Monday, March 3, 2008

Season 7 Surprises, Part Four (Closers)

Of all the position on a baseball team, the ones that seem to suffer through the wildest year-to-year swings are relief pitchers. Several closers have lit up Second City in Season 7. A number of those have managed to do so despite little history as successful closers. We re-cap them here.

Nigel Baxter
Age: 25B/T: S/R
Born: Decatur, MS
Position(s): P (ClA)
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Nigel Baxter made his ML debut as a 24-year old in Season 6. The Boise Flyers used him as a setup man and closer after a dominant minor league career that saw the Season 1 second-round pick save 45 of 58 minor league games while posting a 3.58 ERA. His 1.15 ERA in Season 5 at AAA foreshadowed a dominant reliever. But the majors proved to be a rude awakening, when Nigel went just 9 of 16 saving games while putting up a monster 6.15 ERA. The .457 slugging percentage he allowed was a full 100 points above his minor league career. But the Flyers kept the faith and Baxter has turned in an impressive performance. He's saved all 21 of his chances this season and his 2.42 ERA indicates that's no fluke.

Dan Lowe
Nittany Lions
Age: 32B/T: L/L
Born: Franklin, TX
Position(s): P (ClA)
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Dan Lowe has toiled in the Charlotte, El Paso, and Scranton pens for all 7 HBD seasons. Aside from a 16 save performance in Season 4, he's never really done anything remarkable. Then Scranton hands the 32-year old the closer role and he never looked back, saving 27 or 29 while holding opponents to a .204 BA.

Willis Gordon
San Juan
Age: 31B/T: S/R
Born: Oakland, CA
Position(s): P (ClA)
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Thirty one year-old Willis Gordon was one of the top closers in the game in Season 1-4, saving 145 gams for the Los Angeles Banditos. During season 5 Gordon was traded to the San Juan Crownrificos, adding another weapon to their formidable arsenal. But a funny thing happened on his way to World Series; Gordon became very average. In Seasons 5-6 he converted just 37 or 53 save opportunities while posting an ERA of more than 5.00! But the Crownrificos kept the faith in the all-time saves leader and he bounced back big. Gordon is 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .161 against sinkerballer and he's converted 30 of 33 save opportunities. Look out playoffs, the Crownrificos are not going to be blowing late leads this year.

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