Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, rest his soul, used to have a famous catch phrase for which he became famous. Dangerfield would tug at his shirt collar and say, “I don’t get no respect; no respect at all!”
The two best candidates to close out games in 2012 for the Los Angeles Dodgers are the Rodney Dangerfields of Major League Baseball. Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen should be tugging at their shirt collars and uttering Dangerfield’s line after a recent segment on MLB Network.
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MLB Network was analyzing the current free-agent closers who are available. After talking about the top closers who are still unsigned, one of the commentators on the network said, “Now, let’s look at the list of teams that have the biggest need for a closer.”
Guess who one of the teams was that flashed up on the TV screen? That’s right! The Dodgers!
Now, I won’t argue with MLB Network experts if they say the Dodgers are in dire need of a solid catcher in 2012. I also won’t disagree if someone says that the Dodgers need a power-hitting first baseman, a third baseman (who isn’t the poster child for Weight Watchers!) or a home-run threat in left field.
However, I take exception to the idea that the Dodgers are in the market for a closer this off-season.
Contrary to what MLB Network seems to believe, I think the Dodgers are in good shape at the closer position for 2012. In his rookie season in 2011, Guerra was brought up from double-A Chattanooga because of all the walking wounded in Los Angeles.
How did the 26-year-old Guerra do once he arrived in LA? He only saved 21 of 23 games for the Dodgers and managed a 2.31 ERA. At Chattanooga, Guerra was 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA and five saves.
One reason that folks might not get goose bumps when they hear Guerra’s name is because he isn’t an intimidating presence on the mound. Guerra will never be mistaken for former flame-throwing Dodger closer Eric Gagne and his “Game Over” mystique.
Guerra’s not a strikeout machine, which is something that is often thought to be a necessity for a good closer. Fans want to see a closer mow down the side in the bottom of the ninth inning, not notch a save by inducing ground balls and pop-outs.
In addition to Guerra, the Dodgers boast a set-up man who broke the MLB record for strikeouts per nine innings (average) in 2011 – Jansen. Averaging 16.10 strikeouts per nine innings, Jansen fanned an impressive 96 batters in only 53 innings last season.
It still remains to be seen which pitcher will permanently claim the closer
role for the Dodgers in 2012, but I’m comfortable with either Guerra or Jansen. Since Guerra had such an impressive showing after being prematurely plucked from double-A, it’s a good bet that manager Don Mattingly will give him the nod in 2012.
Jansen will probably be the seventh and eighth inning set-up man for Guerra. That’s a pretty good tandem for the Dodgers at the end of games. Let’s just hope that our starting pitching can perform well enough to make it possible for Jansen and Guerra to get into games.