians against the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate.

Morton will hold on to his starting spot for a while, but if performances like last night’s continue, expect Lincoln to be starting for the Pirates soon.

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Introducing You to The Greatest Reliever of All Time: Billy Wagner

While some people will certainly argue that there are better relief pitchers to pick up a ball, I still argue that Billy Wagner is the greatest reliever to ever play baseball.

Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman may have more saves, and they are certainly better known.

But Wagner is better than those two.


Rivera or Hoffman never had to overcome obstacles dealing with handedness or size.

Wagner lived with his grandparents as a youth. He loved football. It was his game of choice when he was in grade school. But his family couldn’t afford a real football, so he and friends played with a hat. “Hat football” was Wagner’s best game as a child.

One day, Wagner took on an older boy named Chip in a game of hat football. Chip was about two to three years older than Wagner. Wagner and Chip played, and Chip fell on Wagner’s right arm. 

His right arm was broken. It was the kiss of death for his pitching career.

But being a kid, Wagner still wanted to play hat football. So he played left-handed while he had his cast on. 

When Wagner had his cast taken off, he broke his right arm playing hat football a second time.

When he was a youth, Wagner played baseball and football. He realized very quickly that he wasn’t going to be able to use his right arm for pitching, so he taught himself to pitch left-handed.

His training of his left arm consisted of this: Wagner threw with his left arm nothing but fastballs against a barn wall.

While Dr. James Andrews may be cringing at Wagner’s practice method, it certainly worked. Wagner became one of the best pitchers in his league.

Also, even though he had to teach himself how to throw left-handed, Wagner was never blessed with size.

He may be 5’11” 205 pounds as he is listed, but it is far more likely that Wagner is 5’10” and 195 pounds. 

That is a tremendously small frame for a big-league pitcher.

Believe it or not, he was even smaller. He was 5’3″ going into high school. God then finally decided to bless Wagner with a growth spurt. He became 5’8″ in high school.

As his body started to mature, his fastball became faster. It went from 83 mph to 93 mph.

In his earlier years with the Houston Astros, Wagner could touch 100 mph.

Despite overcoming growth and handedness obstacles, Wagner has turned into one of the best relief pitchers of all time. 

His statistics are good. Wagner is tied with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for fifth in the all-time saves leader list. His career ERA is a minuscule 2.38, and he has a winning record.

It is likely that Wagner will retire after this season, as he has nothing more to accomplish other than a World Series win, and it is likely that he will not achieve that goal this year with the Atlanta Braves.

His contract expires after this season, and it is likely that he will ride off quietly into the sunset with his career fulfilled.

But we will see Wagner again, because five years from now he’ll have to make a Hall-of-Fame induction speech.






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Bullpen Specialization: Not Necessary, But Will Continue

Alas, the days when teams had one relief pitcher who pitched multiple innings are gone. Specializing relief pitchers is part of the game now, as we rarely see a reliever go more than one inning unless special circumstances apply (rain delay, blowout, etc.). 

The whole point of specializing relief pitchers is to make them more efficient.

A lefty specialist can focus only on left-handed batters, and he usually comes in when another left-hander is up.

A set-up man pitches the eighth inning, bridging his job to the closer’s. Nowadays, the closer comes in only in the ninth, and only in save opportunities.

The only pitcher that pitches more than one inning with regularity is the mop-up man. And since the mop-up man comes in during blowouts or after rain delays, he hardly pitches.

Don’t forget to throw in a designated side-armer, knuckle-baller, or some other funky pitcher, as they are prevalent in a few MLB bullpens.

Where’s the efficiency in all of that? At least three pitchers to play one game? Where have the days of Nolan Ryan, who once threw 259 pitches in a single game, gone?

Let’s face it—pitchers are being babied. From Little League on to the majors, pitchers are not allowed to throw a lot of pitches. It’s the general notion that if a pitcher who plays a nine inning game throws over 100 pitches, he’s pretty much done. We will never see a pitcher throw over 150 pitches in a game again.

