MLB Power Rankings: Every Team's Most Worthless Pitcher So Far in 2011

Jason LempertCorrespondent IJune 7, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Every Team's Most Worthless Pitcher So Far in 2011

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    Daisuke Matsuzaka.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    We've passed the two month mark on the 2011 season. The First-Year Player Draft is among us, and All-Star ballots are filing in by the thousands.

    There have been pleasant surprises in 2011, like the Cleveland Indians, and there have been disappointments, like Minnesota Twins.

    So here's a look at some pitchers who have failed to meet expectations and could find themselves in serious trouble if things don't turn around soon.

New York Yankees: Rafael Soriano

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    Coming off the best season of his career, Rafael Soriano inked a three-year contract, worth $35 million, with the New York Yankees. In 2010, Soriano earned his first All-Star nomination as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    As the Rays' full-time closer, the right-hander led the league with 45 saves and finished with a sparkling 1.73 ERA.

    But so far in 2011, Soriano has not been able to maintain that success and has been downright awful for the Bombers. In 16 appearances, he has a 5.40 ERA and has walked more batters (11) than he has struck out (10).

    Currently, the 31-year-old is on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation and is not expected to even throw for at least another couple of weeks. Not a good start to this relationship in the Bronx.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Jonathan Broxton

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    In 2009, Jonathan Broxton was as dominant of a closer as there was in the game. He saved 36 games for the Dodgers that year, earning his first All-Star nomination.

    But injuries and ineffectiveness have spoiled the fun for the burly right-hander. Last year, he finished with the highest ERA of his career since his rookie season, along with a losing record. And 2011 so far has been a disaster for Broxton.

    He has seven saves over 14 appearances and an ERA of 5.68. He has a 6.4 BB/9 ratio to go along with a 7.1 K/9 ratio, well below his career mark of 11.5.

    He's currently on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and is not expected back until July at this point. It remains to be seen if he is able to hold on to his closer role once he returns, but a trade could be on the horizon if the Dodgers intend to remain in contention.

Detroit Tigers: Joaquin Benoit

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    Joaquin Benoit more-or-less set the bar for free-agent middle relievers this past offseason. After having a career year out of the bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, Benoit signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

    But unlike some of his other counterparts, Benoit has not proven his value to the fans in the Motor City. In 25 appearances so far in 2011, the right-hander has a 5.24 ERA and has given up almost 10 hits per nine innings—not exactly the numbers you want from your eighth inning setup man.

    Believe it or not, Benoit has actually gotten better over the last few weeks. He began the month of May with an ERA over eight. He hasn't given up a run over his last nine appearances. But he's going to need to have a few more weeks of solid outings to overcome these gaudy numbers.

Washington Nationals: Sean Burnett

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    Overall, the Washington Nationals' pitching staff has been fairly decent so far in 2011. They currently rank eighth in the league in ERA. But one pitcher who has had much difficulties has been lefty Sean Burnett.

    Early in the year, Burnett had temporarily replaced struggling youngster Drew Storen as the team's closer. But since then, Storen has reclaimed that role and Burnett has been the one that has struggled.

    Over 28 outings in 2011, he has a 5.40 ERA and has given up almost nine hits per nine innings. He's racked up four saves, the last one coming on May 6. But he's also blown four saves, all but one of which wound up resulting in a Washington loss.

    Burnett has good stuff and is in no real danger of being demoted to Triple-A. But if the Nationals want to be viewed as serious competitors in the National League, Burnett better start turning in some quality performances.

Chicago Cubs: Casey Coleman

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    The Chicago Cubs have the worst pitching in the league so far in 2011, with a total 4.77 ERA. So it's rather difficult to point fingers at one pitcher in particular. But Casey Coleman figures to be a logical culprit.

    Coleman is only 23 years of age, and is only in his second big league season. But his inflated 7.25 ERA and 11.8 H/9 is certainly an eye sore regardless. He's also walked one more batter (26) than he's struck out (25).

    And, as a member of the Cubs' rotation, Coleman has not helped out his bullpen mates. Coleman has appeared in nine games (eight starts) and has averaged only four innings per game—he's pitched six innings only once this season.

    There is reason to believe the Fort Myers native will turn things around at some point. His minor league numbers are solid across the board, including 14 wins with Double-A Knoxville in 2009. But so far in 2011, Coleman has been anything but spectacular, and thus he was optioned to Triple-A on May 28.

