5 Reasons Robin Ventura Should Turn to Brett Myers as the White Sox Closer
With the Chicago White Sox continuing to hold down first place in the AL Central, it might be wise for manager Robin Ventura to move the more experienced Brett Myers into the team's closer role, while allowing Addison Reed to continue his development in a setup role.
Why would Ventura want to tinker with his rookie closer who has converted 18 out of 21 saves?
While Reed is in the middle of the pack for blown saves among AL closers, he has struggled through some nail-biting ninth innings this season.
If the White Sox find themselves involved in close games during the division race, or more importantly, in the playoffs, can they trust Addison Reed?
It's better to solidify roles on the pitching staff in early August than in late September. If Reed struggles and loses confidence down the stretch, it could cost the White Sox a golden opportunity to make the postseason.
Myers, who was recently acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros, has primarily been a starter during his 11-year career but has had some stints in the bullpen.
Reed is likely the closer of the future for the White Sox, and while he has succeeded for the most part in that role this season, his numbers tell a different story.
Ventura did not endure the same challenges that his predecessor, Ozzie Guillen, did last year while trying to find a suitable closer shortly after spring training. The White Sox suffered only one blown save this April compared to last season's four blown saves in April.
After earning the role as closer in early May, Addison Reed has performed well overall but he has had too many shaky outings for most fans' tastes over the last month.
Here are five reasons Robin Ventura should consider making Brett Myers the White Sox's permanent closer.
Myers' Experience Would Be Valuable During the Division Race
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There is no doubt that White Sox reliever Addison Reed has talent. He has a plus-fastball with an effective slider, and remains one of the team's future stars.
What is not known about Reed is how he will handle pressure situations in September and October when the AL Central title is on the line.
Myers has also made seven postseason appearances, which includes two World Series games.
While Myers has primarily been a starting pitcher for most of his 11 major league seasons, he's also closed games and pitched in a setup role. He has faced almost every situation possible thanks to his versatility.
Myers was picked up before the trade deadline to help firm up the White Sox bullpen. What has not been talked about often since his arrival is whether Myers would take over the closer role if Reed faltered.
As recently as this year, Myers was primarily a closer for the second time in his career. Before coming to Chicago, Myers had 19 saves for the Houston Astros this season, to go along with a solid 3.15 earned run average.
Myers had previously closed for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007, picking up 21 saves with a 4.33 ERA. Myers didn't earn his first save that season until May 3, and after becoming the Phillies' closer that year, Myers had a 3.20 ERA the rest of the season.
Myers has been around long enough and pitched in enough big games to know how to pitch in high-pressure situations. His experience would serve him well as the White Sox closer during this season's division race.
Reed Not in the Class of Other Recent Top Rookie Closers
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While it is hard to argue with an 86 percent converted save ratio, Addison Reed has not looked as dominant as recent top rookie closers who have broken onto the MLB scene.
That lack of dominance might not be able to get the team out of some late-inning jams in late September or during an intense playoff game.
While it is impossible to project how Reed will perform under the gun for the White Sox during the postseason, it is easy to see how a mid-May save situation against the Kansas City Royals is quite different from an ALCS Game 7 save situation at Yankee Stadium.
Reed has been relatively effective as the White Sox closer, but a look at some of the last few rookie closers who have made an impact during their rookie campaigns makes it clear that Reed might not be ready for prime time.
Including his seventh and eighth inning roles this season, Reed currently has a 4.03 ERA with a 1.26 WHIP. After posting an impressive 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues, Reed now has an 8.8 K/9 on the season, and a 6.0 K/9 in his last 10 appearances.
While it might be unfair to be compared to the Atlanta Braves' stud closer, Craig Kimbrel, Reed's current rookie output pales in comparison to Kimbrel's dominant 2011 campaign. As a rookie, Kimbrel saved 46 games with an ERA of 2.10, a 1.03 WHIP and an outstanding 14.8 K/9.
Texas Rangers pitcher Neftali Feliz saved 40 games his rookie season in 2010, posting a 2.73 ERA with a stellar 0.88 WHIP. Feliz pitched six scoreless innings that season in the ALCS and the World Series.
Jonathan Papelbon's rookie 2006 season was notable for his dominant 0.92 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Papelbon saved 35 games for the Red Sox that season, and remains one of the game's most dependable closers.
After being the White Sox's top prospect this season, a rarity for projected closers, Addison Reed has performed admirably, yet he has not had anywhere near elite stuff. Reed's game might heat up this fall, but if he experiences some growing pains on the mound, the White Sox will suffer.
Reed Might Be Better Suited for a Setup Role
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Most White Sox fans are probably wondering what is exactly wrong with 18 saves in 21 chances. While it's difficult to argue against Reed's results as a closer, his early season work in the seventh and eighth innings was far more impressive.
Reed made 11 appearances this season before earning his first save. In 8.2 innings as a set-up man, Reed allowed no runs and opponents managed only a .161 batting average against the rookie.
Reed had an impressive 12.07 K/9 ratio during those 11 appearances, making him a dominant go-to guy who could preserve the lead for the team's closer.
While 11 games is a pretty small sample size, those 11 games make up a little less than a quarter of his major league career.
Reed has been mostly solid this season as the White Sox closer, but he fared quite better in his early season setup role. While Reed should be the team's closer for many years to come, he should get some more seasoning in the setup role, a role in which he thrived early on this season.
Most of Reed's Numbers as a Closer Are Unimpressive
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As mentioned, Addison Reed excelled early on this year and did not yield a run until his 14th appearance of the season.
While Reed's overall numbers for 2012 look somewhat solid with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, his actual production as a closer is mediocre at best.
Since earning his first save on May 5, Reed's ERA in 31 appearances is 5.22 with a 1.37 WHIP. His K/9 is 8.04 over those 31 games.
Even if you start the clock on Reed's closer career after his six-run blowup in one third of an inning on May 13, his ERA is a bit too big for comfort at 3.58. That's not a terrible number, but it's nowhere near the level of elite closers.
The bottom line is that Reed got off to a fine start in the bullpen, prior to converting to his current closer role. Since being the team's closer, Reed's bloated ERA should be cause for concern and could be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off at the worst possible time—a division race.
White Sox Need to Manage Risk with Their Unexpected Chance at Postseason Glory
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The 2012 White Sox were not expected to make waves in the AL Central this season, and a call for a postseason berth for the team would have been considered a pipe dream.
It's now apparent that the White Sox are players in the American League playoff race. Strong seasons by Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Chris Sale and Jake Peavy have pushed rookie manager Robin Ventura and the White Sox straight to the top third of baseball's power rankings.
With less than 60 games to play this season and a 2.5 game lead in the division, the White Sox players will likely experience more meaningful and pressure-packed games down the stretch.
It would be a major letdown if the team lost ground to the second-place Tigers following a string of blown saves. While his converted save ratio has been rock solid this year, Addison Reed's peripheral numbers suggest a regression is in order during the most important stretch of the season.
Brett Myers offers 11 years of MLB experience, postseason experience and a versatility that makes him a valuable asset for the White Sox in their quest for postseason glory.
Rather than destroy Reed's confidence by yanking him as the team's closer after a few bad late-September outings, Ventura could shore up the team's bullpen before the late stretch of the division race, strongly defining everyone's bullpen roles.
It would be a bold and controversial move to take Addison Reed out of the closer role now and replace him with Brett Myers. If Robin Ventura wants a steady, veteran presence finishing off close games for the White Sox during the regular season, having Myers as the closer now would prevent a potential rookie meltdown during the most crucial games of the season.