2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
DUNEDIN, Fla. _ The question of the day is easy and uncomplicated.
The answer is not.
Question: Which is more important on any team trying to win its division: a fifth starter or a closer?
Players had the answers and none exchanged their answers at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Edwin Encarnacion, who broke into the majors in 2005 with the Cincinnati Reds, said: “The fifth starter.
“You can’t get to the closer if your fifth starter leaves and you are losing 5-0. I was in the minors but Danny Graves struggled with the 2004 Reds. I remember Wily Mo Pena and Felipe Lopez telling me.”
Graves blew nine saves in 50 chances and had a 1-6 record for the Reds, who went 76-86.
R.A. Dickey, who made his debut in 2001 with the Texas Rangers: “A closer.
“I’m opining and I have zero facts to back it up. Closers are usually guys you can depend on for the final outs. So many clubs rotate fifth starters in and out. It’s hard to piece together the closer role.
Johan Santana, who made his debut with the 2000 Minnesota Twins. “You have to have balance.
“It’s a great situation for the pitcher if he can do either. When your closer blows a game and you loose by a handful of close ones, at the end of the year you look back at blown games and think how those losses would have made a difference.
“It’s the same thing every single season, every single team, year after year … you have to made adjustments.”
Jeff Francis, who made his debut with the Colorado Rockies in 2004: “A closer.
“The last three outs are the hardest. It is not a job for some. I’ve seen a lot of people not able to handle the ninth. I’ve always wondered if managers would use the closer in the eighth to face say the 2-3-4 hitters.
“I’ve been on teams with good closers who struggled. You don’t want to lose a game you’re supposed to win. A good bullpen can turn it into a seven-inning game. Like Oakland last year: Luke Gregerson had the eighth, Sean Doolittle the ninth.”
Reliever Aaron Loup, who made his Jays debut in 2012, “Closer.
“You can use a closer 50-to-80 games. The fifth starter is going to see the field, what 30 times a year?”
Another player: “It’s a good question, but is it the right question? Aaron Sanchez is not a No. 5 starter. He’s a future No. 1. If it’s Sanchez or a closer do you want 200 innings or 70? If it’s a fifth starter or closer on 25 other teams, a closer has more import.”
Sanchez, who made his debut last season, is the possible closer if you apply the fifth man or closer equation to the Jays: “Bullpen seems to be the popular perception, the way Kansas City made the World Series with three lock down relievers.
“Other teams are doing the same. It’s a hard question. For this year? Or for a career? It’s still a tough question.”
After playing in Tampa Tuesday night, the Jays have 17 games to decide …
Is Sanchez a starter or the closer?
Do the Jays go with Brett Cecil as the closer?
The 1983 Jays might have won with a closer … led by Joey McLaughlin the Jays bullpen converted 32 of 58 opportunities (55%).
The next year Roy Lee Jackson and a young lefty reliever saved 33 of 57 games (58%). The 1984 Detroit Tigers started 35-5, yet on June 3, the Jays entered a four-game series 4 1/2 games back.
Tom Henke took over mid-way through 1985 saving 13 of 14 games as the bullpen improved to (47-for-70, 67%).
The 1992-93 World Series bullpens were where championship teams usually are (49-for-59, 83%, then 50-for-69, 72%).
A year ago, the Jays were 45-for-63 (71%) converting saves.
The name of that other reliever in 1984?
He turned out to have a pretty good run as a starter making 389 starts and winning 182 games the next 14 seasons.