Texas Rangers: Dave Bush

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    The Texas Rangers have one of the best pitching staffs in the league so far in 2011. Their composite 3.65 ERA is good for fifth in the AL, and their four complete games is tops.

    But like on any team, there's almost always going to be one member of a staff that has been somewhat of a goat. In this case, it would be right-hander Dave Bush.

    The 31-year-old signed a minor league contract with the Rangers in January, and has been used in a myriad of roles in 2011. He's appeared in 10 games for the Rangers, making three starts. He's finished five games and has entered from the bullpen in the second, sixth, eighth, ninth and 14th innings in 2011.

    But his numbers have not exactly been up to par. He has a 4.81 ERA and hasn't pitched more than four innings in any appearance (and he's averaged less than four innings pitched in three starts). The Rangers are 2-8 in games he has appeared in.

    The team and their fans may not be expecting much from Bush, but his time in Arlington could be short lived if his numbers don't improve soon.

Boston Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka

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    In December 2006, the Boston Red Sox signed Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year, $52 million contract. Of course, they had to spend another $51 million just to win negotiation rights prior to the contract signing. So in all, the Sox invested over $100 million for the services of the then 26-year-old.

    And in his first two seasons, Dice-K looked to be an ace in the making for the Red Sox. He finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2007, and he won 18 games the following season.

    But his career has since gone into a bit of a tailspin, and now his Red Sox career may be all but over. On Thursday, the 30-year-old decided to undergo Tommy John Surgery, ending his 2011 season and putting most (if not all) of his 2012 campaign in jeopardy. Additionally, he may have thrown his last pitch as a member of the Red Sox.

    For the time that Dice-K was on the mound in 2011, his numbers were not very impressive. Over eight appearances (seven starts), his ERA was up to 5.30 and had only three more strikeouts (26) than walks issued (23). 

New York Mets: Tim Byrdak

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    Tim Byrdak has had a tough assignment in his first season as a New York Met. For the majority of the season, he has been the lone left-hander out of the Mets' bullpen. But unfortunately for him and the Mets, he has not excelled at his left-handed, late-inning setup role.

    Byrdak has allowed at least one run to score in six of his 25 outings so far this year and has one blown save on his record. His ERA currently sits at 5.02. And to make things compound matters, left-handed batters are hitting .278 against the southpaw.

    Perhaps the Mets should looked elsewhere for their left-handed specialist.

Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan

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    It's been a rough year for the Minnesota Twins. They have the worst record in baseball, and the injury bug has taken a large bite out of the core of the roster.

    Joe Nathan is one player, however, who has returned from an injury in 2011.  The Twins were relying on him to re-solidify their bullpen. But he has failed to do just that.

    Nathan has just three saves on the year, but none since April 8. He's also blown two saves this year. He has given up at least one run in eight of his 17 appearances. Over those 17 appearances, Nathan has a 7.63 ERA and has allowed 10 hits per nine innings so far in 2011.

    He underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2010 and did not pitch at all for the Twins last year. He was placed on the disabled list on May 29 with a flexor muscle strain in his right forearm.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Heilman

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    Aaron Heilman is up to his old tactics—pitching poorly out of the bullpen. Heilman has struggled for the majority of his career pitching in relief, and 2011 has been no different for the right-hander.

    His role with the Arizona Diamondbacks has become more and more diminished with each poor outing it seems. And it concluded with the D-Backs no longer requiring the services of Heilman.

    So far in 2011, he's appeared in 18 games for Arizona and has a hefty 8.84 ERA. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and that phrase speaks true to Heilman's 4-0 record.

    He has allowed a ratio of 14.4 hits per nine innings and has given up at least one run in nine of his outings (three straight), including two of more than five runs. Are there any Mets fans that miss this guy?

Chicago White Sox: John Danks

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    Right now, the Chicago White Sox rotation is in somewhat of a trial by fire situation. Ever since Jake Peavy returned from the disabled list, manager Ozzie Guillen has been using a six-man rotation. And there are a couple of pitchers who seem to be pitching for their role each time they go out (namely Edwin Jackson and Phillip Humber).

    But John Danks hasn't really gotten the job done either so far in 2011. He won his first game of the year on Monday, after starting the year 0-8. And though the Sox have scored less than three runs per game in his support, it's not as if Danks has been twirling no-hitters out there.

