With Joakim Soria down for the next week, someone else is going to have to take over the closer's role. According to the Royal's website, “With closer Joakim Soria out, Trey Hillman has Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth and Ron Mahay at his disposal as KC tries to win its series with Detroit…” there are 3 viable candidates.
This is simply not so. Cruz, Mahay and Farnsworth each have qualities that make for the worst closers.
Cruz is a strikeout pitcher. His K's per innings pitched always looks great. Now for the reality. He is a flyball pitcher, often giving up homeruns. (54 in 300 career games.) That's when he gets it over the plate. Cruz, over his career, has averaged a little over a walk every 2 innings. He puts guys on, and gives up the big fly. He also rarely forces the double play grounder. Cruz eats up free swingers, but patient hitters give him trouble.
Ron Mahay brings something a little different. He's a lefty who boasts good strikeout totals and he rarely gives up homeruns. His control is similar to Cruz's, walking 1 every 2 IP. He does do a great job of holding runners on which is a great attribute for a late game reliever, but here are the 2 holes using Mahay as your closer leaves. First, he is the only lefty the Royals have coming out of the pen, so he leaves the team in a bind creating matchups earlier in the game. More importantly he is historically bad against right handers. Mahay would be much better used as the lefty setup.
Kyle Farnsworth should not even be considered for the closer's role. Aside from his horrible start, Farnsworth is historically a bad end game pitcher. He strikes out a lot of batters, but is very hittable. He gives up too many homeruns, and even the outs he records are hit hard. He has given up plenty of late game homeruns in his career, and doesn't seem mentally tough enough to handle the high pressure situations.
Cruz seems like the best option, but is by no means a great solution if this injury is worse than feared. KC cannot afford a major injury of any kind in the rotation, and certainly Soria going down would leave a gaping hole in the 9th.
And keep in mind the Royals have 9 more games before a day off and Soria is not being placed on the DL, so the bullpen is down a man. And with Sidney Ponson going today there's a chance that they'll need every arm they've got.
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Written by Joe Coburn