A recurring scene with Oakland this year (USAT)
For a couple of years in Baltimore, was one of those Houdini closers, doing it with smoke and mirrors. He d routinely pitch to contact and , collecting a silly 101 saves along the way. Sure, we d see an occasional rough patch now and then, but the Orioles stuck with him and the handshakes flowed.
Ah, the salad days. Johnson s moved on to Oakland, but there isn t much handshaking going on. Get out the clipboard and the red pen, we have another closer on the brink.
Although Johnson technically didn t earn a blown save in Wednesday s ninth-inning giveaway at Minnesota, his messy work was all over the page. He allowed two walks and two hits over five batters (only a botched bunt provided an out), and the Twins tied the score one batter after Johnson exited. The 2014 Johnson ledger shows nine hits and seven runs over 3.1 awful innings, along with five unintentional walks. He s been unable to command his fastball and it s getting him into all sorts of trouble. And when he is in the strike zone, opponents are .
To be fair, one of Minnesota s hits against Johnson was a well-placed blooper down the left-field line, and the Athletics might have been robbed of an out in the ensuing sequence (a contested, bang-bang play at third base). But Johnson s ineffective work through the opening 11 days still presents a problem, especially when you consider the depth of the Oakland bullpen. The Athletics have quality alternatives if they want to make a change.
and are two primary options to consider if you re hedging against Johnson (or betting against him completely). Both players are over 85-percent available in Yahoo leagues as we go to press, and both have been sharp in the early going (10 collective appearances, two earned runs allowed), to go along with credible resumes.
Gregerson turns 31 next month, and he s a name you should know by now. He was a steady bridge reliever during his San Diego days (2.87 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.3 K/BB), where he was also a solid fill-in closer from time to time. Doolittle, 27, is a left-hander, but don t let that trip you up – he s been and can handle any high-leverage role the club wants to pass his way. He s racked up 124 strikeouts against just 24 walks over his 121.1 major-league innings.
Ryan Cook is another name to think about; he had some nifty moments as Oakland s closer for part of 2012 (14 saves) and saw plenty of eighth-inning work last season. He s coming off a shoulder injury and didn t join the active roster until Monday. Given that Cook is coming off this physical issue, I wouldn t expect him to be rushed into the ninth inning – but that s obviously Oakland s call, not mine. And with all these reasonable options, a mix-and-match committee is another card manager Bob Melvin might play.
I concede all of this bullpen searching is premature in the shallow leagues, where you usually can wait for a situation to develop before you make a move. Perhaps Melvin will give Johnson a temporary break from closing, or none at all. And we certainly have to consider Johnson s contract (one year, million) – that s ninth-inning money (by comparison, Gregerson will make 3.2 million this year).
Post-game quotes are often part of the bullpen-reading process, after Wednesday s game (which Oakland eventually won in extra innings). Melvin talked about getting Johnson back in form, and didn t commit to any change. Johnson said he s fine with whatever role the team wants to use him for. These are standard comments, par for the course.
That all said, the Athletics have designs on the playoffs and the depth of their bullpen puts Johnson on tenuous ground. I think there s a strong chance he doesn t wind up leading this team in saves, and in more competitive fantasy leagues, you need to be proactive, not reactive, to the ebb and flow of the ninth.
Place your bets, gamers. I ll be back later this morning with more notes from the Wednesday sandlots.Sports & RecreationBaseballOaklandJim Johnson
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