    Danks possesses an ERA of 4.75, and he's allowed at least four earned runs in five of his 12 starts, including a whopping nine on May 29. Eventually, the White Sox are going to go back the normal five-man rotation, and if Danks doesn't shake out the kinks, he could be the odd man out.

San Diego Padres: Clayton Richard

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    The San Diego Padres have the third best pitching staff in the league (3.29 ERA). And though at least part of that is a result of the pitcher's haven that PetCo Park is, it's hard to find a pitcher in this staff that is having a truly bad season.

    But Clayton Richard has the gaudiest numbers of any of the Padres' pitchers. His 4.20 ERA and 1.472 WHIP are the highest on the team. He has only two wins in 13 starts, and he's gotten some decent run support (3.50 runs per game). And the Friars have a 3-10 record in games Richard has started.

Atlanta Braves: Scott Linebrink

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    The Atlanta Braves have the lowest ERA (3.03) in the major leagues. But that's not in much thanks to Scott Linebrink.

    The right-handed reliever has a team high 4.22 ERA and has allowed 9.3 hits per nine innings, also most on the club (minimum 21 IP). His ERA has actually gone down over the last few weeks after he's strung together some solid outings.

    But he hasn't been very reliable out of the pen for Fredi Gonzaliez and the Braves, and he could start seeing a diminished role if he doesn't continue to improve.

Baltimore Orioles: Mike Gonzalez

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    Remember when Mike Gonzalez saved 24 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006? Remember how dominant he seemed with a 2.17 ERA? Seems like an eternity, doesn't it?

    Now, Gonzalez is pitching out of the Baltimore Orioles bullpen, and it has been a consistent struggle for the left-hander. In 2011, he has a 7.36 ERA and has given up at least one run in 12 of his 20 appearances.

    And while he's held left-handed batters to a .238 batting average, right-handers are hitting a whopping .400, to go along with five home runs.

    It's been a rough go of it for Gonzalez over the last few seasons. At 33 years of age, there is still time for him to turn it around, but he'd better do it soon if he hopes to keep his job.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Hisanori Takahashi

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    The Angels brought in left-hander Hisanori Takahashi on a two-year, $8 million deal in December. And though he has been somewhat useful out of the Halos' bullpen, 2011 hasn't been very kind to the Japanese southpaw.

    So far this season, Takahashi has a 4.38 ERA over 26 appearances. Left-handed batters are hitting .304 against him. He's also struggled when pitching in clutch situations.

    With two outs, opposing hitters are batting .290 against Takahashi, and he owns a 4.50 ERA when pitching between the seventh and ninth innings (20 IP).

    He may not be in danger of losing his job as of yet, but the Angels need all bullpen mates to perform at their best, and so far, Takahashi has yet to fulfill that necessity.

Milwaukee Brewers: Sean Green

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    The Milwaukee Brewers have gotten very good starting pitching so far this year, which would help explain why they are in second place in the NL Central.

    But when the Brewers signed right-hander Sean Green to be a part of their 2011 bullpen, they probably didn't predict that he'd be off the team by mid-May. Well that's exactly what happened.

    Green was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on May 5 and was subsequently designated for assignment by the Brewers on May 17. He had recorded a 5.40 ERA in 14 games, while striking out seven and walking six batters.

    Green accepted his assignment in Nashville, and he may be back up with the big club before all is said and done in 2011. But the Brewers' expectations of him most certainly have diminished over the first two months of the season.

Kansas City Royals: Joakim Soria

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    The Kansas City Royals got off to a flying start to the 2011 season. They were in second place in the division as recently as May 12. But recently, things haven't been going so well for the Royals.

    They now sit in fourth place in the AL Central, and they have watched their star right-hander Joakim Soria struggle to the point where he has lost is grasp on the closer role.

    Soria has seven saves on the season but none since May 20. He was temporarily removed from being the team's closer after he blew three consecutive save chances, watching his ERA balloon to over 6.00.

    More recently, Soria has had three consecutive scoreless outings, and could be moved back into the closer role at anytime. And given his track record, he very well could turn his season around. But so far in 2011, he's been a bit of a disappointment so far in 2011.

