Originally written on Fantasy Sports Locker Room  |  Last updated 2/22/15

New A’s closer Jim Johnson was yanked from a save opportunity on Wednesday afternoon after another ugly outing. It wasn’t pretty for Johnson in his most recent outing, nor has it been for much of his tenure with Oakland. Picking up one out along the way, Johnson yielded two runs on two hits and a pair of walks and the Twins were able to tie the game after his departure. Oakland went on to win, but that doesn’t make Johnson’s performance any more palatable. Johnson came into the season after yielding five runs and 14 walks+hits in nine Spring innings. After his first 3.1 2014 innings, his regular season ERA sits at 18.92 with a WHIP hovering around five. Are these inflated early season stats? Absolutely. It’s like complaining that a hitter is batting .190 at this stage in the season… in part, the numbers only look bad because its been a rough week with no baseline statistics to absorb the blips. Nevertheless, Johnson has been terrible more often than not in his five outings this season. I covered my concerns about Johnson in Oakland heading into the season. Its not like this guy was a truly dominant stopper in recent seasons, despite the high save totals. Some notes to ponder from our Great Draft Debate series: He has done it though, with underwhelming K/9 numbers (7.2 last year, 5.4 in 2012). Of course, with a career 57.7% ground ball rate he doesn’t necessarily need to overpower hitters to be effective. The 30 year old closer throws hard enough, but has seen an appreciable dip in velocity over the past two seasons from 95.0 in 2011 to 93.5 last year. Through his first three innings, the average heater isn’t that far off last year. Per FanGraphs he’s coming in at 93.2 MPH which isn’t enough to make a statement about after a limited number of pitches thrown. His PitchFX values are all down considerably though, suggesting a pitcher who certainly hasn’t found his groove yet. Again, the team put big money behind Johnson to be their closer this season (and next) and as such I’d expect the team to give him some time to figure it out, but given that we are talking about a pitcher who has relied on strong ground ball rates and stranded runners to close out ball games it is believable that Johnson is being exposed in his new environment. On the radar behind him: Ryan Cook was just activated from the 15 day DL and he is the obvious long term candidate. As long as the team doesn’t make an immediate change, and Cook can get a few innings under his belt, I think he’s the next in line. He’s certainly with a speculative add for owners in need of saves. Cook has strong closer potential, with 9.82 and 8.96 K/9 numbers in his last two seasons respectively and ERAs in the low to mid twos. With a combined 44 holds over that same time frame, he has shown an ability to pitch effectively late in games. Knowing the fungible nature of the position, Johnson could be deposed as closer by the time I press publish on this article but the more likely situation is that Johnson gets another opportunity – perhaps even righting the ship – before the team moves to make a change. If so, look for the 25-year-old Cook to be next in line (ahead of Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle). His catchphrase won’t be as cool (if I was announcing, I’d love to say that the team was paging Dr. Doolittle to clean up this mess, in a save situation), but his profile suggests he can run with the job if given the shot. A note to close, I’m not the only one who sees it this way: I’ve only seen three things linked to closer change: handedness (R), velocity, strikeouts. IF Oakland makes a change, Cook has those things. — Eno Sarris (@enosarris) April 9, 2014   The post $10 million should buy Jim Johnson some time, but Ryan Cook should be on your radar appeared first on Fantasy Sports Locker Room.

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