Monday, May 21, 2012
Clearing the Bases: Chapman closes
By David Schoenfield
First base: Ninth-inning heat. Sean Marshall actually hadn't pitched that poorly for the Reds, not with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 14.2 innings. But he'd allowed 22 hits thanks to an unlucky .488 BABIP, so Dusty Baker made the move: Aroldis Chapman is in as the team's closer. He picked up his first save of 2012, closing out the Reds' 5-2 victory over the Yankees. I don't have any major issues with the move, but let's see how Baker handles Chapman. Will he extend him past one inning on occasion? (Four of his previous relief outings had been two innings.) The problem with making your best reliever your designated closer can be seen in Sunday's usage. Leading 3-2 in the eighth, Baker used Marshall and Logan Ondrusek. Leading 5-2 in the ninth, Baker used Chapman. The biggest out of the game was Marshall retiring Robinson Cano with a runner on and no outs in the eighth, while Chapman faced the bottom of the lineup. So while Chapman will get the saves, this move probably has little bearing on the Reds' W-L record.
Second base: Empty seats in Cleveland. The Indians are in first place but last in the majors in attendance, averaging 15,873 per game. Indians closer Chris Perez isn't happy about it. "It's just a slap in the face when you're in first place and last in attendance," he said. "Last. Not 25th or 26th. Last." Team president Mark Shapiro was left attempting to cover Perez's tracks, but I don't think what Perez said was unfair. He was being honest. Yes, the weather has been tough so far, but the Indians aren't a bad team and were decent in 2011. It is sad to see all the empty seats, however. From 1995 to 2001, the Indians ranked first, second or third in the AL in attendance as the team made the playoffs six times in seven years. But in 2003, when the team fell to 68-94, attendance quickly plummeted to 12th in the AL and hasn't recovered. Even in 2007, when Cleveland tied for the major league lead with 96 wins, the team ranked just ninth in AL attendance. Yes, the local economy may not be as strong at it was in the late '90s, although Cleveland has survived the downturn better than many cities. The fans left in 2003 and just haven't returned.
Third base: Interleague's opening weekend. The American League holds a slight edge through the first group of interleague series, going 24-18 thanks to sweeps by the White Sox and Mariners over the Cubs and Rockies. Interleague play returns on June 8. The AL's 131-121 advantage in 2011 was the closest the NL had been since 2004, when the AL held a 127-125 edge, but it was also the third straight year the NL had narrowed the gap.
Tweet of the day. Detroit's Max Scherzer struck out 15 Pirates, most in the majors this season. All 15 K's were swinging and he did it in only seven innings. (The Pirates, by the way, struck out 41 times in the three-game series against the Tigers.)