St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Franklin

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    Ryan Franklin has really put the St. Louis Cardinals in a bind. He started the season as the team's closer, but has only one save on the season, which came in just his second appearance. Compare that to the 1-4 record and four blown saves, and Franklin has been a disaster out of the Redbirds' bullpen.

    He has a 7.52 ERA on the season, and in only five of his 16 outings did he not allow a run to score. The Cardinals are 4-12 in games that Franklin has appeared in.

    So far, 2011 has been a far cry from his 2008-2010 campaigns, when Franklin saved an average of 27 games a season for the Cardinals. He's due to become a free agent at the end of the season, and at 38 years old, time may be running up for Franklin to turn things around.

Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden

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    The Oakland Athletics' pitching staff has the best ERA in the American League, at 3.21. But one of their main cogs is not the reason for that.

    Dallas Braden threw a perfect game last May 9 for the Oakland A's. Less than one calendar year after that, the southpaw found himself on the disabled list with what was diagnosed as a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder.

    Braden, who left his third start of the season in the fifth inning with shoulder stiffness, underwent surgery on May 17, almost certainly ending his 2011 season. In his three starts, Braden struck out 15 batters and allowed six earned runs in 18 IP.

    Note of interest, this is the same injury that caused Mets' ace Johan Santana to miss the entire month of September, as he underwent the same surgery. Santana is not due back until at least mid-July.

Florida Marlins: Javier Vazquez

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    When the Florida Marlins signed right-hander Javier Vazquez to a $7 million contract, there was a hope that the Fish would have themselves a solid rotation, at least four-fifths of the way through.

    But while Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez have held up their part of the bargain, Vazquez has been just about terrible in 2011. It's somewhat of an anomaly, as Vazquez has had good success while pitching in the National League.

    Yet, the 34-year-old has an ERA over six and has allowed four earned runs or more in seven of his 11 starts this year. And it's not as if he hasn't had help. The Marlins have scored an average of 4.5 runs per game in Vazquez' starts.

Houston Astros: Nelson Figueroa

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    The Houston Astros may have caught lightning in a bottle last year when the claimed Nelson Figueroa off waivers from the Phillies in July. He appeared in 18 games for the Astros in 2010 (10 starts) and finished with a 3.22 ERA in 67 IP.

    However, 2011 has not been as kind to the right-hander. He has an ERA over eight and has struck out one more batter than he's walked (17 K to 16 BB).

    On May 9, the right-hander's poor performance got the best of him, as the Astros designated him for assignment. He cleared waivers and is now pitching in Triple-A.

Seattle Mariners: Chris Ray

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    The Seattle Mariners currently have the second best ERA in the American League. The starting pitching has been rock solid, and they have gotten great consistency out of their bullpen. But Chris Ray has been a bit of a sour apple in this bunch.

    His ERA currently sits well over 6.00, and he's also walked almost four batters per nine innings over his 14 appearances in 2011. His 11.4 H/9 is also a very ugly eyesore on the stat sheet.

Cleveland Indians: Fausto Carmona

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    With a 33-25 record, the Cleveland Indians have certainly been the talk of the town so far in 2011. The team virtually came out of nowhere to become one of the best teams in baseball. They are currently fielding a team with an average age under 30 years old, but still, the Indians are sitting atop the AL Central.

    And while some of their pitchers have been absolutely wonderful so far (Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Rafael Perez to name a few), Fausto Carmona has been a large disappointment in this Cinderella story.

    Carmona, the ace of the staff entering the season, has a 3-7 record in 13 starts, with a 5.33 ERA. His season didn't get off to the greatest of starts, when he allowed 11 hits and 10 earned runs on Opening Day. But that was just one of four starts in which the right-hander gave up more than four earned runs.

    When he's been good, he's been real good. But more times than not in 2011, Carmona has been not so good. If the Tribe hopes to maintain this incredible run, Carmona is going to have to turn things around soon.

Tampa Bay Rays: Andy Sonnanstine/Jeff Niemann

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    You have to give the Tampa Bay Rays some credit. With all of the big free-agent losses this past winter (Carl Crawford, Joaquin Benoit, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour), coupled with star third baseman Evan Longoria missing the first month of the season, the Rays were not expected to be battling the Red Sox and Yankees in 2011.

    Yet they are in third place and have been duking it out with the other AL East behemoths so far this season.

    But the fifth starter in their rotation has been an issue early on. Jeff Niemann began the year as the final starter in the group. But after going 1-4 in six starts, the Rays placed him on the disabled list with lower back stiffness.

