Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Salomon of Doubt

Soooo... April is over and the Pirates are 12-12. And somehow, they've done it with three blown saves from closer Salomon Torres. Understandably, everyone is upset with Sully's performance in the closer role. Everyone is especially upset because the guy we traded our closer for is batting like .133 right now. Still, there is something that's bothered me about how Torres has pitched so far.

The rallying cry around LaRoche from people like me who keep defending him is that he's a slow starter. He never hits well in April and he always heats up with the weather. Maybe he needs to hit the weight room or whatever in the off-season to hit his stride earlier, but that's the way it goes for him and that doesn't look like it's going to chance. But what about Torres? Starting in 2004, when he became a full-time reliever for a full season, he's had three very good years. Let's look at his April splits vs. the rest of his season.

2004: 5.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 2.53 K/9 in April, 2.64 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 on the season
2005: 4.09 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 2.45 K/9 in April, 2.76 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 5.2 K/9 on the season
2006: 3.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.23 K/9 in April, 3.28 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 on the season

It is worth noting that Torres had an awful May last year and was practically unhittable from July through the end of the year when he took over as closer for Gonzalez.

Still, in three good seasons, he's had two bad Aprils and a bad May and he's always pitched much better in the second half than he has in the first half (you can look at the splits yourself, they're linked above). What does this mean? I still think they should probably yank the chain on him as closer right now. The problem is, however, that he actually is a guy that pitches better as the season wears on. They say that about a lot of guys, but it's true for him. If Tracy banishes him to the back of the bullpen right now, he's not going to turn things around this year like he has in the past when he's pitched over 90 innings each year.

The question that remains is what to do with him until he pitches himself into shape like he always does. Having a closer that blows 30% of his save chances is not acceptable. Still, Matt Capps being the sole closer would worry me a bit, just because of how young he is. I don't know how well closer by committee would work with the group that we have. For as much as Tracy likes to use Grabow as a LOOGY, his platoon splits are actually pretty even (also, he is not particularly great at getting people out). Jonah Bayliss has pitched well, though I am not completely convinced he's the answer either. Perhaps just mixing things up and seeing how people respond to the role will work. Something has to happen though because I think we'll all go crazy waiting for the second half Torres while he loses games in the first half.