Nine Setup Men Who Dominate the Eighth But Struggle In the Ninth

Steve PopowskiCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2009

CHICAGO - AUGUST 06: LaTroy Hawkins #22 of the Houston Astros pitches during the game against the Chicago Cubs on August 6, 2008 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Astros 11-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With Chicago Cubs future closer Carlos losing the job to Kevin Gregg, I thought I would make a list of nine MLB Relievers who have thrived throughout their career as a setup man, boasting the kind of stuff that make managers drool.

When they get opportunities in the ninth though, their stuff is nowhere to be found.

Here are nine closers I never want to see in the ninth inning again.

1. LaTroy Hawkins, Houston Astros

Hawkins has been named his teams' closer twice since 2000, in 2001 with the Minnesota Twins and in 2004 with the Chicago Cubs.

For the Twins, Hawkins was 28-for-37 in save opportunities with a robust 5.96 ERA.

For the Cubs in 2004, he was 25-for-34 in save opportunities with a 2.63 ERA, which was mostly due to an excellent second half as a setup man to Joe Borowski. 

In his career, he has saved 44 games out of 62 opportunities, but taking away his excellent 2000 campaign, which he was 14-for-14 in save opportunities, he is 30-for-48, good for 63 percent.

There is no doubt that in his prime, Hawkins had great stuff, but when it comes to closing out tight games, I would never trust Hawkins as my closer.

2. Octavio Dotel, Chicago White Sox

Dotel has been named closer four times since the turn of the century, in 2000 when he took over for injured Billy Wagner with the Houston Astros, in 2004, where he started out as closer for the Oakland Athletics and recaptured his role with the A's when he was traded midseason, and in 2007 with the Kansas City Royals.

Since 2000, Dotel is 42-for-60 in save opportunities. As a primary closer, he had ERA's of 5.40, 3.12, 4.09, and 3.91, but since he has so many blown opportunities, one can be assume he did bad in close games.

There is no doubt that Dotel has amazing stuff, and would have him work the seventh-eighth innings on any day, but as far as closing goes, keep him away from the mound.

3. Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers

Broxton is only entering his fifth year, and this will be the make or break year in regard to whether he will be a closer throughout his career or a reliever.

As the primary closer in 2008, he blew eight save opportunities out of 22 and in 2007, he was only 2-for-8.

He boasts excellent stuff worthy of being closer, as evidence by his 3.02 ERA and 11+ K/inning throughout his career.

If he struggles as closer in 2009, he will be an excellent setup man for years to come.

4. Arthur Rhodes, Seattle Mariners

Since 2000, Rhodes is 9-for-29 in save opportunities, blowing more than twice as many save opportunities than actually executing saves.

Rhodes has never registered more than 14 saves in a year, specifically in 2004 when he was 9-for-14 for the Oakland Athletics.

It seems like managers took a hint because he strives in the seventh-eighth innings.

5. Scott Linebrink, Chicago White Sox

Since 2000, Linebrink is 5-for-34 in save opportunities, which means he has blown almost seven times more games than saves.

He has never been named closer before...thank God, because he still has a 3.26 career ERA despite all of the missed save opportunities.

6. Joel Zumaya, Detroit Tigers

In his young career, Zumaya has shown flashes of closer potential, including a 100+ mph fastball.

When it comes to closing, Zumaya is terrible, picking up only three saves in his career out of 16 opportunities.

Granted, he is still only 25 and if injuries cease to get to him, he may have a long career ahead.

But there is no doubt when it comes to pitching the ninth inning, Zumaya does not know how to end games yet.

Word to Jim Leyland, keep him in the ninth!

7. Hideki Okajima, Boston Red Sox

In his two-year career with the Red Sox, Okajima has been one of the best setup men in baseball, posting a 2.40 ERA.

As far as closing goes, he is only 6-for-16. Luckily, playing in Boston, he as closer John Papelbon to setup for, but if Pap goes down, I would not go to Okajima.

8. Kyle Farnsworth, New York Yankees

Farnsworth has the makings of a dominant closer, with a 100+ mph fastball. When it comes to closing though, Farnsworth is only 27-for-58 in his career and has never registered more than 10 saves in a year.

Good thing the Yankees have a healthy Mariano Rivera this season, because Farnsworth is not made for the ninth.

9. Fernando Rodney, Detroit Tigers

Rodney strives in the setup role for the Tigers, but is only 33-for-58 in save opportunities throughout his career.

He as only registered more than 10 saves in a season once, in 2008, when he was 13-for-19, but had a 4.91 ERA coupled with six losses.


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