    In his place, Andy Sonnanstine has been anything but effective. He's made four starts this season, and is 0-2 with a 5.68 ERA overall. He's walked more batters (12) than he's struck out (nine). Niemann is pitching in rehab games now, and could rejoin the rotation this month. For the Rays sake, he had better find a groove when he returns.

Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Blanton

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    When you have a starting rotation the consists of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, you can probably afford to have your fifth starter have a down year. That's the situation the Philadelphia Phillies are currently in.

    Joe Blanton has had trouble staying healthy in 2011, let alone productive. In just six starts, he has a 5.50 ERA while allowing 11.8 H/9. He's on his second disabled list stint of the season, due to right elbow inflammation. He will be sidelined for at least another month.

San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito

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    For the last several seasons, the San Francisco Giants have prided themselves on having a spectacular pitching staff, and 2011 is no different. The reigning World Series champs currently have the third best ERA in the National League, led of course by ace Tim Lincecum.

    But remember Barry Zito? You know, the former Cy Young Award winning left-hander who was the most sought after free-agent pitcher after the 2006 season. He's the guy that signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants.

    He's also the guy who's made three starts in 2011 and none since he left his April 16 start with what's been diagnosed as a sprained right foot. He's currently rehabbing his way back to the big leagues, but with Ryan Vogelsong pitching well in his place, there's no guarantee that Zito and his 6.23 ERA will be back in the rotation upon his return.

Cincinnati Reds: Edinson Volquez

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    It's been a tease of a season for the Cincinnati Reds. They've played well this year and have a very talented roster. That said, however, they have the second worst ERA in the league and are just one game over .500.

    A good portion of the blame could be placed on the struggles of Opening Day starter Edinson Volquez. Volquez has made 10 starts this year for the Reds but none since giving up seven runs (six earned) in 2.2 innings on May 22. Following that start, Volquez was sent down to the minor leagues to work out the kinks.

    These kinks have resulted in a 6.35 ERA on the year. He has not pitched more than six innings in any start and has walked 6.7 batters per nine innings. Volquez is now back up with the Reds and is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday. The Reds will need their ace to revert back to his 2008 self when he won 17 games if they hope to last in the division.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Joe Beimel

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    Despite being in fourth place in the NL Central and being two games under .500, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten very good pitching so far in 2011. Their 3.56 ERA is good for fifth in the league.

    But left-hander Joe Beimel has had a rough campaign so far. He has a 5.40 ERA. And, while he's been able to limit the damage against left-handed batters, righties have touched him up to the tune of a .333 batting average against.

    Beimel is the Bucs' left-handed setup man, so it's great he's been able to get lefties out. But for sure the Pirates would love for him to be able to solve the right-handed batters to become a more well-rounded reliever. But at 34 years of age, there might not be much time left for Beimel to do just that.

Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez

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    Considering the Colorado Rockies play their home games at the hitters' haven of Coors Field, a team 3.83 ERA is not all that bad, sspecially when you consider that ace Ubaldo Jimenez has not been very good at all this year.

    At this time last year, Jimenez had a 0.93 ERA, was 11-1 and had 78 strikeouts. He also had already thrown the first no-hitter in Rockies' history.

    However, at this time this year, the right-hander is 1-5 with a 4.98 ERA and 52 strikeouts...and no no-hitter.

    He looked much better his last time out, tossing a complete game shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 1. But he's given up four earned runs or more in half of his starts in 2011. There's no question that the Rockies need their best pitcher to turn things around quickly before they get buried in the NL West.

Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Francisco

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    The Toronto Blue Jays made two key moves towards the end of the offseason. They dealt Vernon Wells to the Angels for Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli. Six days later they sent Napoli to the Rangers for right-hander Frank Francisco. The hope was that Francisco would become the team's undisputed closer.

    Well, so far things haven't turned out so peachy for the Jays. Francisco started the season on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. He missed the team's first 17 games n 2011. Since his return, life has not been good north of the border.

    Since returning on April 20, Francisco has a 1-3 record with a 6.06 ERA. He had five saves but has also blown three. After coughing up the game in two consecutive outings, manager John Farrell removed Francisco from the closer role and is going with a combination of Francisco, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch to finish up games (don't be surprised if Jason Frasor gets in the mix as well).