Now, we can see why starting pitchers are held back, as they throw more innings than relievers.

So why are relief pitchers held back?

The average relief pitcher today pitches about 1.2 innings. In the 1960s, relief pitchers averaged 2.3 innings per game. A 1960s relief pitcher pitched double the amount of innings than a reliever today pitches. 

The huge difference is due largely to specialization. In the 1960s, there were no lefty specialists. There weren’t any designated side-armers. MLB teams didn’t have closer by committees. 

Specialization has basically killed the number of innings a relief pitcher pitches.

Since there are more positions in the bullpen, roster spots go up.

More lackadaisical pitchers are allowed into the league.

Runs go up. Fans want runs. Owners want fans’ money. Specialization will not die.

But would a lack of specialization lead to more wins for ball-clubs? Maybe.

Joe Nathan, the Minnesota Twins’ star closer, was injured in spring training this year with a UCL tear in his throwing arm. Twins fans wondered what the Minnesota organization would do. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire decided to give 6’11” behemoth Jon Rauch most of the save opportunities this year. Rauch has done fine, converting 10 of 11 saves. 

Was that the most efficient move for the Twins? Maybe not, but it has worked out well, as the Twins are in first place of the AL Central division with a record of 23-14.

Another possibility for the Twins’ Nathan catastrophe was to have a platoon of Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, and Pat Neshek for outs after the starter was done. 

That would take specialization to a level unheard of before. So with Rauch becoming the closer, and specialization being on a looser leash for a little while, the Twins have become one of the top teams in the AL.

As you can see, specialization of relievers is not always necessary, but it will continue.


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Is Jermaine Dye a Good Fit for the Red Sox at DH?

While there are Boston Red Sox fans who still appreciate David Ortiz for his greatness from 2003-2007, Red Sox Nation is beginning to get fed up with Ortiz’s lack of production at the plate in recent years. Ortiz had a slow start last year, but he eventually got it going in the later half of the season and wound up with 28 HR and 99 RBI despite hitting a meager .238 throughout the year. 

The Red Sox organization could afford to let Ortiz start slow last year, as they still had another slugger in the lineup with Jason Bay. Now, without Bay, the Red Sox no longer have a bonafide slugger, with their biggest home run threats being Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis.

Now even those three high-quality hitters will not put up astronomical power numbers like Ortiz could once do. Martinez, Pedroia, and Youkilis are great 30 HR, 100 RBI, .300 AVG guys, and that is most certainly nothing to complain about.

But the Red Sox lack that scary hitter, the one who crushes 50 moon shots a year and starts to get intentionally walked after a while. 

With the rumors swirling about Ortiz’s departure from Boston, the Red Sox may make a move for another DH before you know it.

The hottest DH candidate on the free-agent market is Jermaine Dye.

Dye, 36, is a quality hitter who regularly has a .270, 30, 90 stat line. He is more of a value on defense than Ortiz, but that does not matter much because Dye would likely replace Ortiz at DH rather than replacing J.D. Drew in RF.

Dye asked for too much money in free-agency this winter, but now he is desperate for a job. He does not want to retire, and it is likely he will stay persistent with baseball for a few more years.

Would Dye be a good fit in Boston? I would say so. If the Red Sox don’t want Dye to replace Ortiz (just for sentimental reasons) they could platoon Dye and Ortiz. The left-handed Ortiz could hit right-handed pitching, and the right-handed Dye could hit left-handed pitching.

Even though the Red Sox signed Jeremy Hermida to be their fourth outfielder this season, and Darnell McDonald has played great in his short tenure since being called up, Dye can still play the outfield, and his versatility could prove worthwhile for the Red Sox.

I think the Red Sox should snap Dye up this year, because it’s still a possibility that he could retire for good if left jobless in 2010.


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