Not that I'm making excuses for German, because it was clear from the
outset on Tuesday night that he was very nervous being on the mound in
the 9th inning with a save opportunity. Last year, the Tigers
thrust him into the role as
closer to start the season and he struggled terribly before getting
sent down. But Alan Trammell should give him another shot; just
not right now. Probably the best thing for German is to slot into
middle relief for a few weeks and get comfortable pitching in the
majors. Then give him a couple of shots at closing before
deciding if the team can trade Urbina for prospects.
German actually struck Casey Blake out with a foul and 2 excellent
fastballs at the knees. Unfortunately for German, umpire Rick
Reed was wearing eye patches over both eyes and testing if his
spider-sense could identify balls from strikes. This forced
German to throw to a strike zone that was roughly the size of a
postcard. His pitches to Ben Broussard weren't as good as the
ones to Blake and he eventually grooved a fastball right down Main
Street that Broussard put a nice easy swing on for a game-tying
homer. It's unfortunate, but after German's struggles with the
strikezone last year, I can't help but believe that reputation does
play a larger role than it should in baseball.
Regardless, if German hopes to turn his success as a AAA closer into
similar major league success, he's going to have to get over the fact
that after working 8 laborious innings, umpires quite often are
thinking about dinner after the game, or checking out that chick in row
5, or are noticing that they can make a little noise in their head if
they close their eyes really tightly. He's also going to have to
believe that 96-mph fastballs and 88-mph sliders are good enough to get
any hitter out, provided you throw them for strikes more often than not
and don't get so predicatable that they know what's coming.
Ultimately, I think German
settles down and becomes a decent closer. Whether that happens
this year or next depends greatly on how Trammell handles him over the
Due to the complete ineffectiveness of Mike MacDougal, the release of
Curt Leskanic and the recent injury to Jeremy Affeldt, it appears that
Nate Field will be the Royals closer for the balance of the
season. Sure, Affeldt could come back in 6-8 weeks, but what
would be the point of rushing him back with a team that might not win
60 games. The Royals shouldn't risk Affeldt becoming the next
Mark Wohlers, who was never the same after a similar injury.
So can Nate Field hold the job? The question really is do the
Royals have anyone who could take the job from him if he fails and the
answer is... well, sort of. Field is a decent pitcher so he
won't be terrible as the closer. He just won't put up great
The only guy who has comparable numbers that might be considered for
closing is Shawn Camp. However, he has an ERA of 3.90
in relief and has allowed 4 homers in 27 innings. Interestingly
enough, Camp began his professional career as a closer in the Padre
system, but that was 6 years ago in the Midwest League. While the
home runs are a concern, they haven't been something he's struggled
with during his career, so he might have just been unlucky so
far. He walks fewer batters than Field, but has also given up
more hits and a greater percentage of extra base hits. He
did get a chance to close a game against Baltimore and didn't have too
much trouble, so it's still a situation that bears watching.
Frankly, the Royals could so a lot worse at closer than Field. As
a matter of fact, they already did... last year.
Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson
Clemens has been a great story so far this season, winning 10-games and
positioning himself as the NL starter for the All-Star game. I
don't expect for him to be as dominant in the second half, largely
because his ERA and opponents batting average have increased each month
so far while his strikeouts have decreased. But when Randy
Johnson eclipsed 4000 strikeouts last night, it occurred to me that
Clemens might have had a chance at breaking Nolan Ryan's strikeout
record had he only started his career in the National League.
Ryan faced the DH in only a third of his 27-year career.
Right now, Clemens is sitting right at 4200 strikeouts, but except for
this season, that was accomplished entirely in a DH league.
During his peak years pitching in the AL, Randy Johnson averaged around
290 Ks per season. Once he switched leagues and started facing
pitchers regularly, his yearly average rose to around 350 Ks.
Granted, his K rate was greater than that of Clemens, but even adding
50 Ks per season to Clemens over a 20 year career would have put him at
5200 right now. He'd still be 514 Ks away, but he's almost
assured of getting 100 more this year and that would leave him 2, maybe
3 years away, on pace to break Ryans' record at an age 2 years younger
than Ryan was when he finished.
There are no guarantees that Johnson would have made his turn-around
had he not been in the AL where he could talk with Ryan. But had
he done so while remaining in the National League throughout his
career, he might have been passing 4700 Ks last night instead of just
4000. That would still leave him 1000 away from Ryan, but he's 2
years younger than Clemens and has a better K rate. Three to four
years is what it would take to eclipse him.
Ryan's record is not unbreakable. Obviously, it will take a
special strikeout pitcher to do it, but the two biggest keys are that
he pitch in the National League and not pitch for Dusty Baker.