Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/26/12

Jonathan Papelbon will soon wield the hammer after the aces work their magic for the Philadelphia Phillies. If you are second best, do you reach the peak after the top dog jogs in from the ‘pen for the final time? And what can be expected from the other 6 arms in the relief corps?

Tal's Handy Caps:



I am doing a weekly Baseball-Fix Monday until the end of March. Also, I’ll publish after every game that is not washed out during the summer. My format will remain the same in 2012 with Nitecap Insight, The Precap (restructured as the Precap Pitch), and The Apocalyptic Horsemen. Cap-Size Hindsight will feature certain players plus participants who warrant mention, good and bad, for what they have done in the contest or clubhouse. Penthouse Occupancy will cover all remarkable plays along with solid performances during critical moments by the locals. The best of those will receive The Crystal Champagne Toast. Cholley’s Doghouse is filled every now and then due to a slacking effort. The Outhouse is for something that stinks, like a bad ump call. The Glass House is a stone’s throw away for a man who blows his opportunity to nail a juicier role. The Miniature Mansion is for off-field excellence, like a locker-room influence. However, these houses don’t have visitors after every battle: It depends on the circumstances.

New wrinkles this season are: The Kangaroo Court HouseFun House Of MirrorsRally Tal & Cap, and the rare Full House Warming. The Big House Key will lock some in and reveal The Rising Son on others. My heckler, Sporty Rant, is back. I call him that for his unsportsmanlike ranting. Thank you, Sporty, for the following inspiration. My Critic’s Choice:  Precap Pitch is an innovative non-stat-oriented approach.

Cinco Ocho






The Best Closer After:


During baseball’s first week, the premier fireman said he made up his mind, and the strong hint of retirement hung in the air. I heard speculation that Papelbon is behind only Mariano Rivera for locking things down, and I decided to put it under my mental microscope. I was surprised by the wealth of little known door-slammers. Many of them were unfamiliar to me, and there were some who were bigger in recent summers with sparkling stats or before injuries. That said, there are 3 wings with 1 solid year of shutting down opponents, while Papelbon and Brian Wilson have success-laden histories. Paps has had 2 more campaigns than Wilson and better results.

CLOSERERASAVESBLN. SV.PCT.INN.ER Jonathan Papelbon2.302192888.7%395.1101 Brian Wilson3.001632387.6%264.1088


CLOSERTEAMERASAVESOPPS.PCT. Mariano RiveraYankees1.91444989.8% Jon PapelbonPhillies2.94313491.2% Brian WilsonGiants3.11364187.8% Craig KimbrelBraves2.10465485.2% Ryan MadsonReds2.37323494.1% John AxefordBrewers1.95464895.8%


Mariano Rivera Pictured During ALDS Game 5 In New York On October 6

There are 6 top closers after Rivera, Papelbon and Wilson, but they are not on equal footing with them. The MLB’s majority only have small resumes and would not be visible outside of their city or league.  The most familiar hurlers are Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Madson and John Axeford after their stellar 2011.  It will take a few more fruitful summers before they can be considered for the highest tier. One storyline for 2012 will be a direct comparison of Cinco Ocho and Mad Dog, who is now in the Queen City.  My first correlation will be at or near the end of April, but I’ll also cover the River-dancing stud with the bug-eyed look during his first tour here.  Can he maintain the edge he has over the Beard? TEAMCLOSERTEAMCLOSERTEAMCLOSER PhilliesJonathan PapelbonCardinalsJason MotteGiantsBrian Wilson BravesCraig Kimbrel BrewersJohn AxfordDiamondbacksJ.J. Putz FishHeath BellRedsRyan MadsonDodgersJavy Guerra NationalsDrew SorenBucsJoel HanrahanRoxRafael Betancourt MetsFrank FranciscoCubsCarlos MarmolPadsHuston Street AstrosBrandon Lyon * Lefty, **A’s have a platoon TEAMCLOSERTEAMCLOSERTEAMCLOSER YankeesMariano RiveriaTigersJose ValverdeHalosJordan Walden Red SoxAndrew BaileyTwinsMatt CappsRangersJoe Nathan RaysKyle Farnsworth White Sox*Matt ThorntonMarinersBrandon League Blue JaysSergio SantosIndiansChris Perez**A'sGrant Balfour Orioles Jim JohnsonRoyalsJoakim Soria**A's*Brian Fuentes


The Big Truck Photographed At The Bank On June 9

After 3 aces and the potential best at the backend, there are 8 other roster slots to shoulder the rest of the load. The 3 other starters–including swingman Kyle Kendrick–are solid lower rotation options, and long relief is strong also. There are 5 seats, however, in the ‘pen that have questions. That said, Jose Contreras appears to be healthy after a few problem-free bullpens. His status is crucial to a consistent lockdown 8th inning. Antonio Bastardo is trying to recover from his badly bruised confidence; it accompanied his September collapse. He reminded the people at Fox Sports of a young Mariano, when he was the set-up man for John Wetteland. Chad Qualls was signed as the veteran backup for Contreras, and will join Bastardo in the 7th frame. He had decent numbers overall but his production away from cavernous Petco Park was abysmal. That said, he rebounded in his final 19 outings with a 1.99 ERA:  2.61 ERA at home (10.1 total, 11 chances) and 1.17 ERA on the road (7.2 innings, 8 attempts).

Antonio Bastardo Pictured During NLDS Game 3 In St. Louis On October 4

The final 2 jobs will probably be split between a southpaw and a right-hander.  Following his sensational burst onto the scene from late April to mid-June, Michael Stutes then struggled, however, for the rest of the season.  Dontrelle Willis has versatility in his DNA and homegrown friend Jimmy Rollins.  He can pinch hit–he has a reputation with the lumber–and he’s endeavoring to be a lefty specialist.  Considering his dominance of same-side sticks, he’s a good bet to make the club.  He had a 2.12 ERA against them and held them to a .127 average.  If anyone could pull this off, it would be the D-Train–especially with J-Roll’s encouragement.

David Herndon or Brian Sanches would be the most likely final reliever, if that need should arise. Herndon was streaky with good and bad appearances. After his difficulties in Philly and Washington through 2008, Sanches hooked on successfully with the Fish but his 2012 arbitration price tag led to his exit. He finished with a 3.94 ERA last year. For Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Joe Savery was a 2009 starter, a 2010 DH, and a 2011 lefty specialist. He is the type who will find a way to go north with an MLB organization. Statistics for the youngsters are available in my recent article ( Philadelphia Phillies Storyline: Winners Or Losers? ).

Chad Qualls Photographed In San Diego On July 31

Michael Schwimer had difficulty with the mental aspect of working behind number ones–especially in Doc Halladay’s games. Other arms in the mix are Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont. There is competition a plenty in Camp Clearwater for April, but July is when some of these Triple-A wings might have to plug a bullpen hole. If all pluses occur, that possibility would give the hometown nine a solid 9-out gauntlet of Qualls, Bastardo, Contreras and Papelbon. Willis would be the situational southpaw in the 6th and 7th, while Stutes would be a front-end candidate, having to re-earn a more desirable role. The opposite outcome could occur due to lack of a full recovery, injury, poor showings, or being outperformed. It will probably be somewhere in the middle.

Cinco Ocho wanted to pitch behind the Apocalyptic Horsemen, even as the pillars crumbled in the capital city of Red Sox Nation. He quickly inked a deal to star here, and if he achieves a superb first campaign, the red pinstripes could have the premier 3 starters and the top hammer in the sport. Philadelphia Phillies:  3 Up and 3 Down will be published in addition to Baseball-Fix Monday. My contribution will be among the first in the 30-MLB series to go up within the next week or soon afterward.


Team Of The Same Name is ( Philadelphia Phillies Storyline: The Philadelphias ) my previous publication.  The Best Closer After is the 13th storyline for 2012 that can be found on the Phillies page ( Philadelphia Phillies ) or my author archives ( Tal Venada ).

The Phillies finished 42 games over .500, which equaled a season of many positives. I will have many summer-long highlights of puzzle pieces, especially important after drubbings and defeats. I alternated the 2011 ERA For The NL East ( Philadelphia Phillies: 2011 ERA For The NL East At Game 162 And Final ) and 2011 ERA For The MLB 5 ( Philadelphia Phillies: Final 2011 ERA For The MLB 5 At Game 162 ) with the last 2 in the links. Thank you, to all who bookmarked the Phillies page, because feeds are erratic at times. Many visitors come from these outlets, and it is always obvious when one of those didn’t work. Tal’s Handy Stats is daily coverage. The 2012 MLB 5 may feature the Halos or Cardinals, while the Sox and Dodgers may be replaced.

Note:  A site format change slightly altered the original ERA postings, but I’ll adjust my material accordingly for 2012. Two photos were used for game 162 on both, where 1 to 161 (1 picture) experienced only minimal distortion, unlike the finals. The new table will be used for the ERA publications, like the ones featured above.

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